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!