It has been such a long time since I last posted on my blog. Last Sunday was, in many respects, quite a trying time for the entirety of my family, with the departure of my grandfather from this world into the next. Although it has been over a week since his passing, it still somehow feels extremely surreal. It feels more like a tasteless charade than the truth.
I am going to keep this post extremely brief, noting that Midsummer had been a joyous occasion, full of laughter, good food and wonderful company. An eternal reminder that life is indeed sweet and fruitful. Flowers from the garden were weaved into crowns, warm strawberries were picked and used to adorn cloud white pavlovas, and the air was perfumed with the scent of myrrh and musk from the old English roses that paint my mother’s garden. It was such a beautiful day, as we sat sipping honey wine, clad all in white, that perhaps even the faerie-folk came to admire our little gathering from the safety of their elderflower trees, where they could laugh at our trivialities as we continued into the dark of night dancing under the light of the moon.
Although perhaps rather presumptuous, our little Midsummer gathering almost unknowingly seems like a celebration of my grandfather’s life; full of love, joy and blessings.
I leave this post with recipes of the food we throughly enjoyed together and a number of photos capturing the essence of a lovely day.
Homemade Vanilla Pavlova with Strawberries and Freshly Whipped Cream
Cooking time: 3 hours +
Makes: 1 large layer/4 large meringues
5 egg whites, medium sized
1+1/3 cup caster sugar
1tsp white wine vinegar
1-2tsp vanilla paste
300ml heavy cream
3 cups fresh strawberries
To ensure that the sugar dissolves easily in the meringue, you need to pre-heat the oven to 200c (400f) or, if fan-assisted, 180c (350f). When ready, place baking parchment on a tray and pour the sugar, evenly, onto this. Place in the oven for approximately 4 minutes. Meanwhile, separate the eggs (save the egg yolks for other recipes such as curds or custards) and begin to whisk on a low speed until the whites begin to grow frothy. Then, turn the speed to the highest for a another minute or so. Take the sugar out of the oven, and lower the temperature to 100c (212f) or 80c (176f) if fan-assisted oven (tip: keep the door slightly ajar to allow the oven to cool faster). When the egg whites begins to show peaks, begin to add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Once all the sugar is added, continue whisking, adding the vanilla, white wine vinegar and corn starch, for another 5 minutes to ensure all the sugar has dissolved.
Place baking parchment on top of a baking sheet and pour the meringue in the middle in a circular shape, ensure that a well is created in the centre of the meringue (so that the outside edge of the meringue is higher than the centre so that it can later be filled). Place in the oven for 2 1/2- 2 3/4 hours. When ready, turn the oven off and leave in the oven until completely cooled. The pavlova can be stored for a couple of days in clingfilm in a cool place.
On the day, assemble the components. First, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form and then gently fold in the centre of the pavlovas to ‘sandwich’ the layers together. Top with more cream and adorn with the strawberries. Enjoy immediately.
Dark Rye Bread with Honey, Walnuts and Buttermilk
Cooking time: 1 hour +
Makes: 14-16 slices
One of the easiest and most delicious breads I’ve ever made. This goes exceptionally well with the pea sauce (recipe to follow), with jams or simply with butter.
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup English borage honey
2 cups rye flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup flaxseed
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup walnut, crushed coarsely
1tbsp himalayan salt
1tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan assisted) or 350f. Sift the flours and the baking soda together until well distributed. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until a dough is formed. Place this dough into an extremely well buttered loaf tin, approximately 8inches (do not worry if the dough is bulging out slightly out of the tin). Place in the oven for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the tin immediately and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Store in cling film when at room temperature and eat within 2 days.
Gravad Kommel with a pea, mustard and crème fraîche sauce
Cooking time: 25 minutes, plus overnight
Makes: 300g marinated fish and approximately 1 cup of sauce
Hake, called kommel in Swedish, is in season at the moment and is a delicious alternative to the traditional marinated salmon. This really works well with the dark rye bread (previous recipe).
2 fillets of hake, approximately 150g each
1 1/2tbsp demerara sugar
zest of 1 orange
3 tbsp sea salt, plus 1/8 tsp
3/4cup peas, fresh
2tbsp crème fraîche
1tbsp dill, chopped finely
1-2tbsp olive oil
1/8tsp black pepper, ground
In a bowl, add the vodka, sugar, orange zest and 3 tbsp of sea salt into the bowl and stir. Add the hake and turn them around in the liquid, making sure the fillets are covered. Set aside in the fridge, turning occasionally at least twice (this can be done prior to going to bed and once when you wake up).
