Rhubarb and Orange Polenta Cake

OK, so not much of a looker this one but OMG, so totally scrumptious! Sweet rhubarb and orange flavours work lusciously with the moistness of the sponge, a thing of gorgeousness as a result of the ground almonds and the fresh juice being drizzled over at the end. Honestly, cut yourself a fat wedge when it’s still warm from the oven and I promise you’ll be wanting a second! Oh, and another thing, it’s easy and effortless!

Serves 8 – 10 (or just 2!)

What you need…

1 x 20cm loose-bottomed, deep-sided cake tin, buttered and lined

150g butter, room temperature

200g caster sugar

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange

3 large, happy eggs, lightly beaten

150g polenta

1½ teaspoons baking powder

75g ground almonds

400g rhubarb, trimmed and chunked

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c /350˚f / gas 4.

Into your food processor, tip the butter, sugar and orange zest and whizz until pale and fluffy.

Whilst still whizzing, gradually add the beaten egg. Tip in the polenta, baking powder and ground almonds and beat until evenly incorporated.

Dollop half the mixture into your cake tin and then arrange the rhubarb evenly over the top. Dollop in the remaining mixture – don’t worry about smoothing it over – no need.

Pop into your oven and bake for 1 – 1¼ hours until well risen and golden and when an inserted skewer comes out clean and dry.

Use your skewer to poke holes all over the surface of the cake, drizzle over the orange juice and then sprinkle over the sugar.

Leave to cool a little in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack. Personally, I’d go for a big fat slab now….whatever’s left can cool – just luscious!

Serving suggestion…

Large, moist slices, still warm from the oven are best but there’s nothing wrong with the cooled version either. On it’s glorious lonesome or with crème fraîche or either vanilla or cinnamon ice cream – delicious!

Inspired by…

Waitrose Weekend

How easy…

Effortless!

Mojito Cheesecakes

Quick and easy, light and refreshing, these elegant little lovelies also combine the wonderful contrast that is the almond-flavoured amaretti biscuits with the sharp lime and of course, the essential boozy kick of the rum – fab!

Makes 4 large ones or 6 petite ones (no prizes for guessing which ones I made!)

What you need…

Cocktail glasses or ramekins in which to serve

25g butter

60g amaretti biscuits, roughly crushed

100g full fat cream cheese

150ml double cream

2 tablespoons white rum

25g icing sugar

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 large lime

Extra grated lime zest or mint leaves, to decorate

What to do…

Melt the butter and then tip all but 2 tablespoons of the amaretti biscuits into the butter and stir to combine. Divide the butter-coated amaretti between your glasses/ramekins. Lightly press down.

In a large bowl, use an electric handheld whisk to beat together the cream cheese and cream. Add the rum, icing sugar and lime zest. Whisk again to combine. Tip in the lime juice and whisk again – the mixture will instantly thicken. Use a spoon to divide the filling between your glasses/ramekins.

Sprinkle the remaining amaretti crumbs over each cheesecake and then decorate with lime zest or mint leaves.

Pop in the fridge to chill. (They will also be fine for up to 2 days). Serve probably a little under room temperature – absolutely fabulous!

Inspired by…

The legend that is Mary Berry

How easy…

Fabulously!

Valentine’s Day Dinner Menu Ideas

If you’re thinking of staying in for a candlelit dinner for two to celebrate Valentine’s day, I have some loved-up menu ideas which are all about pure indulgence! My favourite options for romance are as follows:

Rhubarb and Vodka Love Potion

~

Crab and Prawn Coconut Soup

or

Gambas Pil Pil

~

Venison with Red Wine and Chocolate Sauce and Celeriac and Apple Puree

or

Chicken Wrapped in Parma Ham

~

Profiteroles

or

Espresso Panna Cotta

or

Lemon Tart

or

All Three!!!!!

~

Chocolate Cocktail

Tip…

Both of the starters can be prepared in advance as can all three of the dessert options.

