Friday, 22 April 2011

Lamb & Dill Meatballs

These delicious meatballs have a Lebanese flavour to them. They're so succulent and more-ish you'll need to make plenty!

Top tip: Taste-testing by frying a small piece of your mixture and checking for seasoning is an essential step - you need to get the salt & pepper just right.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Lamb Mince - 225g
Pancetta (cubed) - 50g
Spring Onions - 6
Dill - 1 large handful
Ground Cinnamon - 1 tsp
White Wine - 200ml
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp

1. Trim and roughly chop the spring onions and place in a food processor. Add the pancetta cubes, lamb mince, chopped dill and cinnamon to the food processor and blend until thoroughly mixed. Add salt and pepper to season.

2. In a non-stick frying pan heat the oil on a medium heat, add a pinch of the mixture and fry until cooked through. Make sure you taste this to check the seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if required. Take off the heat while you form the meatballs.

3. Using a large teaspoon of mixture form into a small ball repeat until all the mixture is in balls. Re-heat the oil in the frying pan and add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Once browned lower the heat (or remove from the heat completely) and pour in the white wine. Bring to the boil and use a wooden spatula to ensure all the meat juices are loosened from the bottom of the pan.

4. Pour the contents of the pan into a oven proof casserole dish and cover. Place in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees C for 1 hour.

Serve with mushroom couscous or some home-made tabbouleh.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Super Healthy Coronation Chicken Salad

This is basically a deconstructed coronation chicken dish, with the emphasise on light, healthy and tasty. The chicken is steamed, not fried and the sauce is rich but light. All the flavours are there, but none of the calories!

Top tip: You can create decorative vegetables by using a peeler - as you can see in the picture above!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Breasts - 2
Onion - 1/2
Coconut Cream - 2 large tbsp
Curry Powder - 1 pinch
Butter - 10g
Sultanas - a few
Courgette - 1
Radish - 1
Baby Gem lettuce - 1

For the sauce:

Onion - 1/4
White Wine - 100mls
Chicken Stock - 100mls
Ginger - 1cm nub
Ground Almond - 4 tbsp
Coconut Cream - 2 tbsp
Curry Powder - 2 pinches

1. Prepare the chicken prior to steaming. Each breast should be prepared in separate foil parcel, using enough foil to wrap the chicken. Thinly slice 1/2 an onion and scatter in the center of each foil square. Place one large tsp of coconut cream in each parcel. Place a chicken breast on top, score the top of the breast, and sprinkle over a pinch of curry powder. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a tiny knob of butter. Seal the foil parcels and place in a steamer for 20-25 minutes.

2. Next prepare the coronation sauce. Thinly dice the onion, and place in a pan with the wine and stock. Bring to the boil, and then grate in the ginger, and add the curry powder. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the ground almond and coconut cream. Using a hand blender, blend until smooth.

3. Prepare the green vegetables for the salad, using a vegetable peeler to slice the courgette and radish thinly to create ribbons. Discard the skins. Arrange the baby gem leaves and sultanas on the plate centrally, decorate with strips of courgette and radish, and serve the chicken and sauce hot or cold.

Vegetable Sushi

These 'sushi' rolls are ideal for canapés or a simple starter. The three fillings are savoury and vegetarian, with herby bread used as the roll. Delicious!

Top tip: Make the fillings in advance, and roll when needed!

Makes 24 rolls

INGREDIENTS:

Courgette & Spring Onion filling:
Dill - 1 small handful
Mint - 6 leaves
Creme Fraîche - 2tbsp
Lemon Juice - 1 tsp
Courgette - 1/2 small
Spring Onion - 3

Mushroom filling:
Chestnut Mushrooms - 1/2 punnet
Garlic - 1 clove
Thyme - 1 sprig
Butter - 25g
Olive Oil - 2tsp
White Wine - 50ml

Italian filling:
Tomatoes - 2
Onion - 1/4
Basil - 5 leaves

Sushi rolls:
White Bread (thin cut)- 6 slices
Garlic Salt - 1 tsp
Mixed Dried Herbs - 2 tsp
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp

1. Each of the fillings are to be prepared separately. First prepare the mushroom filling by placing the chestnut mushrooms in a food processor and blend on pulse setting until finely chopped into large breadcrumb size.

2. In a non-stick frying pan add the butter and oil and heat until the butter is fully melted and add the mushrooms, thyme branch, and the crushed and peeled garlic. Fry for 5 minutes and the lower the heat. Add the white wine and increase the heat a little and fry for another 5 minutes or until all the wine has been soaked up.

3. Now prepare the courgette and spring onion filling. Roughly chop the courgette and spring onions discarding the ends. Place in a food processor with the mint and dill (also roughly chopped) and blend for 3 minutes until finely chopped and well mixed. Transfer to a bowl and mix through the creme fraiche and lemon juice.

4. Now prepare the Italian filling by finely dicing the tomatoes and onion. Place in a bowl. Finely chop the basil leaves and add to the bowl and stir through, add a little pepper to season.

5. To prepare the sushi style rolls, firstly dust a clean surface with garlic salt and the dried herbs. On this surface place a slice of bread, remove the crusts. Using a rolling pin flatten the bread, this will also press the herbs into the outer side of the bread. Place the bread on a sushi mat seasoned side down, and add a strip of the mixture to one end of the slice (use approximately 1/2 of each mixture per slice of bread) and roll the matt over to create a tube of filled bread (if you do not own a sushi mat you can improvise by placing on a sheet of cling-film and rolling it over).

6. When all the rolls have been formed, heat the remaining olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and brown each sushi roll evenly on all sides. Remove from the pan, and cut horizontally into bite size pieces.

Serve warm.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Thai Beef Salad

I love Thai spicing, especially with marinated beef. This salad is healthy and hearty at the same time. You can make it as spicy as you like too!

Top tip: You can use any steak cut thinly, I'd recommend a sirloin if you want it to melt in your mouth, but medallions if you are watching you're weight.

Serves 3

INGREDIENTS:

Beef - 3 small steaks
Soy Sauce - 25mls
Garlic - 2 cloves
Radish - 3
Carrot - 1
Red Onion - 1/2
Spinach - 3 large handfuls
Quinoa - 1 cup
Red Chilli - 1/2
Broccoli Florets - 1 handful
Noodles - 3 nests

For the dressing:

Fish Sauce - 2tsp
Red Chilli - 1/2
Lime Juice - 1/2 lime
Light Brown Sugar - 1 tsp
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Concentrated Chicken Stock - 50mls
Ginger - 1cm nub

1. Prepare the beef by slicing thinly against the grain. Place in a dish and cover with soy sauce and crushed garlic. Cover and place in the fridge to marinade for a minimum 30 minutes.

2. Next prepare the salad. Slice the radish, discarding the ends. Peel the carrot skin off and discard, and then use the peeler to peel thin strips of carrot. Peel and thinly slice the red onion. De-seed the red chilli (unless you like things really hot!) then chop finely.

3. Now prepare the quinoa, by boiling according to packet instructions, and then drain. Toss together with the spinach, broccoli, and sliced vegetables.

