October 29th, 2013

Pickled Purple Cauliflower Salad

I lucked out in an obscene manner at the farmers market at the weekend. It’s as if all the produce had got together and artfully arranged themselves adjacent to each other so I didn’t have to use my imagination at all. The purple cauliflower sang out immediately. Of course it would – it was purple. Purple veg are actually the best, they make everything a lot more fancy. I am absolutely addicted to purple carrots at the moment. But then carrots are complete rock stars in my eyes anyway and can do no wrong, the purple is just an added bonus.


So, the purple cauliflower was in my bag and I immediately knew I wanted to pickle it which would keep the cauliflower as raw as possible so as not to lose any of its vital colour. Then, just as I was wondering how to incorporate it into a salad, what should be sitting next door to Ole Purple Brains, but bulls blood leaves. That’s right, an unassuming salad leaf handily named something gruesome – perfect for my Halloween week. I hadn’t heard of bulls blood leaves before but they are from the beetroot family and these ones had been organically groomed to take on the beetroot’s purple hue which makes them sweeter. So, in the bag they went.

Now what goes the bestest with cauliflower? If you said cheese then you are completely correct. My husband point blank refused to eat cauliflower at all when we first got together but once he had tried homemade cauliflower cheese suddenly it all made sense to him. In fact a lot of things can make sense with just a spoonful of cauliflower cheese, it really makes you think clearer.


Anyhow, the farmers market. So next door… Next Door!..to the veggie man was the cheese stall. Wildes Cheese are a self proclaimed urban cheese makers who make the most wonderful artisan cheeses from their micro dairy in Tottenham. They recommended The Howard to go with my haul, a softer cheese but with a slight blue note to it which would lend its robust flavours to the sweetly pickled cauliflower and the strong slightly bitter bulls blood leaves. The final ingredient to this wonderful array of ingredients was the walnuts which I wish I could tell you I foraged on the way home along the Parkland Walk but no, I just stopped off at Sainsbury’s.

The thing is with this salad is that you might not be able to get hold of bulls blood leaves but you can easily substitute it with any salad leaves. Radicchio would go very nicely. The same with the cheese, if you live in North London then I would definitely recommend sourcing from Wildes Cheese but if not, then any soft light British blue would go just as well. The pickled cauliflower is just as lovely if you can only get white cauliflower. The purple one just makes it prettier.  The pickled cauliflower can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks and makes brilliant snacking if you are standing in front of the fridge at 10pm on a Tuesday night.



Pickled Purple Cauliflower
Makes about 2 x 500ml jars

2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ tsp celery seeds
1.5 tbsp salt
400ml cider vinegar
180g caster sugar
1kg cauliflower florets
1 large onion, halved then sliced thinly

  1. In a large saucepan toast all the spices for a minute or so.
  2. Add the salt, vinegar and sugar and boil for around 10 mins.
  3. Add the cauliflower florets and onion and bring back up to the boil, then boil for around 3 mins.
  4. Remove from the heat and bottle into jars.
  5. Leave for a day or so for the flavours to come together.

For the salad
A large handful of salad leaves
A chunk of cheese, crumbledIMG_2229
A handful of walnuts, toasted in the oven then cooled
A couple of spoonfuls of pickled cauliflower
Dressed with the dressing below

Salad dressing
1 tsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tsp honey mustard (I used Maille’s honey dijon)
1 tbsp olive oil

Whisk the vinegar, seasoning and mustard together, then drizzle in slowly the olive oil, whisking all the while until it emulsifies into a thick dressing.


October 7th, 2013

Cheese and Peach Pasties

No, my obsession with cheese and peach jam has not gone too far.  In fact, this creation is the ultimate symbiosis and uses a savoury cheese custard and the vanilla bourbon peach jam I made a couple of weeks ago.  Only after you have made this and eaten it and agreed with me then can we all put it to bed.  I’m not sure if you have looked out of the window but autumn has arrived so a little warm pasty with a sunny peach filling will allow you to say farewell to a successful summer.

These pasties bear a resemblance to what Americans helpfully call hand pies which denotes exactly how they should be eaten, on the go or standing in the kitchen a hot pie nestled in your hand.  I’m not sure if any of these made it past my kitchen door if I’m honest, but if you are more restrained than I then stash one in your pocket for when hunger strikes on a leafy October walk or arrange with a few salad leaves for a light lunch.

The custard can keep for a few days in the fridge so you can whip up a batch and it will last you the week.  Feel free to repurpose to a welsh rarebit if the mood takes.  Just add a splash of stout, spread it thickly on toast and pop under the grill for a few minutes under the cheese starts to bubble and brown.


Also, if you can’t be bothered to make your own pastry then shop bought puff pastry also works wonderfully with this filling.  I used Delia’s flaky pastry here from her Complete Cookery Course that to my mind is very difficult to better.

peach pie

Cheese and Peach Pasties
Makes about 24

For the filling
30g butter
50g plain flour
400ml whole milk
150g double Gloucester cheese, grated
50g red Leicester cheese, grated
½ tsp Dijon mustard
3 egg yolks
150g peach jam

For the pastry
220g unsalted butter
350g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg, whisked for the egg wash

Cheese Custard

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat.  Once melted add the flour and stir in to make a thick paste.
  2. In a steady stream pour in the whole milk whisking all the while to disperse any lumps.  Once all the milk is in, bring to a boil but don’t stop whisking.
  3. Add the grated cheese.  Then once melted into the sauce stir in the Dijon mustard and season well.  Turn off the heat.
  4. Put the egg yolks into a large bowl and whisk them together, then take a tablespoon of the cheese sauce and whisk into the eggs quickly but carefully so they don’t have a chance to scramble.  Add another spoon of the cheese sauce and carry on whisking.  Repeat this until you have added almost half the cheese sauce.  At this point it is safe to add the egg mixture back to the rest of the sauce in the saucepan.
  5. Bring to a low boil again then turn off and let the custard cool.  Refrigerate for a few hours before using as it will be much easier to handle.

Flaky Pastry

  1. Measure the butter then wrap in foil and place in freezer for 30 mins.
  2. Grate the butter into the flour, then mix together with a knife cutting through the butter.  Add the salt.
  3. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water then bring together with your hand into a dough, you can add a splash more water if needed but the dough should not be sticky.
  4. Wrap the pastry in greaseproof paper and leave for 30 mins in the fridge before rolling out.

To assemble:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  2. You should be able to get 24 discs from this pastry using a 5” round cutter.
  3. Place 1 tbsp of cheese custard and 1 tsp peach jam into the centre of each disc.
  4. Moisten the edges with egg wash and then bring one side of the pastry over the filling and seal down to the other side.
  5. Make a couple of small slits in each pasty with a knife, brush with egg wash and place them on baking trays.
  6. Bake for around 15 mins.