Wild garlic pesto tear & share bread

Wild Garlic Bread CollageThe lanes near our house have been heavy with the heady scent of wild garlic flowers in the last few days, the warmth of the late spring sunshine increasing their intensity. We’re nearing the end of the wild garlic season, so I’ll be picking one last harvest to make up a big batch of wild garlic pesto. It freezes beautifully and will provide us with a taste of English spring for many months to come.

The pesto is delicious simply stirred through a bowlful of pasta or spread on toasted bread to create bruschetta. It’s also wonderful in this easy tear-and-share bread, a perfect accompaniment to cold meats and cheeses as part of a buffet lunch or a springtime picnic.

wild garlic pesto bread

Wild garlic pesto tear & share bread

Makes 8 bread rolls

400g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
250ml water
1 tbsp olive oil
half a jar of wild garlic pesto – see my recipe here

Put the flour, salt and dried yeast into a large mixing bowl and combine.

Make a well in the middle and pour in the water and oil. Gradually work the flour into the liquid to form a soft dough. If it’s too dry, add a drop more water. If it’s too sticky, add some more flour.

Flour the work surface before tipping the dough onto it. Knead the dough for five to ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover loosely with cling film and put in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Grease and flour a 20cm round cake tin.

Uncover the risen dough and punch it back down. Flour the surface again and divide the dough into eight equal portions.

Roll each portion of dough into a rough rectangle, approximately 20cm by 10cm. Spread each rectangle generously with wild garlic pesto and roll up carefully into a tidy spiral. Stand each spiral into the prepared cake tin, spacing them out to allow them room to spread.

Cover loosely with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave to rise again for another 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 or use the middle of the top oven of an Aga.

When the bread has risen again, place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Place the tin on a wire rack and leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out. Lovely eaten while still warm, drizzled with a little olive oil.

fsf-spring

As this bread makes use of a sensational spring ingredient, I’m entering it into this month’s Four Season’s Food challenge hosted by Eat Your Veg and Delicieux where the theme is Celebrating Spring.

SimpleinSeason

And as it’s a very seasonal recipe, I’m also entering it into Simple and in Season hosted by Ren Behan.

cooking with herbs

Finally as it features wild herbs, I’m sharing it with Karen at Lavender & Lovage in this month’s Cooking with Herbs challenge.

Watercress and pistachio pesto

spaghetti with watercress and pistachio pesto

I was recently given a new hand mixer and so, naturally, the first thing I had to try it out on was homemade pesto.

Normally I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to pesto. I could eat basil and pine nut pesto every day and never tire of it. It brings back very fond memories of inter-railing around Europe with my best friend after our A-levels. The only food we could really cook in our basic hostel kitchens was pasta and pesto from a jar. Washed down with a cheap bottle of plonk, we couldn’t have been happier. And then we ate fresh pesto in Italy and we were happier still.

But as my husband isn’t much of  a pesto fan, I have started to experiment with different variations. Wild garlic pesto was a big hit last year and I look forward to picking some again from the local hedgerows when spring finally decides to turn up here in Somerset.

One of my favourite food bloggers is Louisa at Chez Foti who happens to be a bit of a pesto aficionado. I love the look of her stilton, walnut and parsley pesto and will be trying it soon. In this same blog post Louisa helpfully listed a whole menu of ideas for anyone wanting to dabble in a little pesto experimentation.

One of her suggestions was watercress, which is a particular favourite ingredient of mine. And so I came up with this recipe for watercress and pistachio pesto. I thought it might be a little peppery for the children but that wasn’t an issue at all. They wolfed it down and came back for more. A definite success. Bear in mind that if you do add the Ricotta at the end, you’ll need to use the pesto within a couple of days. If you leave it out, the pesto will keep in a glass jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

making watercress pistachio pesto

Watercress and pistachio pesto

Serves 6 to 8

80g watercress
1tsp rock salt
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
60g Parmesan, grated
60g shelled pistachio nuts
150 ml olive oil – the best quality you can afford
2 tbsp Ricotta cheese

In a blender, process the watercress, salt, and garlic until well chopped. Add the Parmesan, pistachio nuts and olive oil and blend until fairly smooth and creamy.

Scrape into a bowl and fold in the Ricotta cheese. Serve with pasta of your choice. Personally I always go for spaghetti with pesto.

spaghetti with watercress and pistachio pesto

If you have featured a pesto recipe on your blog, please feel free to include a URL in the comments below and I’ll be more than happy to  link up to it!

I am entering this recipe in the #TuscanyNowCookOff. It might not be the most authentically Italian pesto, but it might possibly get through on creativity!

