Thursday, August 16, 2007

Minty fresh!

I seem to like giving myself challenges! I'd known about Stephanie's monthly blog party theme of mint for a while before going on holiday. But then there was all that work and all that socialising (read eating!) and all that getting ready to go on holiday to do. And then I came back and I had to ever so quickly whip some canapés up to get my minty fresh contributions under the wire before the blog party deadline. But oh I am so tired, I'd say jet-lag but I haven't been on a plane , I've been on a cruiseship so it must be boat-lag. I'm not sure there is such a thing but there must be some explanation. Maybe I am missing my morning omelette off Oscar, maybe the lack of daily itinary has left a void in my life (ah but then I have a full diary - though admittedly none of my appointments now involve vegetable or ice carving!), or maybe I got off the boat too quickly and have some bizarre boat bends? Whatever it is I probably should be sleeping and not thinking about mint but I won't give in and mint it is!
Firstly I'm not crazy about mint except inside an After Eight or in a Polo or in mint chocolate chip ice cream but Stephanie has set a challenge and I'm all out of mint coloured crockery so I will embrace a little mint for the event.
In a very timely fashion there was a recipe for crab and broad bean crostini in the latest Waitrose Seasons magazine and as the recipe contained mint, it seemed a good place to start. Though the mint doesn't seem a very strong feature, there is still a minty appearance. And there's no denying that crab is almost always a good place to start!

Crab and Broad Bean Crostini

1 pain au levain or another loaf of a similar size
375g broad beans (podded weight)
1 clove garlic, crushed
20g pack fresh mint or parsley, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon, plus extra for serving
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
200g fresh white crab meat

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Cut the bread into 12 slices, about 1.5cm thick. Put these on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 7 minutes, then turn them over and cook for a further 5-6 minutes, until toasted but not hard.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the broad beans in a pan of boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until tender, then drain and rinse in cold water. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s better to slip the skins off, leaving just the bright green beans. Do this when they’re cool enough to handle
  3. Place the beans in a bowl with the garlic, your chosen herb, the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and seasoning. Mix together, then mash some of the beans with a fork so you end up with a mixture that has whole and crushed beans in it.
  4. Spread the mixture generously on to each piece of toasted bread, then top with the crab meat. Squeeze lemon juice and grind black pepper over them, drizzle with more olive oil and serve.
And they were quite nice; however they would have been better if I'd used plain extra virgin olive oil instead of my favourite extrapesto basil extra virgin olive oil. Which as it sits on my worktop can be a little too easy to grab sometimes when basil is really an ingredient too much. Accordingly I suspect there's a reason that generally basil and mint aren't used in the same recipe.
Also this was my first attempt at podding broad beans, I rather liked it but don't think I'd like to do baskets of them.
Next it was a typical pea and mint soup, though still not being too enamoured with mint in a savoury environment, I was quite light on the mint. And surprisingly I didn't feel like getting some green crockery for the event, though I am aware that the M&S pink Andante range I have already has some green cousins - I resisted! So all the minty green offerings were enhanced by my new favourite Gordon Ramsay Royal Doulton range including the soup, as it gives me the fine opportunity to christen my espresso cups for the first time.
For a little sweeter canapé, one that was much more in line with my mint tendencies I went for balls of mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiched between small squares of mint chocolate thins. Very delicious, albeit a tad messy!
And then there's the drink. Now mint does make that much easier this month as I could have gone for mint tea (though frankly I'm not a fan) or a mint julep. But instead I returned to an old stalwart, a PIMM'S. Though this time with a twist. I had spotted these iced lemon wedges on Ocado last month; they come with mint and cucumber for that whole PIMM'S experience. Many places forget to add mint to their PIMM'S and it does really enhance it. In fact in my new efforts to accept mint more, I should really insist upon it.
A hint of mint anyone?

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