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.


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


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!


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.