Monthly Archives: November 2015

Haggis with Scallops, Caramelised Pear and Beurre Blanc Sauce

Yes, I know it sounds revolting and I was met with considerable apprehension when I announced that I was serving this up. But after the first tentative mouthful, it was proclaimed as really tasty and a culinary success! Haggis, let’s face it, gets bad PR but honestly, this is a really rich, lovely winter dish. Written up here as a starter, it can also be served as a main course, adding green vegetables (steamed leek and cabbage) and potato (Dauphinoise would work well). So, give it a go and be happily surprised!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x 450g good quality Haggis (I used Simon Howie’s Haggis Company).

Splash of olive oil

12 good sized scallops, hand-dived if you can spare the pennies

Sea salt and black pepper

for the beurre blanc sauce

2 shallots, finely chopped

20ml white wine vinegar

40ml white wine

40ml water

75g butter, cut into small chunks

Sea salt and black pepper

for the caramelised pears

50g butter

2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar

3 pears, unpeeled, cored and chopped into 1 cm pieces

What to do…

To cook your haggis, follow the instructions that it comes with. In my case, it was simply to wrap the haggis, skin and clips intact, in foil and pop in a saucepan of water, bringing it to the boil before gently simmering it for 45 minutes.

For the sauce, pop the shallots, vinegar, white wine and water into a saucepan and cook on a moderate heat until the liquid is halved. Remove from the heat and add the butter chunks one at a time, using a balloon whisk to ensure that each chunk is fully blended in before adding the next. Once it is all added, season with salt and pepper and return to the hob, keeping it warm on a low heat.

For the caramelised pears, heat the butter and sugar in a small saucepan on a moderate heat until they are both melted, stirring regularly. Tip in the chopped pears and gently stir them in, ensuring they are all evenly coated with butter. Reduce the heat and just leave them in the pan for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will finish up golden and delicious.

Finally, about five minutes before you are ready to serve, splash a little oil in a frying pan and when it’s hot, chuck in your scallops. Fry them for two minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Season.

To serve your haggis with scallops, caramelised pear and beurre blanc sauce, simply provide each person with one generous slice of haggis in the centre of the plate, topping it with the seared scallops, scatter the pears around the side and drizzle the beurre blanc over the pears.

The vinegar and wine in the beurre blanc sauce provide a gently, slightly sharp contrast to the richness of the haggis and the sweetness of the pear provides a perfect foil to the meat’s depth of flavour. It really works beautifully – simply delicious!

Inspired by…

Loch Fyne Restaurants currently have a version of this on their menus. I hope my interpretation does it justice!

How Easy…

Not difficult but loads of pots and pans, especially if it’s being served with accompaniments for a main course.

Whilst the haggis is cooking, you have plenty of time to make the beurre blanc and then the caramelised pears, just keeping both of them warm until you are ready to serve.

Summer Fruits Smoothie with Chia Seeds

If you are looking for a pick-me-up to start your day with real zest and a blast of goodness, I can whole-heartedly recommend this smoothie. Stuffed full of fabulously nourishing ingredients, it also tastes deceptively delicious!

Serves 2

What you need…

200g frozen summer fruits, defrosted

250g Alpro soya ‘yogurt’, vanilla flavour

1dessertspoon Chia seeds

200ml water

2 teaspoons Manuka honey

What to do…

To make your summer fruits smoothie with Chia seeds, simply chuck the lot in your blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into a couple of glasses and look smugly at one another as you take in all this goodness whilst drinking something imitating a delectable dessert!

Tip…

You can swap my choice of soya yogurt for your own personal favourite – I just find that cutting down on dairy works better for me.

What are Chia seeds…?

For the uninitiated, they’re promoted as a super food. . They contain the highest levels of omega 3 and essential amino acids found in the plant kingdom. They are also high in fibre, calcium, ion, selenium and zinc. They are also rich in antioxidants and protein – what’s not to like?!

Inspired by…

Madeleine Shaw, ‘Get the Glow’

How Easy…

Tip in the blender, put the lid on and push the button!

Lovely, Comforting Lasagne

Sooooo lovely and comforting, both to make and to eat – this is such a lovely family supper dish

Serves 6

What you need…

Ovenproof dish (mine is 20cm x 30cm)

Splash of olive oil

1 kg minced beef

500g minced lamb

150g mozzarella, torn up

A handful of fresh sage leaves

Lasagne sheets, fresh or dried (enough to cover your ovenproof dish three times)

for the tomato sauce

Splash of olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 bay leaves

2 x 400g tins of chopped Italian tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato puree

for the white sauce

1 litre milk

Pinch nutmeg

½ onion, peeled and sliced

Small handful black peppercorns

80g butter

60g plain flour, sieved

120g – 150g grated fresh Parmesan

Sea salt & black pepper

What to do…

Heat a large, deep frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Slowly fry the garlic until lightly coloured, then add the rosemary, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato puree. Cook gently for 45 minutes with the lid on.

Add the meat to your tomato mixture and simmer for 20 minutes, creating a tomato and meat ragu.

Meanwhile, put the milk, nutmeg, onion and black peppercorns into a medium sized saucepan and bring gently to the boil. Melt the butter in a third saucepan (large) and tip in the flour. Mix well to form the beginning of a roux sauce (it will look like a glossy ball). Gradually add the flavoured milk – one ladle at a time and through a sieve (you don’t want all the peppercorns and onions in there), stirring it well until you have a thick, smooth white sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and add Parmesan and seasoning.

