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Poached pears, that’s not something that usually rolls off of my tongue! Its a dessert that I would usually shun in favour of something more indulgent! However I’ve discovered how wrong I was to assume a poached pear would be an unsatisfactory choice! I had reason to make poached pears recently and I was surprised at how much I liked them!
I had the good fortune of coming across a very knowledgeable greengrocer when I went to buy my pears. Not only did he choose perfectly ripe pears for me, he gave me a step by step guide to poaching them, including talking me through making a cartouche from grease proof paper to keep the pears submerged in their poaching liquid (a cartouche is just a circle of grease proof paper). It turns out the greengrocer also has a restaurant and poached pears is one of their regular desserts so it was lucky for me that I chose to get my pears from him!
I was surprised that there are a few things in all the recipes I saw that weren’t mentioned so for the beginners out there I thought I would share my poached pear experience here!
- You will get burnt fingers, beware!
- Do get a pear or 2 extra just in case of an accident, they are more delicate than you would think.
- I would recommend you use a spoon to lift the stalk up out of the poaching liquid, grab the stalk then place the spoon under the bottom of the pear. As it’s so hot the tendency would be to lift the pear out of the liquid by the stalk, if you do you risk the stalk breaking off, leaving you with a damaged pear. Let the spoon support the pear’s weight but be careful not to pierce the pear with the spoon, gently does it!
- For even cooking and colouring the pears need to be under the liquid throughout the cooking. Be prepared to make extra poaching liquid if you have larger pears, the recipe I was using had nowhere near enough liquid, my pears were only half covered so I had to make more in a hurry!
- The pears should be covered but if you have added more liquid and they still aren’t covered or you don’t want to buy more wine just make sure you turn the pears around often to get even cooking.
These poached pears make a great dessert for the festive season, their ruby colour is so pretty! The pears make a nice light dessert and would make a nice change from all the heavier holiday foods. The poaching liquid is essentially a mulled wine so the house will be filled with the scent of Christmas as you make these.
Winter Spiced Poached Pears (adapted from this recipe)
- 6 pears, peeled but left whole with the stalk left on
- 1 bottle red wine (may need up to half of a 2nd bottle of wine if pears are particularly rotund)
- 750 ml water (may need another 250 ml if adding more wine for larger pears)
- 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and seeds scraped out
- 300 g sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks, each broken in two pieces
- 6 cloves
- Add the wine and water to a large pan along with the vanilla pod and seeds, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a simmer.
- Make a circle of grease proof paper to cover your pears while poaching.
- Lower the pears into the liquid adding more until the pears are covered. Place the cartouche (circle of grease proof paper) over the pears to keep them under the liquid. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pears are tender all the way through (test using a cocktail stick).
- When tender remove the pears carefully from the liquid. When cooled the pears can be stored like this in a Tupperware in the fridge for up to 2 days.
- Bring the poaching liquid to a boil for around 10 minutes or until its reduced and syrupy. When cooled the syrup can also be stored in the fridge up to 2 days.
- When ready, serve the pears and syrup at room temperature. Simply place a pear on each plate and drizzle with some of the syrup. Serve with cream or creme fraiche.
Pumpkins were one of the successes on our allotment this year, although we didn’t grow a gigantic prize winner we did get a lot of smaller, more edible types, I grew 2 varieties this year Bon Bon which was a small variety and Musquee de Provence. Actually after buying my seeds I realised both were classed as squash, but squash or pumpkin they are used in the same way and any kind of pumpkin or squash will work here. I decided to try a Bon Bon first, its only small so was easy to use up, I simply sliced and roasted it. On its own served as a vegetable it was great, a really good tasting pumpkin with a nice texture. Even though it was only a small pumpkin there was still enough for several meals so the next day I made up this salad, it was so good I made it the day after too!
I love pumpkin in salad it lends itself to any flavour dressing and adds some autumn richness, salads feel as they ought to be more substantial now the weather is colder. I used za’atar in my dressing. Za’atar is a middle eastern herb blend containing marjoram, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. As well as using it in salad dressing I like to scatter it over roasted vegetables. It’s also lovely sprinkled over hummus. Za’atar is a handy herb blend to have in your cupboard.
This salad is great for lunch with the pumpkin either warm or cold. It would make a great starter served on a large platter with the pumpkin still warm from roasting. The feta cheese is an option but if you want to cut some calories or make this salad more paleo/vegan friendly leave it out.
