19 December 2020

Focaccia with Blue Cheese, Pears and Walnuts

It is some time ago now, that I had a focaccia in a pizzeria in a small village between Locarno in Switzerland and Domodossola in Northern Italy. What was striking about it was the ideal combination of flavours and textures, blue cheese and pears, with the walnuts adding a crunch to the whole thing. Walnuts and pears are of course available in abundance in autumn, which makes this a tasty dinner when the days are gloriously colourful but are getting shorter. I tried to redo it from memory and it turned out to be pretty much how I remembered it. 


What you need

(the following amounts would be for two people)

  • 500 gr Pizza dough (I was lazy and bought it ready made) rolled out in two 24-cm rounds
  • 200 gr Gorgonzola, possibly with some Mascarpone or Crème Fraîche (not pictured) to make it more spreadable
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 pears (conference are good), sliced
  • 100 gr walnuts, chopped
  • optional, pepper or a raclette spice mix (pepper, nutmeg, paprika)

What you do

  1. Preheat the oven to a pizza setting (ventilation and grill, 280°).
  2. Distribute garlic and onions, both very thinly sliced on the dough.
  3. Sprinkle with (not too finely) chopped walnuts.
  4. At this point you may want to prebake this for about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the sliced pears in a circle.
  6. Cover with the Gorgonzola (and mascarpone/crème fraiche if using).
  7. Bake for a total of about 10 minutes; the cheese topping should have started browning. 
  8. Season with pepper or the raclette spice mix.


28 July 2020

Courgette/Zucchini Fritters with Yoghurt Sauce

As so often in the summer, we have a glut of courgettes and the question becomes quite pressing what can be done with them. I had a vague memory about fritters with a kind of Levantine touch. So this is what I tried out – and if it exists in some national or regional cuisine, I can only plead that I worked this out by myself… It has to be said that apart from letting the courgettes sit in salt for twenty minutes, that’s the part that takes the longest: this is a quick meal.

What you need:

  • 3 courgettes grated
  • 1 tblsp salt
  • 1 largish or 2 smaller onions or shallots
  • a handful of herbs (parsley, coriander, lovage, thyme, oregano, etc.), in our case from the garden
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • a generous amount of oil for frying
  • 3 good tblsp flour
  • 2-300 ml Greek-style yoghurt
  • a handful of mint
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • herb salt and cayenne pepper to taste

What you do:

  1. Rub the grated courgettes with the salt and leave to drain in a sieve for at least 20 minutes, then squeeze the excess juice out (the drier the courgettes, the better).
  2. In the meantime chop the herbs (without the mint) and the onion(s)/shallots, and mix with the eggs and the flower.
  3. Add the grated courgettes and season to taste (salt and pepper, perhaps a touch of curry powder or, my option, Cajun spice).
  4. In a frying pan, heat the oil and when it is hot, fry the fritters for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Drain of the excess fat with kitchen paper.
  5. For the yoghurt sauce, chop the peppermint finely, squash the garlic and mix with the yoghurt, then season with herb salt and cayenne pepper.

17 July 2020

Fennel Top Pesto

We are in the fortunate position to get a weekly organic veggie delivery from a farm less than 5 kilometres from where we live, it is always mostly a surprise and always seasonal. They also are very good about not throwing stuff away that is perfectly edible, but often is cut off and discarded when sold in super markets or on market stands, in this case the very flavourful feathery leaves on the top of fennel. I tried this out and even though my co-habitants both profess not to like aniseedy tasting things, this went down a treat, as a sandwich topping, in a vegetable risotto or as a straight-forward pesto. And it is vegan, if anybody is bothered.

What you need:

  • 70 to 80 g feathery leaves of fennel tops (the stalks work very well in a creamy soup, by the way)
  • 3+ cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 90 g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Cajun Spice mix or (less!) cayenne pepper
  • 1 – 2 tblsp (white) Balsamico
  • about 5-5 tblsp olive oil

What you do:

  1. Chop the fennel topping quite finely (it speeds up the liquidising afterwards)
  2. Roughly chop the garlic.
  3. Mix the ground almonds with the salt and the Cajun Spice and roast it without fat in a large frying pan until fragrant.
  4. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and then liquidise in whichever portions your machine can handle. You may need to add more olive oil or, if it is too oily, some more almonds.