Proper Old-Fashioned Shortbread

The 87th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this shortbread is so butterly good, that it’s practically a staple food in our kitchen!

Utterly delicious, delectable and delightful is this recipe for buttery, sweet shortbread! And also, they are a doddle to make and take just minutes.  The only downside is that it’s so easy to keep making them: perfect with morning espresso, afternoon tea, a quick dip into the tin just because….

Makes 8 – 12 slices in a 23cm tin

What you need…

1 x 23cm lightly buttered, lined fluted tart tin

175g plain flour

125g butter, cubes and at room temperature

50g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

A good pinch of salt

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out/¾ teaspoon vanilla paste

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 190˚c / 375˚f / gas 5.

Chuck all the ingredients into your food processor and pulse until a dough is formed.

Dump the dough into your tart tin and use the side of a short glass to gently and evenly ‘roll out’ the dough to fill the tin. Fork the edges.

Pop into your oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes and then cut it into 8 – 12 segments as soon as it comes of out the oven.

When cool, sprinkle with caster sugar.

That’s it! Enjoy with a hot cup of tea, an espresso or just by themselves – seriously yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

It’s a doddle!

 

 

My Absolute Favourite Recipe for Carrot Cake

The 86th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this was one was always a ‘dead cert’ with a rather large version presented annually to husband with birthday candles in it!

John’s favourite cake is carrot cake and I think it might be mine too – so moist and heavenly; a gentle, warming spice flavouring the sponge, contrasting beautifully with the sweet frosting – sheer delight!

One of our friends made the Hummingbird Bakery version of this delicious treat for John’s 60th birthday a wee while ago (!) so last year, I finally replicated it for him and it was simply gorgeous – very difficult not to dive into and demolish the whole lot in one sitting! Just two weeks later, I was asked by a lovely friend to make it again to celebrate her son’s 40th and I made a double-sized one! Fab! The recipe below is for the original cake (rather than the 40th birthday version); however, it’s been Cindy-tweaked. The original splits the mixture between three 20-cm cake tins but I only have two. I however, made more frosting to accommodate the 4 tiers made from the two sponges and that’s what you’ve got here. Try it once and you’ll be a devotee!

What you need…

2 x deep, 20cm cake tins, liberally buttered and lined with parchment paper

300g soft light brown sugar

3 large, happy eggs

300ml rapeseed oil

300g plain flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

300g carrots, grated

100g shelled walnuts, chopped

A handful of walnut halves, to decorate

for the cream cheese frosting

750g icing sugar, sifted

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature

310g cream cheese, cold

What to do…

First, to the cake mixture! Preheat the oven to 170˚c / 325˚f / gas 3.

If you have a stand mixer, use it to combine the sugar, eggs and oil together (an electric handheld mix would also do the job).

Gradually add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla extract.

Take the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chopped walnuts and grated carrots by hand until they are evenly distributed.

Pour the mixture into your cake tins and pop into the oven, for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

Next to the frosting! Use an electric handheld whisk to beat the icing sugar and butter together. Plop in all of the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth (a couple of minutes) taking care not to over beat as it can become runny quite quickly.

And finally to the cake assembly. When the cakes are cold, carefully halve each cake sponge horizontally. Then, place one tier on a cake stand and spread a thin layer of frosting over it. Place the second tier on top and repeat and then again with the third tier. Top with the last tier. Spread the remaining frosting generously over the top and sides. Finish decorating with walnuts.

Tip…

I like to make the cake sponges in advance, wrap them in foil and freeze them. Then, on the day of the cake-fest, it’s just a case of frosting and decorating.

Inspired by….

Jo Wilkes, who made this for John’s 60th birthday and who in turn, retrieved this recipe for me from the Hummingbird Bakery.

Chicken Kiev

The 85th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this one indulges the 1970s in a really, really good way!

A 70’s classic and an oldie but a goodie as they say. I don’t know why I’ve never made this before but having tried it once, it’s now a regular to our supper table. To cut through the crispy coating to the succulent chicken is lovely enough but then the big reveal: the garlicky butter oozes out of the meat and the wonderful aroma enticingly wafts towards you. Not only is the chicken beautifully flavoured throughout but all that butter assures the meat of a gorgeous moist lusciousness! I wouldn’t bring back the 1970s but this dish is staying firmly on this decade’s favourite list!

