Monday, 30 August 2010

B is for... Baklava

After dinner sweets


This was another first for me. I've never made baklava because, well, I've never really been much of a fan. If it's brought out at somebody's house or at the end of a meal in a restaurant, I'll always start to pick at it before remembering it's just not for me. It's too sickly sweet for my palate and the floral notes of rose and orange blossom just add to rather than cut through the tooth-aching sugariness of these sticky squares. I know too many people whose eyes light up with a child on Christmas Eve's excitement to write baklava off altogether though, so I thought "B" night would be the perfect excuse for this particular challenge.

Never having been remotely interested in them before, I thought it best to vaguely follow a recipe and chose Nigella's Baghdad Baklava (mainly because it involves a double "B") from Feast. I added the zest of a whole lemon as well as the juice (the recipe states the juice of half only) to the syrup in the hope that an extra hit of citrus would ward off some of the sweetness. I also substituted some of the caster sugar for honey, as so many of the other baklava recipes I'd been reading had a honey hit in them, and using half a kilo of sugar felt a bit alarming - I still ended up using a pound, which still won't get these a recommendation from your dentist anytime soon. I added more rosewater and orange-flower water than Ms Lawson's recipe states, as I'd bought such huge bottles of the stuff it felt rude not to. Instead of all almonds, I made my baklava with half blanched almonds and half pistachios and added extra cardamom. In the end, although largely following Nigella's instructions, I felt I'd altered it too much to be sure it could still legitimately be called Baghdad baklava, so have dropped the Baghdad. My boyfriend declared it to be the best baklava he'd ever tasted. High praise indeed. I still didn't like it much though. It turns out I was right all along. Baklava is just too sweet for me and I'd much rather have had a biscuit with my coffee instead. Bah humbug.

For the syrup

10 fl. oz/ 300 ml water
1 lb/ 400 g caster sugar
4 oz/ 100 g runny honey
The zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
2 tbsp rosewater
2 tbsp orange flower water

For the pastry and filling

5 oz/ 125g unsalted butter, melted
1 lb/ 400 g fresh (not frozen) filo pastry
10 oz/ 250 g blanched almonds
10 oz/ 250 g shelled pistachios
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, ground

To make the syrup, bring the water, sugar, honey, lemon zest and juice to the boil and keep at boiling point for 5 minutes. Add the rosewater and orange flower water, then remove from the heat. Pour the syrup into a jug over a sieve to sift out the lemon zest, leave to cool and then chill in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan)

Nigella suggests using a disposable square foil tin (23 x 23 x 4 cm), but I couldn't find any. I used a lipped baking tray (23 x 32 x 3 cm) instead as that's what I had in the cupboard, but if you have a smaller, deeper tin, use it.

Brush the tin with melted butter and then brush each of the filo pastry sheets as you line the tin with them. Filo pastry dries out very quickly, so keep a clean, damp teatowel on top of the packet in between layering up, to keep the pastry moist and easy to work with. Use half the filo pastry for the bottom of the baklava, placing the filo sheets in the tin evenly, so that the pastry goes up the sides with a little overhang. Once you have lined the tin with half the filo, chop the nuts (either in a processor or by hand) until medium-fine and stir in the cardamom. Spread the cardamom-scented nuts over the filo sheets and then carry on layering the second half of the pastry in the same way. The last sheet on top should be buttered well and then, with a sharp knife, trim around the top edge of the tin to give a neat finish. Cut into squares, making sure you cut the baklava right down to the bottom, but without cutting through the tin.

Pop the tray in the oven for half an hour, by which time the filo will have puffed up and become golden brown. As soon as it comes out of the oven, pour over half the cold syrup. Leave it for a few minutes to soak in and then pour over the rest and leave to cool completely before serving.

After the Turkish coffee and baklava, there were brie and biscuits on offer but I'd broken B group with the rest of the B feast and there wasn't a crumb's worth of room left in their bellies for cheese. The C nighters were more robust, as you'll discover next time...

