I promised some recipes based on my treasure-filled haul from Maltby Street Market last weekend and here they are! If you’re headed out to a market this weekend, hopefully these will inspire you to pick up an ingredient you otherwise might not or perhaps just rethink your basket at the shop.I’ll start with the one I dug into immediately after I got home. I adore squash blossoms, or courgette flowers as they’re known over here. I love that they’re only available for a limited time, that they are brightly colored, they taste like Spring smells and that they’re oh so impressive on a plate but relatively easy to prepare. The blossoms were purchased at my first stop last week and initially I thought I’d stuff them with the more traditional ricotta cheese, but when I stumbled upon goat curd I knew I’d hit the jackpot. I added some pungent chives, lemon zest and with the sourdough bread and a couple of slices of the venison ham on the side, I had the perfect lunch.
Fried Squash Blossoms filled with Herbed Goat Curd
2 squash blossoms (I like the male ones, pictured here that have the substantial zucchini stem)
1/2 cup goat curd at room temperature
3 tablespoons purple sprouting chives (or any other herb you like really)
zest and juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
To make the tempura batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup sparkling water
pinch of salt
canola oil to fry
fleur de sel
Mix together all of the ingredients for the stuffing of the blossoms. Gently pry open the flower and spoon the mixture in, making sure it’s quite full. Now take the tips of the squash blossom and roll them together to form a natural seal.
Start heating your canola oil. It should be deep enough in the pan to cover your squash blossoms.
In a separate bowl whisk together the tempura batter ingredients. Gently coat the stuffed blossoms and place them in the hot oil. Allow them to turn golden brown – about 3 to 4 minutes in the oil total. Drain the blossoms on a paper towel. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and squeeze on a little lemon juice.
I was on a roll that day and after I cleaned up with tempura frying mess (really that is the only hard part of making that dish), I put some duck that I had curing in the fridge for duck confit into the oven. Now, since I discovered this easy duck confit recipe on the Food52 website, I’ve been making it just about once a week (not good for the waistline but definitely good for my soul). If you have been waiting to try and make your own duck confit this is the way to do it or you can just buy the duck legs already confit-ed at better groceries these days. I urge you to try this technique because then the lovely duck meat goes with so many things. Here I made an Asian style duck confit salad by swapping out the bay leaves in the duck cure for star anise. I was going to use tinned mandarin oranges (a real weakness of mine) but when I saw the kumquats at the market I knew they’d make my salad just that much more special. Add in some greens and clean out your crisper, throw it all together and you have a lovely dinner for one.
for the duck confit:
2 duck legs
star anise, ground up in mortar and pestle
for the salad:
one head of little gem lettuce
handful of watercress
6 kumquats sliced in rounds
1/2 cup of cucumber batons
5 radishes sliced thinly
2 spring onions sliced thinly
handful of mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup toasted pecans
for the dressing:
juice of one lime
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon sambal olek
The day before you want to eat this dish put your duck legs in a dish and cover them with the salt and ground up star anise. Cover with cling film and let sit in the fridge for 24 hours.
Heat a skillet (one that fits the duck legs snugly) and add the duck legs to it making sure the skin side is down. Allow them to cook on a medium heat without moving them for 20 minutes, until all of the fat is rendered from the skin.
Turn the duck legs over in the rendered fat and cover the skillet with aluminium foil and place in a 325 degree oven for two hours. After two hours remove the foil and allow to cook for an additional hour. (Save the left over duck fat – it’s divine for cooking vegetables!)
Mix all of the salad ingredients together and dress lightly with the dressing. Now place the shredded duck meat on top (you do this after the dressing because you don’t want to ruin the lovely crispiness of the duck skin).
My most prevalent memory of nettles is being stung by them when we lived in Moscow. They ran riot between the weird little garages that were lined up behind the apartment buildings. As kids we used to run along the peaked roofs of these garages and if you missed your footing a pile of stinging nettles broke your fall. My first encounter with them as a food was in the kitchens of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Lucky me – I got to spend a few days in the kitchen with Alice Waters and her inventive chefs, and on my first shift she announced we were cooking nettles. Not putting two and two together, I reached into the bag and was immediately transported back to those summer days as a kid in Moscow. White bumps creeping up my arm as I recoiled in pain. You do have to be careful, but once you blanch them their stinging properties have vanished and they are ready to be used much like you would any other green. Here’s the recipe for a risotto I made for my vegetarian sister who is visiting this week.
3 cups nettles
4 1/4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, chopped in small dice
1 leek, white and pale green parts, finely chopped
zest of a lemon
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
4 tablespoons marscarpone cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and lightly crushed
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil, season generously with salt (it really should taste like sea water) and then add the nettles (using tongs). After about a minute drain and rinse under cold water. Allow the nettles to cool then squeeze out the excess water, and finely chop. At this point you could freeze the nettles to use later (many people do this as they are very seasonal and if you want to cook with them in January you’re out of luck).
Heat up your vegetable stock and have it ready to go when you’re preparing the risotto. In a large heavy pan heat the oil and butter. Add the shallots and leek and lemon zest and cook for 4 minutes, not allowing them to brown. Add the rice and cook for one more minute, stirring constantly. Now add the wine and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Maintain a medium heat and ladle by ladle add your warmed vegetable stock to the rice, allowing it to get absorbed after each addition and stirring occasionally. With the last of the broth add the nettles and stir until well combined. Remove from the heat, stir in the marscarpone and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste and cover for two minutes before serving.
To serve, place in serving bowls, sprinkle with more grated cheese and a handful of the crushed hazelnuts and a drizzle of olive oil (or you could try a truffle oil for a special treat!).