What you need…

4 plump skinned chicken breasts (or supremes)

125g dried breadcrumbs (see tip)

40g Parmesan

2 large, happy eggs, lightly whisked

50g plain flour

Pinch paprika

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

String!

for the garlic butter

100g butter, softened

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

What to do…

Use a fork to mash together all the garlic butter ingredients. Dump the whole lot onto a large piece of cling film and use the cling film to help you create a log shape. Pop the garlic butter in the freezer for 1 hour.

Lay the chicken breasts on a chopping board and use the point of a sharp knife to make a deep pocket in the middle of each one. Slice discs of garlic butter from your log and insert them into the pockets – be generous. Pull the meat together to cover the garlic butter and use the string to tie up the chicken breast like a parcel.

Take 3 plates or shallow, wide bowls. Into the first, mix together the flour and paprika. In the second, tip the whisked eggs and in the third, mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Now the fun bit, dip each breast, first in the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Repeat the process for an extra crispy coating. Pop them on a plate and into the fridge for 1 hour.

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

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat and then fry the kievs for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Pop onto a baking tray – pocket side up and cook for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

Enjoy the ensuing garlicky aroma. Remind everyone about the string before they tentatively try their first bite and then devour the rest – they’re that good, honest!

Tip…

To dry out the bread, I stuck 2½ slices of white bread in a low oven for 10 minutes or so, before roughly cutting them up and whopping them in the food processor to create the breadcrumbs.

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How easy…

Very easy and really satisfying to make but you do have to be at home for the afternoon so that you can have time for the butter to sit in the freezer for an hour and the kievs to chill in the fridge for a further hour. Absolutely worth it though.

Prawn Saganaki

The 84th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is an absolute family favourite, exuding Mediterranean sunshine!

Ooooh, this is sooooo lovely that I cooked it twice in one week before blogging it – the cooking smells the first time around demanded immediate indulgence so no photographs were taken before we sat down… so I had to cook it again – shame!!!! It smells amazing and tastes even better! Greek in origin, this is a brilliant starter or supper that tastes like it belongs in a gorgeous summer holiday – you can practically feel the Mediterranean sun, smell the lavender carried on the breeze and hear the sea gently lapping on the shore. It’s quick to knock up and is definitely so much greater than simply the sum of its parts.

Serves 4 as a main meal and 6 as a starter

What you need…

A good splash of rapeseed oil

1 large red onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon dried crushed chillies

2 star anise

6 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

800g raw king prawns

50g Boursin cheese (the original recipe uses Feta but I prefer Boursin)

A small handful of parsley, roughly chopped

What to do…

Heat the oil over a moderate heat in a frying pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes until soft but not brown. Stir in the chilli and the star anise, then add in the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Next, dump in the Boursin cheese and then add in the prawns, stirring and cooking for a few minutes until the prawns are pink and the cheese is evenly dispersed. Remove the star anise.

Scatter over the parsley and serve immediately with a nice chunky doorstep of good, fresh bread – just yummy!

Tip…

I just love this dish but if you wanted to be a little more authentic, replace the rapeseed oil for olive oil and the star anise for 3 tablespoons of ouzo. If you choose to do the latter, you’ll need to cook it off for a bit before adding the tomatoes to dispel the alcohol and reduce the liquid. However, star anise worked really, really well (weirdly, I didn’t have any ouzo in the house!)

Inspired by…

The Traveller’s Table (although I have mucked about with it quite a lot).

How easy…

Soooooo happy that I happened upon this ridiculously easy recipe!

 

Espresso Martini

83rd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is perfect for a Saturday night celebration: party time!

Discovered by my son, Connagh, when we went out to dinner to celebrate exam results, this wonderful cocktail presents itself in all innocence but it is in reality deliciously naughty and has the potential to knock your socks off!

Serves 2

What you need…

100ml vodka

70ml Kalhua/coffee liqueur

2 shots espresso coffee

Ice

Cocktail shaker

2 Martini glasses

What to do…

Pop the Martini glasses in the freezer whilst you make the cocktail.

Tip all the ingredients into the cocktail shaker and shake, shake, shake, smashing up the ice in the process and making this cocktail fabulously chilled.

Pour into your Martini glasses and watch as the cocktail separates to top the dark lushness with a creamy espresso top. Pass one glass to your drinking companion, sip and indulge. Delicious and soooooo naughty. A rich, sweet ice-cold coffee with a tangiable kick. The only problem is that it’s quite difficult to put the glass down – just one more sip…

One, however, is probably enough!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver has published the recipe together with a lovely anecdote as to its creation but we first tried it at the Windsor Grill.

How Easy…

Dangerously ridiculously!

