A Taste of Yellow (and A Little Bit of Orange)

11 September 2009

This is my entry for this year’s Live Strong with A Taste of Yellow that my dear friend Barbara is hosting. The event is to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation in aid of cancer awareness. As you know already if you are a reader of Barbara’s blog, she recently finished her chemotherapy treatment – it was wonderful to read her come back post celebrating with her favourite champagne. I know Barbara is a very positive, strong person, but I can only imagine what it must be like – she has been my hero in many ways and I really look forward to meeting her one day.

This great event is to increase awareness by way of cooking something yellow – the deadline is 18th September – so you still have some time to take part (and I’m sure Barbara wouldn’t mind if you are a little late :)).

I made a couple of desserts with ginger last year; this time I ended up making a couple of savoury dishes as well as a dessert. I admit that my creations here are leaning more towards orange than yellow, but hopefully Barbara will approve of them :)

Crispy courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and mint

I’m not a big fan of deep fried food normally, but these crispy stuffed courgette (zucchini) flowers, a kind of Italian version of Tempura, has always been my favourite. A month ago or so, I was asked by a friend to take some pictures of those flowers. We grow courgettes in our allotment, and I did manage to shoot them, but despite me enjoying eating the flowers, I never actually cooked them myself as we grow a small amount and only have a couple of flowers at a time.

But when we visited a PYO (pick your own) farm with our friends recently, we found loads of courgette flowers so I decided to dust off our deep fryer :) Many British people wouldn’t even think about eating these beauties (and if you find them at Borough Market, they are sold for more than £1 each!) – it’s a real shame because they have such a gorgeous, delicate flavour.

You can find many different recipes for the stuffing – I tried one from this book which uses ricotta, chilli, mint and lemon zest – it’s light and mild and I liked it, but you can use mozzarella (anchovies go well with it) or add some parmesan, or some nuts for an extra texture. Play around a bit and find your favourite :) I liked the batter recipe that Jamie suggested though – it uses white wine instead of water, I wasn’t so sure until I tasted it, but it was lovely!

You can use other flowers like pumpkin or squash too, and even if you can’t get hold of the flowers, you can still use the batter to fry courgettes. Make sure to eat them as you fry them, although I don’t think you will be able to resist very long :)

Malloreddus with prawns and bottarga

Another yellow dish I tried is saffron infused pasta called Malloreddus – I was intrigued to try out the flavour, and of course saffron lends a beautiful yellow colour to the dough. I love saffron both in savoury and sweet dishes – I was given some gorgeous ‘threads’ by my friend Alastair a while ago, so I was looking forward to using them.

When I found out that Malloreddus was a Sardinian speciality, I asked our friend Stefano, who is from Sardinia and our trusted Italian food purveyor, about what sauce he would recommend. The most common way to serve this pasta is in tomato sauce with sausages (called Salsa alla Campidanese), but I wanted to pair it with something a little lighter – Stefano suggested that these days in Sardinia it’s very popular with Bottarga – which made up my mind for me, and bottarga has a gorgeous yellow colour when you grate it :)

Bottarga is cured fish roe normally from grey mullet (although sometime tuna) and I always have some in my pantry. It’s not cheap, but just grating a little on pasta or salad, instantly gives it a taste of the sea. We have a very similar thing called Karasumi in Japan- I remember my father used to eat thin slices as Tsumami when I was a kid – I never understood why he thought it was a ‘delicacy’, but now I’m old enough to appreciate its acquired taste…

Back to the pasta dough – Malloreddus is short ridged pasta made with semolina flour – it looks like a little worm and you can buy it with saffron or without. It’s made in a similar way to orecchiette, by rolling a small piece of dough as you press it – Stefano told me that you would use a gnocchi board to make the ridges, which I didn’t have – then I came up with the brilliant idea of asking Matthew to rustle up something similar :) He is a techie by day, but really enjoys woodworking and has made some beautiful furniture for our house and some of our friends. (and our little garage is completely packed with his woodwork tools!)