4. Whilst cooking the noodles you can prepare the dressing. Finely chop the de-seeded red chilli and grate the ginger into a cup. Add the sauces and sugar and whisk thoroughly. Taste it to check your seasoning, you may wish to add more spice or more sugar.

5. In a wok, heat a little oil, and fry the beef strips on a high heat for 1-2 minutes each side. Drain the noodles and place on a plate, leaving a central well in which to layer your salad. Decorate with strips of beef and dressing.

Serve with a quartered lime and my Sesame Prawn Toast.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Toasted Almond & Pea Soup with Pancetta

Carrying on with this month's theme of soups and salads, here is another installment. The inspiration for this soup came from a recent ski trip I went on, where we were served something very similar. The toasted almonds add much needed texture to what would otherwise be 'just another soup'.

Top tip: Toast the almonds in a dry pan, moving constantly to get a light brown colour, whilst ensuring they don't burn.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Frozen Peas - 1,874 (or 500g)
Onion - 1
Garlic - 2 cloves
Ground Almonds - 2 tbsp, heaped
Sliced Almonds - 2 handfuls
Butter - 25g
Stock (chicken/vegetable) - 500mls
Pancetta Cubes - 1 handful

1. Peel and dice the onion. Peel and crush the garlic and add to the pan. Sauté with the butter until softened.

2. Add the frozen peas to the pan, and add enough stock to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer until the peas are cooked through, then add the ground almond and season to taste.

3. Pour the mixture from the pan into a food processor and blend until smooth.

4. In a dry pan toast the sliced almonds, once brown remove from the pan and place to one side. In the same pan add the pancetta and fry until just crispy.

Pour the soup into bowls, and serve with a generous sprinkling of almonds and pancetta.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Pomegranate & Feta Couscous Salad

As summer approaches I like to experiment with different salads. I love pomegranate, as it goes well with savoury ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and feta. I also am a huge fan of fluffy, light couscous, so why not have them all in one dish!

Top tip: Proper coucous should be steamed three times, however, most supermarket varieties are great for quick preparation.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Couscous - 1 cup
Pomegranate - 1/2
Feta - 1 handful (crumbled)
Rocket - 1/2 bag
Sun-dried Tomatoes - 1 handful
Chicken Stock - 200mls

1. First place the couscous in a saucepan with a lid. Cover with freshly boiled stock, adding enough to cover the couscous by a few millimetres, place the lid on, and leave for five minutes. Once cooked through, there should be no liquid remaining, and the couscous will have swollen and become fluffy. Stir with a fork to break up the grains.

2. Using a fork remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Stir the seeds and crumbled feta into the couscous, and place on a bed of rocket. Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes and some of their oil over the top.

Serve as a starter or as a healthy main course.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Roasted Pheasant with Celeriac Pureé

I received two frozen pheasants for Christmas from a local farm, so I started reading recipe books to find out how best to cook them. A combination of my broad reading and this great local produce proved a tasty success on first attempt! The nuttiness of the celeriac pureé goes so well with the gamey meat.

Top tip: These birds can dry out quite quickly whilst cooking so to avoid this ensure a moist roasting environment, and a rasher of bacon across the breast helps seal some of the juices in.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Pheasant - 2
Bacon - 2 rashers
Bay Leaves - 2
Butter - 100g
Chestnut Mushrooms - 1 punnet
Thyme - 4 large sprigs
Garlic - 4 cloves
Chicken Stock - 200mls
White Wine - 200mls
Carrot - 1
Onion - 1/2

For the celeriac pureé

Celeriac - 1/2
Leek - 1
Garlic - 1 clove
Chicken Stock - 500mls

1. Wash the pheasants in cold water, ensuring to clean inside the cavity and remove any excess feathers and giblets. Place 25g of butter inside the cavity. Dress each pheasant with a rasher of bacon along the breast, and a bay leaf on top.

2. Roughly slice the onion, carrot and chestnut mushrooms. In a roasting tin, place the chestnut mushrooms on top of a bed of onion and carrot. Divide up 50g of butter over the mushrooms. Place the thyme sprigs on top. Peel and crush the garlic cloves and add to the roasting tin with the stock and white wine. This will create the base for the pheasants to roast on, and provide a moist environment.

3. Place the pheasants on top of the bed of vegetables, and roast in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes, basting occasionally. Cooking time may differ depending on the size of the birds.

4. Meanwhile make the celeriac pureé. Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Peel and dice the celeriac, and drop into the stock. Simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Slice the leek, and peel and crush the garlic. Add to the saucepan and simmer for another 10 minutes. When done, drain all but a little of the stock, and blend until smooth using a hand blender or food processor.

6. When the birds are done, cover and leave to rest for 5 minutes, whilst making a sauce from the vegetables and stock, by blending them all together until smooth.

Serve with Spring Greens & Bacon.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Chicken & Spinach Filo Parcels

This is another creation from my left-overs, but once again not your average left-overs! I like to discover new dishes by grabbing whatever is left in the fridge, and this time I had chicken, spinach and filo pastry.

Top tip: Make sure you use a greased surface to cook these parcels on, otherwise they will stick down and be ruined!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Spinach - 1/2 bag
Chicken - 2 breasts
Onion - 1/2
Dill - 1 handful
White Wine - 150mls
Chicken Stock - 150mls
Butter - 50g
Filo Pastry - 4 sheets
Egg - 1
Garlic - 1 clove
Plain Flour - 2 tsp

1. Dice the chicken into chunks, dice the onion roughly, and peel and crush the garlic. Melt 1/2 the butter in a large frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the flour and cook for a further minute.

2. Add the white wine gradually at first, stirring continuously, and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken breasts, dill, and stock to the pan and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

3. Place the spinach leaves with the remaining butter in a microwavable container with a lid, and cook on high for 1 minute. Drain once done, and use a plate to press down on the spinach to squeeze all the excess water out.

4. On a greased piece of grease-proof paper, place 2 filo sheets on top of each other. In the center of the sheets place 1/2 the pressed spinach, and then some of the chicken mixture on top. Repeat for the second parcel.

5. To make the parcel, gather up the corners of the Filo sheets and brush with whisked egg to seal and glaze.

6. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve with white rice or Cheddar & Mustard Mashed Potato and vegetables.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Braised Lamb Shank

Cooking lamb on the bone makes the meat so much more flavoursome - it must be the juices from the bone marrow infusing with the meat as it slow cooks, allowing it to literally fall off the bone! With this method of cooking you can make the most of the delicious juices and make a sumptuous gravy.

Top tip: The shank is usually the 'end' of the meat, but the difference in texture and taste between a butcher's cut to a pre-packed supermarket cut is worth the money!

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Lamb Shanks - 2
Garlic - 3
Rosemary - 1 large handful
Red Currant Jelly - 4 tbsp
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Red Wine - 200 mls
Lamb Stock - 350 mls
Carrot - 1
Onion - 1
Leek - 1/2

1. Prepare the lamb shanks by making small slits evenly over the surface with a sharp pairing knife. Peel and thinly slice two of the garlic cloves, and divide the rosemary into small sprigs roughly three leaves each. Push a little garlic and rosemary into each slit in the lamb.