 

 

Tournedos Rossini!

The 82ndof 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is definitely worth celebrating the weekend with!

When we fancy a bit of blow out, we turn to steak and I’ve tried some amazing recipes. On one such an occasion, at the behest of the uni-returning daughter, steak was once again on the menu and we elected to try a classic: Tournedos Rossini – a gutsy yet elegant dish that is served with a wonderful velvety sauce – it was nothing short of fabulous. I did adapt the recipe however! The original includes fois gras and as much as my food shopping bills are significant, even I could not push the boat out for that extravagance so swapped it for a little chicken liver paté and some sautéed mushrooms – still decadent and absolutely delicious!

Serves 4 very lucky people

What you need…

1 x small cookie cutter

Olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

4 x 200g beef fillet steaks

Sea salt and black pepper

250g chestnut mushrooms, wiped and sliced

150g good quality chicken liver paté (optional)

4 chunky slices of ciabatta

for the sauce

100ml hot water from the kettle

½ beef stockpot (I use Knorr)

2 tablespoons port

4 tablespoons brandy

4 tablespoons Madeira, plus extra for frying

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 truffle, finely sliced

What to do…

A couple of hours before you want to eat, take your steaks out of the fridge, put a teaspoon of oil onto each one, massage the oil in using the heel of your hand, season with black pepper (no salt at this stage), flip them and repeat on the other side. Cover with cling film and set aside.

Just before you’re ready to eat, add the butter to a hot frying pan. Season the steaks with salt on both sides and when the butter is foaming, pop in the steaks and cook over a high heat for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and keep warm (I put mine into a really low oven).

Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and sauté for five minutes until golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and pop onto kitchen paper to drain any excess liquid and then keep warm with the steaks.

Into the pan pour the port, brandy and Madeira and bring to the boil. Add the stock and reduce the heat to moderate, letting the sauce bubble away until it starts to thicken.

In a separate pan over a moderate heat, add a splash of Madeira and the garlic, cooking for a couple of minutes before adding the truffle. Turn the heat to low and cook for a further two minutes. Then, add the reduced sauce.

Meanwhile, toast the ciabatta. Also, if you’re including the paté, cut 4 small circles from it using your cookie cutter. Set aside.

To serve, place each steak on a piece of the toasted ciabatta, top with a circle of paté if using, then the mushrooms. Pour over the delicious sauce and dig in – it’s gutsy but elegant at the same time – fillet steak needs little faffing and this sauce together with a little pate and mushrooms create a fabulous dish that should be lingered over but….is demolished!!!!!

Serving Suggestion…

Potato Dauphinoise and a few green beans works particularly well.

What’s it all about…

Tournedos Rossini was created by chef, Marie-Antoine Carême, who is renowned as the ‘king of chefs’ and ‘chef of kings’ having cooked for Napoleon,  the Prince Regent and Tsar Alexander I, to name but a few. But it was whilst working for the House of Rothschild that he met and became friends with great composer and kindred spirit, Gioachino Antonio Rossini and it was for him, that this wonderful dish was created.

Inspired by…

James Winter, who included it in his fabulous book, ‘Who Put the Beef in Wellington?’ and who said, ‘…people with passionate appetites for luxurious food will always order Tournedos Rossini.’ What a wonderful line!

How easy…

Really easy, very quick and absolutely fantastic – only for a special occasion though unless you have very deep pockets!

Cider-Baked Luxury Fish Pie

The 81st of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this one is perfect for today when, in my world, the sky is grey and laden with rain for the rest of the day – ugh! This dish will provide the necessary comfort!

I’ve never really been a fan of fish pie but this recipe is just rich enough to feel indulgent without that sluggish, overly full and slightly sick feeling that often comes with overly rich food! Haddock, scallops and prawns are the basis of this dish so, providing you’ve got good quality, the great natural flavours are already there, just waiting to party with your taste buds! It has double cream in but that’s countered by the cider to produce a tasty sauce that just begs an extra spoon at the table just to make absolutely sure there isn’t any left; and for the mashed potato topping, I did my own thing – anchovies don’t scream ‘salty fish’ as you might expect but just add a depth of flavour. At our table, it was agreed, we’re definitely having this dish again – absolutely lovely!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x 1 litre ovenproof dish, lightly buttered

100ml milk

400g haddock fillets

100ml milk

150g scallops

150g large raw prawns, shelled

25g butter

25g plain flour

100ml dry still cider

75ml double cream

1 dessertspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

for the topping

500g King Edwards potatoes, peeled and roughly chunked

3 anchovy fillets (from a jar in oil), roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

100g salted butter

Splash of milk

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 190°c / 375°f / gas 5.