I sent him some info about the gnocchi board and he came back with a nice looking little oak strip with lots of grooves on it – I’m not entirely sure if I did a good job working on the pasta, but after some experiments, my little worms started shaping up more consistently and um, vermiform :)

I first made a batch with bigger pieces than I suggest in the recipe below, but they were just too big and thick so it’s better to go smaller – you need to experiment a little, but hopefully my picture gives you an idea. You can’t really see it in my pictures, but I loved the beautiful red threads of saffron you can see in the dough.

I adapted this sauce recipe, and it turned out great. It’s very similar to how I normally prepare seafood tomato sauce – roasting the prawn shells gives a deep, sweet flavour (I wrote about it here a while ago). You should always buy with shells attached – they have much more flavour than just buying peeled.

The prawn and tomato sauce was delicious enough to serve on its own, but adding bottarga transforms it into a seafood delicacy. I thought it almost tasted like sea urchin pasta – rich and velvety, I absolutely loved it :) I could nicely taste the saffron in the pasta too, although this sauce is equally delicious with dried pasta as well.

I’ve earmarked a couple of bottarga recipes in my favourite book, A16 Food+Wine (I still regret that I didn’t make it to the restaurant when I was in San Francisco a few years ago), will report back when I try it out next time!

Camomile and honey ice cream with hazelnuts and macerated nectarines

Last but not least, my favourite dessert, ice cream :) This may not be an obvious yellow food – but for me, the gentle colour of custard is a lovely warm yellow.

I found the recipe in The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook – I first learnt about Big Sur on Heidi’s blog, then when she wrote about this book, I just had to get a copy straightaway. I’ve been lucky to work in Los Angeles a few times in the last few years and my friends including Matt and Adam kindly took me to some of the most beautiful places in the surrounding area. Before my first visit, I didn’t even know California was bigger than the whole of Britain (!) – but I really enjoyed every visit and I would love to travel around one day – and visit Big Sur and this beautiful restaurant too.

The book is lovingly written with lots of personal touches – the sort of cookbook that you’d enjoy reading at bedtime. I was intrigued by their story about when they decided to leave LA to open the bakery in one of the most rural areas, and their slightly eccentric English friend and neighbour too :)

There are many recipes I’d like to try, but I chose the ice cream recipe this time because a) I just can’t help it when I find a new ice cream flavour, b) I saw my little camomile in our garden blossoming when I read the recipe :) I just love the smell of these cute little flowers, it’s very soothing and refreshing.

Their recipe is actually for an ice cream terrine, but I went for the easy option by just making ice cream. I was slightly worried that the honey might overpower it, but the refreshing flowery flavour from the camomile balances out really nicely. It’s great with some chopped hazelnuts sprinkled on top, and some macerated nectarines/peaches alongside. It has certainly made me miss the fading summer even more…

OK, I should go now – but please let me remind you again that the deadline for A Taste of Yellow is 18th September – I hope you can join, and have fun cooking yellow inspired food!

Oh and I know I’m very late in the game, but I’ve finally started twittering – it may take me a while to get the hang of it, but let me know if you are on it too!

Crispy courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and mint

Serves 3-4

8-10 courgette flowers, with courgettes still attached

For the stuffing

150-200g ricotta cheese (best you can find)
1/4 of a nutmeg
A small handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
A bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
1-2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

150g self-raising flour
300ml white wine or sparkling water
Vegetable oil for frying (my favourite is ground nut oil)

Mix all the ingredients for the stuffing in a bowl. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make the batter, place the flour in an bowl with a good pinch of salt. Pour in the white wine and whisk until smooth and thick. The consistency should be similar to double cream.

Gently open up the courgette flowers and snip off the stamen inside (they taste bitter), you don’t need to wash them but inspect them for any creatures (I had to evict some ants!)

Carefully fill each flower with the ricotta mixture – you can use a small spoon, or pipe it in with a pastry bag. Press the flowers back together and twist a little to seal.

Fill a saucepan with vegetable oil to about 10cm deep – make sure to choose a big deep pan or of course a deep fryer if you have one. Heat up the oil to around 180ºC – drop a little batter in, and if it comes back to the top sizzling after a few seconds the temperature should be about right.

Dip the courgette in the batter and let any excess drip off. Carefully place them into the oil away from you being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until crisp and nicely golden then drain on some kitchen paper. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, finely chopped chilli, mint and a squeeze of lemon if you like – serve immediately.