Care to Cook: The Winner is Announced!

When I put out a call a month or so ago for people to send in their favourite family recipes for the Care to Cook recipe challenge I had absolutely no idea what kind of response to expect. Care to Cook is a challenge I set up with a fostering and adoption charity I work with called TACT in order to promote their cookbook, which they’re selling to support adopted children and their families.

But I had nothing to worry about. You lot rose to the challenge splendidly, supplying a fantastic assortment of family favourites, both savoury and sweet. The task set was to suggest a dish you would cook to welcome someone into your family home. For many children in care, family meals are simply something they are not used to. Each and every dish submitted into the challenge is one I know would make a vulnerable child or young person feel special, valued and welcomed.

Before I announce the winner, here are each of those delicious entries in turn. Warning – this list is guaranteed to make you hungry!

First in was this tasty little number from Under The Blue Gum Tree, which looks far superior to its McDonald’s namesake: Homemade Fillet O’ Fish and “Chips”.  The fillet is served in lovingly prepared carrot and cumin bread rolls, with potato skins covered in paprika and cayenne pepper, and some salsa and soured cream on the side. Now, who could resist that?

Homemade Fillet O’ Fish and “Chips” from Under The Blue Gum Tree

Next we have French Madeleines from Crêpes Suzettes. These pretty little cakes look so tempting and perfect for goûter, the snack French kids have at around 4pm. I think my children must be a bit French as they are always starving when they come home from school too!

French Madeleines from Crepes Suzette

For Reluctant Housedad, what to cook for this challenge was a bit of a no-brainer. It had to be his Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake. Doesn’t it look incredible? I love puddings that combine sweet and salty and absolutely anything that contains peanut butter, so this is going straight to the top of my must-bake list.

Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake from Reluctant Housedad

My fabulous mother Cheryl suggested this next dish Hokkien Mee, which she remembers eating as a girl growing up on the Malaysian island of Penang. It’s a hot and spicy noodle dish, featuring both meat and seafood, common in many South East Asian dishes. It’s a little different to the Singapore version but, as my Mum would tell you, much more delicious!

Penang Hokkien Mee from Cheryl Leembruggen (photo via vkeon.com)

Karen from Lavender & Lovage offers up these ‘frugal but comforting’ Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats, which I think look incredibly tasty and very satisfying. It’s a real family-favourite in Karen’s house; her daughter loved eating this when she was little, and still does now she is all grown up!

Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats from Lavender & Lovage

My little sister Elly surprised me with her cooking skills with this next entry, her Nonya Chicken Curry from Malaysia. I just assumed she would submit a recipe for something sweet and sticky – she’s a great baker you see. But no, this is her curry dish that got a big thumbs up from her boyfriend’s dad. He’s from Malaysia himself and apparently not an easy man to impress!

Nonya Chicken Curry from Elly Rowe

Pasta and Pesto Sauce is our next entry which comes from A Trifle Rushed. Pesto is always a favourite in our house but I must admit it’s normally a meal-in-a-hurry using dried pasta and jarred sauce. Here Jude and her daughter lovingly make fresh pasta by hand and blend their own pesto in a pestle and mortar. I bet it tastes incredible; it certainly looks wonderful.

Pasta and Pesto Sauce from A Trifle Rushed

Louisa at Chez Foti now lives in the French Pyrenees and likes to cook classic French dishes whenever friends and family come to visit. This Boeuf en Daube is a particular favourite and I can see why; it looks so sumptuously satisfying! It’s one of those meals you can prepare in advance and leave to slow cook in the oven, so that your visitors arrive to the most glorious aromas emanating from the kitchen. Yum!

Boeuf en Daube from Chez Foti

When I received this next entry from Lavender & Lovage for Yorkshire Season Pudding with Herbs I had to try it straight away. We had it for brunch one Sunday morning, and it was perfect with our bacon, eggs and beans. I like the fact this is a traditional family recipe, and one that Karen’s grandmother used to make. I think it might just become a tradition for our family too.

Yorkshire Season Pudding with Herbs from Lavender & Lovage

Spinach and Bacon Macaroni Cheese from Sian at Fishfingers for Tea is next up. Macaroni cheese is the ultimate in satisfying comfort food and I do love this version, beefed up with tasty bacon and spinach and finished with slices of tomato and crunchy cheesy breadcrumbs on top. Another great dish for preparing in advance and popping in the oven just before your visitors arrive.