Pop the potatoes in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and simmer until soft (15 minutes-ish).

In a little saucepan, tip in the anchovies, garlic and butter. Put it on a really low heat, just to melt the butter and let the flavours develop. Ignore it until you need it later.

Meanwhile, pop the haddock into a large pan with the 100ml milk, bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove the fish to a plate with a slotted spoon, retaining the flavoured milk for later. When it’s cool enough to handle, flake the fish into large chunks into your ovenproof dish. Tip into the dish the scallops and prawns and spread about evenly.

Melt the 25g butter in a small sauce pan, tip in the flour, cooking for 1 minute whilst stirring like crazy. Remove from the heat and, using a balloon whisk, gradually mix in the cider and then the retained milk. Return to a moderate heat for up to 10 minutes, whisking until smooth. Whisk in the cream and mustard; add the parsley and season to taste. Pour over the fish and set aside whilst you complete your mash.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Add a splash of milk and the melted butter with anchovy and garlic. Depending on your preference, either mash traditionally or, if you would like a smoother, creamier version, use an electric hand whisk to create a lovely silky mashed potato (no points for guessing which approach I prefer!) Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you’re feeling really naughty, you could add a tad more butter or double cream.

Dollop the mash all over the fish mixture and then use a fork to give it a nice ‘roughed up’ texture.

Pop in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until lovely and golden brown. Serve and enjoy – it is utterly delicious!

Serving suggestion…

We really enjoyed this dish with garlic, rosemary and anchovy-flavoured greens together with Hasselback potatoes, both of which I will type up and blog this week – they are great sides that would go with a wide variety of dishes, were really tasty, attractive and required next to no effort (always a bonus!)

Inspired by…

Woman and Home magazine

How easy…

Dead easy, really quick and very little clearing up – perfect for a weekday supper, although the ingredients aren’t the cheapest.

Baklava

The 80th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this recipe expands the waistline just looking at it but for me, every succulent morsel transports me back to the Ionian: infinity seas merging with cloudless blue skies….

When on holiday in Corfu a few years ago, we happened upon a very traditional restaurant that was mainly frequented by locals and would have been pretty much impossible to find except via boat. We visited this fabulously authentic restaurant twice, enjoying the food as much as the sea view over a rickety wooden pontoon. At the end of each meal, we were presented with the most delicious baklava – a dessert widely recognised as the national dessert of those countries that made up the Ottoman Empire. I’ve always liked baklava but this homemade version knocked any shop-bought pretender into touch. It was the family’s grandmother whose job it was to create the dessert for the restaurant’s guests each day. I vowed there and then to do my best to replicate the gorgeousness that was that dessert and this comes pretty close. It’s easy to make but sooooooooo spectacularly bad for you!!!!

Serves 8

What you need…

1 x 20 cm round baking tin, lightly buttered

6 filo pastry sheets, cut in half to create 12 squares (approx 25cm)

150g chopped nuts – walnuts, pistachios and almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground cloves

125g (!!!!!) butter, melted

for the syrup

300g sugar

200g water

40g honey

Zest of one lemon

1 cinnamon stick

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 150°c / 300°f / gas 2

Melt the butter over a low heat, being careful not to burn it.

In the baking tin, lay one layer of filo pastry, then sprinkle melted butter over it. Repeat this process until you have used six sheets of pastry. You will have corners of pastry hanging over the baking dish – roughly fold them in and sprinkle them with butter.

In a bowl, mix together the chopped nuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Sprinkle half the mixture over the filo sheets and then add five more layers of filo pastry and sprinkled butter until you have just one sheet of pastry remaining. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture on top of the pastry layers and then top with the final pastry sheet – don’t forget to sprinkle over the butter. Again, fold in the overhanging corners and sprinkle with more butter.

Place the baklava in the fridge for 15 minutes to make it easier to cut into portions. Remove from the fridge and, using a sharp knife cut the pastry all the way down into eight portions.

Place the baklava on a low shelf in the oven and bake for 1½ hours, until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, prepare the syrup. Into a small saucepan, mix together all the ingredients and bring to the boil. Boil for about 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t stir the syrup – it can go lumpy if you do. As soon as the baklava is baked, ladle over the some of the hot syrup. Once it has been absorbed, ladle over some more and repeat this process until no more can be absorbed – there’s usually a bit left in the pan but rather too much than too little!