Malloreddus with tiger prawns and bottarga

Serves 2-3

For the pasta

200g Semolina flour
100ml hot water
1/4 teaspoon saffron
A good pinch of sea salt

For the prawn stock

6 large tiger prawns, shells removed and reserved, intestinal tract removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 brown onion, roughly chopped
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons white wine
300g tinned whole tomatoes
4-5 stalks basil
300ml water
2 fresh bay leaves
5-6 whole black peppercorns

To Serve

200g malloreddus
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red chilli, thinly sliced
1 stalk basil
10g butter
Bottarga, to taste

For the pasta, grind the saffron in a pestle and mortar. Add the hot water and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes. Place the flour and salt in a big bowl, making a well in the centre and pour into the saffron water. Mix until roughly combined, then knead for about 10 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and silky to touch. Cover the bowl and rest at least half an hour at room temperature.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a cylinder about 1cm in diameter. Cut into 1cm pieces,
and roll on a gnocchi board (or you can just roll on a flat board or use a fork to give it the ridges.

For the sauce, make the prawn stock first. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the prawn shells on a roasting tray, sprinkle with a tablespoon olive oil then roast for about 10 minutes.

In a saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add the chopped carrot, onion, celery and garlic, cook for about 10 minutes until slightly softened. Add the prawn shells in the pan. Pour the white wine in the roasting tray and scrape all the goodness into the pan too. Turn up the heat and reduce the wine slightly. Add the tomatoes and basil stalks and cook for about 5 minutes until thick, then add the water along with 1 teaspoon of sea salt (be careful not to over season at this point as bottarga is quite salty), bay leaves and peppercorns. Simmer for about 40-45 minutes until thicken (reduced by 1/3), skimming the foam off the surface.

When it’s ready, strain through a fine sieve pressing hard so as not to waste any tasty bits. Discard the solids.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water until al dente (it depends on the size of the pasta, but it should be around 7-8 minutes).

While cooking the pasta, heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and chilli and cook until soft. Add the prawn stock and basil stalk, simmer until thickened. Cut the prawns into 2cm pieces, then cook in the sauce for a couple of minutes. Add the pasta to the sauce, melt the knob of butter in, and grate some bottarga and mix well. Serve with some fresh basil leaves sprinkled on top.

Camomile and honey ice cream

4 large egg yolks
140g honey
300ml whole milk
300ml double cream
4-5 camomile tea bags
Ripe nectarines/peaches

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes or until they are golden. Shake the tray a few times to insure they are evenly roasted. Chop them roughly.

Place the milk, cream and honey in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the camomile tea, and let it steep for about 10-15 minutes. Take out the bags (or strain through a fine sieve into a bowl if you’re using loose tea, then return the mixture to the saucepan) and discard them.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale. Bring the milk mixture back to a simmer, then pour into the yolks, stirring constantly. Place the mixture back in the saucepan and put on a low heat, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Strain into a clean bowl, cool over ice-cold water then chill the mixture in the fridge. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacture’s instructions.

Just before serving, slice the fruit and place in a bowl, sprinkle with little sugar and leave for 10 minutes or so to macerate (if your fruit is very ripe, you may not need to bother to do so). Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts on top of the ice cream and serve with the fruit.

Food - Savoury    Food - Sweet    38 comments    Permalink

  • Wow! Such amazing photos. Thank you for the information and the recipe – very keen to try bottarga now.

    Posted by shaz | 11 September 2009 #
  • けいこさんのお料理見るの、久しぶりです。


    Posted by mariko | 11 September 2009 #
  • Dear Keiko,

    I intend to participate starting tonight and start a new blog. All in support of Live Strong. Lovely blog as always.:) Thank you.

    Nur Suraya

    Posted by Nur Suraya | 11 September 2009 #
  • Hey there!

    It’s nice to read your blog once more. It’s been a long long time. I really like your photography and all your stuff. Keep it up!


    Posted by The Artist Chef | 11 September 2009 #
  • those courgette flowers look lovely! no wonder the fried ones sound familiar, i’ve been eying them in that jamie book i have by my bedside :)

    oh, btw, if you do make it out to san francisco, pass up A16 for its sister restaurant, SPQR. i tried both on my last visit and SPQR is hands down the winner!

