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.