Next, place the peas into a pan full of boiling water and cook until you can squash a pea between two fingers with littler effort (approximately 6 minutes). Remove the peas from the water and place in a blender with the olive oil and pepper and the rest of the salt. Blend until desired consistency is reached. Allow to cool to room temperature in a bowl before adding the mustard, crème and dill. Store in the refrigerator overnight, or until needed. Use within 3 days.
Cherry Blossom and Vanilla Bundt Cake with Sugar Pearls + a Strawberry Drizzle
Cooking time: 1 hour
Serves: 6 mini bundt cakes
I absolutely love cherry blossom flavour, however, I am not a fan of the artificial flavourings which do not taste of sakura at all. Since I had pickled a number of cherry blossoms earlier in the year, I was able to easily make the syrup for these cakes. There are some wonderful Japanese websites that sell pickled sakura and ship globally but by all means leave the flavour out entirely or substitute for my Strawberry + Mint Cordial (recipe to follow), or even an Elderflower and Lemon Cordial.
150g caster sugar
2tbsp cherry blossom syrup (see here for more details)
1 vanilla pod
100g confectionary sugar
20ml strawberry and mint cordial (recipe to follow)
1-2tbsp sugar pearls, to decorate (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan assisted) 350f. Butter mini-bundt pans to ensure that the cakes do not stick to the sides.
Cream the caster sugar and the butter together in a bowl before adding the eggs. Mix well. Sift the flour through a fine sieve before adding to the batter along with the cherry blossom syrup and the seeds of one vanilla pod and mix together until well incorporated.
Spoon the mixture into mini-bundt pans and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until gold brown and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool to room temperature on a rack before drizzling with icing and scattering with sugar pearls. Eat immediately.
Strawberry + Mint Cordial
Infusion time: 12-18 hours
Makes: approximately 400ml
500g fresh strawberries
1 cup vanilla sugar
2 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
1 handful mint leaves
Place the strawberries, hulled and quartered, into a pan with the sugars and vanilla pod over a medium heat and cook for 20 minutes or until the strawberries become a somewhat thick purée. About 5 minutes prior to taking off the heat, rip the mint leaves roughly before adding to the contents of the pan.
Take off the heat and allow to sit in the pan overnight to infuse. Cover with a paper towel. In the morning, strain the contents of pan through a fine sieve and cheesecloth (a couple of paper towels are equally as good), twice over to ensure that the cordial does not have any residue in it. Use immediately or pour into a sealable bottle and store in the refrigerator. Use within 2 weeks. Delicious with carbonated lemonade!
Wholewheat Pizza Blanco with Parma ham, Summer Vegetables and Arugula
Cooking time: 20 minutes, plus 1 hour rising time
Makes: 2 large, thin crust pizzas
Thursday is market day, which means that I had ample opportunity to find seasonal and locally grown vegetables that would still be fresh for our little gathering that took place on Saturday. Since my grandmother finds tomatoes far too acidic for her stomach to handle, I decided to go for a ricotta based pizza instead.
1tbsp fresh yeast
3tsp caster sugar
300 ml lukewarm water
1-2tsp sea salt
2-3tbsp olive oil
500g strong wholemeal wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
350g ricotta cheese
2-3 garlic gloves, minced
150g buffalo monzerella, sliced
2-3 courgettes, sliced thinly
100g asparagus, chopped roughly
5-6 slices of parma ham
handful of washed arugula, to decorate
parmesan cheese, to finish
Place the yeast in a bowl with the lukewarm water and sugar, and allow to dissolve. Add the salt and olive oil and stir. Add wholemeal flour, a little at a time to the water, before placing onto a clean surface to knead for 10-15 minutes until elastic. Place back into a bowl and allow to rise for 1 hour covered under a cloth. Meanwhile, chop and slice the vegetables and mix the garlic with the ricotta.
Preheat the oven to 250c (220c fan assisted) 475f. Take out the rise dough from the bowl and separate into 2 pieces. Roll out thinly, using extra flour to dust. Spread the ricotta cheese over the base before scattering the buffalo cheese, ham and the chopped vegetables on top. Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until the sides have become golden brown and crispy. Add extra parmesan on top of the pizza before decorating with the arugula. Serve immediately.
Thank you for reading.