    Posted by rick @ alamode | 11 September 2009 #
  • Hi Keiko…Great recipes as ever! Loved the courgette flower fritters and chamomile ice cream.Another recipe on courgette flowers—a favourite of my native Izmir on the Aegean coast—uses basic dolma stuffing (rice, fresh herbs, olive oil, tomatoes and spices) and is therefore called stuffed courgette flowers:=)

    Posted by ilgin yorulmaz | 11 September 2009 #
  • Hi Keiko! it’s always a great pleasure to read your posts and to look at your wonderful pics! good luck for this admirable event!!
    see you soon :)
    (BTW, your recipes are sooooooo tasty, as always!!)

    Posted by chiara.u | 11 September 2009 #
  • Wonderful stuff and great photos. I’ve become addicted to this blog in recent months for it’s beautiful minimal style and it’s warm writing

    I was wondering if you cook Japanese food much? I have become addicted since buying Hurumi Kurihara’s books. The tastes are so light, sweet, salty and fresh!

    Many thanks for a fantastic blog

    Posted by Paul Bowler | 11 September 2009 #
  • Beautiful pictures as always! I am always glad when you post – you say so much in one post! I’m on Twitter, too – @rosso – welcome!

    Posted by Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy | 11 September 2009 #
  • i’d been thinking of purchasing Big Sur Bakery, and upon your recommendation, i think i will go ahead and get it.

    glad to see you are on twitter! i just started “following” you.

    p.s. i bought a food-obsessed friend of mine a jar of truffle honey as a birthday gift, and told her about your recipe for truffle honey madeleines. i’m secretly hoping she’ll make some to share with me :)

    Posted by josephine | 11 September 2009 #
  • What a gorgeous tribute to Barbara. This is a wonderful post…just beautiful from the first to the very last word.

    Posted by deeba | 12 September 2009 #
  • As gorgeous as ever Keiko! All 3 dishes I’d simply love to sample, lots of my favourite ingredients.

    Posted by Bron | 13 September 2009 #
  • I found out on Twitter that you had joined Twitter. Everyone is very excited about this news. You should use it more regularly. Here’s a post on Foodies on Twitter that I wrote recently – http://www.worldfoodieguide.com/index.php/foodies-on-twitter/

    See you there!

    Posted by Helen @ World Foodie Guide | 13 September 2009 #
  • Love it all – especially the wonderful photos

    Posted by VVS-Hedestoker | 13 September 2009 #
  • what a beautiful post with beautiful intentions and beautiful recipes. everything from the prawns, to the ice cream (I love the vessel!) and the zucchini blossoms. we get nothing but perfection from you keiko!

    Posted by Aran | 13 September 2009 #
  • Thank you for sharing again, it’s always such a pleasure to read your posts and marvel at your photographs, truly inspirational!

    Posted by amir | 13 September 2009 #
  • Where do I start to recreate…love zucchini flowers so thats an obvious first,..been longing for them since we did Rome in Feb…Thanks.

    Posted by Kitchen Butterfly | 13 September 2009 #
  • Really interested to see you talking about bottarga and its parallels with Japanese cuisine. I reckon there’s an interesting thesis to be written about how the Italians – and to a certain degree the Spanish – maximise umami in very similar ways to the Japanese by drying and/or fermenting fish. Whatever the technicalities, it all just tastes great, and that’s the main thing. V. jealous of your ready supply of bottarga. When I have things like that in my larder – like my whole katsubushi fillets – they tend to stay there for an eternity because I can never bring myself to use them!

    Posted by Michael Booth | 14 September 2009 #
  • dearest keiko, what a yummy yellow menu! and super gorgeous pictures, as always. i had a good giggle when i read you got matthew to fashion something for you; i remember the first time i made gnocchi, and in lieu of a gnocchi board (which are almost impossible to find here), i went with a fine-toothed plastic comb (new and unused ;-)), which worked out surprisingly well! xo, joycelyn

    Posted by Joycelyn | 14 September 2009 #
  • beau message! belles photos! merci …

    Posted by Dominique (de vous à moi...) | 15 September 2009 #
  • I’ve never seen so much yellow! Thank you for this long and amazing blog post! I’m going to go through the recipes one at a time!! :)

    If anyone wants to pair a nice “yellow” wine with their dish, click on my name for a handy review of some great yellows…

    This is a great cause and a great menu. I can’t wait to try it out!


