Thursday, 30 December 2010

Jerusalem Artichoke Pureé

This recipe is in essence very similar to my Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, however its worth posting on its own as its such a great accompaniment to a wide range of dishes. It's nutty, light and creamy and can be served hot or cold.

Top tip: Jerusalem artichokes don't freeze well, so make use of the season while you can (Oct-Feb). With this recipe you can always add more cream if you want it thinner!

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

Jerusalem Artichokes - 200g
Chicken Stock - 200mls
Double Cream - 50mls
Nutmeg - 1 pinch
Garlic - 1 clove

1. Peel and roughly the dice the Jerusalem artichokes, and place in a sauce pan, adding chicken stock to just cover.

2. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes until the artichokes are soft.

3. Peel and crush the garlic and add to the pan.

4. Using a food processor mix the artichoke, stock and garlic until very smooth. Add the nutmeg and cream and mix further.

5. Season to taste and either store in the fridge, or serve after warming on the hob.

Serve with my Christmas Terrine and a cranberry for decoration, or with my Lamb Cutlets.

Christmas Terrine

As you can imagine this is a terrine that fits all the classic Christmas flavours into one dish! I chose to make this as a way to get all the festive ingredients into one starter, to precede a more alternative main course. This terrine is packed with an assortment of Christmas tastes all in one mouthful, and can be made well in advance.

Top tip: Always taste a little of the terrine mix before the packing stage, so you can get the seasoning and flavours just right.

Makes 1 terrine tin (serves 12-20)

INGREDIENTS:

Sausage Meat - 1kg
Turkey Steaks - 2
Cooked Chestnuts - 200g
Onion - 2
Porcini Mushrooms (dried) - 200g
Sherry - 150mls
Lemon Zest - 1 lemon
Fresh Thyme - 1 bunch
Flat-leaf Parsley - 1 bunch
Dried Cranberries - 1 handful
Cranberry Sauce - 20g
Streaky Bacon - 12 rashers
Butter - 25g

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in the sherry for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, dice and chop the onions, and sauté in the butter until softened.

3. Chop the chestnuts roughly. Remove the mushrooms from the sherry, keeping the liquid, and chop the mushrooms roughly.

4. Next make the terrine mix. In a large mixing bowl add the onions, sherry, mushrooms, thyme, parsley, chestnuts, lemon zest, dried cranberries and sausage meat and work together with your hands. Season well with salt and pepper.

5. To make up the terrine, grease a terrine tin (or small bread tin) and lay the bacon rashers overlapping each other to cover the bottom and sides of the tin. Allow the excess to overhang the sides of the tin - you'll need enough to fold over the top to seal the terrine.

6. Press approximately an inch thick layer of the terrine mix into the tin. Slice the turkey steaks into thin fillets and layer over the terrine mix, and with a pastry brush glaze with some of the cranberry sauce.

7. Repeat with a second layer of sausage meat and turkey as before finishing with a top layer of sausage meat. Fold the excess bacon over the to seal the terrine and press in a sprig of thyme for decoration.

8. Cover with buttered foil, and wrap the whole tin in a double layer of cling film.

9. Fill a roasting tray half way with boiling water, and place the wrapped terrine in the center. Roast the bath in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for one hour.

10. Remove from the oven and place a heavy object over the tin (I used my chopping board and granite mortar) - this compresses the terrine whilst it cools and compacts the layers. Allow to cool overnight.

11. When ready to serve, remove the wrapping and turn the terrine out of the tin. Remove any excess fat and slice into your desired portion size.

Serve with melba toast and my Jerusalem Artichoke Pureé.

Chilli & Rosemary Stuffed Poussin

The idea for this dinner came about as an alternative to roast turkey that everyone gets so bored of by the end of the festive season. Not wanting to completely digress from festive tradition I thought it would be a neat idea to present the poussin as individual 'Christmas Roast', but with refreshingly different flavours. Poussin is much more flavoursome than turkey and a deboned bird means your guests can eat the whole thing!

Top tip: Many good cookery books will teach you the correct deboning technique. I suggest trying on a full sized chicken before attempting these delicate birds.

For one poussin

INGREDIENTS:

Poussin - 1
Rosemary - 2 sprigs
Garlic - 1-2 cloves
Red Chilli - 1/2
Butter - 25g
Olive Oil - 1 tsp

1. Using a sharp knife carefully debone the bird starting by chopping off the wings at the joints, and then making an incision along the belly. The correct technique is to remove the carcass whole leaving the outer skin and breast and legs intact. Use your knife to work closely around the rib cage slowly peeling the meat away - this can get quite fiddly when deboning the legs!

2. Lay the bird on it's back and start seasoning inside the cavity. Peel and crush the garlic, and chop, deseed and dice the chilli. Place inside the poussin, covering evenly. Sprinkle in the rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Finally place the butter inside, and fold the bird back over to resume its original shape.

3. Place in a roasting tin and drizzle over the olive oil. Season the skin further with salt and pepper.

4. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Serve with my Roasted Baby Parsnips & Carrots with Cumin, and Pigs in Blankets.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Festively Spiced White Chocolate Ice-Cream

This delicious dessert is a little bit of fun! You can bring it out at the end of a drunken dinner party as a bit of a conversation piece, or to keep children entertained. You don't have to dress it up like a snowman, but the temptation is hard to resist! The ice-cream itself is surprisingly festive, with hints of mulled wine and smooth white chocolate.

Top tip: If you're making snowmen it can be quite fun to let your guests finish the dressing with licorice scarves and chocolate chip eyes.

Makes 1/2 litre

INGREDIENTS:

Full Fat Milk - 500mls
Caster Sugar - 75g
Egg Yolks - 5
White Chocolate - 200g
Double Cream - 100mls
Cinnamon - 1/2 tsp
Mulled Wine Spices - 1 sachet

1. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until stiff and white. Then break up the white chocolate and melt in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.

2. In a separate pan add the milk, cream, cinnamon and sachet of mulled wine spices and bring to the boil. This will infuse the milk with a real Christmas flavour!

3. Remove the milk from the heat and allow to stand and cool before removing the sachet.

4. Into the milk pour in the melted white chocolate and mix in.

5. Whilst constantly whisking, add the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Keep whisking until all has been added, keeping as much air in as possible.

6. Whilst constantly stirring, pour into a running ice-cream maker and allow to set. (If you don't have an ice-cream maker you can use the same technique as making a sorbet, see my Passionfruit Sorbet recipe).

7. To make snowmen, roll balls of the set ice-cream in your hands (it helps to wear rubber gloves!) or use an ice-cream scoop, and place the balls on top of each other before placing back in the freezer to set in position.

Serve with my Sticky Toffee Chocolate Steamed Puddings!

Roasted Baby Parsnips & Carrots with Cumin

What else can I say about roasted vegetables? Perfect with almost anything, tasty and simple to make, and just slightly different from the norm.

Top tip: Roasting in the juices of the meat always adds great depth to the flavour.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

Baby Parsnips - 6
Chantenay Carrots - 6
Cumin Seeds - 2 tsps
Butter - 50g
Clear Honey - 1 tbsp

1. Slice the parsnips and carrots lengthways in half, keeping the tips in place.

2. Place the parsnips in a pan of boiling, salted water and par-boil for 5-10 minutes until slightly softened, then drain immediately.

3. In a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius melt the butter in a roasting dish. Once melted, place the vegetables flat side down. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the cumin seeds, and drizzle on the honey.

4. Roast at 200 degrees for 30-40 minutes, turning once until golden.

Serve with roasted meat, like my Rolled Lamb Shoulder with Pecorino & Mint or Chilli & Rosemary Stuffed Poussin.

Rolled Lamb Shoulder with Pecorino & Mint

You can't beat a good roast, around this time of year they're all the rage. It can become exhausting coming up with new ideas, so how about this to beef up your roasting repertoire? The lamb simply melts in the mouth, and has extra decadence from the pecorino and mint stuffing.

Top tip: If you don't have the time or scared you might do things wrong, you can always ask your local butcher to debone the lamb for you.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

Lamb Shoulder - 1
Fresh Mint - 1 bunch
Pecorino Cheese- 100g
Dried Thyme - 1 tbsp
Garlic - 6 cloves
Onion - 1
Olive Oil - 20mls

1. Using a sharp knife debone the lamb shoulder, keeping the meat intact, and salvaging as much meat from the bone as possible. Keep the bones!

2. On the inside of the lamb season very generously. Start with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, then shave the Pecorino over the top. Peel and roughly chop the garlic, and distribute evenly. Tear up the mint leaves, and scatter evenly before sprinkling on the thyme.