Inspired by…

My love of cooking and sharing food with those I love xx

How easy…

The starters and desserts are all easy and can be prepared in advance. Both of the main course take a little time and attention but are sooooooo worth it and will be appreciated. The cocktails, to start and finish should be done together I think! (The base for the chocolate cocktail can be made in advance).

Baked Lemon Curd Syrup Sponges with Brandy Custard

Perfect for this time of year: hot, delightfully sticky yet light individual little sponges with a gorgeous gooey middle and all topped up with brandy-infused custard – almost a winter essential, I’d say! We had ours to round off a Sunday Roast – bang on!

What you need…

6 x dariole moulds, liberally buttered and lined with a disk of non-stick baking paper

1 x baking tray

115g butter, softened

115g light muscovado sugar

2 large, happy eggs

115g self-raising flour

1 handful of panko breadcrumbs (or ordinary breadcrumbs will work just as well)

Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½

Grated zest of 1 orange and juice of ½

6 tablespoons golden syrup

1 tablespoon brandy, plus 1½ tablespoons for the custard

6 rounded teaspoons lemon curd

500ml fresh custard

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / gas 4.

Into your food processor tip the butter, sugar, eggs and flour and whizz until combined. Chuck in the breadcrumbs and half the zest and pulse to incorporate.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining zest, juice, golden syrup and 1 tablespoon brandy. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each dariole mould, reserving the rest.

Divide the sponge mixture evenly between the moulds and then plop 1 teaspoon lemon curd into the middle of each (it will merge with the sponge).

Put the moulds onto a baking tray and pop into your oven to bake for 30 minutes until risen and golden.

Meanwhile, use a saucepan to gently warm the custard, stirring through it 1½ tablespoons brandy.

To serve, invert each dariole mould onto a plate, tapping the bottom with the handle of metal knife if the sponges need a little encouragement to plop out. Drizzle over the remaining syrup and serve with a big smile and the boozy custard. Cold winter evenings definitely have some benefits!

Inspired by…

Delicious magazine

How easy…

Remarkably easy and I love that fact that you can do most of the prep before you sit down to dinner.

Super-Fast Sassy Salmon and Stir Fry Supper

Sooooo easy, soooooo fast and sooooo tasty: a perfect mid week family supper! I found this unusual marinade of maple syrup with wholegrain mustard at my friend, Denise’s house, while visiting her home in Abu Dhabi last November. We love this sassy version of salmon so much, we’ve had it practically once a week since we got back.

What you need…

1 x baking tray

4 chunky salmon fillets

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard

for the stir-fry

Splash of rapeseed oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

Large knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated

½ teaspoon dried crushed chilli

2 bags of ready-prepared stir fry veg – whichever mix takes your fancy

2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

A few spring onions, sliced, to garnish (optional)

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 200˚c / 400˚f / gas 6.

In a cup, mix together 2 tablespoons maple syrup with the whole grain mustard. Pop your salmon fillets onto the baking tray and spoon over the syrup mix. Whop into the oven for 20 minutes.

Around 10 minutes into the salmon’s cooking time, take a wok or deep wide saucepan and warm your oil over a moderate-high heat and then toss in the garlic, ginger and chilli. Cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously.

Whop the heat up to high and chuck in the stir fry vegetables and cook according to the packet instructions (usually 6 minutes, stirring and tossing continuously). 2 minutes before the end, tip in the Chinese cooking wine, maple syrup and soy sauce – stir and toss. Scatter with spring onion slices, if using.

That’s it! Serve your delicious, sassy salmon with a heaped portion of equally fab stir fry and enjoy. So easy, so fast and I kid you not, so tasty – enjoy!!!!

Serving suggestion…

Serve the salmon with stir fry in the winter and a rocket-based salad in the summer. I bet it would go well barbecued as well….

Tip…

I’ve also used this glaze on chicken breasts and that’s pretty good too!

Inspired by…

My lovely but far-too-distant friend, Denise! And the stir-fry ingredients are adapted from a Ching He Huang recipe that I use.