2. Peel and slice the onion, carrot and leek, and place in the bottom of a roasting tin. Crush the remaining garlic and place in the roasting tin with the left-over rosemary.

3. Pour in the red wine and lamb stock into the tin. Place the lamb shanks on top of the vegetables. Rub the olive oil over the skin of the lamb and season generously with salt and pepper.

4. Place in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread the red currant jelly over the lamb using a pastry brush. Cover with kitchen foil and return to the oven for a further hour. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes.

5. Allow the lamb to rest for at least 5 minutes, 10 ideally. The lamb should have shrunk away from the bone, and should fall off it easily.

Serve with my Leek & Broccoli Bake and pommes fondant. Use the juices to make a basic gravy.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Chunky Vegetable Soup

Warming, tasty and full of goodness - I love this soup. Perfect for a winter's evening. I eat a large bowl with some buttered crusty bread!

Top tip: Make this fresh, it doesn't last to well in the fridge.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Potatoes - 3
Courgette - 1
Plum Tomatoes - 1 tin
Shallots - 4
Leek - 1/2
Peppers - 1/2 yellow, 1/2 red
Stock - 200mls (chicken or vegetable)
Butter - 50g
Garlic - 1 clove

1. Peel and dice the potato. Place in a pan of boiling salted water and leave to boil for 12 minutes.

2. Place the peppers under a hot grill, skin side up, and cook until the skins bubble and char. This is simply to make it easy to pull the skin away from the flesh once they have cooled. Peel the peppers, discard the skin, and slice the flesh into strips.

3. Roughly dice the peeled shallots. Cut the courgette in half, and peel one half and roughly chop. The remaining half can be sliced and quartered, and placed to one side for use later. Slice the leek. 

4. In a large wok melt 25g of butter and sauté the shallots and leek with the crushed garlic until softened. Add the peppers and peeled half of the courgette. Add 3/4's of the plum tomatoes and their juices, and then add the stock, and leave to simmer whilst preparing the rest of the vegetables.

5. Drain the potatoes, and sauté in the remaining butter, adding a little salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned and crispy all over.

6. Place the remaining courgette in a small pan of boiling salted water, and cook for 5 minutes. Roughly chop the remaining plum tomatoes, and heat through in a microwave for 30 seconds.

7. Using a hand blender (or food processor) blend the contents of the wok until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving bowls, and liberally sprinkle the chunky potatoes, courgettes and plum tomatoes over the top.

Serve piping hot with buttered crusty bread. Why not try my Sage & Parmesan Rolls?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Portobello Mushroom & Goat's Cheese

This is a really simple and light starter, perfect for a hot summer's evening.

Top tip: Fresh, large Portobello mushrooms are really the only type to use in this recipe.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Portobello Mushrooms - 2
Goat's Cheese Wheel - 1
Parsley - 1 bunch
Paprika - 1 tsp
Butter - 25g
Garlic - 1 clove

1. Peel and crush the garlic into a paste. Spread the butter and garlic onto each mushroom, cap down. Place under a high grill for 5 minutes.

2. Crumble on the goat's cheese and grill for a further 5-10 minutes, until the cheese just starts to brown.

Serve warm, with some parsley sprigs and a scattering of paprika.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Warm Salad of Spring Greens & Bacon

This is a lovely little side dish that goes well with any roast. It adds texture and colour, and is super tasty.

Top tip: Don't be tempted to fry in the same pan - the flavour of the bacon will completely overpower the spring greens. You can also use pancetta for a fuller flavour instead of bacon.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Butter - 25g
Shredded Spring Greens - 6 handfuls
Bacon - 2 rashers
Olive Oil - 1 tsp

1. Slice the bacon rashers into small bits. Heat the oil in a pan, and add the bacon. Fry until crispy, and remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Allow to rest on a sheet of kitchen paper.

2. Melt the butter in a separate pan until just bubbling. Throw in the greens and quickly stir-fry until slightly wilted but still crunchy.

3. Toss the bacon in the with greens, and serve warm.

Basic Gravy

Every cook, amateur or professional, would have to agree that making gravy is a vital skill. From a sauce to go with a meat dish, to the full-blown classic roast and gravy, everyone should know the basics. I'm not going as far as saying mine is 'the best', just that this recipe is a starting point in making your own 'perfect' gravy.

Top tip: Making the gravy gives you time to allow the meat to rest after roasting. You can also use a dash of wine before adding the stock if you want a richer gravy.

INGREDIENTS:

Stock - 500mls (stock type depends on which meat you are using)
Plain Flour - 1 tbsp
Onion - 1
Carrot - 1
Leek - 1
Meat Roasting Juices

1. When preparing your roast/meat ensure that it is sitting on a bed of sliced onion, carrot and leek. This keeps the meat moist and also creates the base to your gravy, as the meat juices seep through the vegetables.

2. When the meat has been roasted, remove it from it's roasting tin. There should be a sticky, oily residue of meat juices left in the roasting tin, with the vegetables.

3. Place the roasting tin on a hob, and over a low heat allow the juices to bubble again. Sieve the flour over the juices, and using a wooden spoon mix together. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, being careful not to burn the flour.

4. Slowly add a little boiling stock at a time, and mix in with the juices. Keep adding until your preferred consistency is reached. The gravy can be strained to remove the vegetables, but I quite like a chunky gravy!

Serve piping hot.
The perfect gravy shouldn't be oily, but with some fatty meats it can useful to use a Gravy Separator to siphon off excess oil.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Teriyaki Duck with Pomegranate & Goat's Cheese

I'll be the first to admit that this was a real experiment with flavours. I'd been thinking of all the things that I would like to go with duck, and instead of choosing just one, I put them all together to create this exciting new dish. Everything works, the flavours and textures are complimentary, and it looks elegant!

Top tip: The juices from the meat act as a delicious salad dressing, but don't be scared to use the juices from the pan to top up this dressing.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Duck Breast - 2
Spring Onions - 6
Pomegranate Seeds - 1 handful
Cooked Beetroot - 1
Balsamic Vinegar - 1 tsp
Goat's Cheese - 1 round
Watercress - 2 handfuls
Alfafa - 2 handfuls
Teriyaki Glaze - 3 tbsp
Garlic - 2 cloves
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Coriander - 1 handful

1. Cube the beetroot into 1 cm square pieces. Drizzle over the balsamic vinegar and allow to soak.

2. Marinade the duck breasts by rubbing crushed garlic into them, and then coating well with the Teriyaki glaze. Leave to marinade in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.

3. Trim and then slice the spring onions lengthways. Prepare the salad on the plate, using the spring onions, watercress and roughly chopped coriander to create a central island. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds, and lay a ring of alfafa around the plate.

4. Slice the round of goat's cheese in half horizontally, and place the two circles under a medium grill for a few minutes until just browned.

5. Meanwhile, in a non-stick frying pan, heat the oil and place the duck breasts skin-side-down to begin with, and fry on each side for roughly 4 minutes. The center of the breasts should remain pink, and the outside should be nicely seared with the glaze.

6. Slice the duck breasts in an oblique fashion and lay on your salad islands. Place the goat's cheese on top. Drain the beetroot well, and place the squares in a ring around the edge of the plate.