3. Roll the meat with your hands into a tight cylinder, and secure in place with string.

4. To prepare your roasting tray, place the bones and a quartered onion in the center. Place the lamb shoulder on top and drizzle on the olive oil. Season again with salt and pepper.

5. Cover with tin foil and roast in a pre-heated oven at 250 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, before lowering the temperature to 170 degrees and roast for another hour and 40 minutes.

6. Let the meat rest once done for at least 15 minutes before carving. You can use this time to make a red wine gravy from the juices.

Serve with seasonal vegetables, my Roasted Baby Parsnips & Carrots with Cumin and a pea and mint pureé.

Red Berry Sorbet

I find that around the festive season you can just eat and eat and eat! That's all very well, but sometimes you just need something light to finish off a meal. Sorbet is a refreshing alternative, and the red berries add a great festive touch.

Top tip: Keeps well in the freezer, so can be made in advance.

Makes 1/2 litre

INGREDIENTS:

Raspberries - 250g
Mixed Berries (blueberries, blackberries & blackcurrants) - 250g
Egg White - 1
Caster Sugar - 150g
Water - 400mls
Lemon Juice - 1/2 lemon

1. Add 50mls of the water to a saucepan, and dissolve in 50g of the sugar over a low heat.

2. Add the berries and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes.

3. In another pan make a syrup by dissolving the remaining sugar in the water over a low heat. Using a sieve, strain the berry mix into the syrup, and mix in with lemon juice.

4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile, whisk the egg white until stiff, then add to the cooled berry syrup, stirring in.

5. Place in an ice-cream maker and allow to set. (If you don't have an ice-cream maker, see my recipe for Passionfruit Sorbet).

Serve with a few fresh berries or as a compliment to my Christmas Ice-cream.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Parmesan Shavings

Jerusalem artichokes are in season from October to February. I absolutely adore this vegetable - such a subtle, nutty flavour and it's still little-known about so I can really surprise my guests with a new taste! This soup is delicate and very easy to make, the beauty is in the taste of the artichoke itself. I've had no complaints yet!

Top tip: When in season your best bet is to buy from a local grocer, although they are popping up in a few of the larger supermarkets.

Serves 5

INGREDIENTS:

Jerusalem Artichoke - roughly 400g
Onion - 1
Garlic - 2-3 cloves
Chicken Stock - 500mls
Double Cream - 75mls
Butter - 25g
Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
Parmesan - 1 handful

1. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes and roughly chop into small chunks.

2. Peel and dice the onion. Peel and crush the garlic. Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter until softened.

3. Add the chicken stock and Jerusalem artichokes and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the artichokes are softened and almost falling apart.

4. Add the ground nutmeg, and using a handheld blender pureé until smooth.

5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in the double cream.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of parmesan shavings and some more black pepper.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Chestnut Mushroom & Blue Cheese Sauce

This sauce is absolutely irresistible. So much so that even after three days of excessive festive gorging we still found ourselves wanting to lick the plates clean! After tasting this sauce it was a must-have recipe for my website, and thanks to my brother-in-law Dan you can all enjoy this creamy, nutty, salty, more-ish and truly dreamy sauce.

Top tip: I like a strong blue cheese like Roquefort, but you can use lighter, creamier ones to suit your palette.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Chestnut Mushrooms - 1 punnet
Butter - 25g
Olive Oil - 15mls
Ground Black Pepper - 1 tbsp
Thyme - 1 sprig (to taste)
Double Cream - 300mls
Roquefort - 75g

1. Heat the butter in a pan until it starts to turn brown, and then add the olive oil heating through for another minute. This creates the rich base for your sauce.

2. Slice the mushrooms thickly and place the mushrooms in the pan, but do not stir them around, instead let them cook through one on side for about 6-7 minutes on a low to medium heat, then turn over and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and place to one side.

3. If you're making the sauce to have with steak (recommended!) now is the time to cook them in the same butter/oil mixture. This will give your sauce extra meaty flavour!

4. Once the steaks are cooked to your liking remove them from the pan. Deglaze the pan with a swig of brandy, and allow to flambé. This will pick up all the lovely juices from the pan.

5. Add in the cream, pepper and thyme and crumble in the blue cheese, and on a low heat allow it all to reduce for about 10 minutes to about half it's consistency.

6. Take off the heat and stir in the mushrooms, and serve immediately.

This sauce is perfect with thick-cut steak and home-made chips or roasted potatoes.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Stuffed Pork Loin with Caramelised Apple

This is my exciting variation of a standard pork chop. The meat is tender and stuffed with melted parmesan and garlic, and these savoury flavours are accompanied by sweet and sticky caramelised apples which work really together! What's more this dish is quick to prepare and cook, so just perfect for a mid week dinner.

Top tip: Why not play around with the stuffing? Try experimenting with different cheeses and herbs to create the ultimate filling!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Pork Loin - 2 steaks
Fresh Thyme - 2 sprigs
Garlic Paste - a pea-sized amount
Shaved Parmesan - a small handful
Salted Butter - 30g

For the caramelised apples:

Apple (Braeburn) - 1
Light Brown Soft Sugar - 1tsp
Salted Butter - 20g

1. First prepare the pork loins. Make a pocket inside each steak. This is done using a sharp knife, piercing through the long edge of the pork ensuring the knife does not pass all the way through, and cutting from side to side.

2. Using your finger rub a little garlic paste into the inside of each pocket. Next insert half the parmesan shavings and a small amount of butter. Press lightly on each steak to spread the filling evenly.

3. Slice the apple into segments. Using two non-stick pans, melt the remaining quantities of butter in each.

4. In the larger buttered pan place your stuffed pork loins and add the thyme sprigs. Fry on a medium heat for roughly 3 minutes on each side, until the meat is cooked through.

5. Meanwhile, whilst the pork is cooking, place the apple segments in the smaller buttered pan and sauté in the butter until lightly browned. Sprinkle over the sugar, and sauté until the sugar has caramelised. This takes about the same time as the pork to cook.

Serve with a Pomme Fondante and seasonal vegetables, and the juices from the meat.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Chicken Tikka Massala

It's probably true to say that I come from a background of foodies. A few years ago my uncle Charlie started up a 'family recipe book', and so far this is one of my favourite things to prepare from it. He calls it 'The Fastest Chicken Tikka Massala in the West'! It's all in the name - as quick as using a readymade jar of sauce, but tastes a hundred times better, and more authentic! He's very kindly let me reproduce the recipe here, and I'm sure there'll be more recipes coming soon from the family cookbook!

Top tip: If you're counting calories you can cut some of the oil and butter out, and swap the double cream for 0% fat Greek yoghurt. When I was short of dried mint, I also used 1/2 tsp mint sauce.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken - 2 breasts
Tinned Tomatoes - 3/4 tin
Garlic - 1tbsp paste, or 2 cloves
Ginger (grated) - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Vegetable Oil - 2 tbsp
Hot Chilli Powder - 1 tsp
Ground Coriander - 1 tsp
Ground Cumin - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Water - 2 tbsp
Caster Sugar - 2 tsp
Butter (salted) - 70g
Dried Mint - 1/2 tsp
Garam Massala - 1 tsp
Double Cream - 2-3 tbsp to taste

1. In a food processor mix the tinned tomatoes, ginger and garlic until smooth. In a large non-stick frying pan or wok, heat the oil on a medium heat. Add the processed ingredients and sauté for a couple of minutes.

2. Add the chilli, coriander, cumin and turmeric and stir in, and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

3. Dice the chicken breasts in bite-sized pieces and add to the pan. Pour in the water, and turn the heat up and cook until the sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through.

4. Add the sugar, and season with salt (and pepper) to taste.

5. Reduce the heat, and add the butter, mint and garam massala, stirring in and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the cream just before serving.

Serve with boiled rice, naan bread and maybe even a Vegetable Samosa.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Thai Massaman Curry

This is my favourite of the Thai curries. It's really filling, with a creamy and spicy sauce, delicately balanced and infused with all the classic Thai flavours of coconut, peanuts and galangal. Once you've made the curry paste the rest is simple! You can make this with chicken, beef, pork, prawns or even make it vegetarian.

Top tip: If things get too hot and spicy, you can add a little more sugar and/or lime juice to counterbalance.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Thai Massaman Curry Paste - 4 tsp
Chicken
White Potatoes - 2
Large Onion - 1
Unsalted Peanuts - 4 tbsp
Coconut Milk - 800mls
Caster Sugar - 4 tsp
Salt - 2 tsp
Fish Sauce - 4 tbs

1. The key to this delicious curry is preparation. You'll need all your ingredients chopped and ready before you start. First peel and chop the potatoes into roughly 2cm chunks.