How easy…

It couldn’t be any easier!

Pot-Roast Chicken Thighs with Parsnips

This dish may not look that great but boy, it’s packed with flavour! The meat is succulent, the parsnips somehow enhance in taste and the sauce is delicious and creamy. An absolutely perfect supper dish for a winter’s evening.

Serves 4

What you need…

Splash of rapeseed oil

6 shallots, sliced in half

4 parsnips, peeled and chunked

8 garlic cloves, chopped

12-16 chicken thighs, filleted (quantity depends on your appetite!)

Black pepper and sea salt

500ml hot water from the kettle

1 chicken stock pot (I use Knorr)

12 sprigs thyme

20 juniper berries, lightly crushed

200ml double cream

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / gas 4.

Use a balloon whisk to beat the stockpots into the hot water to create your chicken stock.

Over a moderate heat, warm the rapeseed oil in a casserole dish for which you have a lid. Toss in the shallots, parsnips and garlic and cook until lightly brown. Remove ingredients from pan with a slotted spoon.

Season the chicken with black pepper and then brown lightly in the oil. Remove, again using the slotted spoon.

Pour the chicken stock into the pan and bring to the boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix in any delicious leftover morsels.

Return the chicken and vegetables to the pan, tuck in the thyme sprigs and season with a little salt and chuck in the juniper berries. When everything returns to the boil, pop on the lid and put the casserole into your oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken pieces and wrap in foil to keep warm.

Turn the hob heat up high and reduce the liquid by half – it won’t thicken but will give you sweet, creamy juices. Stir in the cream and check the seasoning. Return the chicken to the pan and cook for a couple minutes more to make sure everything is thoroughly hot.

Serve in shallow bowls, maybe with some fresh doorsteps of bread on the side to dunk.

Inspired by…

Nigel Slater, although he used partridges rather than chicken thighs. I tried it with parsnips but found the wee birds a pain to pick the meat off. Filleted chicken thighs mean you can just tuck straight in.

How easy…

Very easy but it does take a little faffing about – well worth it though!

Mincemeat, Apple and Panettone Pudding

So, I checked this recipe out last week, having just enough mincemeat and panettone left from Christmas – a good way of using it up I thought. As you can see from the image, this pudding is not the most glamorous. However, on tasting the first mouthful, both John and I were blown away. Underneath that brown topping is a pudding that is simply and lusciously sensational. It’s that good, that I’m doing it again this Sunday after a roast dinner with friends but…am going to have to make more mincemeat and have been donated a spare panettone to complete the task! It’s worth it!!!

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

1 x baking dish, liberally buttered

500g sharp eating apples

3 tablespoons water

200g mincemeat

60g butter, melted

250g panettone, processed to course crumbs

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / gas 4.

Peel, core and chunk the apples and tip them into a saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat, leaving the apples to collapse into a purée (I left my quite lumpy as I like finding little chunks of apple in amongst the mixture).

Remove from the heat and gently stir through the mincemeat – don’t mix it altogether to a brown mush but rather leave it unevenly mixed – looks and tastes better. Tip the whole lot into your baking dish.

Pour the melted butter into the panettone crumbs and mix thoroughly to create a loose, moist jumble of crumbs and dried fruit.

Tip the crumbs over the mincemeat and apple, leaving the surface rough and rustic! Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Serve with custard, double cream or ice-cream. Watch how fast this glorious pud is demolished!!!!

Inspired by…

Nigel Slater

How easy…

Sloth like effort required. Perfect for a leisurely Sunday lunch.

Golden Milk (Turmeric Latte)

Serves 1 Joyful Person

Over the last year I have been exploring the wonder that is Ayurveda (a several thousand year old holistic approach to wellbeing, literally translated as ‘life knowledge’). Whilst I would need a whole new blog to share with you this fascinating subject, I will instead start by introducing you to this fabulous drink that is now the cup of sunshine that starts my day. It comes from a book by Jasmine Hemsley who has compiled a collection of Ayurvedic recipes from the east that are easily ‘digested’ by us westerners and she clearly has many more years experience in this area that I do.

