No blog from me last week so I’m making up for it with TWO recipes this week; for wild garlic pesto and for breadsticks.
As anyone who reads my blog regularly will know, I’ve had a pretty busy couple of years now with most weekends out and about in London with the kids or at different food events or visiting friends. It’s meant my DIY to-do list on the kitchen wall has been there so long it’s gone a bit yellow and faded as I never seem to be home long enough for me to tackle it. At the start of this year I cordoned off the past two weekends to restore and paint the door and porch of my house and it’s been great to give the place some TLC, but there’s always more to do!
Our house is over 100 years old and was derelict when we bought it six years ago. My dad and I put it back together – every wall, floor and ceiling – that’s us building the kitchen in the picture above. Our family has grown quite a bit since then so my wife Sarah and I are planning another major renovation in about six months’ time. We’re going to knock through and double the size of the kitchen, which I’m really looking forward to. My current kitchen is pretty decent, but the amount of baking and cooking I do now means I need much more storage, more worktop space and bigger ovens. I’ve built a hell of a lot of kitchens in my time but there’s an extra sense of satisfaction that comes from making your own. What would be on your dream kitchen wish list?
On Thursday this week we went to the launch of Sabrina Ghayour‘s (pictured with me above) new book Sirocco at the Haymarket Hotel. Sabrina’s first book, Persiana, won the Observer Food Monthly ‘Best New Cookbook‘ in 2014. Sirocco is also a beautiful book that’s really had my mouth watering. Sarah and the kids made Sabrina’s coffee and cardamom chocolate mousse cake yesterday (recipe available here). It was delicious! Recipe book launches always mean catching up with food industry buddies so as well as seeing Chetna and my home economist mates Kim Somauroo and Alan Thatcher, I got to meet Ping Coombes, the winner of Masterchef 2014 and Joe Hurd, who made his Saturday Kitchen debut this weekend. Ping’s Masterchef win was particularly memorable for me as Martha, Kate, Diana, Nancy, Iain, Chetna and I all watched the final together during filming for Bake Off.
On Friday when I picked my eldest daughter up from Rainbows, we picked a huge bunch of wild garlic, which has inspired this week’s recipes. The wild garlic season is at its peak from March until June in the UK (but can be found earlier and later) and if you’ve never seen it before, it looks like the picture above. Be careful not to get it confused with other similar, non-edible plants, but you’ll recognise wild garlic from its distinctive and strong garlicky smell. In the UK, it grows in woodland areas and there’s loads of it near me, but if you’re looking for some, this National Trust guide is a good starting point. I’ve found my foraging skills have really improved since having a dog, as my dog walks tend to coincide with where the wild garlic, sloe berries, blackberries and elderflowers grow! Having picked a bumper crop with my daughter, yesterday I made wild garlic pesto and then turned it into twisted breadsticks.
I love baking with pesto. It reminds me of the bake I made for my first Bake Off audition (see here) and of the pesto pinwheel I made on Bread Week on the Great British Bake Off, pictured above. The pesto pinwheel recipe is on the BBC website (see here) and is one of my recipes that people have made most often and sent me pictures of the results. My Bake Off mate Enwezor makes it with his kids quite a lot as it’s a great week-night dinner to share. There’s another delicious wholemeal pinwheel recipe in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, made with honey and goats cheese. The breadsticks I made yesterday are great for a pre-dinner starter or to snack in front of the TV (for example, if you’re watching Eurovision next weekend!) The pesto could be substituted for a garlic and herb passata if you prefer.
Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
- 20-30 wild garlic leaves
- 75g of cashews or pine nuts (I never seem to have pine nuts in the cupboard so used cashews and it tasted great)
- 4 tbsp grated cheese (traditional pesto uses fresh parmesan, but I used extra mature cheddar and for this ‘English’ pesto, it worked really well)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
- For this recipe you will need a food processor. While I’ve got a posh one now, for the previous ten years I made do with this one and it worked pretty well.
- Start by lightly toasting the nuts in a frying pan – be careful not to burn them or they will turn bitter.
- Set the toasted nuts to cool and tear up your wild garlic into smallish (about 4-5cm) pieces and put into the food processor with the salt, the lemon juice and the grated cheese. Pulse the mixer until you have shredded the leaves down. You will have to wriggle the mixer a bit to get all the leaves down to the blade.
- Add the nuts and continue to pulse and wriggle the food processor until the nuts are blitzed down.
- Set the mixer to a medium speed and slowly pour in the olive oil. Add the Greek yoghurt and continue to blitz until a smooth green pesto is formed.
- You can eat this immediately, or allow the flavour to develop for a few hours before eating. It will keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Twisted Pesto Breadstick Recipe
- 500g strong brown bread flour
- 10g table salt
- 10g dried yeast
- 250ml water
- 50ml olive oil, plus extra for brushing
- sea salt for sprinkling
- pesto as above
- Measure the flour, salt and yeast into a bowl and mix with a spoon.
- Add the water and olive oil to the bowl and continue to mix with a spoon until all the flour has come away from the bowl.
- Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
- Place in a oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 1 hour
- After the dough has risen to 2 or 3 times the volume, tip out onto a clean surface and knock back by folding the dough in on itself until all the large air bubbles are gone. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and roll the first piece out to around 30 x 40cm, making sure the edges of the rectangle of dough are as straight and square as possible.
- Lay some cling film over the rolled out piece of dough to stop it drying out and roll out the second piece of dough to the same shape and size.
- Take the cling film off of the first piece of dough and spread about half of your pesto onto it in an even layer
- Lay the other rectangle of dough onto the pesto covered one to make a pesto sandwich.
- Using a sharp knife, cut up to 20 x 2cm strips of dough
- Twist each one four times and lay on two baking trays lined with baking parchment.
- Leave for 30 minutes to rise and then brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for around 25 minutes until golden brown.
- Once cooled, dip into the remaining pesto and scoff!
See you next week – happy baking!