2. Next slice the onion into quarters, then carefully pull apart the layers of each onion quarter to give you lovely curved pieces of onion.

3. Dice your meat into bite-sized chunks.

4. Now you're ready to start! You'll need a large pan or wok. On a high heat pour in 200mls of the coconut oil, and constantly stir until it turns oily. This takes only a couple of minutes. Once it's oily, add the curry paste, turn down the heat to medium and fry the paste for 3-4 minutes in the reduced coconut oil.

5. Add in the meat, and stir fry in the sauce until all the meat is covered and cooked through.

6. Once the meat is cooked, pour in the rest of the coconut milk and add in the onions, peanuts and potatoes and stir to cover.

7. Add in the salt, sugar and fish sauce to season and continue to cook through until the potatoes are softened (roughly 15 minutes).

8. You can add a little coconut milk or water whilst it's cooking to make up your desired consistency.

Serve with boiled or sticky rice.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Thai Massaman Curry Paste

It's strange to think that this time a year ago I was on a cooking course on Koh Lanta in Thailand! This recipe is for a traditional Thai curry paste, the name of which is derived from the word 'Muslim'. It is packed with exotic flavours, all delicately balanced together. You can make a large batch, as it keeps in the fridge for ages.

Top tip: Many of the ingredients are fairly hard to find in the UK. Try local deli's for things like Galangal and Shrimp Paste.

Makes enough paste for a curry for 4.

INGREDIENTS:

Dried Red Chilli Skins - 2
Shallots - 2
Garlic - 2 cloves
Lemon Grass - 2 inches
Galangal - 1cm slice of the root
Turmeric - 2 tsp
Kaffir Lime Skin - 2 slices (you can use normal limes too!)
Small Dried Chilli (with seeds) - 1
Coriander Seeds - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 2 tsp
Cardamon Seeds - 2
Cloves - 2
Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Black Pepper Seeds - 14
Mace - 2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Shrimp Paste - 1/2 tsp

1. For the dried chilli skins, chop two large red chilies in half and de-seed them. Place on a radiator overnight. Once dried, finely chop.

2. Peel and finely dice the shallots and garlic cloves. Peel the skin off the limes, and save 2 large slices.

3. Once you have collected all your ingredients (no mean feat!), place them in a pestle & mortar, and proceed to grind until a paste is formed. This takes a while, and a strong hand. Alternatively you can process the ingredients in a blender, but you'll need to make sure it's a fine blender as you don't want a grainy texture.

You can store the paste in a jar in the fridge until needed.
Use this paste to make a Beef, Vegetable or Chicken Massaman Curry.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Coriander & Parmesan Chicken Kievs

Picture the scene: it's a standard Monday night, I'm late home from work and been out to the gym and would love to just throw something in the oven. However, I've forgotten to go to the shops and my sister's staying over - I definitely dont want to let down her expectations! This is a classic dish that's actually very simple to make, and with a bit of flare can taste so much better than the supermarket version. What's more it only takes 10 minutes to prepare and 25 in the oven.

Top tip: There's lots of areas to experiment with your taste buds here. Maybe try a sprinkle of paprika in the bread crumbs, or even a cream cheese instead of the butter!

Makes 4 kievs

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Breasts - 4
Butter - 50g
Garlic - 3-4 cloves
Coriander - 1 handful
Grated Parmesan - 2 heaped tbsp
Brown Bread - 4 slices
Egg - 3 large
Hickory Smoked Salt (optional) - 1.5 tsp
Vegetable Oil - 2 tbsp
Chicken Oxo cube - 1

1. First prepare the breadcrumbs. Slice off the crusts from the sliced brown bread, and in small batches tear and place in a food processor. Mix until you have a breadcrumb texture.

2. Add the parmesan and smokey salt, and crumble in the chicken oxo cube to the breadcrumbs and mix well.

3. Now prepare the garlic and coriander filling. On a plate mash the peeled and crushed garlic cloves into the butter using a fork. Chop the coriander and fold it in.

4. Using a long, sharp, thin knife pierce a hole in each breast. Start at the fatter end of the breast, and pass the knife through horizontally, being careful not to pierce all the way through, as you don't want all the filling to spill out when you cook them!

5. Using your finger, widen each hole, and then stuff a little of the filling at a time into each breast, so that it reaches down into the cavity that you've made.

6. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs lightly together. Dip each breast in the eggs to cover, and then roll in your seasoned breadcrumbs. Each breast should be fully covered.

7. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan on a high heat and shallow fry each breast on both sides for a couple of minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

8. Transfer the fried breasts into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for 25 minutes, making sure the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with the juices drizzled on top and some simple seasonal vegetables.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Deep Fried Talipia with a Thai Chilli Salad

This website has been seriously lacking in fish mainly because I'm not a fish-eater by any means. In fact, I haven't had some in close to 20 years... but I have to say this dish that our friend Sam prepared went down so well, and he's very kindly said I could post his recipe! This dish is light, but packed with flavours, and it doesn't take long to prepare.

Top tip: Sam used a fish called Talipia, a non-oily, white fish which comes from the Caribbean. You can buy it in the UK, but if you can't find it, then try using something similar like hake or skate. Avoid oily fish, as they tend to crumble when deep fried.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Vegetable Oil - enough to deep fry
White Fish - 4 fillets
Garlic - 4 cloves
Spring Onions - small bunch
Red Chilli - 3 or 4 small
Cornflour - 2 tbsp
Soy Sauce - 1 tbsp
Fish Sauce - 1 tbsp
Water - 2 tbsp
Basil - small handful
Fresh Coriander - small handful
Caster Sugar - 1 tbsp

For the Thai salad:

Radishes - 4 small
Bean-sprouts - 200g
Carrots - 2
Spring Onions - 2

1. First, prepare your Thai salad. Thinly slice the radishes, and cut the carrots and spring onion lengthways into thin strips. Toss with the bean-sprouts in a  salad bowl and set to one side.

2. The next step is making the sauce to go with the fish. Chop the garlic, de-seeded chillies and spring onions. Heat a little oil in a wok, and quickly stir fry the chopped ingredients for about 2-3 minutes, being careful not to let them brown.

3. Stir in the soy and fish sauces, and mix in the sugar. Tear up the basil and coriander and stir in on a low heat for a further minute or two. Add the water at the end to thin down slightly. Pour into a serving beaker.

4. On a dry plate, roll the fillets in the cornflour until lightly covered. Each fillet should have a thin layer of the flour, with no clumps.

5. Using a large pan or deep fat fryer, heat your oil, but avoid bubbling. (If you are using a pan, have a wet cloth nearby to throw on the pan in case things go wrong!) Deep fry each fillet for about 3 minutes until golden brown and lightly crispy. Place on some kitchen towel to drain before plating up and pouring the sauce over each fillet.

Serve immediately with some cold baby new potatoes.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Venison & Plum Pie

November is mid-venison season which means it's becoming increasingly easy to find this rich meat - perfect for a cold weather appetite. This dish takes a little time (2 1/2 hours at least), but your efforts are rewarded with melt-in-the-mouth chunks of gamey venison in a deep, sweet plum sauce.

Top tip: This dish can come out very sweet if you don't time the stewing of the plums correctly. For a sweeter pie, leave the plums to stew for longer, and add a teaspoon of redcurrant jelly.

Makes a deep-filled 12 inch pie

INGREDIENTS:

Red Onion - 2 small
Leek - 1
Carrot - 1
Chestnut Mushrooms - 100g
Plums - 5
Thyme - 6 sprigs
Garlic - 1 clove
Coriander Seeds - 1 tsp
Butter - 50g
Diced Venison - 450g
Plain Flour - 50g
Chicken Stock - 1 litre
Port - 150 mls
Balsamic Vinegar - 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar - 1tsp
Shortcrust Pastry - 1 pack

1. Slice the leek and dice the carrot into small cubes. Slice the mushrooms, and dice one red onion.

2. Roll the diced venison in the plain flour to lightly coat.

3. In a large frying pan, melt half the butter. Add the diced onion and garlic, and sauté until softened.

4. Add the venison and fry on a medium heat until just browned all over.

5. Transfer the contents of the pan to an oven-proof casserole dish. Add the leek, carrot, mushrooms, chicken stock, and port. Crush the coriander seeds using a pestle and mortar, and add these to the casserole dish.

6. Pop the lid on and place in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees C for 1.5 - 2 hours. You'll know it's ready when the venison falls apart in your mouth, and isn't tough.

7. Whilst the casserole is stewing, caramelise your plums. Start by peeling and de-stoning the plums, and then roughly chopping them into quarters. Dice the remaining onion. 

