Tag Archives: herbs

Hasselback potatoes and salsa verde

I am a girl who loves me some carbs. Oh yes. Carbs in most formats float my boat but were I to only be allowed one type for the rest of my days, I’d go with bread. And I’d go so far as to say, that potatoes would be my least favourite – I only really like them in mashed form and to be honest, should this one carb totalitarian future I’m envisioning offer instant powdered mash instead of any real actual carbs, I’d probably be totally OK with that.

Is now a good time to announce my overwhelming love for processed cheese too?

However, I’ve been noticing recently a lot of people I stalk on social media posting pictures of some fancy looking potatoes and some googling informs me these are called Hasselback potatoes and they’re a Scandi thing and they look super pretty and super easy (I refer you to my earlier ‘powdered mash’ comment) so I figured, during Chocolate Saturday, I’d give them a go. Not with chocolate though, that’d be grim.

So the joy of hasselback potatoes is you get the crunchy skin of a baked potato, with the creamy inside of a mashed potato and the crispy edges of, well, crisps. And you slice and bake and baste once and they come out all buttery and yummy. I decided to pair this with a roast chicken and some salsa verde, mostly because I’ve been craving it. And some vegetables, because I do actually want to make it to 40. Which I’m still convinced is in 15 years and not two weeks.

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Hasselback potatoes are super simple. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. I made 6 potatoes for two of us which was far too many – I reckon two per person, max, unless you’re starving in which case, you decide, I’m not your mother. The easiest way to prepare these is a tip from Nigella – put the potato into a wooden spoon and cut slices into it without going all the way to the bottom – you want it to fan out and by putting it in a wooden spoon, it stops you from slicing too deep. The slices should be as thin as possible – I averaged about 3mm but if you can go thinner, well done. And stop showing off. Once your potatoes are prepared, put butter (about 5g per potato) and oil into the roasting tray and put onto the heat – once it is smoking hot, add the potatoes, cut side down first and then turn over and sprinkle salt over them. Baste once and then put into the oven. They’ll take about 45-55 mins to cook (depending on the size of your potatoes). Once cooked, transfer to a warmed dish and serve. With more butter.

My salsa verde was a bit of a mish mash of herbs from my garden and fridge. And I didn’t have any mustard so I didn’t use that. But I’ve since bought some so I’ll see if it makes much of a difference. I liked this one but I love processed cheese so what do I know?

Salsa Verde 

  • 2 large handfuls of fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh coriander (stalks and leaves)
  • 1 large handful of fresh mint (leaves only)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 green chilli
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tsp capers
  • Olive oil (about 3tbsp)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Splash of red wine vinegar (which I also didn’t have, so used the vinegar from the capers)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop the garlic and chop the anchovies into tiny pieces and transfer with the capers to a large mortar and pestle. Bash together with a little sea salt until you have a paste.

Chop your herbs together finely and add to the anchovy/caper/garlic mix. Using a lot of elbow grease, pound this togethr until you have a paste and then add the liquids – and give it a stir. Season to taste. Mine was a little bitter so I added a little bit of demerara sugar which helped lift it.

Serve with hasselback potatoes and a roast chicken if you want to be just like me. I’d imagine it will also be delicious on other grilled meats.

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A lot of herbs in a cake (and a commuting rant)

I’ve been a little slack in posting of late – well, it’s been a week but I was trying to do two posts a week and I think I’ve done one in a fortnight and whilst I’m pretty darned sure no one has been pining over my lack of posts, I am truly sorry for being a little bit rubbish.

In my defence I started working in an office again last week. Whilst everyone is really quite lovely and the work is interesting, it’s been a big ole mindset shift from being able to work in my pajamas from 9-11, then catch up on the previous night’s TV at 11am with a cuppa and a biscuit, then maybe have a shower at about 1pm, then do some more work, then contemplate dinner from about 4pm, I’m now actually accountable for what I do between the hours of 9-5. As Dolly said, what a way to make a living. Or something like that, I’m a fiend for mishearing song lyrics.

Anyway, yes, working – great. Being back in London on a daily basis – great. Commuting – actually sucks eggs. Why do people do this? (probably to be back in London, I’d imagine). But everyone seems so bloody angry about it and the Met line seems to be filled with people who tut. Enough with the tuttery please, it makes commuting (which isn’t fun) even less fun. And everyone must stop wearing black. I mean, I wear a lot of black, but my current handbag is pink. Black macs, black trousers, black backpacks. Cheer up buttercups, you work in the best city in the world, it’s spring (ish), get some colour in your lives. And smile. AND STOP TUTTING.

