Maybe it is the fact that the sun finally arrived. Maybe it is the fact that Spring vegetables are beginning to show up at the market. Maybe it is just that I have enough time to finally sit down and write a blog post. Whatever it is, it is good. And I know it isn’t just me because I just finished an amazing Saturday on Portobello Road making lovely food from fruits and vegetables that we bought from Portobello & Golborne Markets. Three lovely women from Leiths joined me and the crowds were happy and social and enjoying the day and the market.
We made five dishes yesterday and handed out over 1000 samples. We were lucky to have 6 bunches of new asparagus from the market and they went into a risotto beautifully cooked by Alexia. Although risotto has a reputation for being finicky, it is actually pretty forgiving and it is endlessly flexible. With a basic Parmesan and lemon risotto, you can embellish with any seasonal vegetables. With English asparagus just coming in, this is a perfect way to use it in a main dish. In addition, Jeroboams of Notting Hill (on Elgin Crescent) liked the recipe so much they took it one step further and suggested a wine pairing! If you are in Notting Hill today (hopefully picking up asparagus to make our risotto!) you should also stop by Jeroboams and ask for the 2011 Granges de Mirabel, Viognier, M. Chapoutier. Mention Road Food and they will give you 10% off. You can find the risotto recipe on Road Food’s Facebook page.
Vicki roasted fennel and pureed it with white beans and olive oil infused with garlic and rosemary. Somehow we only had a massive commercial immersion blender rather than the food processor we had hoped for, but it turned out beautifully. Hundreds of crackers later, this was firmly established as a crowd favorite. And the chefs in the kitchen (ok, maybe just me) made sure there wasn’t a single lick left in the pan when it came to washing up. This is the easiest recipe of the bunch and I highly recommend you give it a go.
The dark horse was the quinoa salad. So healthy. So trendy. But the sun was shining and maybe people were thinking of bathing suit season and quinoa hit the right note. We tossed it with pomegranate seeds, mint, kale, red onion and a blood orange dressing. The quinoa recipe was basically “developed” that morning in the kitchen with our four very talented palates. I will post this recipe later in the week.
We finished with two unusual chocolate cakes. Amy wasn’t able to join us in the end, but she had taken the lead on finding and testing this amazing olive oil cake from Nigella. None of us had had it before today but we took Amy’s word for it and we were not sorry. It was rich and had a silky texture and she has the recipe on her blog, Le Petit Parfait.
Laoise made a delicious and beautiful beetroot chocolate cake from Marian Keyes. It was rich but not too sweet and perfectly balanced by the drizzle of pink icing. Laoise has more photos of the day on her blog, Cuisine Genie.
We’ll be back next month with 5 or 6 new recipes. In the meantime, I promise to write down the quinoa recipe (if only so I can recreate it) to share some pictures from my Spring break travels to the Cotswolds and Belgrade.
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1 large fennel bulb
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 garlic cloves, with peel
225ml extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled but whole
1 branch of fresh rosemary
1 tin of white beans
juice of 1 lemon
50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 200C. Remove the fennel tops and root. Roughly chop into 2cm pieces. Toss in rapeseed oil with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Place in one layer in a roasting tin. Add the garlic cloves and roast until soft and beginning to color. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan. When it is hot (but not smoking) add garlic cloves and branch of rosemary. Simmer for a minute or two until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.
- Rinse beans under cold water and add to the large bowl of a food processor. Pour the infused oil through the spout while pureeing the beans. Squeeze the roasted garlic from its peel and add to the food processor along with the roasted fennel.
- When smooth, taste the puree and season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add the Parmesan cheese. Add additional oil until the desired consistency is reached.
- Serve on freshly slices bread or crackers.