Spinach and Bacon Macaroni Cheese from Fishfingers for Tea

My Nana Barbara sent in two dishes for her entry: Courgette Bake followed by Vanilla Cream Terrine. She says the courgette bake works well both as a starter and as main course served with large hunks of crusty bread. My Nana is fantastic in the kitchen and as a kid I would love staying with her and Grandad as it always meant getting to eat lots of lovely cakes and pies.

Barbara’s Courgette Bake – perfect for anyone with a glut of courgettes on their hands

Chicken Basquaise is the delicious entry from Helene at French Foodie Baby. She warns that it might differ from traditional recipes but that’s what she likes so much about her mother’s cooking; she cooks from the gut. I love the way Helene relives her food memories through her blog and brings them into the present day as she cooks for her little boy Pablo.

Chicken Basquaise from French Foodie Baby

This Strawberries and Cream Birthday Cake comes from my step-mum Sue and is the cake she bakes every June to celebrate my twin sisters’ birthday. I’ve always been very jealous of them having a summer birthday when strawberries are in season! Now wouldn’t you like this for your birthday cake each year?

Strawberries and Cream Birthday Cake from Sue Hamer

The final entry is one of mine: Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s a dish I loved to eat when I was a little girl on trips to Penang with my mum and little sister. I had no idea how to make it so I turned to members of my Chinese-Malaysian family for a helping hand, and my Aunty Lorene and Cousin Sisi did the honours by providing this recipe. How would I ever survive without Facebook?!

Hainanese Chicken Rice from Bangers & Mash

There you have it – a fine collection of family recipes if ever I saw one! But there can only be one winner in the Care to Cook challenge, and the unenviable task of selecting a winner was given to 15-year-old Josh, who lives with one of TACT’s foster carers in the South West of England.

Josh says it was a very difficult decision to make and he sat deliberating – and salivating! – over the list for quite some time and really struggled to choose just one winner. He really liked the look of both the Penang Hokkien Mee and the Strawberries and Cream Birthday Cake, but in the end it was the Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake from the Reluctant Housedad that won his vote.

So a huge congratulations to Keith at the Reluctant Housedad for your fabulous entry, which Josh found he simply couldn’t resist! As winner of the Care to Cook family recipe challenge he will receive a copy of TACT’s Care to Cook recipe book, signed by the charity’s celebrity patron Lorraine Pascale.

Choosing one winner wasn’t easy but in the end our judge Josh couldn’t resist this Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake from the Reluctant Housedad

And thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share their favourite family recipes, helping to raise awareness of this very worthwhile charity, which is working so hard to improve the lives of children and young people across the UK who haven’t had the best starts in life. More information of the work of TACT is available on their website.

Spaghetti with wild garlic pesto

I’ve been swept away on an aromatic love affair with wild garlic in the last few weeks. As well as my delicious wild garlic risotto, it has also featured in many salads and has livened up our mashed potato. But this whirlwind romance is set to end all too soon. While there are still lots to be seen in the local hedgerows, it won’t be long before their leaves wither and the flowers wilt.

I have, however, come across the perfect way to capture this garlicky essence of early spring – by making up a large jar of wild garlic and walnut pesto. Divine.

This recipe comes from River Cottage, who say it will keep it in the fridge for up to three weeks and can also be frozen. They also say it makes 5 x 200g jars but I only got one large jar out of it. It’s not a problem though as I think this will keep us going quite a while.

The pesto tastes fresh and green (if you know what I mean) and packs a strong tasty punch so you don’t need too much of it. For its first outing, I served it very simply stirred through a dish of spaghetti and only needed to  use a couple of spoonfuls to get the full effect. I’m looking forward to trying it as a crostini or pizza topping next and, according to River Cottage, it’s also good stirred into soups and stews.

Spaghetti with wild garlic pesto

100g wild garlic leaves (carefully washed – I found a couple of slugs in mine!)
50g spring onions, chopped
50g walnut pieces
200ml good olive oil
70g Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
spaghetti, allow 75-100g per person

Remove any thick stalks from the wild garlic and put in a food processor with the walnuts, spring onions, and 150 ml of olive oil.

Give it all a good blitz until everything is finely chopped and you have a beautifully thick, vibrantly green salsa.

Stir in the grated Parmesan, salt and sugar. Then pour into sterilised jam jars.

The advice here from River Cottage  is to ensure you press the pesto down well with the back of a spoon to get rid of any air bubbles and leave room at the top of the jar for a layer of olive oil. Every time you use the pesto, mix in the oil before you take a spoonful, and replace with another layer of oil before replacing the lid and returning to the fridge.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions. Drain and stir in a spoonful or two of the wild garlic pesto to taste. Enjoy!