Slender young leeks are ideal for this dish, not the baby ones that resemble spring onions, and certainly not fat, mature ones with tough stalks. I usually buy a bunch of four or five organic leeks that are just so tender once cooked that you can eat most of the dark green stalk. Also, make sure that your walnuts are new or current season, and ideally crack them yourself, as the shell protects the nuts and keeps them fresh.
Preheat the oven to 160˚C fan-forced or 180˚C conventional.
For the pickled onion, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and about 50 ml of water to a simmer in a small pot. Add the currants and onion and bring back to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, though longer is better, and an hour wouldn’t hurt.
Spread 100 grams of walnuts out on a baking tray and roast for around 15 minutes until golden and fragrant. Toss in oil and season. Set aside. Turn the oven up to 180˚C fan-forced or 200˚C conventional.
For the skordalia, bring the milk and 250 ml of water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the walnuts, sliced garlic and a pinch of salt, and simmer for 10 minutes. Tear in the bread and simmer for 3 minutes. Strain, reserving a little of the liquid, and add to a blender. Add the allspice, nutmeg, vinegar, oil and a pinch of salt. Finely grate in a little garlic to taste and blend until smooth, adding a little cooking liquid if needed. Cover and set aside at room temperature.
Place the leeks on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, season and roast for 25 minutes or until tender. Toss the asparagus in oil, season and add to the tray for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
To plate, smear some of the skordalia on a serving plate, arrange the leeks and asparagus on top, dollop on a little more skordalia, scatter over the walnuts, onion and currants, drizzle with a little oil and serve.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan-forced (200˚C conventional).
Lightly whisk the egg white in a large bowl until foamy. Mix in the salt, chilli and Sichuan pepper. Add the cashews and peanuts and mix to thoroughly coat the nuts. Spread in a thin layer on a large tray lined with baking paper and roast for 5 minutes, stir through and roast for a couple more minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Crush a large handful of the nuts to a rough powder in a mortar. Mix the crushed nuts and the baking soda through the whole nuts in a large bowl. Add the softened butter and set aside.
Bring the sugar, honey and 100 ml of water to a simmer in a medium pot. Cook until it forms a caramel and reaches 145˚C on a candy thermometer. Tip in the nut mix, stirring through until the foaming subsides and the butter is completely incorporated. Immediately pour the mix onto a tray lined with baking paper and, working quickly, spread flat with an oiled spatula. Lay a piece of parchment on top of the brittle and press down with a second tray until as flat as possible. Set aside to cool completely before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
You can pretty much buy beetroot all year round, but when using raw try to buy young, sweet beets with bright fresh leaves attached.
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced or 200°C conventional.
Toss the quartered beetroots in plenty of oil, season with salt and pepper and dust with the cinnamon, spread on a tray lined with baking paper and roast for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little sherry vinegar. Place on your serving dish and distribute the sliced beetroot over the cooked beetroot.
Make a dressing with 25ml of sherry vinegar, 80ml of olive oil, the crème fraiche and diced shallot, season and mix. Julienne the apple and celery, squeeze over some lemon, toss together and pile onto the middle of the beetroot. Finish with the mint and celery leaves and the crushed almonds. Spoon over the dressing and serve.
This dish requires a little bit of prep time but the assembly couldn’t be easier, making it a perfect dinner party dessert.
For the plums, preheat an oven to 180°C fan-forced or 200°C conventional.
Place the plums in a ceramic dish and mix through with the sugar and lemon juice, then let sit for ten minutes, cut side down. Bake for 25 minutes or until the plums are fully cooked and starting to collapse. Drain the liquid from the plums and reduce on the stove until syrupy.
For the meringues, preheat the oven to 100°C fan-forced or 120°C conventional. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Sift the 80 g of brown sugar into a bowl and set aside. Beat the egg whites until you have soft peaks then rain in the caster sugar in 3 lots, beating until the whites are glossy and thick. With the motor still running, steadily rain in the brown sugar, again in 3 lots, then mix for 5 more minutes on high speed.
Spoon teaspoon sized blobs of meringue onto the lined trays, leaving space between each. Sprinkle over the ground cloves, toasted walnuts and extra brown sugar and bake for about 90 minutes or until the meringues have dehydrated and are crisp. Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar until the meringues are quite cold.
Serve the plums in glasses with a splash of the plum syrup, a dollop of cream and the meringues on top.
The term cake is a bit of a stretch really as this panforte has less flour in it than you would normally dust a bench with. The classic chewy texture results from being bound with a mixture of honey and sugar brought to ‘soft ball’ stage before being mixed with the dry ingredients. Panforte is delicious any time of year and will keep extremely well. Make sure your dried fruit, nuts and chocolate are very high quality, a good result depends on it.
Roast almonds in a hot oven for five minutes. Blitz almonds in a food processor until well chopped (about one minute).