Roasted Pumpkin Salad with a Za’atar Dressing (serves 2)
- 100 grams spinach leaves, rinsed and well dried
- 1/2 a small red onion, diced
- 150 grams roasted pumpkin/squash
- approx 6 cherry tomatoes sliced into halves
- 30 grams feta cheese, cut into cubes (optional)
for the dressing
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp za’atar herb blend
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Roast the pumpkin by de-seeding the pumpkin and slicing, drizzle with olive oil salt and pepper and roast on 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6 for around 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender,
- Place the spinach, onion tomatoes and pumpkin in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To make the dressing place all the dressing ingredients into a small jug and whisk quickly with a fork to combine the ingredients, stir until liquid becomes slightly thickened.
- Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to coat. Serve the salad and place little bits of feta onto each salad, I don’t mix the cheese with the dressing as it breaks up.
So much in our lives is down to timing. People we meet, opportunities that happen just because you were in the right place at the right time or things that don’t happen because you just missed out. Spare a thought for the person that was just before or just after the person that did win the lottery! Timing can also affect so much of what we eat. As much as I love my cook books it’s often what I happen to see while looking at Pinterest or food blogs that now ends up on my plate!
That’s where this recipe idea came from, I follow a blog called smarterfitter by Monica Shaw and a few weeks ago she did a detox during which she made the most amazing soups and salads (smoothies too, if unlike me you like smoothies!). One post that stayed with me was where Monica describes making “cream of” celery soup made creamy by using cashew nuts rather than cream. I’m so glad I saw that post as it really set a light bulb off in my head. It just so happens that I used to love Cream of Celery Soup! I also just happen to be growing celery at the allotment and I just happened to have cashew nuts in! Making this soup was meant to happen!
There was actually no recipe in that blog post for the soup so I made up my own. It turned out great and is one I will be making again! I have always loved celery soup and its amazing how like the one I used to have from a can this turned out! Its got lots of celery flavour and its creamy without been heavy. Those cashews give a good dose of protein to the soup too which is great if following the Whole30 or Paleo diets where protein at each meal is advised but not always easy if you aren’t a big meat-eater. The first time I made this I found the nuts added a little grainy texture to the soup. This wasn’t unpleasant, just noticeable. I’m sure if you have a fancy blender like a Vitamix that wouldn’t happen. Now I add the cashews just before the end of the cooking time to soften them and the soup has a much smoother texture. My soups shade of green varies each time depending on the celery, as its home-grown its tends to be a darker green!
Creamy (without cream) Celery Soup (serves 2)
- 300 grams celery, washed and chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1.5 tbsp olive oil
- 500 mls vegetable stock
- 40 grams cashew nuts
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan then add the celery and onion, stir to coat with oil. Turn the heat low and put the lid on leaving the vegetables to sweat for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, give a quick stir then add the vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the cashew nuts to the saucepan and simmer for another 5 minutes or until the celery is cooked through.
- Tip the soup mix into a blender and purée until smooth.
- Season with the salt and pepper and serve.
It rare for me to want to make or even eat soup in the summer. Rarer still we are actually having some summer like weather here which makes soup an even less likely meal! However I got to thinking of recipes for all the tomatoes I’m hoping for from the allotment and a request for tomato soup from my favourite 10-year-old resulted in this unseasonable recipe.
This is a one pan and blend recipe, really quick and easy to make. It actually makes a great summer meal as there is little effort involved. Paired with a salad you can have a light, nutritious meal in no time.
Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup (makes 2-3 servings)
- 550 grams (approx 5-6 largish) tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 500 mls chicken stock (vegetable stock works fine too, whatever you prefer)
- Preheat the oven to 200 c, 400 f, gas 6.
- Place the cut tomatoes, garlic and onion on a baking tray and drizzle over the olive oil. season with salt and pepper and scatter over the thyme.
- Roast for 30- 45 minutes until it’s all beginning to get a little charred.
- Tip the contents of the baking tray into a blender along with the stock and blend for a couple of minutes until smooth. If you don’t have a blender an immersion blender would also work.
- Season more to taste if necessary and serve.
A swirl of cream added to the soup in the serving bowl makes a decadent finish.
I prefer to use large vine tomatoes but any will do, the roasting really brings out the flavour.