Sunday, 29 August 2010

B is for... Blackcurrant bavarois with a biscuit Joconde base, topped with blackcurrant jelly and British berries


Blackcurrant Bavarois with a biscuit Joconde base, topped with blackcurrant jelly and British berries

This is a really pretty pudding with a fresh, summery and tangy taste. I'm not always a huge fan of blackcurrants as they can sometimes be a bit grainy, but I used delicious dessert blackcurrants, which are slightly sweeter, but still tart, and amazingly juicy. Although this pudding has quite a lot of components to it, it's well worth the effort. Much of the work can be done in advance, so you can enjoy your dinner party safe in the knowledge that you have a beautiful pudding waiting for you to whip out of the fridge when the time comes, with no last minute prep work, apart from the washing and slicing of a few berries.

Biscuit Joconde

Biscuit Joconde is a classic French almond sponge, named after the Mona Lisa and is used as a basis for many desserts such as Charlotte Russe. I much prefer making summer pudding with biscuit joconde instead of stale, sliced white bread, as I find that bread can often end up unpleasantly slimy. The biscuit Jocande soaks up the fruit juices without any sliminess and provides a more pleasingly sweet contrast to the tartness of the berries. The amount of biscuit Joconde you will make here will be far too much for your blackcurrant bavarois puddings, but wrap the rest in clingfilm and freeze. It keeps for ages and is such a useful pudding-making staple to have handy in your freezer.

Preheat your oven to 180 C (160 C Fan) and line a large roulade tin with baking parchment.

3 whole eggs
5 egg whites
A pinch of salt
2 oz/ 50 g caster sugar
1 1/2 oz/ 40 g melted butter
2 oz/ 50 g plain flour, sifted
7 oz/ 175 g icing sugar, sifted
7 oz/ 175 g ground almonds

Whisk the whole eggs and icing sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the ground almonds and continue whisking on high speed for about 6 minutes. Stir in the melted butter and flour until throughly incorporated. In a separate, clean and oil-free bowl, whisk the eggs whites and salt until at the soft peak stage. Whisk in the caster sugar in two stages and continue whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add a third of the meringue to the almond mixture and vigorously stir in to slacken the batter. Fold in the remaining meringue and pour the mixture into your prepared roulade tray. Use a palette knife to smooth the mixture out - it should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Bake in your preheated oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until the biscuit Joconde is no longer sticky to touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in its tin on top of a wire rack for about ten minutes before turning out of its tin on to the rack to leave to cool completely.

Blackcurrant compote/ puree

I used 3 punnets' worth of dessert blackcurrants, which is about 450 g. Simply wash the blackcurrants and top and tail them to remove their stalks and pop them in a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar, a mug of water and the juice and zest of half a lemon. Simmer gently until all the sugar has dissolved and your blackcurrants are soft but still mostly whole in a beautiful bath of purple syrup. Leave to cool and reserve a dessert spoonful or two per pudding and blitz the remaining compote into a puree and push it through a sieve into a bowl and reserve for later.

Creme Anglaise

I absolutely love custard - hot, cold, thick or thin - but there is something particularly delicious about this vanilla scented, runny custard sauce that can turn the dullest of days into a special day for me; such are the powers of this vanilla hug on a spoon. You can have it on its own, pour it over almost any pudding or use it as a base for transforming it into something else - just as I'm going to do with this batch.

4 egg yolks
4 oz/ 100 g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways or 1 tsp vanilla extract
12 fl.oz/ 350 ml single cream, whole milk or half and half

Place the cream/milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod (if using) and gently bring to the boil. In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy and pop a sieve over the bowl ready. Once the cream has come to the boil, pour it through the sieve over the eggs to strain off the vanilla pod and any woody bits that have come off it in the cream. whisk the eggs, sugar and cream together and pour back into the saucepan. Add the vanilla extract at this stage if using. Place the saucepan over a gentle heat and whisk constantly until the custard thickens enough so that it can coat the back of a spoon and if you draw a line through the custard with your finger, the line remains. The creme anglaise should be runny and will thicken slightly more on cooling, so don't be tempted to overcook it if you think it's a bit on the watery side, as you'll be on a short, sure path to curdlesville. Once it's ready, immediately remove the creme anglaise from the heat and pour it into a cold jug or bowl. Cover the top with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool completely. It will happily sit in the fridge for a couple of days until you need it.