Leek & Broccoli Bake

Everyone likes creamed leeks, but I decided to take this one step further to give that classic side-dish an additional crunchy texture by making a delicious bake. This is packed with vegetables, a tasty, creamy sauce and a more-ish breadcrumb topping. Perfect!

Top tip: You can give this a spicy edge with a pinch of paprika.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

Leek - 1 large
Broccoli - 1 large
Shallots - 3
Butter - 50g
Plain Flour - 50g
Bread - 2 slices
Parmesan - large grated handful
Cheddar - large grated handful
Nutmeg - 3/4 tsp
Milk - 150-200mls
Vegetable Stock Cube - 1
Parsley/Coriander - to garnish

1. Slice the leek and break the broccoli into small florets. Place in a pan of boiling, salted water and par-boil for 3-4 minutes.

2. Peel and roughly chop the shallots. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan over a low heat, and add the shallots. Sauté until softened. Stir in the flour, and cook for a further minute.

3. Add a little milk at a time, stirring continuously over a low heat, until you get a creamy consistency. Mix in the cheddar, and allow to melt. Stir in the nutmeg and crumble in the stock cube, and allow to dissolve.

4. Drain the vegetables, and add them to the sauce ensuring they are well covered. Transfer to a baking dish/casserole dish.

5. To make the breadcrumb topping, use a food processor to break the bread up. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the creamy vegetables, ensuring an even cover. Then sprinkle on the parmesan generously, and season with salt and pepper. You can also add a little oil or butter on top if you're not counting calories!

6. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes, or until crispy and browned on top. Allow to cool for a few minutes, and serve the dish to the table as-is with garnish, or in portions.

This goes perfectly with any roast meat, so why not try it with my Braised Lamb Shank, Rolled Lamb Shoulder with Pecorino & Mint, Sherry & Honey Glazed Roast Ham, or Chilli & Rosemary Stuffed Poussin.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Cupcake Moo-Cows

I made these for my friend Michelle's birthday, just as a bit of fun! The cupcakes are made in the same way as my Sticky Toffe Chocolate Steamed Puddings, and then decorated with icing. You could make any animal with any cupcake recipe as a base, but I'm going to show you how to make these cows from scratch.

Top tip: Use warm water to stick various bits of icing together.

Makes 8

Sticky Toffee Chocolate Steamed Puddings - 8
Readymade Icing - 2 packets, white
Pink Food Colouring - 2-3 drops
Black Food Colouring - 2-3 drops
Chocolate Buttons - 2 packets

1. First make the steamed puddings - just follow my recipe here. Allow them to cool before icing them!

2. Roll out the white icing into thin sheets, a few millimetres thick. I used one handful of icing for each cupcake, and one for each of the different colours. Paint one sheet black, and another one pink with the relevant food colouring and allow to dry for 30 minutes.

3. Make sure your steamed puddings have a flat base, and place on a dry surface. Cut a belt of white icing and press around the pudding making sure the sides are flush. Then cut out a circle the same size as the top of the pudding, and using warm water, smooth it on top whilst pinching together with the icing sides around the cupcake. You should have a completely covered white cupcake.

4. Next cut shapes from the remaining white icing - you'll need 8 'faces' and 16 'legs'. To complete the faces cut 8 oval pieces from the pink icing and press to 'nostrils' in. Press two wholes in the white face to make the eyes, and paint black with food colouring.

5. For the legs roll 16 pieces of white icing into cylinders. For the 'hooves' cut thin strips from the black icing and wrap around one end.

6. Stick all the parts on using warm water, and paint a mouth and 'hair' with black food colouring. Finish by creating the cows' markings using the chocolate buttons.


Sunday, 27 February 2011

Blue Cheese Arancinis on a Braised Lamb Ragu

Here's two recipes in one! Both the arancinis and ragu can be made as separate dishes - but why would you want to? They go so well together! Creamy risotto balls on a rich meaty ragu, perfect with a large glass of full bodied red wine!

Top tip: The ragu can be quite sweet, so I serve it with some grilled halloumi and fried pancetta to counter balance the flavours, and to add texture to the dish.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

For the arancinis:

Arborio rice - 250g
Shallots - 5
Garlic - 3 cloves
Mushrooms - 225g
Roquefort - 75g
Parmesan - 100g
Oil - 2 tbsp (+ for deep fat frying)
Brandy - 100ml
Chicken Stock - 500ml
Eggs - 2
Bread - 4/5 slices
Nutmeg - 1 tsp

For the lamb ragu:

Lamb Neck Fillet - 225g
Onion - 1
Carrot - 1
Leek - 1 small
Garlic - 2 cloves
Thyme - 1 sprig
Coriander Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cloves - 2
Sherry - 100ml
White Wine - 50ml
Soy Sauce - 60ml
White Wine Vinegar - 50ml
Clear Honey - 2 tbsp
Tomato Purée - 1 tbsp
Chicken Stock - 500ml
Butter - 25g

1. Start by making the ragu. Roughly chop the leek, onion, carrot and garlic. Place in food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times until well chopped.

2. In a frying pan add the butter and melt. Chop the lamb into 1cm squared pieces, brown the lamb all over in the pan, and add the chopped vegetables. Mix in the coriander seeds, thyme and cloves and sauté for a further 2 mins.

3. Transfer the lamb and vegetables to a casserole dish, and then add the honey, soy, vinegar, and sherry. Heat and reduce until thickened and sticky, over a medium flame.

4. Add the stock to just about cover (keep some stock aside in case you need to top it up whilst cooking), and then mix in the tomato purée. Cover the dish and place in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for an hour or until the lamb is very tender. It should just melt in your mouth! Don't forget to remove cloves and thyme branch before serving.

5. While the ragu is cooking you can make the arancinis. Start by chopping the shallots and garlic, and put the mushrooms in food processor and whizz into large breadcrumb size.

6. Sauté the shallots and garlic in the oil, then add the mushrooms and sauté for a further minute. Add the risotto rice and heat through until clear-ish.

7. Add the brandy and heat for a further minute before adding the chicken stock bit by bit, allowing to reduce between additions. Once cooked melt a little of the Roquefort into the risotto and stir through.

8. Allow the risotto to cool before placing a small amount (1tbsp) in the palm of you hand. Press a square of Roquefort (1cm) and a square of butter into the risotto and then place another tablespoon of risotto on top. Roll the lot into a ball, with the cheese and butter in the center. Repeat with the remaining risotto.

9. Make the bread crumb mix by placing the sliced bread bit by bit into a food processor and mix well. Add a handful of grated parmesan, 1 tsp of ground nutmeg and season well with salt and pepper.

10. Whisk the two eggs in a bowl, roll each risotto ball in the egg mix to coat, then roll into the breadcrumbs mix so the balls are well coated. Deep fry in oil until golden brown.

Serve with grilled halloumi and fried pancetta pieces.

Oriental Prawn Broth

This broth is a very light, fresh and different, with a slight chilli kick. I made this recipe from my experience of Thai and Chinese flavours.