Anyway, this gorgeous ‘hug in a mug’ of a drink is sweet, spicy, fragrant and comforting whilst also invigorating. It improves digestion and contains the healing combination that is turmeric with black pepper. Give it a go – you’ll be hooked!

What you need…

250ml almond milk

60ml water

3 cardamom pods, cracked

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (don’t bother peeling first)

½ tablespoon jaggery (natural cane sugar ) grated

What to do…

Put all the ingredients except the jaggery into a small saucepan and gently simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir through the jaggery and adjust the sweetness to taste.

Strain and serve this warming liquid sunshine and…..relax.

Inspired by…

Jasmine Hemsley, East by West

How easy…

An absolute doddle but you do need a little time (but it’s so worth it!)

 

Quick and Easy Eggs Benedict

Always fancied this one as a lazy Saturday morning treat but the prospect of perfecting hollandaise sauce always put me off. That and the fact that my poached eggs have always been a bit hit and miss. So, having discovered solutions for both of those issues, there was no holding me back! The result is a lovely dish that definitely sets the tone for a relaxed weekend: think soft, running egg dribbling over salty-sweet ham and nestling on a warmed toasty English muffin and to finish – a good dollop of the rich silky, smooth hollandaise sauce – enjoy with strong coffee, a paper full of good news (!) and some gentle background music. Happy Weekend!

Serves 4

What you need…

4 large, happy eggs

4 slices Serrano ham

4 English muffins, sliced in half

for the hollandaise sauce

200g butter

4 happy egg yolks

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ tablespoon Dijon mustard

What to do…

Put a wide saucepan of water over a high heat to come to a rapid simmer in readiness for poaching your eggs.

For each egg, lay a 40cm sheet of non-PVC cling film flat on a work surface and rub with a little oil. Crack your egg into the middle and then pull in the sides of the cling film and gently squeeze out any air around the egg. Twist, then tie a firm knot in the cling film to secure each of your eggs snugly inside. Set aside your 4 weird little parcels whilst you conjure up the hollandaise sauce.

In a small saucepan, gently melt the butter. Meanwhile, in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (bain marie) tip in the egg yolks, lemon juice and Dijon mustard and whisk together using a handheld electric whisk.

Transfer the melted butter to a jug and very, very gradually add it to the egg yolks, a little at a time, whisking the whole time, to create a smooth, thickened sauce. Taste and adjust the flavour by whisking in a little more Dijon or wholegrain mustard, if liked. Take the bain marie off the heat but keep the bowl over the water to keep the sauce warm whilst you finish off the main dish. Pop a small balloon whisk or a spoon in there to give the sauce a quick stir every now and then.

Now, whop your muffin halves in the toaster/under the grill and cook until golden.

Meanwhile, drop your egg ‘parcels’ into the pan of simmering water and poach for 6 – 7 minutes, until soft-poached.

For each lucky person enjoying this little morning treat, pop the two halves of each muffin onto a warmed plate and drizzle over a little hollandaise sauce on both. Arrange a slice of Serrano ham on the bottom half of the muffin.

Snip open a cling film parcel, unwrap the egg and place on top. Drizzle with more hollandaise and…..enjoy! Scrumptious!

Tip…

If you’re wondering what the other half of the muffin is used for, it’s to mop up the excess runny egg!

Inspired by…

Well, this one is a bit of a collaboration! I have Izy Hossack (student and blogger) to thank for her hollandaise sauce recipe; Jamie Oliver for his approach to poached eggs and James Winter, who wrote one of my favourite cook books ‘Who Put the Beef in Wellington’ for the recipe idea!

How easy…

I know that I’ve simplified this dish, particularly the hollandaise sauce, which may not be authentic. That said, it’s a quick and easy very yummy treat my way!

1 2 37