Blackcurrant bavarois

Biscuit Joconde
Blackcurrant compote and puree reserved from earlier
4 sheets of leaf gelatine, cut into strips
Cooled creme anglaise
330 ml double/ whipping cream

Using a pastry cutter, cut out a small circle of biscuit Joconde and use it to line the bottom of a martini glass. Push it down until it is right at the bottom. You can add another circle on top, if you like. Top the biscuit Joconde with a spoonful or two of your reserved blackcurrant compote and some of the juices, so it soaks through some of the spongey base.

Soak 4 sheets of leaf gelatine in cold water for about ten minutes until soft. Gently heat your reserved blackcurrant puree in a saucepan. Remove the gelatine from its water and squeeze off any excess and stir it into the warm blackcurrant puree. Take the pan off the heat and stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved. Pour in your creme anglaise and mix together thoroughly to make a pretty purple sauce. Allow to cool, but not set, and whisk a small tub (330 ml) of whipping or double cream until fairly stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the blackcurrant custard and spoon a generous amount of the bavarois into each martini glass on top of the blackcurrant compote. Leave enough room at the top for the bloackcurrant jelly and place the glasses in the fridge to set.

Blackcurrant jelly

Make sure your glasses of bavarois have completely set before starting your jelly.

4 sheets of leaf gelatine
1 tbsp caster sugar

Cut the gelatine into strips and place in a heatproof bowl and add about 1/3 of the cassis and leave to soak for about 10 minutes or until the gelatine has fully softened. Add the sugar to the cassis and gelatine and place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until the sugar and gelatine have dissolved. Be careful to ensure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining cassis, stir and ladle some jelly over the top of each of your martini glasses of blackcurrant bavarois and carefully place the glasses back in the fridge to set. They can stay in the fridge until you are ready to dress them with a few washed and sliced seasonal* British berries and serve.

* B night took place in the middle of July, so all produce was seasonal at the time. I've just been a bit slow with keeping up to date with writing up my dishes due to heavy work commitments.

B is for... Braised baby gems, broccoli, bearnaise sauce and Brouilly and balsamic reduction

Main continued...

Braised baby gems, broccoli, bearnaise sauce and Brouilly and balsamic reduction

Braised baby gems

Preheat your oven to 200 C (180 C Fan)

Sometimes known as little gem lettuces, baby gems provide a perfect ready portioned side vegetable. Simply cut out a little of the core of each lettuce with a sharp knife - don't get over-eager here or you'll end up with braised lettuce leaves instead of whole baby gems. Wash each lettuce under cold, running water, then drain and pat dry. Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a hob-to-oven dish, add the baby gems and cook over a medium heat until slightly limp and caramelised. Add a couple of mugs' worth of chicken stock and a large knob of butter to the pan and bring to the boil. Season the lettuces, cover with greaseproof paper. Tuck the paper into the sides of the dish and place in the oven for about 20 minutes, basting every 5 minutes and turning the lettuces halfway through cooking.


There's no recipe of substance here. All I did was steam some broccoli florets in a steamer with a sprinkling of sea salt. The only thing to remember is not to over-cook them so they stay vibrant green and don't become mushy. People too often overcook broccoli - it should be soft but firm.

Bearnaise Sauce

This was the first time that I've made this classic sauce - I'm not sure why, given how delicious it is - so I followed a recipe by Tamasin Day-Lewis, but instead of using 4 tbsp tarragon and 2 of chervill, I used all tarragon as I love its aniseed-y flavour. She also starts by clarifying the butter, but it makes more sense to me to make the vinegar-based mixture first as it needs time to cool before using.

10 oz/ 250 g unsalted butter
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely chopped
6 tbsp fresh tarragon
10 peppercorns, crushed
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp water
Lemon juice, to taste

Place the vinegar, 2 tbsp of the tarragon, the shallots and peppercorns in a small, heavy-based saucepan and simmer gently until reduced by half. Allow the mixture to cool. In the meantime, clarify the butter by melting it in a saucepan over a gentle heat and then skimming off the milky sediment that rises to the top. Add the egg yolks and water to the vinegar mixture and whisk together. Place the pan over a low heat and continue to whisk until the sauce emulsifies - this will take about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and whisk the clarified butter into the emulsion, a little at a time until it is all incorporated. Season the sauce, push it through a sieve and stir in the remaining chopped tarragon and some lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

I must admit, by the time I made the sauces I'd slightly overdone it on the bellini and beaujolais-front, which might have played a small part in the reasons why my bearnaise sauce ended up splitting. I managed to rescue it in the same way that I'd resuscitate mayonnaise. If your sauce follows the path of mine, stop adding butter immediately. In a clean, warm bowl whisk some more egg yolks with a little lemon juice and then slowly, drop by drop, add your split sauce and whisk it in until it re-emulsifies. Once all of your split sauce has been added, you can continue to drizzle in any remaining clarified butter.