Top tip: Any type of prawn will do, but cooked ones make for a quicker cooking time.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Cooked Prawns - 200g
Spring Onions - 6
Coriander - 1 handful
Sweet Chilli Sauce - 1tsp
Red Chilli - 1
Ginger - 1cm thinly sliced
Watercress - 1 small handful per person
Rice Wine Vinegar - 1tbsp
Sake - 2 tbsp
Soy Sauce - 1 tbsp
Brown Sugar - 1tsp
Star Anise - 1
Fish Sauce - 2 tsp
Chicken Stock - 500ml

1. Chop and deseed the chilli, and slice the spring onions.

2. In a saucepan, pour in the stock and add the fish sauce, star anise, sugar, sake, vinegar, ginger, chilli, sweet chilli sauce, and onions. Bring to the boil and let simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Remove the star anise (it's inedible!) and add the prawns. Heat through for a further 2 minutes.

4. Just before serving stir in the watercress and coriander.

Serve with my Thai Spiced Battered Chicken.

Red Pepper Stuffed with Mushroom & Parmesan Couscous

This vegetarian dish is delicious, filling and quick to make. Couscous is a great ingredient that really goes with anything, and makes a brilliant stuffing for red peppers.

Top tip: I quite like the parmesan topping on this, but you can always add the parmesan to the stuffing instead so it's infused throughout.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Red Peppers - 4
Couscous - 200g
Chestnut Mushrooms - 1 punnet
Shallots - 2
Butter - 50g
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Thyme - 1 large branch
Garlic - 2 cloves
Chicken Stock - 250ml
Parmesan - 4 handfuls grated

1. First prepare the couscous. Pour the coucous into an oven proof dish or pan with a lid, and add the freshly boiled stock by just enough to cover the couscous. Place the lid on the dish and leave for five minutes. The couscous will rise and become fluffy as it absorbs the stock.

2. Peel and slice the mushrooms, garlic and shallots. Place in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times until roughly chopped.

3. Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan and add mushroom/shallot mix. Add the thyme and sauté for 10 minutes until softened. Discard the thyme and add the mixture to the couscous, stirring through with a fork until well mixed.

4. Cut the tops off each pepper and remove the seeds. Fill each pepper with the couscous mixture, cover with a handful of grated parmesan and press down.

5. Place in a heat proof dish with a little water to create roughly 1 - 2 cm deep bathPlace in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 30 mins. When cooked, remove from the peppers from the water, and serve.

Serve with roasted fennel, and a ratatouille.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Beef Lasagne

This is one of those really tasty, home-cooked, heart-warming meals that reminds you of your mother's food. Dripping with plum tomatoes and creamy béchamel sauce, all oozing between layers of al dente pasta, this really is a treat! It makes loads, enough to serve up to 12 people, and the leftovers make a really quick and delicious snack or lunchtime meal. What's more, it only takes 60 minutes from start to finish.

Top tip: Make the lasagne in advance, and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes when needed. You can use any Italian herbs, but Oregano works best.

INGREDIENTS:

Lasagne Pasta Sheets - 12
Cheddar - 250g grated

For the tomato sauce:

Beef mince - 500g
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Onion - 1 large
Garlic - 6 cloves
Plum Tomatoes - 2 tins
Tomato Purée - 3 tbsp
Carrots - 2
Sugar - 1 tsp
Button Mushrooms - 1 box
Oregano - 1 tbsp
Provincial Herbs - 1 tbsp
Chilli Powder - 2 tsp
Beef Stock - 1 cube
Worcester Sauce - 1 tbsp

For the Béchamel sauce:

Butter - 75g
Plain Flour - 75g
Milk - 1/2 pint
Nutmeg - 2 tsp

1. Roughly chop the onion and sauté in the olive oil until softened in a large frying pan or wok. Add the crushed cloves of garlic. 

2. Meanwhile peel and slice the carrots and place in some lightly sugared boiling water. Allow the carrots to boil while making the rest of the sauce.

3. Cut up the beef mince and stir into the onions, ensuring an even browning of the meat. Keep the pan on moderate to high heat. Once brown, slice the mushrooms and place on top of the meat. Heat through until the mushrooms start to shrink, then stir them in.

4. Sprinkle in the seasoning - the herbs, chilli powder, and stock cube and mix in well. Add a good amount of salt and pepper too.

5. Pour in the tins of plum tomatoes, roughly cutting them, but keeping large chunks. Drain the carrots once they are softened, and add to your tomato sauce. Stir in the tomato purée and worcester sauce and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile make the béchamel sauce. In a smaller pan melt the butter on a medium heat, then slowly add the flour a little at a time whilst constantly whisking with a fork over a medium heat. The idea is not to let the flour clump. Once the flour and butter is combined, add the milk a little at a time, constantly stirring. Add enough milk to give a creamy texture. Once ready, sprinkle in the nutmeg.

7. Once your two sauces are ready, remove from the heat and prepare your lasagne dish. Butter a large baking dish, and create three layers of lasagne. Each layer has tomato sauce, then cheddar sprinkled on top, then béchamel sauce, then pasta. Make sure each layer of sauce is spread right to the edges, and is even, and that there are no gaps between the sheets of pasta.

8. For the topping pour béchamel sauce over the top layer of pasta, and sprinkle with cheddar, a drizzle of olive oil and some ground black pepper.

9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 20-25 minutes, until bubbling and the topping just starts to brown at the edges. The pasta should be slightly al dente, and the dish should retain it's layers as you serve up.

Serve on a bed of rocket, with fresh crusty bread and a glass of red wine.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Chicken Liver and Tarragon Pâté

This is the third pâté from my repertoire, and for many reasons it's the most popular. There's something about the lemon and aniseed flavour of tarragon that goes so well with chicken liver, and this pâté is so creamy, rich and smooth. I have this at summer picnics as well as winter dinner parties - it's truly a perfect all rounder.

Top tip: Make loads - you'll always want more! Just make sure you have enough crusty bread to go with it!

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Livers - 200g
Shallots - 3
Garlic - 1 clove
Brandy - 1 tbsp
Fresh Tarragon - 4 heaped tbsp
Lemon Juice - 1 tsp
Double Cream - 100ml
Butter - 75g

1. Dice the shallots and crush the garlic. Melt 50g of butter in a large non-stick frying pan, and add the shallots and garlic cook on a medium heat for 1 minute.

2. Clean the chicken livers and add to the pan. Cook through until the livers are just browned but the middle is still pink.  Add the brandy and heat for another minute.

3. Transfer the contents of the pan, plus juices, to a food processor. Add the tarragon, lemon juice and season well with salt and pepper. Mix until almost smooth then pour in the cream and mix for a further 2 minutes.

4. Transfer the pâté to a Kilner jar or other appropriate receptacle and cover with clarified butter made from the remaining butter. Press a sprig of tarragon into the butter for decoration.

5. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve with a crusty white baguette or warm toast.

Why not also try my Chicken Liver & Wild Mushroom Pâté, or my Pork with Brandy & Thyme Pâté !

Chicken Liver & Wild Mushroom Pâté

I tend to make a selection of pâtés all at once - it's just easier that way. You can store them in Kilner Jars until you need them, and they make perfect gifts for friends. This pâté is really tasty, with all the flavours of a good rural kitchen.

Top tip: If you can't find mixed wild mushrooms, then try dried shitake mushrooms instead.