Rant over.

I do have a couple of posts lined up on various bits and pieces (like the lovely day out I had with my dear friend Charlotte who writes the lovely Baking Betsy blog but is so much more than just her blog!) but today I mostly want to talk about the <deep breath> orange rosemary thyme cinnamon clove polenta cake I made at the weekend. <And exhale>.

So I mentioned last week how my herb garden is growing a treat and I do really like using herbs and spices in sweet things. We had yet another lunch (such hardship) to go to on Bank holiday Monday so (as per boringly usual) I offered to bring dessert.

Because the herb garden is so fruitful, I decided to raid it for a cake. And because my wino loves an almond based anything, I thought a polenta and almond cake would work, and we had some oranges that were fast approaching the big orange playground in the sky and the rest as they say, came together beautifully. Do they say that? I have no idea. It was maybe a little Christmassy for May bank holiday, but heck, Christmas is awesome so I won’t hear any complaints, OK?

Here’s the recipe and some pics, anyway. Hope you enjoy. Next week, I may even leave the rosemary out of a pudding. I know right? CRAZY.

Orange cinnamon clove thyme rosemary polenta cake (with almonds too) 

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  • 5 small oranges or two large ones (I had that easy peeling variety but any orange would do)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 eggs
  • 200g polenta
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped thyme leaves

For the syrup

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml hot water (from the kettle, freshly boiled)
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tsp mixed rosemary and thyme, finely chopped

Grease and line a 23cm tin – I used a spring form one and if you do, make sure you line all the sides and the bottom – there may be some leakage if not.

Put the oranges, cloves and cinnamon into a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, until the oranges are super soft. At this stage preheat the oven to gas mark 4 – approx 160C.

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Take the oranges and spices from the pan, slice in half and remove the seeds (if they have any). Leave to cool, then put them into a blender and blend till you have an orange puree. Skin, spices and all.

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Beat the eggs so they’re light and airy – it’ll help give your cake a little rise.

Measure out all the other ingredients into a large bowl, then beat in the eggs, followed by the orange puree.

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Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin, put into the oven and bake for 50mins – 1 hour.

Whilst the cake is baking make the syrup by simply dissolving the sugar in the hot water, then adding the herbs and zest and allowing to steep. When the cake is cooked, prick a few holes into the top with a skewer and pour half the syrup over it.

Allow the cake to cool before pouring the rest of the syrup over – the flecks of orange and green look just lovely on the top of the cake.

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Slice and serve with a spoonful of cream or ice cream or creme fraiche or yoghurt. Or if you’re rubbish like me and forget all those things, it’s really nice on it’s own too. Promise.

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Life keeps giving me lemons

In recent times, I’ve found my kitchen overrun with lemons so there’s only one thing to do with a glut of lemons – and that’s make a lot of puddings.

We were invited to Sunday lunch at the in laws and the last time we visited them I made lemon meringue pie so I couldn’t make that again. Hugely annoying, because I could live on nothing apart from lemon meringue pie for the rest of my life. Instead, I decided to make a rosemary and lemon mousse with rosemary shortbread and candied rosemary. Guess what’s growing really well in my herb garden?

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Lemon and rosemary is such a good combination – the tartness of the lemons pairs perfectly with the deep robust flavour of the rosemary and in a pudding it adds such a beautiful savoury note. I’m a big fan of herbs and spices in puddings. I found the lemon mousse recipe on Saveur.com but modified it slightly as the amount of sugar just made it a little too sweet even for my sweet tooth. For me, this is a lovely light dessert for a sunny summer evening.

Lemon and rosemary mousse (serves 6-8) 

  • Zest and juice of four lemons
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2in sprig of rosemary
  • 1 cup of sugar (keep aside 1/4 cup)
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of double cream

Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and 3/4 of a cup of sugar in a saucepan, add the lemon juice, zests and salt and stir in till it’s smooth and add in the sprig of rosemary. Put over a low heat and cook out till the curd resembles Angel Delight (for the Brits) or pudding (for the Yanks), took me about 8 minutes. Strain the mixture into a large bowl and chill.

In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar till it forms soft peaks. Fold this into the chilled curd till it’s all combined. Then whisk the cream till it too forms soft peaks then fold that in to the mousse. Put into the bowl(s) you’re going to serve it in, cover and refrigerate till you’re ready to eat it.