Let the baklava cool down and serve – to die for (literally, with all that butter and sugar!) Simply divine!

Inspired by…

A grandmother in Corfu and a lot of Internet research!

How easy…

Very easy. The outcome far outweighs any effort anyway!

 

 

 

Chimichurri Verde with Steak

The 79th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this one is a bit wowser!

I’m not overly partial to steak, normally favouring a couple of fillets over the course of a year rather than a more regular cheaper cut. That said, John found this Brazilian-inspired recipe towards the end of the last Olympics and we thought we’d give it a bash. Wow! The steaks – purchased from our local butcher – were so very succulent but it was the chimichurri that lifted them from your average rib eye to something really quite fantastic. I also reckon that you could use the chimichurri to dress up a more mundane fish steak. I have a feeling we’ll be trying it with all sorts!

Serves 4

What you need…

50ml cider vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

100ml olive oil

30g fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely

30g fresh coriander, chopped finely

15g fresh oregano, chopped finely

1 dried red chilli, chopped

3 spring onions, trimmed and sliced finely

4 garlic cloves, chopped

Splash of rapeseed oil

4 x 240g 1cm rib eye steaks

What to do…

First, make the chimichurri by tipping all the ingredients (except the rapeseed oil and steaks!) into a screw top jar, pop the lid on a shake like mad. Pop the jar in the fridge for anything between 30 minutes and 24 hours to let the flavours develop.

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 4.

Gently bash the steaks each side with a steak mallet.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a hot frying pan and fry the steaks for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer them to a baking tray and smother them with half the chimichurri. Pop them in the oven and cook for 10 minutes (for medium).

Serve straight from the oven, ideally with garlicky crushed new potatoes or hasselback potatoes (both already blogged) and something green (broccoli that has been steamed and then tossed in garlic and either chilli- or anchovy-infused oil would work really well) together with a generous dollop of the remaining chimichurri on the side – simple but stunning!

Inspired by…

Waitrose Weekend

How easy…

Ever so, especially as the chimichurri can be prepared up to a day in advance.

Bacon and Black Pudding Pasta with Scrumptious Ginger, Palm Sugar and Cream Sauce

The 78th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is a spectucular pasta dish unlike any I have ever tasted. Try it!

We eat A LOT of pasta, but when I dished this one up, our son, Connagh, declared it as the best pasta he had ever tasted (he’s a 19-year old foodie, so his gastronomic opinion counts). How to describe it…..the sauce has a delightful, tangy sweetness that works spectacularly well in contrast to the earthy richness of the black pudding. I think it might also be slightly addictive: once the first mouthful passes your lips, you simply yearn for more!!!! What more can I say: try it and let me know!!!!!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 baking trays, foil-lined

8 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon

200g black pudding, chunkily sliced

Your favourite shaped dried pasta

for the sauce

50g fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

75ml water

2 cloves

50g palm sugar

300ml double cream

200g baby spinach

What to do…

Starting with the sauce, pop the ginger into a large saucepan with the water and cloves. Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove the cloves and add the sugar and dissolve.  Tip into your food processor/blender and whizz until the ginger is reduced to small chunks.

Return the ginger mixture to the saucepan, pour in the cream, chuck in the spinach, whack on the lid and set aside.

Spread the bacon around on 1 baking tray and use the other for the black pudding. Pop the bacon in the oven and cook until crispy (15-20 minutes). Pop the black pudding in at the same time but cook for only 10 minutes, turning over after 5 minutes. Once cooked, remove both from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water, according to the packet instructions.

When your pasta is nearly cooked, break up the bacon into little pieces and likewise, cut the black pudding into chunks.

Heat your saucepan of sauce over a moderate-high heat and stir whilst the cream warms up and the spinach wilts. Transfer the pasta into the sauce, tip in the black pudding and mix gently but thoroughly together.

Serve in warmed bowls and scatter the crispy bacon over the top. Absolutely bloody gorgeous!

Tip…

I’ve had feedback that for some people that the sauce is a bit too sweet for  their taste – if that’s the case, just cut down on the palm sugar! Personally, it’s gorgeous as it is!

Inspired by…

Most of the essential ingredients were inspired by a James Martin scallops-led recipe! Needless to say, from that inspiration, there has been quite a bit of mental mucking about for me to come up with this! Some people dream of holidays and other grand schemes; me: I wake up with recipes dancing around my head!

How easy…

So very, very easy and so spectacularly gorgeous!

 

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