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Livers - 200g
Shallots - 3
Garlic - 2 cloves
Brandy - 1 tbsp
Dried Wild mushrooms - 50g
White Wine - 75ml
Thyme - 3 sprigs
Olive Oil - 1 tbsp
Ground Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
Double Cream - 100ml
Butter - 125g

1. Place all but a handful of the wild mushrooms in a food processor and, using the pulse setting, mix until they are the size of large bread crumbs.

2. In a large non-stick frying pan melt 50g of butter with the olive oil. Once melted add the mushrooms to the pan with the thyme sprigs and a clove of garlic, peeled and crushed. Cook over a low heat for roughly ten minutes keeping the mushrooms moving. Add the white wine and cook for a further 10 minutes. The mushrooms should have soaked up all the butter and wine by this point.

3. Return the mushrooms to the food processor, removing the thyme branches. Locate the handful of mushrooms that were set aside and roughly slice into smaller pieces no bigger than 2cm. Soak these mushrooms in a tbsp of boiled water and leave to one side whilst preparing the rest of the pâté mix.

4. Peel the shallots and remaining garlicDice the shallots and crush the garlic. Melt 50g of butter in a large non-stick frying pan, and add the shallots and garlic, then cook on a medium heat for 1 minute.

5. Clean the chicken livers and add to the pan. Cook through until the livers are just browned but the middle is still pink.  Add the brandy and heat for another minute.

6. Transfer the contents of the pan, plus juices, to the food processorAdd the nutmeg and season well with salt and pepper. Mix until almost smooth then pour in the cream and mix for a further 2 minutes. With a spoon stir in the larger pieces of mushrooms that had been left to soak.

7. Transfer the pâté to a Kilner jar (or other appropriate receptacle) and cover with clarified butter, made from the remaining butter. Press a sprig of thyme into the butter for decoration.

8. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve with a crusty white baguette or warm toast.

Spiced Pork Mince Filo Baskets

I love the textures in this dish - crunchy but light filo pastry with a succulent, fresh oriental-spiced pork mince. It looks great and your guests will love cracking into these delicious treats. Not only that, it's also really quick and simple to make, and healthy. Perfect with a glass of chilled white wine!

Top tip: Fresh Filo is best as it's easier to manipulate. Remember that sugar offsets chilli, so keep this in mind when optimising your seasoning.

Makes 10-12 baskets

INGREDIENTS:

Pork Mince - 450g
Shallots - 3
Spring Onions - 5
Red Chilli - 1
Red Pepper - 1
Coriander - 1 handful
Fresh Mint - 6 leaves
Lime Juice - 1/2 lime
Fish Sauce - 1 tbsp
Light Brown Sugar - 1 tbsp
Baby Gem Lettuce - 1
Filo Pastry - 1 packet (fresh)
Oil - 1 tbsp

1. To make the Filo pastry cups you will need a lightly oiled muffin tray. Cut the sheets of pastry into squares roughly 12 x 12cm. Layer 3 sheets into each muffin cup, off-set to create a flower-type pattern, and using a pastry brush with a little oil, press the sheets down to mould them into shape. Brush all the edges with oil and place in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden all over.

2. Thinly slice and de-seed the red pepper and chilli. Chop the spring onions and shallots.

3. In a wok, lightly fry the pork mince with the red pepper and 2 of the shallots until the meat is cooked through. Add the sugar and fish sauce and heat through.

4. Once the cups are cooked, remove from the oven, and let them cool slightly while finishing off the filling. Mix the pork mince with the spring onions, shallot, chopped coriander, lime juice and mint. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Start to arrange your plates, with leaves of baby gem lettuce. Place one filo basket on each lettuce leaf (this acts as a base so it won't slip around), and place a couple of spoonfuls of the pork mince filling in each one.

Serve with a glass of dry white wine.

Thai Spiced Battered Chicken

These are a naughty treat! The batter keeps the chicken so succulent, and has a delicate touch of Thai spices - which means you can serve these to guests without feeling guilty about serving chicken nuggets! They go so well with any of my Thai dishes, especially my Sweet & Sour Prawn Broth.

Top tip: The oil needs to be very hot, so that the batter crisps up quickly, or you you could be left with a soggy and oily coating.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Breasts - 2
Plain Flour - 110g
Baking Powder - 1/2 tsp
Egg Yolk - 1
Milk - 4 tbsp
Thai Seven Spice - 1/2 tsp
Oil - for deep frying

1. Dice the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Dust with the Thai spices, and then thickly coat with half of the plain flour.

2. Make the batter, by placing the remaining flour in a mixing bowl with the egg yolk, baking powder and a good pinch of salt and pepper, and whisk together.

3. Add a little of the milk at a time, constantly whisking. Add only enough milk to just make a thick batter.

4. Dip each chicken piece in the batter to coat thoroughly.

5. Heat the oil in a deep pan (or deep fat fryer) until very hot, but not smoking. Have a wet teacloth handy in case things get firey. Gently lower the chicken pieces in ensuring they have enough space around them so they don't stick together. Fry until golden brown.

6. Remove from the oil, and place on a sheet of kitchen paper to soak up any excess. You can re-use the oil another time, so let it cool right down before filtering it back into a bottle.

Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce and my Sweet & Sour Prawn Broth.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Pork with Brandy & Thyme Pâté

Making jars of your own pâté is great fun, and they make brilliant gifts, and even work as an instant bring-along starter to a dinner party. I've been experimenting recently with different flavours and textures, and have finally found the perfect combinations! This is one of my favourites - it's rich and creamy with a delicious herby aftertaste.

Top tip: If you want your pâté to last (and to look really professional) make sure to seal it with clarified butter.

INGREDIENTS:

Pork Loin Fillet - 250g
Pork Livers - 150g
Garlic - 2 cloves
Thyme - 3 sprigs
Brandy - 2 tbsp
Fresh Chives - 1 large handful
Fresh Parsley- 1 large handful
Butter - 75g
Double Cream - 50ml
Milk - 30ml

1. Dice the pork loin into pieces roughly 1cm by 1cm. Place in a bowl and pour over the brandy. Add the thyme and garlic (peeled and crushed). Mix well before covering and leave to marinade in the fridge, preferably over night.

2. Prepare the livers by cleaning them and removing any excess sinew. Place the livers in a bowl and pour over the milk, this takes away some of the bitterness. Leave to one side.

3. In a large non-stick frying pan, over a medium heat, melt 50g of butter. Add the marinated pork loin plus marinading juices to the pan and cook for 10 mins on a low heat or until the pork is cooked through. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a food processor.

4. Take the livers out of the milk and place in the frying pan, sear the livers on a medium heat on all sides. The aim is to have cooked the outside but to still have a little pinkness in the middle. Add the cooked livers to the food processor with the juices from the pan, and ensure all thyme branches are removed and discarded.

5. Roughly chop the parsley and chives and add to the food processor with the cream. Mix all the ingredients in the food processor until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper and mix for another minute.

6. Transfer the pâté to a Kilner jar (or other suitable receptacle) and top with clarified butter made from the remaining butter. Press a parsley leaf into the top of the butter for decoration.

7. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve with my Sage & Parmesan Bread Rolls.