8. Melt the remaining butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until softened. Add the thyme and plums, and heat for another minute. Add the brown sugar, and 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar. Stir constantly and heat through until the plums are slightly sticky.

9. Add the mixture to the casserole after the first hour, and return to the oven.

10. Just before the casserole is ready, start to roll out the shortcrust pastry. Butter a pie dish, and line with a layer of thin pastry. Weigh down the pastry with baking beans, and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until not quite cooked. You'll be finishing it off in a bit!

11. Roll out another sheet of pastry, large enough to cover the pie.

12. Remove the pie tin and casserole from the oven, and allow to cool slightly. At this point check the casserole for seasoning and sweetness. Add salt, pepper and additional balsamic vinegar to taste.

13. Remove the lid, stand on the hob and reduce the sauce to thicken it up. (If the flavours are already intense enough just cheat and add a little cornflour).

14. Pour the filling into the partly cooked pastry tin, then cover with the pastry topping. Prick and decorate before placing in the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the topping is golden and crispy. (For a professional sheen, brush with a little milk before baking.)

Serve piping hot with seasonal vegetables, or my Cheddar & Mustard Mash and Caramelised Carrots.

Perfect with a glass of deep red wine!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Lamb Cutlets with Pomme Fondant

I love a good slow roasted lamb, or melt-in-your-mouth lamb curry; however lamb doesn't need to be that time consuming or laborious. The beauty of this dish lies in it's simplicity - there's only three things on the plate, each one absolutely delicious in it's own right, and utterly complementary with the other ingredients.

Top tip: Great on it's own, or use a little red wine to de-glaze the pan and use the juices as a sauce.

Serves 3

INGREDIENTS:

Rack of lamb - 6 cutlets
Thyme - 4 sprigs
Garlic - 4 cloves
Salted Butter - 30g

For the Pomme Fondant:

Large Floury Potatoes - 3
Chicken Stock - 300mls
Salted Butter - 30g
Garlic - 4 cloves

1. Wash and peel the potatoes, then using a small circular cutter (I used a cookie cutter!) approx 3cm in diameter carefully slice out cylinders from the potatoes. Each one should be equal, and about 4-5cm in length.

2. Heat the butter in a frying pan till just melted. Remove from the heat and roll each potato cylinder in the butter until coated. Stand each potato on it's end in an oven-proof dish and pour in the chicken stock, so the liquid surrounds the cylinders but doesn't cover them.

3. Peel 4 garlic cloves and crush using the side of a knife. Add to the chicken stock.

4. Place in a pre-heated oven at 250 degrees C for 45 minutes, turning over once, until golden brown.
A perfect pomme fondant is crispy on the outside and melts like butter on the inside.

5. 10 minutes before the pomme fondants are ready prepare your lamb. If you bought a rack of lamb ensure the exposed bones are thoroughly cleaned, by scraping excess gristle off each one with a sharp knife. Remove any excess fat. Cut the rack inbetween the bones into individual cutlets.

6. In a non-stick frying pan melt the butter, and add crushed garlic and thyme. Add the cutlets and fry on each side for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a oven-proof pan and place in the oven for 2-3 minutes. The timing depends on how you prefer the lamb to be cooked.

7. After removing the cutlets you can de-glaze the frying pan by pouring in a splash of red wine. Stir well, to infuse the wine with the lamb juices. Drain off the garlic and thyme, and pour the juices into a gravy boat.

8. Remove the lamb and potatoes from the oven and serve immediately.

Serve with my Caramelised Carrots and a quenelle of Mustard Mash Potato.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Chicken Skewers with a Peanut Satay

I've been meaning to put this recipe up for a while, so it may seem out of place mid-October - but with Christmas fast approaching I'm sure I'll be making lots of these again as great finger-food canapés! This is a classic must-have recipe, as everybody loves chicken satay. They're dead easy to make - I'm sure you'll spot the cheats!

Top tip: For those that prefer a light spice leave out the chilli, as the ginger gives enough kick!

Makes 8 skewers

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Breast - 2
Thai Seven Spice - 2 tbsp

For the satay:

Smooth Peanut Butter - 3 tbsp
Condensed Coconut Milk - 2 tbsp
Fresh Ginger - 2cm nubbin
Chilli Flakes - 1 pinch
Plain Peanuts - 2 tbsp

1. Slice the breasts into 8 smaller fillets. Insert a wooden skewer lengthways through each fillet.

2. Roll each fillet in the thai spices. Place under a pre-heated grill at a medium heat, turning occasionally until cooked through and golden brown. Leave the skewers sticking out of the grill, or they will burn!

3. Meanwhile make the satay. In a bowl, mix together the peanut butter and coconut milk. Grate in the ginger, and add with the chilli flakes to the mixture.

4. Using a pestle and mortar (or the end of a rolling pin), roughly crush the peanuts. Mix all but a few into the satay. Use the rest to sprinkle on top when serving.

Serve warm as a starter, or cold as canapés.

Sweetcorn & Red Onion Salsa

I love this as an accompaniment as it's very tasty, fresh and healthy. You can eat it on it's own as a summer salad, or as a side dish with a warm cut of meat. It's a great alternative to a rich sauce!

Top tip: An optional extra is adding in some diced pineapple, great if serving with ham.

Makes a bowlful

INGREDIENTS:

Sweetcorn - 1 small tin
Red Onion - 1
Cherry Tomatoes - small handful
Fresh Coriander - handful
Lime - 1/2

1. Finely dice the red onion into small cubes. Place in a salad bowl.

2. Quarter the tomatoes. Roughly chop the coriander. Add to the bowl.

3. Drain the sweetcorn, and mix in with the onion, tomatoes and coriander.

4. Squeeze the juice of half the lime, and toss until thoroughly mixed.

Try this with my Sherry & Honey Glazed Roast Ham and Cheddar & Mustard Mash.

Chicken & Red Pepper Casserole

Now winter has finally arrived it's time to crack out the good old winter warmer recipes. It's getting too cold to trek to the shops, so this one was created as an excuse to use up what was left in the fridge - some chicken, a butternut squash, a leek and a tin of red peppers. It's really homely and filling. You can spice it up with chilli oil if you need more of a kick!

Top tip: I've cheated with a tin of red peppers, but the fresher the better.

Serves 5

INGREDIENTS:

Onion – 1
Chicken Breasts - 2
Leek - 1
Mushrooms – 125g
Garlic – 4 cloves
Thyme – a few sprigs
Ground mace – 2 tsp
Red pepper – 1
Yellow pepper -1
Hot Paprika – 2 tsp
Chilli Flakes – ½ tsp
Chicken stock – 500ml
White wine 250 ml
Fresh Parsley – 1 handful
Juice – 1 lemon
Butternut squash - 1/2
Chorizo- 10cm
Butter - 50g
Plain flour – 50g

1. Slice the chicken into thin strips and season with the mace. Place in a pan with a little oil and cook until white all over (it does not matter if it does not cook through at this point).

2. Roughly chop the onion. Slice the mushrooms and leek and then slice the peppers into strips.

3. Melt the butter in a large casserole pan, and add the onion with the crushed garlic. Heat until the onion has softened. Add the leek and mushrooms and cook for a further minute. Whilst stirring add the flour and cook for another minute.

4. Lower the heat and add the wine, stir in and cook for 1 minute, then add the chicken stock, chicken, peppers, thyme, hot paprika and chilli flakes.

5. Allow to simmer and reduce for 30 minutes. Meanwhile peel, deseed and dice the butternut squash. After the 30 minutes add the butternut squash to the casserole dish.

6. Allow to simmer until the butternut squash is cooked through. Meanwhile slice the chorizo into ½ cm slices, and fry in a dry pan to release the oils and until darker in colour.

7. Before serving squeeze in the lemon juice and add the parsley and stir through.

8. Scatter the chorizo around the plate or serve on top of the casserole.

Serve with baby new potatoes or rice.

    Saturday, 30 October 2010

    Potted Shrimp

    All credit goes to my good friend and fellow foodie Iain for this recipe. We had a great time round at his for dinner, and this starter went down so well that I've asked Iain permission to put the recipe on my website. I'm really glad he's allowed me to branch out and include a dish I would not have stumbled upon myself, as I'm still tip-toeing into the realms of seafood!

    Top tip: Seal the potted shrimp with clarified butter to keep fresher for longer.

    Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:
    (In true Iain style, the ingredient quantities are a rough guide only, and should be made to taste)

    Cooked & Peeled Brown Shrimp - 250g
    Unsalted Butter - 100g + an extra 50g for the clarified butter
    White Pepper - pinch
    Salt - pinch
    Cayenne Pepper - pinch
    Tabasco Sauce - 10 drops
    Fresh Parsley - 2 tbsp
    Chives - 2 tbsp
    Worcester Sauce - 1/2 tsp
    Lemon - 1

    1. Melt the butter over a low heat and add the salt and peppers, Tabasco and Worcester sauce and zest of 1 lemon, and heat through for a few minutes.

    2. Next add the shrimp and finely chopped parsley and chives. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Stir over a low heat for 5 minutes.

    3. Remove from the heat and place the mixture into ramekins. Push the mixture down so that the sauce just covers the meat.

    4. Make the clarified butter and cover each ramekin, and place in the fridge to chill until the butter has set.

    Serve with a wedge of lemon and a slice of toasted ciabatta.
    Thanks Iain!

    Passionfruit Sorbet

    A good sorbet should be tarte, smooth and ice cold! With the citrus and sweetness of the passionfruit, this sorbet is one of my absolute favourites. A small scoop is all that's needed.

    Top tip: The wrinklier the skin of the passionfruit, the sweeter the fruit is inside.

    Serves 6

    INGREDIENTS:

    Passionfruit - 10
    Orange Juice (smooth, fresh) - 50mls
    Egg White - 1
    Caster Sugar - 150g

    1. Scoop out the edible fleshy part of the passionfruit and place in a bowl. Discard the skins (unless you want to serve the sorbet in the skins!).

    2. Place the orange juice and caster sugar in a small pan. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and a syrup is formed.

    3. Place the syrup and passionfruit into a food processor and whizz until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve, removing any seeds and lumps of flesh.

    4. Beat the egg white until stiff, and fold into the passionfruit mixture.

    5. Place in the freezer for roughly 6 hours. After this time, re-process the mixture in your food processor. This removes any ice crystals that have formed. Return to the freezer for a further 6 hours. Repeat at least twice more, to make a smooth sorbet. (This process can be replaced by using an ice-cream maker, or liquid nitrogen if you're Heston Blumenthal!)

    6. Just before serving, lightly mash with a fork.

    Serve in a ramekin, or in a passionfruit skin. This sorbet goes really well with my White Chocolate Mousse and a Gold & Chocolate Truffle.

    White Chocolate Mousse

    This dessert is divine! Creamy, smooth and irresistibly light. This rounds off any dinner perfectly without weighing your guests down, and they'll be asking for more! It's so simple to make and looks great.

    Top tip: You can make this well in advance and store in the fridge - reducing dinner party stress!

    Serves 6

    INGREDIENTS:

    White Chocolate - 150g
    Vanilla Essence - 1 tbsp
    Double Cream - 150mls
    Egg White - 1

    1. Boil a pan of water, break up the chocolate and melt in a bowl over the boiling water.

    2. While the chocolate is melting, whisk the egg white until stiffened.

    3. Add the double cream and vanilla essence to the whisked egg and beat well - you are trying to keep the mixture light and fluffy.

    4. Fold the creamed mixture into the melted white chocolate. Pour into ramekins and store in the fridge for 4 hours until firm.

    Serve with a fresh mint leaf garnish.

    You can also try this as a trio of desserts, with my Passionfruit Sorbet and a Gold & Chocolate Truffle.

    Amuse-Bouche of Dill & Bacon

    My favourite part of any dinner is usually the starter, therefore the idea of several small courses making up a 'taster menu' is right up my street. I recently had some friends over and thought I'd treat them to a five course taster menu, with this amuse-bouche as a refreshing palette-cleanser between bulkier courses. This dish is light and fresh, and the flavours are quite powerful, so perfect for an amuse-bouche sized serving - but you can always serve it as a bowl of winter-warming soup.

    Top tip: The idea behind this is to drink it, so when creating the consistency ensure you add enough water.

    Serves 6

    INGREDIENTS:

    Shallots - 3
    Unsmoked Bacon - 2 rashers
    Garlic - 1 clove
    Lamb Oxo - 1 cube
    Ground Cinnamon - 1/4 tsp
    White Wine - 100mls
    Egg Yolk - 1
    Double Cream - 150mls
    Butter - 25g
    Dill - large handful
    Water - to achieve consistency

    1. Finely chop the shallots, and sauté in the butter in a frying pan, and add the clove of garlic crushed. Chop the bacon rashers into small pieces and add to the pan, continuing to heat through until the bacon is cooked but not crispy.

    2. Lower the heat. Sprinkle on the cinnamon and stir through. Then add the white wine and heat until reduced by a third. Crush in the oxo cube.

    3. Place the cooked ingredients into a food processor, and mix until smooth.

    4. Place back in the pan, and stir in the double cream over a low heat.

    5. Add the egg yolk and beat in until mixed in thoroughly, also over a low heat.

    6. Add water to the pan, always heating gently and stirring, until the desired drinking consistency is reached. Finally add in the finely chopped dill.

    Serve warm, with a bacon crisp, a sprinkle of fresh dill on the top and toasted bread if you're hungry.

    Friday, 29 October 2010

    Steak Tartare

    I've been enjoying the current series of Masterchef, and this was one of the '10 minute dishes' that the contestants had to cook. I'd never tried making it before, but was inspired by the show - so here's my version of this classic dish. It's really quick to prepare and tastes simply divine, and surprisingly filling for quite a delicate dish.

    Top tip: You really can't get away with anything other than fillet steak for this dish!

    Serves 2

    INGREDIENTS:

    Fillet Steak - 1
    Gherkins - 4 small-medium
    Shallots - 3
    Capers - 1 full tsp
    Tabasco Sauce - 8 drops
    Worcester Sauce - 1/2 tsp
    Soy Sauce - 1 1/2 tsp
    Mayonnaise - 1 tbsp
    Ketchup - 1 tsp
    Coriander - large handful

    For the poached egg:

    Egg - 2 large
    Paprika - sprinkle
    White Wine Vinegar - 1tbsp

    1. Finely chop the gherkins, capers, and shallots. You can do this by hand, or in a food processor!

    2. Next, finely dice the steak into roughly 1/2 cm pieces.

    3. Chop the coriander by hand, and add all the chopped ingredients to a mixing bowl.

    4. Mix in the sauces - tabasco, worcester sauce, soy, mayonnaise and ketchup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    5. Boil a pan of salted water. Add in the white wine vinegar. Once fully boiling crack in the eggs and poach for 3 minutes. Remove immediately and cool in a bowl of iced water.

    6. Whilst the eggs are poaching, form your tartare into two patties - you can do this by hand or use a burger press. Place a leaf of coriander on top.

    7. Remove the eggs from the iced water, and carefully peel off any loose egg white strands. Place the eggs on your plate, and sprinkle with paprika.

    Serve cold with a slice of wholemeal toast.

    Saturday, 2 October 2010

    Honey & Thyme Figs with Blue Cheese

    I really love plates of bright, colourful food. These red figs and green rocket make this such a pretty dish. The sweet fruit and honey contrasting with the salty blue cheese also makes this an elegant and balanced starter. What's more, there's no cooking involved!

    Top tip: I found a creamy blue cheese goes well with this, rather than a hard Stilton for example.

    Makes 1 plate

    INGREDIENTS:

    Fig - 1
    Rocket - 1 handful
    Chicory - 2 leaves
    Blue Cheese (e.g St Agur) - 25g

    For the dressing:

    Clear Honey - 1tbsp
    Thyme - a few sprigs
    White Wine Vinegar - 1 tbsp
    Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
    Salt - 1 pinch

    1. Place two chicory leaves on your plate, making sure to cut off the fibrous white ends. On top of these, place a small bed of washed rocket.

    2. Slice the fig into quarters, and place around the plate. Crumble the blue cheese on top.

    3. To make the dressing, strip the thyme leaves from their branches, and crush the leaves with a pinch a salt using a pestle and mortar. Mix in the honey, oil and vinegar. Stir well before drizzling over the salad.

    Serve with a glass of port.

    Wednesday, 29 September 2010

    Ham & Cheddar Pastry Pocket

    So here's the scene: I'm off work feeling pathetic with a cold, and the boyfriend's been at work all day. I feel obliged to rustle something up, and a quick look in the fridge reveals, to my dismay, only leftovers. Half a sherry & honey glazed roast ham, a handful of mushrooms and the end of a block of cheddar - in retrospect, a goldmine!
    These savoury pastries are just calling for a bit of bling, but are just perfect simple and homely as they are.

    Top tip: If you haven't made a roast ham, you can buy ham ends for next to nothing at most local food shops. Unseasoned ham may require some extra spices; maybe try nutmeg, mace or allspice.

    Makes two pastry pockets.