My friend, Liz, recently posted her recipe for Gazpacho. It looks wonderful but if I’m honest Gazpacho isn’t something I eat as I have an issue with cold soup. I confess I can’t really even bring myself to try it. I’ve had shots of cold soup while dining out which was fine and I wish I felt differently but a whole bowl, for a meal isn’t really for me. As I was reading Liz’ recipe I was inspired and found myself thinking that all of those lovely ingredients would make a great salad! Of course I’m not the first to have this idea but as salad is my go to lunch at the moment I thought Id try this idea out and I’m glad I did! It made a delicious, fast lunch. It was nice to have a salad without any leaves for a change!
This Gazpacho salad is made in a jiffy! Chop all of the ingredients, whisk together the dressing and its done, you have the base of a meal in just a few minutes! I left the skin on my cucumber, partly as I like it that way but I also think the crunch it adds is nice. The chilli is to my taste, it can easily be left out or increased. I used oregano as it was to hand. I will try with dill next time but I think any fresh green herb would work. To get the maximum flavor from the tomatoes use them at room temperature. This is especially important at this time of year when tomatoes are decidedly less tasty! Tomatoes stored in the fridge have no flavour. I had salmon with my salad but this Gazpacho salad is the perfect side to fish, prawns (shrimp), chicken or bread!
Gazpacho Salad (serves 2)
- 2 large tomatoes. chopped
- 3 inch piece of cucumber, chopped
- 1/2 small red onion, diced finely
- 1/2 red pepper, chopped
- 1/4 fresh chilli or some chilli flakes
for the dressing
- 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
- 2.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- some fresh oregano leaves, chopped finely
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- First assemble the ingredients for the dressing. Peel and smash the garlic clove and put into a jug or jar. Add the olive oil and vinegar and leave to sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- Chop the rest of the salad ingredients and add to a bowl.
- Fish the garlic out of the olive oil and discard. Add the salt and pepper and whisk together.
- Pour over the salad ingredients in the bowl and stir well to cover all the vegetables in the dressing, check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve at room temperature accompanied with bread, salmon, chicken, or prawns (shrimp).
I had plans to write one of those looking back over the year posts… well apart from the picture of the lovely lavender field from my holiday in France this year that idea didn’t make it beyond my thoughts! Would anyone really be interested anyway? Although I actually do enjoy reading posts from people looking back over their year.
So it’s a simple post from me to end the year. It has been a great year for my blog this year, thank you to everyone who has visited. (It is still a surprise that anyone does!) My blog birthday passed by this month, I had plans to post something for that but that was another post idea that didn’t see the light of day! Id like to say a big thank you to those who have taken the time to leave comments! Those comments really do make my day.
I leave a wish for everyone who passes by here a very healthy, prosperous, Happy New Year. Jayne x
I am a bit behind on blog posts at the moment but I wanted to take the time to wish all of those who celebrate a happy Thanksgiving.
This time last year I had a few lists on the go and my mind was abuzz with turkey and desserts! I was entertaining for Thanksgiving and preparation had begun the weekend before when I made my cranberry sauce and made my version of this Make Ahead Gravy, what a lifesaver that turned out to be! I was so happy on the day not to have to worry about making the gravy! A few days later I embarked on my first turkey brine experience, I used the Judy Bird brine and it was a triumph and I will be repeating it with my turkey this Christmas.
Although Thanksgiving isnt celebrated here its still nice to stop and take a moment to be thankful! This year I am not entertaining but I am thankful that all who sat at my table last Thanksgiving are well and I hope it won’t be too long before we are all together again.
I am also thankful for my little blog which keeps me very entertained and I’ve “met” some lovely people through it. Thank you to all who visit and comment. It’s a very rainy day here today but even in the rain some lovely pictures can be found, these were taken in my garden.
No food today, I wanted to share some pictures from my week spent camping in the Ardeche region of France, its south just above Provence for those of you who haven’t heard of it. Apparently it’s not very well visited by people from the UK, this is a real shame as it’s just gorgeous. Amazing scenery and hot summer temperatures made for a wonderful week away. I did cook while camping, not all the time though, luckily there was a restaurant on site. My camp cooking is not very adventurous so best to share pictures this time rather than recipes! It’s a while since we’ve been camping and I’m out of practice, although my husband and I do camp in relative comfort nowadays we have a 6 man tent just for us and a high blow up mattress, the days of crawling around in our 3 man tent and sleeping on the ground are well in the past! Breakfast was the easiest meal to plan, pan au chocolat most days, my idea of heaven! I love visiting France and would definitely recommend the beautiful Ardeche if you haven’t been before.
Campsite beach on the river.
We drove into Provence for the market at Vaison la Romaine, look at the choice of tomatoes!
I had to buy some garlic from this very sweet man!