Sift flour and cocoa together into a bowl. Add the spices, dried fruit, ground almonds, pistachios, liqueur and the chopped chocolate and combine well. Preheat oven to 125°C fan forced (145°C conventional).
In a saucepan over a low heat bring honey and sugar to 118°C (measure with a sugar thermometer, it will come to temperature quickly). Remove from the heat and pour straight over the flour, nut and fruit mix and combine quickly. The mixture will be quite stiff and hard to work, but persevere.
Press into a round loose-bottomed cake tin approx 20-22cm wide, lined with rice paper and well dusted with icing sugar. Flatten the mix so that it is evenly spread and then dust the top well with icing sugar. Decorate with extra almonds, pistachios and cherries. Bake for 25 to 30 mins, it will swell slightly but won’t brown. Once well cooled, remove carefully from the tin and slice thinly to serve.
To spatchcock means to partially debone and flatten a bird before cooking but in common parlance, spatchcocks are small young chickens, also known by the French term ‘poussin’.
In this recipe the baby chickens aren’t spatchcocked, they’re stuffed with a full-flavoured couscous mixture that keeps the flesh moist as well as tasting great. This dish is a meal in itself, with its own spicy, buttery juices and the vegetables roasted with the poultry. As always, I look for free range and organic chicken.
Pour the couscous into a medium bowl and add half the oil and salt. Rub the oil into the couscous. Just barely cover it with boiling water, then seal the bowl tightly with cling film and steam for 5 minutes. Run a fork through the couscous to fluff the grains.
Boil water in a large saucepan. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
Trim excess fat from the chickens, dry with paper towel and season the inside and outside by rubbing with salt.
To make the couscous stuffing, place a large frypan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and fry the onion and garlic. Season with a little salt, add half the thyme and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are caramelised.
Add the raisins, ras el hanout, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds and fry on medium heat for 1 minute. Add half the verjuice and simmer for a minute or two then take off the heat. Grind in lots of pepper and squeeze over the lemon juice, then tip this mix into the couscous. Stir through the lemon zest, preserved lemon and almonds, then taste. It should be really full flavoured as this is a stuffing not a salad.
When the coucous mix is cool, add the butter and fill the cavity of the birds, packing the mix in very firmly.
Preheat oven to 200˚C.
Take a roasting dish that will fit the meat quite snugly and lay the carrots (and eggplants, if using) in the bottom. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with honey and top with the chicken. Sprinkle with extra ras el hanout, pour in the extra verjuice and the water. Cover the dish tightly in foil and bake for 50 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue roasting, basting the chickens every 10 minutes for a further 30 minutes or until golden. Remove and rest for 5 minutes before serving with pan juices, carrots and eggplant.
Roasting the fruit first really brings out its flavour. Almond meal is used in the cake batter and flaked almonds add crunch to the baked topping, a little crunchy hit which really pushes this simple cake into special territory.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
To roast the plums, gently toss them with lemon zest and juice, sugar and the vanilla bean in a ceramic dish and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Roast for 15 minutes until slightly softened.
To make the cake, combine the flour, self-raising flour, almonds and baking powder. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients.
Spread the cake mix over the base of a lined 26 cm springform cake tin. Spread the roasted plums and the blackberries on top, reserving the juices. Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked around the edge and still a little soft in the middle. Reduce the oven to 160°C.
Melt the butter, brown sugar, orange zest and juice and add the flaked almonds. Pour the mix over the cake and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve with a little reserved plum syrup drizzled over the cake.
Have the stock in a saucepan and keep it just off the simmer.
In a heavy, wide-based medium-sized pot over medium heat, add the oil, bayleaf, onion and garlic. Stir. Season lightly and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the rice and stir to coat every grain in oil. This is important to heat and seal the rice so you don’t end up with gluggy risotto. When the grains of rice are hot to touch, add the wine and quickly follow with a ladle of hot stock. Stir with a wooden spoon and then add a couple more ladles of stock.
Continue the process of stirring and adding stock for another 15 to 20 minutes then add half the butter. Gradually add the cheese, stirring. Check your rice: it should have a nutty centre. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, check seasoning, and let it sit for 2 minutes in the pot.
Put a small frypan on the heat and add the rest of the butter. When it’s melted add the nuts. Season and cook the butter until it is golden and smells nutty. Take it off the heat and add the lemon juice.
Serve risotto on plates and crumble ricotta over the top. Finish by spooning the nutty mixture over the risotto and serve immediately.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
In a food processor, blitz the rolled oats to a powder and set aside.
Cream butter and peanut butter with the sugars, then add the egg, spices, vanilla, salt and honey. Mix, then add the baking powder, flour and oatmeal and combine. Tip into a bowl and stir through the chocolate and nuts.
Roll into large walnut-sized balls (about 50 grams) and press to flatten a little. Place on baking paper and bake for 14 minutes. Flatten the cookies a little more when they come out of the oven.