    Posted by Michelle Cordy | 18 September 2009 #
  • Fantastic photos!!!!! I alway look forward to a new post, could you tell me what lens you use for you close up shots? I have just bought me first slr having been so inspired by your site. Also, I am in the food industry and was wondering if you have any hints or tip about getting onto food styling? Many thanks again.

    Posted by Ann | 19 September 2009 #
  • I entered here very accidentally.Your work is very very beautiful.I like it very much.
    The photos are so lovely that they made me very exciting.Though we don’t kown each other,but I wish your work would be more excellent.And may your life be happy and peaceful forever.

    Posted by yangxiaocong | 20 September 2009 #
  • I am so glad you joined the event and with such delicious recipes and incredible pictures!

    Posted by Tartelette-Helen | 20 September 2009 #
  • Hi Keiko I just wanted to say thank you again for this wonderful contribution to A Taste of Yellow. Such inspiring photos and wonderful recipes. hugsxxoo

    Posted by barbara | 22 September 2009 #
  • This is astonishingly lovely; like having a “mental health break” in the midst of a hectic day. Thanks so much for this – and for the squash blossom recipe which sounds lighter and more promising than the sodden variety I have previously produced.

    Posted by annie | 22 September 2009 #
  • Good morning!

    Posted by y_and_r_d | 23 September 2009 #
  • Hello Keiko-san. I love your photography and I’ve been silently following your site for a few months now. Although you live so far away, this post made me feel a bit closer when you mentioned A16, Heidi Swanson and The Big Sur Bakery. I live in the Bay Area and follow her blog as well. I knew exactly which post you were talking about!

    Posted by Kitchen M | 23 September 2009 #
  • Keikoさん、こんにちは〜!


    Posted by Lee | 29 September 2009 #
  • It is a shame people don’t use courgette flowers. It is so unheard of where I live, that the organic farmer I always buy my veggies from actually gave them to me for free. He said he’d throw them out at the end of the season anyway! Yours look delicious!

    Posted by cherie | 5 October 2009 #
  • Hello keiko

    My name’s Gabriela, I’am from México and I study in a university the carrear Culinarys Arts and I love your website. the pictures that shows are very beautiful, are you photographer?.
    I found your website, because I wachted in the TV in National Geografic the website of chezpim.
    Do you know the Mexican Food?, for me this food is very interesting, also I love to travel Japan and taste the traditional food.

    Posted by Gabriela | 7 October 2009 #
  • Just splendid, I am sooooooooooo impressed!

    Posted by Alessandra | 7 October 2009 #
  • Lovely colours & photos, wonderful and delicious recipes! I’ll make the gnocchi soon! :-) greetings from Italy

    Posted by Alessandra75 | 9 October 2009 #
  • hi keiko, everytime i see those courgette flowers at the market i end up buying 6 or 8! just for myself and because i know they are seasonal, i adore them! but i stuff them with mozzarela and chilli or i make a quesadilla with them just like i tried them im mexico, fill half of a mexican tortilla with mozzarella cheese, the flowrs, some sliced mushrooms and chilli, fold the tortilla and heat in a frying pan two minutes each side,

    lovely photos as always, the gnochi look delicious,



    Posted by pity | 13 October 2009 #
  • great writing and most of all, great photography. That first picture of the flowers really stood out. great work!

    Posted by Tzu-yen wang | 14 October 2009 #
  • OOOOH I am so jealous! your gnocchi look so better than mine (and than the one of my mother in law who is the perfect italian mama ;) she would kill you because of jealousy for sure ;))! great job again as always!

    Posted by lauresophie | 14 October 2009 #
  • Great pix.

    Posted by Robert Speechley | 19 October 2009 #
  • Hello Keiko,
    Your blog is wonderfully inspiring! What camera do you use?

    Posted by CW | 25 May 2010 #

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