Why not also try my Chicken Liver & Wild Mushroom Pâté, or my Chicken Liver & Tarragon Pâté!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Creamy Tomato Soup

January was always designated 'Soups & Salads' month, although after a while this strict regime can be difficult to stick to. However, after arriving home with a hoarse voice and stuffy nose, nothing but the perfect soup would do - and this recipe really makes the soup to beat all soups! Rich, creamy and with loads more depth than tinned soup, this is a classic.

Top tip: If you're suffering a cold, then get someone else to check your seasoning!

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS:

Tomatoes (on the vine) - 6
Trimmed Leeks - 2
Plum Tomatoes - 1 tin
Garlic Paste - 1 tbsp
Tomato Pureé - 1 tbsp
Basil Leaves - 4 (large)
Double Cream - 100mls
Sugar - 1 tsp
Chicken/Vegetable Stock - 400mls
Butter - 25g
Salt & Pepper - to season

1. First prepare your vegetables. Slice the leeks, discarding the tough ends. Dice the tomatoes and slice up the tinned plum tomatoes (this can be done in the tin).

2. In a large non-stick pan or wok, melt the butter on a low heat. Add the sliced leeks and garlic paste and heat through for 3-4 minutes to soften.

3. Add the diced tomatoes and heat for a further 2 minutes, mixing well.

4. Add the tinned plum tomatoes and their juices, and the tomato pureé. Turn up the heat and cook until bubbling.

5. Next, pour in the stock, sugar and the whole basil leaves, and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.

6. Transfer your soup to food processor, and liquify until smooth. Transfer back to your pan and add the cream and season well with salt & pepper. You can alter the consistency by adding more boiled water if necessary.

7. Garnish with a swirl of cream, ground black pepper and a sprig of basil.

Serve piping hot with some fresh baked Ciabatta.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Glazed French Brioche

I used to love the days when my flatmate used to bring home a loaf of brioche as a tear and share - it's so light, buttery and delicious. I never thought I could make it, let alone make it well - until I found this recipe from Paula, a home-bake-aholic in Dallas. Please have a look at her original recipe (and amazing photos!) at Salad In A Jar. I've used the same techniques as her, but have plaited the brioche to create the classic French look. Also, I've converted the units so us Brits can follow her recipe! Thanks Paula!

Top tip: Brioche takes a long time to prepare if you're going do it it properly, so plan well ahead if you want to serve it fresh from the oven to your guests!

Makes three feet of brioche!

INGREDIENTS:

Warm Water - 60mls
Dry Milk Powder - 2 tbsp
Eggs - 3 large
Salt - 1/2 tbsp
Instant Yeast - 3/4 tbsp
Caster Sugar - 3 tbsp
Butter - 170g
Bread Flour - 125g
Plain Flour - 220g

For the glaze:
Egg - 1
Double Cream - 1 tbsp

1. Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. Crack in the eggs and then add the other dry ingredients. Break up the butter (much easier to do at room temperature) and place it in the bowl. Finally add the water.

2. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes using a food processor with paddles or a hand-held bread kneader. It's really important to get the consistency right at this stage, so keep kneading until the bowl edges are clean and the dough is elastic, and you're done.

3. Cover the bowl with grease-proof paper and place in a warm cupboard, or gently warmed oven, and allow to rise for 2 hours.

4. Once risen, place the bowl in the fridge overnight (up to 24 hours). This helps firm up the dough while still retaining lots of the air bubbles, making the brioche fluffy and light.

5. About 2 hours before you want to serve your brioche, remove from the fridge and tip the dough out onto a flour-covered dry surface. Now is the time to get creative and mould it into whatever shape you like. To plait it, create three equal cylindrical strips about a metre in length each, making sure not to squeeze too much air out in the process. Place each them in line next to each other and alternately fold the outer one into the middle to create a plait. Squeeze the tips together to seal.

6. Cover once more and allow to rise again in a warm place for a further 2 hours.

7. Meanwhile make the glaze by quickly whisking together an egg and a tablespoon of double cream. When the brioche has risen, lightly brush the top surface of your brioche with the glaze to create an even, smooth surface.

7. Place immediately into a pre-heated oven at 190 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes. The glaze will just start to turn golden and feel slightly firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. You can keep the brioche in a bread tin and it will last for 3-4 days (it doesn't keep so well in the fridge).

Serve warm with butter and strawberry jam.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Thai Chicken & Coconut Soup

I picked up this recipe while travelling through Thailand. It's an authentic and classic Thai dish (Tom Kha Gai) that everyone will enjoy. There's a real delicate balance between the lemon grass, coconut and lime, which is unmistakably Thai. Simple, tasty and delicious.

Top tip: If you can't find Kaffir lime leaves, a couple of strips of regular lime peel will suffice.

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Breast - 1
Galangal - 2cm nub
Kaffir Lime Leaves - 2
Oyster Mushrooms - 2
Lemon Grass - 5cm
Garlic - 2 cloves
Shallots - 2
Fish Sauce - 2 tbsp
Coconut Milk - 600mls
Sugar - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Lime Juice - 1 tbsp

1. Peel the galangal and slice thinly. Rip up the Kaffir lime leaves and slice the lemon grass into long thin slices, and then in half. Peel and crush (not chop) the garlic and shallots.

2. Slice the chicken fillet thinly into about 1/2cm width strips, and cut in half again. Roughly slice the mushrooms, but leave them quite chunky.

3. Pour the coconut milk into a wok, and heat until boiling. Add the sliced galangal and cook for a further minute on a medium heat.

4. Add the Kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, garlic, and shallots and heat until the smell of the herbs comes through.

5. Add the sliced chicken and cook until the meat turns white. Then add the fish sauce, sugar and salt and stir in. Keep cooking until the chicken is done.

6. Just before serving add the lime juice, mix thoroughly. You may want to remove the lemon grass as it is inedible!

Serve with prawn crackers, my Sesame Prawn Toast and some sweet chilli sauce dip.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Sesame Prawn Toast

January has invariably become healthy eating month, or more aptly for me 'Soups & Salads Month'. However, I can't resist letting that slide occasionally for the sake of something really tasty! I was making my Thai Chicken & Coconut Soup and wanted a more substantial accompaniment so thought, how difficult could prawn toast be? In fact very, very easy and very tasty too! 

Top tip: You can really make these your own by adding different Thai or Chinese flavours. Below is the basic recipe. I also added a pinch of 'Thai Seven Spice' to give it a bit more of a kick.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Sliced Bread - 3 slices
Peeled Cooked Cocktail Prawns - 200g
Pickled Ginger - 3 slices (grated fresh ginger also works)
Garlic - 1 clove
Egg White - 1
Cornflour - 1 tsp
Sesame Seed Oil - 1tsp
Sesame Seeds - 4 tbsp
Olive Oil - 4 tbsp

1. Peel and finely chop the garlic. In a mixing bowl, add the prawns, ginger, egg white, cornflour, garlic and sesame seed oil. Using a hand blender, blend into a smooth paste, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

2. Lightly toast the bread in a toaster until just crispy but not browned. Evenly spread a layer of the prawn paste over the bread. This recipe should produce enough paste to have a nice thick layer of roughly 1/2 cm deep of prawn paste over the bread.