    INGREDIENTS:

    Cold Roast Ham - 3 thick slices
    Closed Cup Mushrooms - 5
    Cheddar - 1 small handful, grated
    Onion - 1/2
    Plain Flour - 2 tbsp
    Salted Butter - 25g
    Pre-rolled Puff Pastry - 1 sheet
    Milk - 50mls

    1. Roughly break up the ham slices with your hands, and set to one side. Slice the mushrooms, and then halve the slices.

    2. Peel and dice the onion. In a frying pan, melt the butter and sauté the onion until softened.

    3. Add the flour, and mix in. Stir fry for another minute. Toss in the mushrooms, and cook until heated through.

    4. Gently add the milk, continuously stirring. Only add enough milk to create a thick(ish), gooey consistency - it should not be liquid.

    5. Add in the ham and grated cheddar, and heat through until the cheese has melted. Add salt and pepper to season.

    6. Cut the sheet of pastry in half to give two rectangles. Place half the of the filling into the middle of each sheet, and fold over so the edges meet. Press down the three meeting edges with a fork to seal, and make a small slit in the top with a sharp knife to let the steam out as they cook.

    7. Brush each pastry pocket with a little milk to glaze, and pop in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is crispy and golden brown.

    Serve hot on their own, or with some winter vegetables.

    Sherry & Honey Glazed Roast Ham

    Around Christmas time is usually when I'm tempted with pictures of glazed hams, but then I thought why not have a roast ham any time of year? Having spent many festive holidays reading up on the best ways to cook and glaze a ham I think I've found a way that really works. My favourite thing about this is that you can prepare it in advance and have lots of lovely cold ham sitting in the fridge ready for sandwiches or to invent new recipes with.

    Top tip: Spending time initially, like a good Sunday afternoon will save time on many tasty mid-week dinners.

    Serves many!

    INGREDIENTS:

    Unsmoked Gammon - 1.5kg +
    Onion - 1
    Carrots - 2
    Cinnamon Sticks - 2
    Black Peppercorns - 10
    Cloves - 1 handful

    For the glaze:

    Sherry - 100mls
    Clear Honey - 100g
    Demeira Sugar - 100g

    1. Get a large pan, and place the ham inside. Fill with water so the ham is covered completely and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and drain (this removes some of the salt from the ham).

    2. Roughly chop the onion and peel and slice the carrots (you wont be eating them, so it doesn't matter how!).

    3. Return the ham to the pan, adding the carrots, onion, cinnamon sticks and black peppercorns, and once again cover with water. Bring to the boil, and allow to simmer for roughly two hours. You will need to add more boiling water as time goes by, to keep the ham covered.

    4. Drain and discard the vegetables. Allow the ham to cool slightly before trimming back the skin to leave a small layer of fat.

    5. Score the fat with sharp knife, creating a diamond pattern. Stud each diamond in the center with a clove.

    6. To make the glaze, place the sherry, honey and sugar in a small saucepan, and heat until the sugar has dissolved.

    7. Pour a third of the glaze over the ham, and place the ham on a roasting tray in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius. Roast for 10 minutes, then add half the remaining glaze.

    8. Roast for a further 15 minutes and pour over the rest of the glaze, before returning to the oven for a final 20 minutes.

    Rest the ham for a few minutes before carving and serving with winter vegetables, or my healthy Sweetcorn & Red Onion Salsa.

    Alternatively, store in the fridge ready for delicious roast ham sandwiches!

    Monday, 27 September 2010

    Gold & Chocolate Truffles

    I always have a batch of these on hand for the end of a dinner party - they are a great talking point and they never fail to impress! Crunchy on the outside, with a rich and creamy center, they really are indulgent.

    Top tip: You can play around with alternatives, such as having a white chocolate center to have variations in your after dinner selection.

    Makes about 20 truffles.

    INGREDIENTS:

    Dark Chocolate - 150g
    White Chocolate - 150g
    Thick Double Cream - 150 mls
    Unsalted Butter - 25g
    Creme Fraiche - 2 tbsp
    Vanilla Essence - 1 tbsp
    Edible Gold Glitter - sprinkle
    (You can buy edible gold from Holly's Cupcakes)

    1. To make the truffle center, finely grate the dark chocolate, or to save time, stick it in a food processor.

    2. Place the butter, double cream and vanilla essence in a pan, and heat until just boiling.

    3. Add the boiling mixture to the grated dark chocolate in a large bowl, whilst continuously stirring.

    4. Stir in the creme fraiche, and leave to cool in the freezer overnight.

    5. Remove the truffle mixture from the freezer, and allow to soften slightly whilst preparing the white chocolate coating.

    6. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.

    7. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly whilst rolling the truffle mixture into small balls, approx 2cm in diameter.

    8. Using a cocktail stick, dip each ball into the melted white chocolate until fully coated and set to one side on a sheet of baking paper.

    9. Sprinkle on the edible gold glitter, and place the finished truffles in the fridge until the coating has set.

    Once ready, store them in the fridge until needed, or they'll melt!

    Serve after dinner with a coffee, or place in a gift box as a unique present.

    Raspberry Ice-Cream Cake

    Easy-peasy! I'll be the first to admit that this is an absolute cheat - but it looks amazing, and tastes great! I first served this while away on a birthday ski trip. Even in a fully equipped chalet, I didn't have enough room to be whipping up a proper cake after a day on the slopes, so I improvised with what the local ski-mart had in store.

    Top tip: Serve quickly! It's made from ice-cream!

    Serves 8-12

    INGREDIENTS:

    Vanilla Ice-cream - 1 litre
    Chocolate Ice-cream - 1 litre
    Raspberries - 1 punnet (or a bag of frozen fruits)

    1. Leave the ice-cream out of the fridge until quite soft and mouldable.

    2. Using a cake tin as a mould, create two separate layers of vanilla ice-cream, and place each one on a separate plate, and put in the freezer to firm up.

    3. Create a third chocolate layer, and also place in the freezer.

    4. Once all the layers have solidified, build your cake with the chocolate layer in the middle.

    5. Cover with concentric rings of raspberries, and place the whole lot in the freezer until needed.

    Serve with a warm chocolate sauce.

    Marinated Steak & Blue Cheese Risotto

    I remember the first time I served risotto at home it had such a good reception, and I was asked "Can you make any flavour risotto?". My reply was "Depends on what you want". "Blue cheese" was the unanimous answer - so with a little playing around I came up with this recipe from scratch. It's perfect, and filling, if served with my marinated steaks, and a glass of red wine.

    Top tip: Any blue cheese can be used, but I think the best results are with Roquefort.

    Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    Risotto Rice - 3 cups
    Shallots - 3 large
    Baby Button Mushrooms - 1/2 punnet
    Brandy - 100 mls
    Chicken Stock - 1 litre
    Garlic - 2 cloves
    Flat Leaf Parsley - 1 handful
    Blue Cheese - 100g
    Olive Oil - 1 tbsp

    1. Peel and chop the shallots. Sauté in the olive oil until softened.

    2. Chop the mushrooms, and add to the pan with the crushed garlic. Cook for a further minute.

    3. Add the risotto rice, and stir fry for one minute.

    4. Ensuring the pan is not too hot, add the brandy. Allow the mixture to reduce.

    5. Bit by bit add the chicken stock, until the risotto rice is just cooked through. (This is a very slow process of watching the stock reduce, and then adding more to create the correct consistency in the rice. If you run out of stock, and the required consistency hasn't quite been reached keep adding boiled water).

    6. Crumble over the blue cheese, and stir in. Finely chop the parsley and mix in.

    Serve hot with my marinated steaks, or on it's own for a great winter warmer!

    This is also the base for my Blue Cheese Arancinis.

    Vegetable Samosas

    There is something very pleasing about serving a very simple accompaniment to really make your guests impressed. These samosas look impressive and taste delicious, they compliment any curry with their mild spices, and with a squeeze of sharp lemon they are delicious!

    Top tip: The mix can be made well before hand, to save some of the stress on the night.

    Makes 12 samosas

    INGREDIENTS:

    Onion - 1
    Peas - frozen, 1 cup
    Spinach - 250g
    White Potato - 2 large
    Cumin - 1 tsp
    Ground Coriander - 1 tsp
    Turmeric - 1/2tsp
    Garlic - 2 cloves
    Ground Ginger - 1 tsp
    Garam Masala - 2 tsp
    Filo Pastry - 1 packet
    Vegetable Oil - 1 litre (for deep frying)

    1. Peel and slice the onion. Lightly fry in a tablespoon of oil until soft. Mix in all the spices. Peel and crush the garlic, and add that too.