Brouilly and balsamic reduction

Any palatable, medium-bodied fruity red wine can be substituted for the brouilly (preferably beginning with B of course) or you could even use ruby port instead, if the letter of the day isn't important to you. I used chicken stock as I already had some made, but you can substitute it for beef or veal stock to make a richer sauce.

1/2 bottle of Brouilly
1/2 pint of fresh chicken beef or veal stock
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A splash of olive oil
6 shallots, finely chopped
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme or marjoram
A large knob of butter
Salt and pepper

Pour the wine into a saucepan and boil until reduced by half. Add the stock and balsamic vinegar and reduce by half again. In another saucepan, gently fry the shallots in the oil until soft and slightly golden. Add the thyme/ marjoram and a generous grinding of black pepper. Pour the reduced wine and stock into the shallots and gently simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavours to deepen and for the sauce to thicken. Fish out your herbs, whisk in the butter, a little at a time, to make the sauce glossy and rich and season with salt and pepper to taste. At this stage, you can sift the sauce if you want it smooth. Pour into a warm jug and serve.

B is for... Black pepper encrusted fillet of beef with boulangere potatoes, braised baby gems and broccoli served with bearnaise sauce and/ or a brouille and balsamic reduction


Black pepper encrusted fillet of beef with boulangere potatoes

I knew I couldn't have "B" night without including one of my absolute favourites - fillet of beef. I bought some amazing organic beef from Chadwicks of Balham. I won't lie, this beauty is not a cheap cut of meat, so jump at the first chance you get to push the boat out and get yourself a fillet - I can't think of a more delicious and succulent treat to skip home from the butchers with.  I like my beef on the blue side of rare and fillet has very little fat on it, so it's at its best cooked rare, or medium if you must. If you like your beef well done, don't bother wasting a fillet. For over-cooked, aherm sorry, well done beef, you'll need a fattier cut or you'll end up with a dry, leathery and sorry excuse for your dinner. 

The fillet I bought weighed in at about a kilo and was enough to feed 8, though a very greedy party of 6 could polish it off without breaking a meat-sweat. I used a whole 40 g jar of black peppercorns and dry toasted them in a non-stick frying pan to release their essential oils. You'll know they're ready when your kitchen fills up with the aroma of black pepper. Tip the peppercorns into a pestle and mortar (or magimix/ coffee grinder if you're feeling lazy) with some coarse sea salt and pound them. Don't overdo it though, you don't want black pepper powder.

Place your fillet of beef on a large sheet of clingfilm and pour your bashed black peppercorns on top. Press them into the beef on all sides so they stick and roll up your fillet in the clingfilm. You can do this a day in advance and pop it in the fridge, but it is absolutely essential that you let your fillet come up to room temperature before cooking, to get the best out of your beef.

To cook, sear each side of your beef in a hot frying pan with a little vegetable/ sunflower oil and pop in a preheated oven at 180 C (160 C Fan). Leave it in for 10 minutes for rare or 15 for medium. If you insist on spoiling it, you can leave it in for 25 minutes for well done - but please don't. Once you've taken your fillet out of the oven, leave it somewhere warm to rest for about 15 to 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Boulangere potatoes

B proved to be another excellent excuse for a gratinated potato dish - I do love them. Boulangere potatoes aren't as rich as Pommes Anna, or as artery-clogging, so unlike Anna and Dauphinoise, you can throw caution to the wind and pile up your plate with wild abandon. I like to make my own stock for these, but if you can't be bothered or haven't got time, a good pot of fresh stock would be a much better choice than a stock cube. Making chicken stock really isn't as faffy as people think and it is a great way to utilise your Sunday roast's carcass. It's just a matter of bunging some bones in a saucepan with coarsely chopped veg (I used onion, celery, leek, carrot and a few whole, peeled garlic cloves), salt, a few whole black peppercorns and herbs (I used thyme and bay). Then you just top it up with water and leave it on a low heat to simmer for a few hours. Once it's ready, leave it to cool, strain it into a jug and pop it in the fridge. It'll last a few days in the fridge or you can leave it in the freezer for about a month (defrost before use).

Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan)

A large knob of butter
A glug of olive oil
2 large white onions, sliced into half moons
3 - 4 crushed cloves of garlic
1.5 k potatoes (I used Maris Piper potatoes)
1.5 litres of fresh chicken stock (see above)
Salt and pepper

Peel your potatoes and slice them thinly (about the thickness of a £1 coin) and pop them into a large bowl of cold water. Grease a large gratin dish with some of the butter and place the rest in a frying pan with the olive oil and fry off the onions and garlic until soft and brown. Set them aside for later. Drain your potato slices and dry them with a clean teatowel. Place a layer of potato slices, followed by a layer of onions and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Continue to layer up the potatoes and onions this way, but make sure the top layer is potatoes. Pour over your chicken stock until your potatoes are just covered and pop some foil over the top. Bake for around  half an hour, take off your foil lid and pop your spuds back in for a further half to three quarters of an hour or until your potatoes are soft and your top layer has nicely browned.

B is for... Baked beetroot, french bean, bacon, basil and balsamic salad


Baked beetroot, french bean, bacon, basil and balsamic salad

With pre-starters before it and several courses to follow, I felt a light, tasty salad would be just the ticket before the rare beef onslaught. When you bake beetroot, you don't need to peel it - a good scrub is all that's needed, so you don't have to worry about dying your hands purple for this dish. After scrubbing, I cut the beetroots in quarters and baked them in a tin foil envelope with some basil, whole garlic cloves, a couple of bay leaves, a good glug of olive oil, a generous pouring of balsamic vinegar and seasoning.

Allow 1 and a half  to 2 beetroots (6 to 8 pieces) per head and I used a whole head of garlic - you can use less if the volume scares you, but garlic has a much mellower flavour when roasted or baked. You can either serve the caramelised garlic cloves in the salad or discard them once they've worked to flavour your beets. Lay a big sheet of foil (about 4 metres) on the work surface and fold it in half to give a double thickness. Pop the beetroot, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper in the middle and then simply fold the sides into the middle. Before closing, add the liquids and scrunch up the foil at the top to seal it. Place the foil envelope on a baking tray and bake for about an hour in a preheated oven at 200 C (180 C Fan). Insert a skewer into the beetroot to check it's soft and then let it cool down in its bag for a while before serving. The beetroot should ideally be served warm.

In the meantime, top and tail some french beans - about a handful per person should do it. Give the beans a rinse and blanche them for a couple of minutes, before draining and placing in ice cold water and draining again. If you don't immediately cool your beans down, they'll continue cooking and will lose all their crunch. They can sit around in a collander until you're ready to plate up. Make a dressing of 2 parts balsamic vinegar to 5 parts extra virgin olive oil, a couple of handfuls of finely chopped fresh basil and salt and pepper shaken up in a clean jam jar.

Once you're ready to serve your starter, dry toast a few tablespoons of pine nuts in a non stick frying pan (OK, so pine nuts don't begin with "B" but by toasting them they become browned pine nuts - so it's not a total cheat, is it?) and leave on a plate, now dry fry some smoked bacon cut into cubes (I find it easiest to snip it straight into the pan with a pair of kitchen scissors), until brown. To plate up, place a handful of french beans on each plate, 6 - 8 pieces of baked beetroot, some bacon, a few whole basil leaves, a drizzle of dressing and a scattering of browned pine nuts. You can chuck on some of your baked garlic cloves too if the mood take you and your light Summer starter is ready to serve.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

B is for...

... Broad bean bruschetta and babaganoush on buckwheat blinis served with bellinis on arrival. Followed by a starter of baked beetroot with french beans and bacon in a basil and balsamic dressing. For main, we had black pepper encrusted fillet of beef with boulangere potatoes, braised baby gems and broccoli, served with bearnaise sauce and/ or a Brouilly and balsamic reduction. Pudding was blackcurrant bavarois with a Joconde biscuit base, topped with blackcurrant jelly and British berries followed by home-made baklava served with Turkish coffee.