Candied Rosemary

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  • 3 x 1in sprigs of rosemary
  • 100ml boiling water
  • 50g icing sugar

Candied rosemary is super easy to make and is a delicious snack too – I know right? Weird. But so yummy. Simply dip the rosemary into the boiling water then sprinkle over the icing sugar. Leave aside to dry then use to garnish the mousse just before serving. If you’re doing individual portions, you’ll need a separate sprig for each bowl.

Rosemary Shortbread

This is modified from a Mary Berry recipe for lavender shortbread. It makes about 20 shortbread biscuits

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  • 175g butter, softened
  • 3 tsp rosemary leaves, chopped finely
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt

Combine the butter and rosemary – this helps release the flavours of the rosemary into the baked biscuit. Then cream together the butter and sugar till it’s light and fluffy. Stir in the salt and flour and then bring the final dough together with your hands and give it a light knead. Split the dough in half and roll each piece to a length of 10cm. Wrap them in foil or cling film and refrigerate until the biscuit logs are firm.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (150C). Slice each log into 10 pieces, about 1cm thick. Arrange onto a greased baking tray and bake for 12-18 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

Green fingers and mountain goats

I’m not particularly outdoorsy. One of Marcel’s favourite stories about me was a time when we were in the Peaks with some friends, who took us off track (they’re climbers and do this regularly) and it had been raining and it was squelchy underfoot and after about an hour of pretending I was OK, I actually stamped my foot, started crying (a little) and stated ‘I AM NOT A MOUNTAIN GOAT’. We made our way back to the car fairly shortly after this and I’m pretty sure we’ve not been back since.

My non-outdoorsy-ness stretches into doing the gardening. I blame early life interactions with insects for making me a little jumpy when anything buzzes too near me or scuttles across the floor as though it’s coming straight for me. The wino loves doing the gardening, I’m quite happy sitting in the garden, with a glass of something chilled, close to a handful of citronella candles, and letting him get on with it. I do however, get regular urges to grow my own veg and have chickens and stuff so I figured it was about time to see if I’ve actually got any gardening ability at all. Watch out, I’ll be climbing Everest in the height of winter at this rate.

So this weekend, we decided to go on an impromptu road trip and found ourselves in the lovely little village (town?) of Moreton-in-Marsh, in the heart of the Cotswolds. And in Moreton-in-Marsh, we spent a lot of time antiquing and in this amazing little shop called Jon Fox Antiques, we found a beautiful old steel bath. We’ve been looking for one of these for some time – I’ve been wanting a herb garden in a bath tub for about 20 years. It wasn’t too ridiculously overpriced so we bought it.

I should probably explain at this point that we bought this house from my parents, who lived here for 13 years and have moved somewhere smaller and easier to manage. The garden was one of the big selling points – our previous flat was a one-bed on the first floor so the thought of having more space and a garden was very appealing. And we couldn’t afford to live where we wanted to live (bloody London) so we chose garden/space over location. Whether that was the right idea is another blog post for another time… I mean, it is a bloody lovely space.

The garden The house from the end of the garden Some of the overgrown borders

But the garden – Mum had a gardener who came round a couple of times a month to manage the place and when they were here, it was lovely if a little old person-y (wavy floral beds, rose bushes, clematis, you know the drill). And a gigantic lawn. Marcel wanted to garden, so we cancelled the gardener, and then with life being a little insane, it all got a bit overgrown very quickly. And then it becomes a huge chore. And no one wants to undertake huge chores. So all in all, it’s been a bit of a nightmare.

On Monday, we (and half of the rest of the UK) popped to B&Q bright and early and bought compost, herb seedlings and a few other gardening bits. I left Marcel to tackle the ankle height lawn (we haven’t mowed since probably last September, we are very lazy) and to weed the beds (because that’s where bugs lie) and I set about creating a herb and vegetable pot garden on the hugely ugly crazy paving patio.

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So, anyway, the purpose of this post is that I’ve decided to man the fuck up and tackle the garden (with Marcel obvs, I’m highly unlikely to venture into creating compost like my darling husband). It’s likely to be a slow process – to be honest, I almost quit on Monday, about 25 minutes in to trimming the clematis, when I saw a type of spider I’ve never seen before and it scared the bejesus out of me so this may not be a long-term manning the fuck up. But right now, we’ve tidied up a small bit of the border, we’ve got beetroot, rocket, kale and a lot of herbs growing and you never know, if it all works, this may be a new thing for me. I have basically retired.

Knowing me, I’ll get overexcited and post photos of sprouting seeds on Instagram, so if you really care, feel free to pop over there and check it out! Otherwise, watch out, I may become a gardening bore (provided the insects don’t prove too much).

Any gardening tips for insectphobic novices? Would love advice!