Lavender fields were such a treat! It was wonderful smelling the lavender and I have never seen so many varieties of bees and butterflies .
Another real treat was seeing the fields of sunflowers
An overnight stop in lovely Dijon on the way home.
Maille mustard store.
So many varieties, they put anything in mustard it seems! Fig, curry and chestnut to name a few!
I was desperate to buy some apricots before I came home, these will feature in a post soon!
It’s the Jubilee weekend! I have had all year to plan what to make but in typical Jayne style I left it until the last-minute! The rest of my life is fairly organised, I’m a lover of lists but for some reason when it comes to cooking I’m more relaxed and often do things at the last-minute, quickly flicking through one of my cookery books minutes before going to the supermarket looking for something new to try. If you come to dinner at my house you will most likely be served a meal that I have never made before! For the Jubilee weekend I wanted to make a cake, something traditional, something with a royal tone. I decide to make a Victoria sponge, strangely a cake that I don’t make all that often, I do like it, it’s just often overlooked while I’m trying other recipes, so many cakes so little time! The Victoria sponge is indeed named after Queen Victoria and was apparently created by her lady in waiting, the Duchess of Bedford, who is also said to have started the English afternoon tea tradition. It seemed fitting then that I celebrated the Diamond Jubilee with a cake that was originally made for a Queen!
This recipe is the one used by my friend Pearl, she makes a wonderful Victoria sponge, her cake rises so well and is wonderfully light. Where Victoria sponge is concerned I think the recipe is pretty standard. Traditionally the filling was just jam but I wanted something a little more fancy so added cream, decadence seemed the order of the day!
- 200 grams Caster sugar
- 200 grams Unsalted butter, softened
- 4 Eggs at room temperature
- 1 tsp Vanilla essence
- 200 grams Self Raising flour
- 1.5 tsp Baking powder
- 2 tbsp Milk
For the filling
- 4 tbsp Jam, I used jumbleberry but any berry jam would be nice.
- 300 ml Double (heavy) Cream, whipped. Careful not to over whip as I did!
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, 350 F, Gas mark 4. Grease and line 2 8 inch round baking tins.
- Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy, I use a stand mixer but a wooden spoon and elbow grease works just fine!
- Add an egg, mix to incorporate, repeat with another egg mix and repeat until all the eggs are used.
- Stir the vanilla.
- Add half of the flour, mix in gently add the rest and mix in gently, do not over stir at this point.
- Gently stir in the milk.
- Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Allow cakes to cool in their tins then carefully remove. Remove baking paper.
- Spread the jam onto one sponge half, followed by the cream. Sandwich the cakes together a sprinkle with icing sugar.
It’s that time of the year again when everyone is trying to be healthy! I know that’s rather boring but after the Christmas period when most of us over indulged and ate less than our share of healthier foods January is a time to nourish ourselves. It makes us feel better to do some good after all that excess. I have yet to decide which diet I am doing this January! (I’m only half-joking!) While I ponder over that decision I am avoiding processed foods, drinking lots of water and stuffing myself with healthy vegetables, especially greens. Green is the colour this January! On a recent trip to the local market I came home with a bag stuffed with greens including kale, spinach, cavalo nero and brussels tops. I had however got carried away with all these greens, too much just for me, my husband has an aversion to greens! I find the shelf life of greens shorter than some other vegetables so as speed to use them was necessary I whipped up a speedy soup using the spinach and some of the kale.
This is a use what you have kind of soup, with a base of potato, onion and garlic and what greens you have or fancy. The greens are only wilted so they retain their vibrant green colour and their nutrients. Its very green, something this green has to be good for you! Although my husband hates most vegetables he will eat spinach so I hoped that by mainly using spinach he would at least try it! Well he did try and whats more really enjoyed it! He knows me well though and while eating said ” I know there is more than just spinach in here and that you will tell me when I’m finished”!
I did tell him about the kale in the soup when we had finished but he declared it to be delicious! Ever keen to feed my husband vegetables I will be making this again.
Healthy Green Soup
- 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 350 gram spinach leaves, washed
- 150 gram kale (I used curly kale) washed
- 1 litre stock, vegetable or chicken as you prefer
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large saucepan heat the oil and add the potato and onion. Coat with the oil and turning the heat right down cover and leave to sweat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic to the pan and stir.
- Add the stock and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer until the potato is soft.
- Add the green leaves to the pan, no need to stir. Put the lid on and leave until the greens have wilted, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and puree to desired consistency using a blender or as I did an immersion blender.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.