    2. Peel and dice the potatoes into 1cm cubes. Add to the pan and sauté in the spices for 10 minutes.

    3. Add the spinach leaves, combining in the pan until well wilted.

    4. Add the frozen peas and cook until thawed.

    5. Place the mixture to one side while you prepare the filo pastry. On a lightly floured surface, lay out the sheets of pastry. Each samosa will require a rectangle of pastry roughly 10 x 20 cm.

    6. Place a small amount of the filling (roughly 2 tbsp) near one end of a pastry rectangle. Fold over one corner at the end with the filling, bringing the corner up to make a triangle with the filling inside and an excess of pastry at one end. Keep folding the pastry keeping the triangle shape, until all edges are used.

    7. Heat a large pan of oil, being very careful not to let it smoke. Gently drop each samosa into the hot oil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until brown and crispy. Leave to rest on a sheet of kitchen towel before serving.

    Serve with a slice of lemon, a beer and a curry - like my dad's Chicken Balti Zeera.

    Hearty Cottage Pie

    My boyfriend doesn't cook that much (because I'm very protective over my kitchen!), but when he does he makes epic scale home favourites like this hearty cottage pie. This pie is perfect for large numbers, or for keeping in the freezer for when you can't be bothered to cook but want something really warming and comforting!

    Top tip: Cornflour is a nice little secret to make the sauce thicker if you haven't quite got the right consistency.

    Serves 8-10

    INGREDIENTS:

    For the meat filling:

    Minced Lean Beef - 900g
    Onion - 2 large
    Garlic - 4 cloves
    Carrots - 2
    Broccoli - 1 stem
    Leek - 1
    Worcester Sauce - 2 tbsp
    Tomato Pureé - 2 tbsp
    Bay Leaves - 2
    Beef Stock - 1 cube
    Red Wine - 1 glass
    Cumin - 1 tsp
    Cornflour (dissolved in 500mls boiling water) - 2 tbsp
    Herbs Du Provence - 1 tbsp
    Basil (dried) - 1 tbsp
    Olive Oil - 1 tbsp

    For the topping:

    White Potatoes - 8 large
    Cheddar - 125g grated
    Wholegrain Mustard - 1 tbsp
    Ground Black Pepper - 1 tsp
    Milk - 50mls

    1. First, peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water and let them boil for approx 20 minutes, until softened.

    2. Meanwhile, prepare the meat filling. Dice the onions, and crush the garlic. Sauté in the olive oil in a large pan, until softened.

    3. Slice the leek, peeled carrots and broccoli, and add to the pan. Lightly stir fry the vegetables for 3 minutes.

    4. Divide the beef mince and add to the pan. Stir through until the mince browns. Sprinkle on the herbs du provence, stock cube, basil and cumin and mix well.

    5. Pour in the Worcester sauce, red wine and tomato pureé, and mix through. Drop in the bay leaves.

    6. Little by little add in the cornflour mixture, stirring all the time, and reduce until thicker. Keep adding a little cornflour mixture at a time and reducing until the meat filling is of a thick consistency. This can take up to 20 minutes.

    7. Now drain the potatoes and mash them until smooth. Add in the milk a little at a time, whilst mashing. Then add in some, but not all of the grated cheddar. Finally stir in the mustard and pepper.

    8. Prepare a large pie dish, by buttering the sides. Pour in the meat filling, taking out the bay leaves as you do. Then layer the mashed potato on top. Finish by sprinkling on the rest of the grated cheddar.

    9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180degrees Celsius for 30-50 minutes, until the filling is bubbling through and the topping is crispy and golden.

    Serve with winter vegetables and a large glass of full-bodied red wine.

    Warm Chicken Parmesan Salad

    With a love of cooking you've got to be careful to keep an eye on your waistline! However, with a lack of summer this year, cold salads often don't quite hit the spot and that's where this warm chicken salad comes in to it's own. You can also make a batch and have some leftover for cold salad days!

    Top tip: I've used chicken for this recipe, but for an even lower fat and cheaper version you can use turkey breast.

    Serves 2

    INGREDIENTS:

    For the salad:

    Chicken Breasts - 2
    Parmesan - one grated handful
    Egg - 1 large, white only
    Garlic - 2 cloves
    Peas - frozen, 1 cup
    Baby New Potatoes - 1 large handful
    Leek - 1
    Iceberg Lettuce - 1
    Closed Cup Mushrooms - 4 or 5

    For the dressing:

    Lemon Juice - 1/2 lemon
    Parmesan - one grated handful
    Egg - 1, yolk only
    Worcester Sauce - 1/2 tsp
    Garlic - 1 clove
    Olive Oil - 75mls

    1. To prepare the chicken, slice the breasts into mini-fillets. Peel and crush the garlic, and add to the egg white.

    2. Dip each chicken mini-fillet into the egg white, and then roll in the grated parmesan.

    3. Slice the mushrooms and place in the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Lay the chicken on top, and place under a hot grill, turning once until cooked through and looking golden and crispy!

    4. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables. Slice the leek and quarter the potatoes. Place the potatoes in a boiling pan of lightly salted water, and boil for about 10 minutes.

    5. Boil the leeks in a separate pan, and after a couple of minutes add the frozen peas. Boil for a further 3-4 minutes.

    6. Now, make the dressing by whisking (or use a food processor) the dressing ingredients together.

    7. Drain the vegetables from the boiling water, and toss together with the dressing, and some sliced lettuce.

    Serve with the chicken piping hot on top of the salad.

    Friday, 17 September 2010

    Chicken Balti Zeera

    We had some relatives round for dinner and one of them loves a good curry so I decided to create an Indian feast with three different curry dishes. The main curry was my dad's 'famous' chicken balti zeera. (Thanks dad!). I like this curry dish because it's not heavy, instead it's flavoursome, spicy and colourful.

    Top tip: You can make this in advance - the longer the flavours have to infuse, the tastier it is!

    Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    Chicken Breasts - 4
    Large Onion - 1
    Green Chillies - 2
    Garlic - 6 cloves
    Plum Tomatoes - 1 tin
    Mandarin Oranges - 1 tin
    Balti Paste - 4 tbsp
    Cumin - 1 1/2 tsp
    Black Onion Seeds - 1 tsp
    All Spice - 1 pinch
    Cinnamon - 1 pinch
    Mace - 1 pinch
    Fresh Mint - 1 handful
    Coriander - 1 handful
    Garam Masala - 1 tbsp
    Chicken Stock - 150mls
    Corn Oil - 4 tbsp

    1. Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Cube the chicken breasts into bite-size pieces. Chop the chillies, keeping the seeds.

    2. Drain the half the juice from the plum tomatoes, and half from the mandarins, discarding the excess juice.

    3. Add the cinnamon, all spice and mace to the chicken stock.

    4. Heat the oil in a pan until smoking. Add the garlic, cumin and black onion seeds and stir fry for 30 seconds.

    5. Add in the onion and stir for a further minute. Mix in the balti paste and stir in for 30 seconds.

    6. Add the chicken and chillies and stir fry until the chicken is white all over.

    7. Chuck in the tomatoes, mandarins and stock mixture and reduce the heat to allow the curry to simmer.

    8. Roughly chop the fresh mint and add to the curry. Leave the whole lot to simmer for 25 minutes.

    9. Add the garam masala and stir in for two minutes.

    10. Chop the coriander. Remove the curry from the heat and add the coriander in.

    Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving with basmati rice, my vegetable samosas and naan bread. Don't forget a beer!

    Tuesday, 10 August 2010

    Marinated Fillet Steak & Creamed Sweet Potato

    A marinated fillet steak is definitely on my desert island menu. Whenever I go home, one of my biggest treats is when my dad cooks a perfect steak, accompanied with good but simple vegetables. I think it should be almost rare in the middle, but everyone has their's differently. You can marinade these in advance and cook each one to your guests liking.

    Top tip: If you don't know a good butcher, it's a good idea to buy from a meat counter so you can see what you're actually buying.

    Serves 2

    INGREDIENTS:

    For the marinated steaks:

    Fillet Steak - 2
    Garlic - 3 cloves
    Soy Sauce - 2 tbsp
    Olive Oil - 2 tsp
    Salt & Pepper - to taste

    For the creamed sweet potato:

    Sweet Potato - 2
    Cream Cheese - 2 tbsp
    Butter (salted) - 25g
    (Milk - 20mls)

    1. Peel and crush the garlic, and smother all over the steaks. Place in a dish and pour on the soy sauce. Roll the steaks in the soy sauce and then drizzle on the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Leave to marinade in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (the longer, the better!).

    2. Peel and roughly dice the sweet potatoes. Place in a pan of boiling, salted water and boil until soft.

    3. Drain the water off, and mash in the cream cheese and butter. Only add milk if you need it to be even creamier! Season to your taste with salt and pepper.

