A cake free week

On April 12, 2014 by battenburgbelle

After the madness of the Horticultural Society cake-fest and in the interests of the general health of the Battenburg family, this was a week of lots of soup and healthiness.

Salmon chowder

Salmon chowder, with vegetables!

While Missy B made the most of the first week of the school holidays keeping a close eye on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and even spending some time with some actual flesh and blood friends, I turned the kitchen into a soup factory. First up was this great salmon chowder – Missy B loves it and as well as a large portion of fish, it contains a multitude of vegetables, so it’s a win win one.

I recently relieved Grandma Battenburg of a cookbook she was given by a friend a few years ago: Valvona & Crolla, A Year at an Italian Table, by Mary Contini. Grandma B wasn’t using it and I was drooling over it every time I visited. So she gave in and handed it over. She then, very sensibly, nominated it as Battenburgbelle’s book of the month for April. It’s a lovely book, set out in seasons, with an emphasis on excellent ingredients and not overly complicated recipes. Very glad that Grandma B gave me the incentive to put it to the test.

I started with a pea soup with ricotta and cucumber.

Pea soup with ricotta and cucumber

Pea soup with ricotta and cucumber

Not the right time for fresh peas, so I used frozen. Fabulously simple and gorgeous:

30g unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 kg shelled weight fresh peas (or frozen)
1/2 litre boiling water
2 tbsp single cream
sea salt

1 small piece of cucumber, peeled and sliced
100g fresh ricotta
olive oil
1 tbsp very finely chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the shallots and celery and sauté till soft. Add the peas and turn them in the butter, then pour in the boiling water. Simmer for 15 minutes then set aside to cool. Whizz in a blender or food processor till smooth.

Reheat the soup, stir in the cream and season with salt. Serve hot with a few slices of cucumber on top and a teaspoon of ricotta mixed with a little olive oil and chopped parsley.

It’s really beautiful, such a bright green, even with the frozen peas, and very delicious.

I also made another batch of mushroom soup, just because I love it.

Mushroom soup

Heston Blumental’s take on mushroom soup

There was a family gathering at the Battenburg grandparents yesterday, so to prove to Grandma B that I am actually using the book, I made these little raspberry and ricotta tarts for dessert.

Raspberry and ricotta tarts

Raspberry and ricotta tarts

Without wishing to give the impression that everything I make is easy and thereby failing to impress any future guests, these are also very straightforward. Obviously I used the tried and tested Bertinet pastry recipe to make the little cases. First in the cases is a little dollop of raspberry jam: 200g raspberries, 50g caster sugar and 2 tbsp lemon juice, brought to a simmer and cooked for about 5 minutes. Next is a layer of raspberry flavoured ricotta: 200g buffalo ricotta (I only managed cow’s ricotta, but it was fresh from a local Italian deli), freshly grated lemon rind (I used most of the rind of one lemon, which is more than the recipe suggested), another handful of raspberries and icing or caster sugar to taste, all mixed up in a bowl. To provide a more professional air, I piped the filling into the cases, but obviously that is not necessary. Decorate the tarts with a few raspberries and dust with icing sugar.

Sit back and watch them get wolfed down.

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