I love Alexanders – smyrnium olusatrum. They are one of my favourite spring foragables. Driving around the countryside here on the Isle of Wight they suddenly pop up, lining the streets of parts of the Island from early March. We use the thin stems for a sautéed snack or side, the thicker stems for candying, make a syrup for drinks and cocktails, eat the florets steamed like you would broccoli, or pickled in vinegar. Later in the year we collect the seeds to use with pepper too. I know people use the roots and leaves too, but we haven’t gone that far yet. Continue reading “Candied Alexander Stems”
Beetroot rosettes are pretty to look at and fantastic to taste. The flavours of goats cheese and red onion blend perfectly to make something that feels like cafe food, but is pretty quick and simple. If you’re doing it as a starter there’s plenty of time to be prepping your main in between. It’s simple, easy food and I love it. Continue reading “Beetroot, Red Onion and Goats Cheese Rosettes”
I’m always really excited when I find a fig tree – like something in me forgets that I live in England now, and I’ve yet to pick a ripe fig from a tree – even here in the very South of England.
Fortunately a South African friend of mine invited me round to her house last year, and out of her cupboard she brought a jar of green fig preserve, reminding me how, back home, we used to deal with the figs before the birds could get to them.
This is one of many recipes – in reading up on it, I realise that it’s also something the Turkish do, so who knows how it made it’s way into the South African diet – to me it’s definitely a South African staple, so here’s the recipe, should you too have access to a big fig tree that never bears fruit. You’ll never look back.
Two things: it’s a bit fiddly to get the figs to the point of ready, but well worth the effort. Also, I don’t tend to add the spices in the boil. I add them to jars when they’re ready to be bottled up – this means I might have a fig and cardamom, a fig and cinnamon or a fig and clove, slightly different flavours, which keeps it fun and exciting.
Sometimes the figs we find are really big – too big to fit into gifting or ‘single portion’ (aka, enough for one meal) jars. If that’s the case, halve or quarter the figs before adding them to the sugar syrup. It doesn’t look as pretty in the jar, but in reality, when you pull them out to eat on your crackers you would rarely eat a whole one on a single cracker anyway.
- 1kg unripe figs
- 1kg sugar
- 1.250 ml (also 1.25kg!) water
- Spices (cloves, cinnamon stick or cardamom all work well)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Bring a pot of water to boil - just enough to cover the figs. Add the figs and boil for ten minutes. Empty out and refill the pot, bringing the figs to boil and boiling for another ten minutes. This is important, as it's what makes them lose the bitter/unripe taste.
- Drain and leave to cool.
- Once cool enough to touch, squeeze the figs - there may may be some white liquid that drains out. If there's still a lot of white juice, boil again for ten more minutes, then squeeze again. It seems fiddly, but is well worth it!
- In a clean pot, bring the 1.250ml water to boil and add sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the squeezed figs. They will resume their original shape during this process, unless of course, you've cut them.
- Add the spices of choice* and boil figs in the sugar syrup for about 25 minutes. Add the lemon juice and boil 5 minutes more.
- Pour into sterilised jars, making sure the syrup covers the figs. *I tend to leave out the spices in the previous step and add different spices into the jars at this point so that I have different spice varieties. Close while hot to create a vacuum seal.
- Keep in a cool dark place, and transfer to the fridge once opened as it's actually best cold, served with goats cheese and parma ham - or just goats cheese if you're veggie.
Over the summer our local supermarket was selling off a bunch of live chilli plants, and even though I really don’t like chilli – except in hot chocolate – I love the splashes of red against the deep green leaves and I love the brightness it introduces to my kitchen. The plant itself is one of those that gives more the more you take from it, so we’ve had a healthy harvest of chillies over the last few months, and I’ve been giving them away to anyone who’d have them. I did decide to keep a few though, because I wanted to give one of my chilli-loving friends a little gift of chilli salt.
We use Himalayan pink salt which I tend to bulk buy as it lasts forever, and we use salt for some non-food purposes that make good gifting ideas too, and I can crush it as we need it. I also wasn’t sure how dry the chilli gets itself just by lying on the windowsill, so I popped them in the dehydrator for a few hours till the chillies were properly dry. (They crackle when you snap them.)
I also put the chillies into the Thermomix® (food processor) first so they can be chopped up before I add the salt because I didn’t want the crystals to be broken down too fine.
Just one note here – when you’re blending this up in your food processor, make sure to cover any airholes (in a safe manner). If the air fills up with chilli salt, it’s not a whole lot of fun on your nose or throat or eyes!
I’ve decorated empty herb and spice and other jar lids with washi tape to make it prettier and as these will go into a festive food hamper, I’ve done them in Christmassy colours.
- 300g Coarse Himalayan Salt
- 20- 25 small chillies, dried
- In a food processor chop the dried chillies till they are as fine as you'd like them
- (Thermomix®: PUT THE MC IN PLACE, 10 seconds/speed 5)
- Add the coarse pink salt and mix again. Don't make it too fine.
- (Thermomix®: MC still in, 10 seconds/speed 5)
- Use a funnel or similar to pour into dry containers and keep sealed.
I’ve been enjoying the summer weather lately, and been loving the entertainment opportunities that presents too. When I have guests though, I like having pre-prepared, or quick to prepare meals as I don’t like spending ages in the kitchen! That’s just one of the reasons I really enjoy this Calamari, Tomato & Basil Pasta: it’s easy to prepare before hand, leaving just 10 minutes cooking time required.
I prefer to use fresh pasta when pasta is the main part of the meal, so I’ve used fresh pasta in this recipe. Dry pasta works, but needs to be cooked for longer. It can also be served in a salad, or with quinoa or other starch of your choice.
