Sunday, 29 August 2010

Warm Potato, Bacon, Leek and Caper Salad

Things became slightly exciting down at the allotment this week as we unearthed a large amount of an unusual potato that we planted earlier this year.

One of my most favourite potatoes, and certainly one that you never see in the huge superstore near me, is the pink fir apple potato. Distinctive by its nobbly exterior and ever so slight pink shady skin, this is a salad potato with style. You hear people describe certain potatoes having a 'nutty' taste. The pink fir apple is nutty and creamy, absolutely perfect for those first warm salads of the year.

So I now have my own pink fir apple potatoes, a potato that you simply cannot find in the superstores. If you do find some, and I encourage you to seek an alternative such as this to the usual floury white potatoes, you will understand why I'm easily pleased.

Warm Potato, Bacon, Leek and Caper Salad
Feeds 2

10 pink fir apple potatoes
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
4 rashers of un-smoked middle back bacon, trimmed and cut into strips
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed and sliced into 1 cm chunks
A couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves
A handful of fresh chives and parsley, chopped

For the dressing
A handful of capers, rinsed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
Freshly ground pepper

1 - Scrub the potatoes then place into a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until just cooked through. Drain and allow to cool.
2 - Half the potatoes. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and place the potatoes in, cut side down. Cook for 5-10 minutes until golden brown, then turn and cook the other side.
3 - Heat a little more oil in a separate pan and add the bacon and leeks. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until cooked and golden.
4 - Throw in the spinach and quickly toss in the heat of the pan until slightly wilted.
5 - Mix together the salad dressing ingredients in a bowl.
6 - Arrange the salad onto a plate along with the fresh herbs and a good drizzle of the dressing.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Onion and Roast Garlic Soup

Happy days at the allotment recently when we plundered the first vegetables that were planted, the onion and garlic.

I can remember putting my onion and garlic sets in back in November when the allotment still resembled a council tip. We were optimistic, what with the forthcoming winter in store, but our onions and garlic survived quite spectacularly, producing fat vegetables that now hang proudly in our shed ready for the coming months.

I've noticed pungency and flavour in these onion and garlic like I have never tasted before. And for me, the ultimate of all recipes to show off our plucked beauties were in a classic French onion soup. I adore this soup so much and for some reason, it works in the hot months just as well as the cold. Maybe that is because it reminds me of lazy carefree summers in Brittany, but either way it is a soup that must be made and devoured.

A whole bulb of my deep purple garlic, roasted until sweet, just took the flavour levels up a notch and guaranteed a soup to banish any lingering cold bugs as well as the odd vampire. Served with simple toasted bread, rubbed with a clove of garlic and drizzled with olive oil, is all that is needed for that most majestic of onion celebrating dishes. Alternatively, if you want to be all traditional, top with a slice of crusty white bread, pile on grated Gruyere cheese and place under the grill until golden and melting.

Onion and Roast Garlic Soup

Serves 4

1 whole bulb of garlic
Olive oil
25g butter
6 large fat onions, peeled, halved and sliced thin
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tbsp flour
800ml hot beef stock (fresh or from cube)
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 200C/GM6. Place the whole unpeeled bulb of garlic into a square of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly. Place on a baking tray and roast for 1 hour until soft. Remove and allow to cool. Squash out the cloves onto a plate then mash with a fork. Set aside.
2 - In a large pan, heat up the butter with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the onions and cook gently for 30-45 minutes, stirring regularly to help tease out the sugars and make it all golden and caramelised. You can add a teaspoon of sugar to help it along if time is against you.
3 - When caramelised, add the thyme and stir through. Stir in the flour and stir for 2 minutes.
4 - Add the hot beef stock and stir thoroughly. Stir in the mashed roasted garlic. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning then serve.