3. On a flat surface pour the sesame seeds onto a plate so that they cover the plate, and one slice at a time press the pasted side of the bread into the sesame seeds to cover each slice completely.

4. In a non-stick frying pan heat the olive oil to a medium heat, and fry each slice for roughly 3 minutes each side, or until lightly browned.

5. Finally, cut each slice into quarters before serving with some sweet chilli sauce and prawn crackers.

Serve as a great accompaniment to any oriental dish for example my Thai Chicken & Coconut Soup or Thai Massaman Curry.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Chilli & Lime Infused Baby Scallops


A hint of exotic lime, chilli and soy really enhances these Patagonian scallops. You can use any size really, but the baby ones are so cute, and pack a bit more flavour! This dish is perfect as a light starter, or even a main meal.

Top tip: Really good scallops should not taste fishy, and overdone scallops will be chewy. Be vigilant when frying them! Mine have a lovely dark glow from the soy sauce.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

Baby Patagonian Scallops - 200g
Red Chilli - 1/2
Lime Juice - 1/2 lime
Soy Sauce - 2 tsp
Garlic - 1 clove
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Coriander - 1/2 handful
Streaky Bacon - 2 rashers
Watercress - 4 handfuls

1. Start by making your marinade. Deseed and finely chop the chilli. Peel and crush the garlic, and finely dice. Add these to a bowl with the soy sauce and lime juice and stir throughly.

2. Drop the scallops into the marinade and leave the flavours to infuse for 30 minutes.

3. Roughly cut up the bacon. Drain the scallops from the marinade once infused.

4. Heat two separate frying pans with a teaspoon of oil in each, and fry the bacon in one and pan-fry the scallops in the other. You should fry the bacon and scallops for 5 minutes at a maximum. Turn the scallops over occasionally to lightly sear on each side, and just at the end throw in some finely chopped coriander.

5. On your serving plates make a bed of watercress before scattering over the bacon and scallops. Drizzle a little of the juices over the top.

Serve immediately with a warm Sage & Parmesan Bread Roll and a dollop of homemade mayonnaise.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Sage & Parmesan Bread Rolls

When I was younger my mum used to make the most amazing fresh-baked homemade bread - I really remember the comforting smells coming from the kitchen and eating at least four rolls at a time! Homemade bread straight from the oven is so much better than any other bread you'll ever have, especially if you've put some effort into making it lightly flavoured like these Sage & Parmesan Rolls.

Top tip: You can halve the cooking time by making smaller dough balls, which also go extremely well served with a starter.

Makes 10 rolls

INGREDIENTS:

Strong White Flour - 450g
Milk - 300mls
Caster Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Butter - 25g
Dried Active Yeast - 4 tsp
Fresh Sage - 8 leaves
Grated Parmesan - 2 tbsp

1. In a measuring jug warm the milk in the microwave until it's lukewarm (feels warm to touch, but not hot). Melt the butter in the warm milk, and then add the yeast and sugar, mixing thoroughly with a fork. Set to one side in a warm area. When the yeast has created a foamy topping on the milk it is ready to use (about 10 minutes of fermenting).

2. Meanwhile, sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the grated parmesan and finely chopped sage and mix together.

3. Pour a little of the yeast mixture into the dry flour mix and knead the dough constantly. Add the yeast bit by bit and keep kneading for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Place your dough in a greased container and cover with lightly oiled cling film and place in the warmest part of your house for one hour, to allow the dough to rise.

5. Once risen, you need to knock the larger air bubbles out of the dough by throwing it against your work surface a few times and folding it over in your hands. Next divide the mixture into your preferred bun size and place on some lightly buttered grease-proof paper. Place the rolls back in your warm area for another 30 minutes.

6. Sprinkle some more grated parmesan on top and bake the rolls in a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees Celsius for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve warm from the oven with a curl of butter.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Cranberry-Stuffed Deep Fried Camembert

I'm a bit partial to some melted, gooey cheese - who isn't? This starter is perfect for cold winter evenings. The deep fried camembert is stuffed with cranberry jelly, a lovely little surprise for your guests!

Top tip: Camembert straight from the fridge is easier to work with.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Camembert - 1 wheel
Cranberry Jelly - 4 tsp
Filo Pastry - 4 sheets
Egg White - 2
Vegetable Oil - 1 litre (enough to deep fry)
Plain Flour - to dust if needed

1. Divide the Camembert wheel into quarters, then slice each quarter horizontally into three slices. Remove the middle slice and using a circular cutter about 2cms in diameter punch a whole in the center of the middle slice.

2. Place the middle slice back onto the bottom slice, so that the one with the hole is in top, and fill with a teaspoon of cranberry jelly. Reassemble the quarter by replacing the top slice. Now you should have a Camembert quarter with a center of cranberry jelly. Repeat with each quarter to make 4 servings.

3. Lay a sheet of Filo pastry, ideally on a lightly floured, flat surface. Brush with the egg white to cover.

4. Place a Camembert quarter in the center of the pastry, and gather up the corners to wrap around the cheese and pinch at the top to seal. There should be a little excess pastry, but any more than this you can just tear off.

5. Lightly brush the outside of the pastry with some more egg white. Repeat with the remaining three quarters.

6. In a deep saucepan or wok, heat the vegetable oil until the surface is slightly agitated but not smoking. Always have a wet tea-towel to hand to cover the pan if things catch on fire! One by one place each parcel in the oil and deep fry until golden brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a sheet of kitchen paper to soak any excess oil up.

Serve with a salad garnish and more cranberry jelly if desired.

Saffron & White Wine Mussels

Mussels are a great healthy, light and fresh way to enjoy a main meal with friends. Moules Marinieres is a classic French recipe that is so simple to follow - you can literally pop the mussels in a pan as your guests arrive. My version has added herbs and a little bit more wine to give more of a kick. The finished dish is fresh, creamy and looks elegant.

Top tip: Mussels are in season September to April (there's an 'R' in the month!).

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Mussels - 1kg
Shallots - 5 small
Garlic - 2 cloves
Butter - 25g
Dry White Wine - 400mls
Coriander - 1 handful
Saffron - 4 strands
Parsley - 1 handful
Bay Leaves - 2
Double Cream - 100mls

1. Thoroughly wash the mussels in cold water. Discard any that are slightly open. Some mussels will have fibre-like strands hanging off them - you should pull these 'beards' off.

2. Peel and dice the shallots and garlic. In a frying pan over a medium heat sauté the shallots and garlic until softened.

3. In a large high-sided saucepan, add the mussels, shallots, garlic, chopped coriander, whole bay leaves, saffron strands and white wine. Turn up the heat to bring to the boil, and simmer for roughly 5 minutes until the majority of the mussels have opened.

4. Remove the mussels from the pan, discarding any unopened ones, and reduce the sauce for a further 3-4minutes.

5. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaves, and stir in the cream, before seasoning well with salt and pepper.

6. Divide the mussels up into 4 serving bowls, pour over the sauce and sprinkle generously with roughly chopped parsley.

Serve hot with cooked chips or crusty white bread, and a homemade mayonnaise.