Monthly Archives: July 2014

Baked Courgette Fries

Cost: minimal, around 40p for a two-person serving

The courgette plants we grew from seed are now sprawling triffids that dominate the vegetable patch. A couple of courgettes reach frankfurter-size on a daily basis now, and I try to pick them before they get too big. A month or so ago we only had flowers, which are rather lovely stuffed with ricotta and herbs, brushed with olive oil and grilled until they crisp up, and these alone would be worth growing the plants for, but now it is almost August and we have a full on glut.

With such excess, it is easy to get into slightly dangerous habits. Courgettes sautéed in butter with caramelised onions and crispy nuggets of bacon was an early favourite, served with pasta and topped with cheese. The pasta was wholewheat but let’s be fair, if this was a nod towards healthy eating, healthy eating’s response would have been an almighty blanking. “Um, I think not!”

This recipe, however, is satisfying on all sorts of levels. It is quick, cheap and easy – but it is also extremely healthy and utterly delicious. Courgette fries are a mainstay of some fancy burger restaurants such as Byron; the tinge of green hints at a virtue their potato counterparts could never attain. But most recipes call for deep frying – this method does produce crisply perfect fries, but they are greaseless and retain a depth of flavour, a certain sweetness of the courgette, and a moistness as well. The courgette inside is moist but not mushy, the burnished carapace breaking apart to yield a velvety interior. They really seem like an indulgence – a luxury even, but are so quick and easy (30 mins from start to finish) and very healthy, chips that make you feel better, not worse after eating them.

Courgette fries

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Brioche (Sourdough or Active Dry Yeast)

Cost: about £1.50 for a 1.5kg quantity. It isn’t the cheapest bread recipe, it’s true – because of the prodigious quantities of butter, milk and eggs. It is still over 4x cheaper than the cheapest supermarket brioche, however, and unsurprisingly, a fresh homemade loaf is immeasurably superior to its plastic-mummified long shelf-life counterpart.

This richly golden loaf is a glorious indulgence – the sort of thing that is best, I feel, homemade. The crumb is tender and deeply flavoured, but very light and airy, not at all dense. It is suspended within a deeply burnished crust that crumbles pleasingly – either straight out of the oven or toasted the next day. It is a treat but one which is definitely worth it. It takes time (overnight fermenting and long rise because of the enriched nature of the dough), but not much effort at all – especially with a stand mixer doing most of the work.

Brioche loaf

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Easy Coconut Sago Pudding

Cost: under £1, serves 4 generously

This pudding is dreamy – caviar-like pearls of sago are suspended in a light coconut pudding with the gorgeous mouthfeel of custard. It is wholly composed of storecupboard ingredients – vegan and gluten-free, so it’s easy to knock up a batch when there is nothing in the fridge and no inclination to run to the shops. I make it unsweetened and then add a teaspoonful of dark, fudgy brown sugar – it’s not quite the authentic gula melaka that would be used in Singapore, but it does the trick.

Coconut Sago pudding

I feel like a guilty pleasure food should be something that is easy to make and doesn’t need lots of time/attention – after all, there is too much of an opportunity to make a more responsible choice if you actually go out of the house to buy some double cream, and for this kind of thing, delaying the gratification with hours of stirring at the stove or stacking up lots of washing up for later doesn’t enhance the pleasure – in fact it might start to seem not worth it. This is a one-bowl recipe that takes less than an hour to make – and half of that is just leaving it to soak.

My way of making sago is possibly not very authentic but it is easy, and delicious, and the result of much experimenting. It’s supremely comforting served warm from the pan, but achieves a certain cool sophistication served chilled in pudding glasses, perhaps accompanied by tropical fruit such as lychees or honey mangoes.

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