Use a good quality squid for this recipe too – nothing worse than leathery calamari!
Now, if you want to prepare this meal for later cooking, chop the garlic cloves, wash and dry the cherry tomatoes – halve them if they are the larger variety – wash the squid, clean it and cut it into rings, and chop the basil leaves roughly. Store all the items in the fridge till about 20 minutes before you’re going to cook them, leaving it to warm to room temperature a little.
If your calamari loses a lot of liquid in the cooking, you can pour it out about before adding the cherry tomatoes.
Serve immediately – and if you’re having wine, Calamari, Tomato & Basil Pasta pairs really well with a dry white wine, like a Pinot Grigio – a wine I don’t normally like, but it works fantastically with this. Another alternative is Riesling.
- Pasta for four people
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 250g cherry tomatoes, washed and dried
- 450g squid, cleaned and cut into rings
- bunch cut basil leaves
- salt and pepper
- Prepare the pasta as per brand instructions. Set aside. (I bring 1000g water to boil in the Thermomix® - Varoma/8 mins/ speed 4 - then add the pasta in the internal steamer for 3 - 4 minutes / Varoma/speed 4)
- To a heated pan, add the oil, garlic and anchovy to a frying pan and heat till the anchovy sort of 'melts'.
- Add the squid and fry for 1 - 2 minutes, tossing them as you do.
- Next, add the cherry tomatoes and fry them for 3 - 4 minutes, till they begin to soften and leak juice - I prefer the cherry tomatoes to still have some bite to them, but it's personal choice, really!
- Test the squid to make sure it's nice and tender, then add the basil, salt and pepper.
- Serve with the pasta, or as a salad with green leaves.
Another fantastic centrepiece for a party, a pumpkin filled with Pumpkin Parmesan Dip looks great and is versatile for crackers and veggies alike. You can adjust the amount of parmesan, or even substitute for a cheese you prefer – I can’t imagine there’ll be too much difference to the end result.
My kids are particularly antsy about raw garlic – they can pick it out of anything – so if you prefer, you can saute the garlic for three minutes at 100C. I only do that if I’m making it, especially for my children.
I decided to put the dip into a bowl and hover the bowl inside the mouth of the pumpkin. I don’t know if that’s necessary or if you can just put it in the pumpkin, but I decided it would be easier in this instance to keep cool, and that the pumpkin itself was reusable for a number of days and other recipes if not. Also, if you’re particularly skilled at carving (I’m not!) a fake candle inside, under the dip could look very pretty too.
Pumpkin Parmesan Dip Recipe:
- 1 garlic clove
- 50g parmesan
- 100g cream cheese (I use full fat)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 400 - 500g cooked pumpkin
- Add 1 clove garlic 5 seconds/ speed 5
- Add parmesan 10 seconds/speed 10
- Add cream cheese, paprika, salt and cooked pumpkin 30 seconds/ speed 4
- Scrape down sides 1 minute/ speed 10
- Set aside to firm up again, and serve
- Finely chop the garlic, or crush it and add to a food processor
- Grate parmesan and add to the garlic.
- Add cream cheese, paprika,salt and cooked pumpkin
- Mix following your food processors instructions till it's all well blended and smooth.
- Set aside to firm up again, and serve.
Try these Halloween recipes too!
The cheese biscuits in the images are round versions of these cheese straws.
Cookies, or biscuits, if you will, are so synonymous with Christmas to me. My mom used to do a huge bake i the beginning of December somewhere, and I remember a lot of cookies through the month, always stored in old fashioned cake tins. That was always fun.
I love this recipe because it’s a little different to the ‘usual’ butter biscuits, with the addition of almond extract. You can try it with rum extract too.
The white fondant may need rolling out on a clean surface with a sprinkling of icing sugar, and left to set it’ll provide a lovely soft, pillowy counter point to the crunchy biscuits. I love these! My kids like decorating them with silver balls pressed into the surface, but I just think of broken teeth!
Even though you use the same shapes for cutting out the fondant in the baking and moving of the biscuits they may change shape a little, so use your fingers to ‘smooth out’ the edges of the fondant to fit perfectly over the biscuits.
- 230g Butter
- 340g Sugar
- 6 cups Plain Flour (780g)
- 6 Eggs
- 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 tablespoon Almond Extract
- 140g butter
- 280g icing sugar
- 1-2 tbsp milk
- Add the butter and sugar to a food processor and mix till it is light and fluffy
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir till combined and a soft dough forms
- Place in the fridge for 1 hour, heat the oven to 180C, then roll out on a well floured surface
- Cut out shapes and move to an oven tray then back for 10 - 12 minutes until they are golden brown
- Meanwhile, role out some fondant and use the same cutters to cut matching shapes from the fondant. Set aside.
- Once the biscuits have cooled, mix the butter, icing sugar and milk together, and spread generously over the biscuits
- Top with the fondant shapes shaping them to fit on the biscuits
- Place gently in an airtight container and allow to set
- They should keep well for 1 - 2 weeks
- Place the butterfly whisk into the Thermomix® bowl and add the butter and sugar 3 minutes/speed 4. The butter should be light in colour and fluffy
- Remove the butterfly and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix together 30 seconds/speed 5
- Empty out onto cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour to make the dough easier to work with
- Remove from fridge, roll out the dough to about half an inch thick and cut into shapes
- Transfer onto a baking tray and continue until all the dough is used up
- Bake for 10—12 minutes at 180C till golden brown
- Store in an airtight container
A Very Thermie Christmas has this and 50 other recipes for all your Thermomix® Christmas needs. With everything from snacks to meals, finger foods to festive drinks and DIY gifts A Very Thermie Christmas has your Christmas covered. Just £8.99 (excl VAT in EU) this printable PDF can be yours in minutes.