"B" night saw the launch of the first official dinner for Alphabet Soup Supper Club. I realised early on, that in order to finish the challenge on time, be true to the seasonality and happy meat promises made, be allowed creative kitchen freedom and not declare myself bankrupt by this time next year, I was going to need a little help from my friends. I decided that a supper club for foodie chums with hungry eyes and empty bellies would be the ideal solution. As much as I would love to create frequent vast and greedy treats for my friends and family for free, my current financial status prevents me. So, food bills split equally between all diners (including me) seemed like a fair deal and also made it possible for me to go to town for "B" with a beautiful piece of beef fillet from Chadwicks of Balham.

On B night, all the music began with "B". We had Belle and Sebastian, David Bowie, Billy Bragg, Blur and Blondie to name but a few. Conversations seemed to lead to topics beginning with B and some guests (thank you, B for Beth) even came dressed solely in colours beginning with B, armed with blue flowers. Bloody brilliant.

Pre-dinner drinks and nibbles.

I love bellinis, they're so fresh and summery. They're best made with perfectly ripe white peaches, but if you can't find any you can buy the puree ready made online. If you can find fresh, peel them and blitz them in a blender immediately before using. To make the cocktail, simply pour the peach puree into champagne glasses and top up with prosecco, or any sparkling wine you like. You need about one third peach to two thirds fizz. Give your cocktails a quick stir and serve straight away. If the bellinis sit about for too long, the puree will start to settle. So drink up!

Buckwheat blinis with Babaganoush
Buckwheat blini batter takes no time at all to whisk up and you can prepare hours or even a day in advance and leave it in the fridge until you need to use. Just give it another quick whisk and it's ready to go. Buckwheat flour is great for guests with gluten allergies as, despite its name, buckwheat flour is wheat-free. Once the aubergines have been charred on an open flame (or under a grill) so that the flesh becomes soft and smoky, the remaining effort required is minimal and is the work of seconds with a magimix or blender.

Buckwheat Blinis

1 large egg
3 1/2 oz/ 90g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
150ml/ 5 fl. oz milk
Butter/oil, for frying

Whisk the egg and add the remaining ingredients. Beat the mixture thoroughly until you get a smooth batter. Melt some butter in a non stick frying pan and drop a spoonful of batter into the pan. Cook until you can see bubbles on the surface of the blini and flip over and fry until both sides are golden. Stack the blinis as you cook them on a warm plate covered in foil. They can be served cold, but I personally prefer them warm.


2 aubergines
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, ground to a paste with sea salt in a pestle and mortar
The juice of 1 lemon
1 - 2 tbsp tahini
salt and pepper
pinch of cayenne

Char the aubergines on an open flame - your gas hob on high, a barbecue or the grill. It is essential to char the aubergines to get the desired smoky flavour. The skin should blacken and the aubergines' shape should be on the point of collapse. Once charred, let the aubergines cool before splitting them down the centre and scooping out the flesh with a spoon. Place the scooped out flesh and the remaining ingredients (starting with just half the lemon juice) in a magimix or blender and
blitz to a smooth paste. Taste for seasoning and lemon, make any additions needed and blitz again. Serve a spoonful on each warm buckwheat blini.

Broad bean bruschetta

Broad bean bruschetta is a really fresh and tasty way to use up the glut of broad beans you get in the veg box at this time of year. I fiddled around with a recipe I found in Nigella's Feast, who has fiddled around with a recipe she found in the second River Cafe Cook Book. I just love a bit of culinary kleptomania.   

Broad bean bruschetta                

1 k young broad beans
2 cloves of garlic
2 handfuls of fresh mint
4 tbsp grated pecorino (or parmesan)
Zest and juice of 1 - 2 lemons
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A loaf of rustic sourdough bread

Pod the beans and put them into a food processor with the garlic, mint, a generous pinch or two of sea salt and blitz to a rubble. Add the pecorino, lemon zest and juice and a good grind of black pepper. Blitz again, scrape down the sides and gradually add the oil through the funnel while the motor's still running. Check for seasoning and place in a bowl covered in clingfilm for about half an hour to let the flavours marry. Slice your sourdough and place on a very hot griddle, once you have toasted tiger stripes on your bread, turn over and toast the other sides. Rub a cut garlic clove over each slice of toast and place a generous dollop of the broad bean mixture on top. Drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil and a few slivers of pecorino and your broad bean bruschetta is ready to serve.