    4. If you have a good non-stick pan you shouldn't need any extra oil to fry the steaks. Heat your frying pan till hot, and then quickly fry the steaks. My rule of thumb for medium rare steak is 4-5 minutes on each side.

    Serve immediately, with a dollop of the creamed sweet potato, and your prefered vegetables. For even more flavour why not try a drizzle of my Blue Cheese Sauce on your steaks?

    Chicken Liver Pâté

    Pâté...mmmm...pâté!! Who doesn't love a lovely bit of pâté? Smooth, rich and creamy, perfect with some toasted bagels, or melba toast! Lasts for ages, if you seal with butter! Pâté is in fact quite simple to make and gives you loads of artistic license, and once you know the basics it can be quite forgiving. So have fun with this one, my basic chicken liver pâté recipe.

    Top tip: Looks great in a Kilner Jar, both as storage and serving in. Why not tie a ribbon round to make a culinary gift?

    Makes more than a jar-full

    INGREDIENTS:

    Chicken Liver - 400g
    Shallot (small) - 3
    Garlic - 2 cloves
    Fresh Thyme - 1 1/2 tsp of leaves
    Double Cream - 2 tbsp
    Brandy - 1 tbsp
    Port - 1 tbsp
    Butter (unsalted) - 50g

    1. Dice the shallots. Peel and crush the garlic, and sauté them in 25g of the butter on a low heat until softened.

    2. Add the whole chicken livers and the thyme leaves to the pan, and cook until the livers are browned all over, but still pink inside.

    3. Remove everything from the pan, and place in a food processor. Add the brandy, port and double cream and liquidise until close to smooth.

    4. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a jar or dish.

    5. Melt the remaining butter, and carefully decant the top layer of clarified butter, being sure to leave behind the white milky layer. Pour the clarified butter on top of the pâté. Place a sprig of thyme in the center of the butter, and place in the fridge till set.

    Serve in the jar, or in plated portions, with some toasted bread and chutney of your choice.

    Sunday, 8 August 2010

    Thai Spring Rolls

    My favourite order from a takeaway has always been spring rolls. Having tried various restaurants, I've found they can be quite hit-and-miss, so I've come up with my own version of this classic recipe. Guests are always impressed when these are served, and often can't believe they're home made.

    Top tip: You can use Filo pastry, but if you have access to an oriental food market I really recommend buying authentic spring roll pastry sheets.

    Makes about 20

    INGREDIENTS:

    Spring Roll Pastry Sheets
    Bean Sprouts - 1/2 bag
    Spring Onions -10
    Baby Sweetcorn - 6
    Mange Tout - 1 handful
    Carrot - 1
    Lime - 1
    Fresh Ginger - 2cm nubbin
    Small Red Chilli - 1
    Cocktail Prawns (cooked & peeled) - 150g
    Fresh Coriander - 1 handful
    Fish Sauce - 1 tsp
    Vegetable Oil - enough to fill a wok by about 4cm.

    1. All the vegetables need to be in long thin strips like matchsticks. Slice the mange tout, sweetcorn and trimmed spring onions. Peel and slice the carrot. Finely chop the coriander.

    2. In a pan over a medium heat stir fry the sliced vegetables (not the spring onions) in a tablespoon of the oil. Add the bean sprouts and prawns and heat through.

    3. Finely grate the ginger and stir in. Finely chop the chilli, discarding the seeds, and add to the pan.

    4. Remove from the heat and grate in the zest of the lime. Add the coriander, fish sauce, and lastly the spring onions.

    5. To make the spring rolls, cut a square of pastry, roughly 12cm squared. Add about a tablespoon of the vegetable and prawn mixture to the center of the square, and fold over diagonally to make a triangle - the mixture should be in the middle of the long fold. With the fold edge nearest you, fold in the right and left corners (it should look like an open envelope at this point). Ensuring the mixture stays in the middle roll, towards the far tip of the pastry. Repeat until all the mixture is finished!

    6. Fill the wok with oil to about 4cm depth, and heat until the surface is rippling, but not boiling or smoking! Deep fry the spring rolls in batches, and remove with a slotted spoon once golden and crispy.

    Serve hot or cold with sweet chilli dipping sauce or soy.

    Thai Prawn & Mango Salad

    This is a great dish to know because it can be thrown together in advance to produce as a main, starter or picnic accompaniment. It looks impressive, and tastes great but actually requires vey little culinary skill!!

    Top tip: If you're not a big spice fan, then use a green chilli, or add a teaspoon of sugar to the dressing to take the heat out.

    Makes a salad bowl-full.

    INGREDIENTS:

    King Prawns (cooked & peeled) - 150-200g
    Sweet Chilli Sauce - 75ml
    Mango - 1
    Mange Tout - 1 handful
    Baby Sweetcorn - 1 handful
    Cherry Tomatoes - 1 handful
    Fresh Noodles (medium egg) - 1 packet
    Fresh Coriander - 1 handful

    For the dressing:

    Fish Sauce - 1 tsp
    Lime - 1
    Small Red Chilli - 1
    Fresh Ginger - 2cm nubbin

    1. Cover the king prawns in the sweet chilli sauce, and grill under a medium heat for 8-12 minutes until covered in a sticky glaze.

    2. Meanwhile, slice the baby sweetcorns in half from tip to base. Halve the cherry tomatoes, and slice the mango into thin slithers. Roughy chop the coriander. Finely chop the chilli, making sure to discard the seeds.

    3. Now prepare the dressing: mix together the juice of one lime, the fish sauce and the chilli, and then grate in the ginger.

    4. In a salad bowl toss together the noodles, prawns, vegetables and coriander. Stir the dressing through.

    Serve cold

    Blue Cheese Sauce

    This is a basic, quick and easy sauce which can be made in minutes to serve warm with a good slice of steak. It's rich and creamy, but not too strong.

    Top tip: Don't add any extra salt, the blue cheese will do this for you!

    Makes enough for 6

    INGREDIENTS:

    Blue Cheese - 50g
    Butter (salted) - 50g
    Plain Flour - 50g
    Milk - roughly 100-150ml
    Ground Black Pepper - 1 tsp
    Garlic - 1 clove
    Boiled Water - roughly 150ml

    1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Sieve in the flour. Stir and cook on a medium flame for roughly two minutes.

    2. Add a small amount of the milk at a time, stirring constantly until thick and creamy. Add boiled water to dilute to desired consistency.

    3. Crush in the garlic, and add the pepper. Mix well.

    4. Crumble in the blue cheese and heat through on a low heat until melted. Keep tasting, and add more cheese until it tastes cheesy enough for you!

    Serve warm. Try it with my Marinated Fillet Steak & Creamed Sweet Potato.

    Thursday, 5 August 2010

    Wilted Spinach & Mushroom Lasagne

    For my birthday my friends very kindly paid for me to go on an Italian Butchery course (more recipes later!). After an amazing evening dissecting and eating our various meats, I decided that I was craving something light with vegetables, without meat, so I came up with this!
    The simplicity of this is it's elegance; with the woody pine nuts and earthy mushrooms, it's delightful on the palette and easy on the stomach.

    Top tip: For a meaty version, simply layer in some parma ham. You can also tart this one up by using exotic mushrooms, truffle oil and fresh egg pasta.

    Serves 2

    INGREDIENTS

    Lasagne Sheets - 4
    Baby Leaf Spinach (washed) - 1 bag
    Closed Cup Mushrooms - 250g
    Garlic - 2 cloves
    Pine Nuts - 1 large handful
    Parmesan - shavings
    Fresh Coriander - 1 large handful
    Fresh Parsley - 1 large handful
    Fresh Chives - 1 large handful
    Butter (salted) - 25g

    1. Slice the mushrooms and sauté in a pan with the butter. Crush in the garlic.

    2. On a low heat, add the spinach and allow to wilt. Once wilted, stir in the chopped herbs (coriander, parsley and chives).

    3. Toast the pine nuts in a separate dry pan over a low heat and keep them moving. After only a few seconds they'll start to brown and smell delicious. Remove them from the pan immediately, or they'll burn!

    4. Boil some water and cook the lasagne sheets until al dente. Once done, cut each sheet in half.

    5. To construct the lasagne, place half a sheet on your plate and add some of the spinach and mushroom mixture. Next roughly scatter a few of the pine nuts and add a couple of parmesan shavings. Re-layer three times, leaving the top layer open. Add more parmesan and pine nuts to the top layer and surrounding dish.

    Serve cool or at room temperature, with a drizzle of my warm Hollandaise Sauce.