Remove the rosemary and bay leaves from the tomato and meat ragu.

Preheat the oven to 180c / 350 f / gas 4 and butter a large baking dish.

Cover the bottom of the dish with lasagne sheets. Then cover with a thin layer of your ragu. Then cover with a thin layer of the white sauce. Repeat with a further two sets of layers – pasta, ragu and white sauce – ending with white sauce. Scatter over the torn mozzarella and sage leaves.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and let your lovely, comforting lasagne settle for maybe 10 minutes. Serve with a fabulous, robust bottle of Italian wine.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

It is easy but does take time: you need to be in the right mood. Choose your music, open a nice bottle of red and enjoy the process. The cooking smells are wonderful and definitely contribute to the enjoyment of this dish. There are however loads of pans to wash up but….it’s worth it! I wash them whilst the lasagne is in the oven so that when I sit down, I’m totally relaxed.

 

Delicious Lemon Drizzle Cake

I just love this cake! For two reasons: firstly it is spectacularly easy to make and secondly, because it is truly scrumptious! Not naturally a spontaneous baker, I have even taken to quickly whipping up this cake on a whim just when we fancy a little slice of something yummy with our afternoon cuppa (him: tea, me: double espresso). Try it once and it will be on your favourites list.

Serves 8

What you need…

900g/2lb loaf tin, greased and parchment paper-lined

for the cake

3 large eggs

175g self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

175g butter, softened

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Zest of 1½ lemons, finely grated

for crunchy lemon icing

100g granulated sugar

Juice of 1½ lemons

What to do…

Preheat oven to 180c / 350 F / gas 4.

Chuck all the cake ingredients into a food processor and beat together thoroughly.

Tip into the loaf tin and bake in oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown and shrinking away from the sides of the tin slightly.

Pop tin on a cooling rack and leave from 10/15 minutes until the cake is warm rather than hot.

Prick over the top of the cake with a skewer.

Mix together the sugar and lemon juice and pour over the top of the cake whilst it is still in its tin. It will look like there’s loads too much topping – keep the faith and pour the lot in. Walk away.

Come back 10/15 minutes later and the lemon drizzle topping will have largely disappeared – it’s gone into the cake (with the help of your skewering) to ensure that it is wonderfully moist.

When it’s cool rather than cold, loosen the sides away from the tin and lift out, using the paper. Dispense with the parchment paper and serve your delicious lemon drizzle cake – lovely fat slices! At this point, it is beyond delicious – light, reminiscent of being warm with a gentle but gorgeous citrusy tang that simply says, “eat more”. Wonderful!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Spectacularly!

 

 

 

 

 

Roast Asparagus in Parma Ham Parcels

This is an ideal canapé to have with pre-dinner drinks, or perhaps to hand around as part of a canapé selection at a Christmas drinks party. These delightful little morsels are absolutely lovely, ideally accompanied by a rather pleasant glass of fizz.

Makes 10

What you need…

One flat baking tin, greased with olive oil

20 x asparagus spears, trimmed

10 slices prosciutto di parma

Sea salt and black Pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated

What to do…

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and drop the asparagus in. Cook in the boiling water for 2 minutes.

Drain and and refresh in cold water. Drain again and cool to the point that they are easy to handle.

Lay out one slice of Parma ham. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Parmesan and then cut in half lengthways.

Using one ‘half slice’ of Parma ham, place two asparagus spears at one end and roll up so the Parma ham is the wrapping around your asparagus. Place on your baking tin.

Repeat until all the asparagus spears and Parma ham have been used up.

You can now leave them in the fridge for a couple of hours, enabling you to go and get ready for your guests.

When ready, pop the baking tin in the oven preheated to 200°c / 400°f / Gas 6 for 4-5 minutes and then serve. Absolutely delightful!

Inspired by…

I can’t quite remember – lots of people seemed to have included a version of this in their cookbooks but I think that Delia Smith was the original inspiration – she uses hard cheese rather than grated.

How easy…

Really, really easy and your Roast Asparagus in Parma Ham Parcels can be prepared ahead of time – bonus!

 

 

Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin

A fabulous Autumnal treat that looks and tastes so sumptuous and actually isn’t that difficult to make. Whoever you make it for will be very appreciative! It’s rich and ever so slightly decadent!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 tartlet tin, with 4 8cm holes, greased

1 9-cm cookie cutter

200g ready-made puff pastry (unless you’re on Bake Off, who has the time to make it?!)

2 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

2 plums, stoned and roughly chopped

5 little knobs of butter

4 dessertspoons of honey

30g shallots, chopped

250ml port

500ml chicken/game stock (made from a stock pot and water)

4 duck breasts, similarly sized

225g spinach

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Score the skin on the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern and season well. Put aside for the moment.

Making the jus/sauce: melt the first knob of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking for five minutes on a low heat. Add the port and stock and reduce until the sauce coats the back of the spoon – about 15 minutes. Set to one side – it doesn’t have to be boiling hot to serve but you may want to reheat just before serving to make sure it’s still runny rather than starting to set.

Making your tarte tatins: in your tartlet tin, place a knob of butter in the centre of each ‘mould’ and pour over one dessertspoon honey over each one. Mix together the apple and plums and then take a handful of the mixed fruit, piling it on top of the honey and butter.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 5mm and, using your cookie cutter, cut out four 9cm circles and place over the top of the fruit, tucking the sides in so that you have four upside down tarts. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take a heavy frying pan, turn the hob heat up to a medium high heat and cook the duck breast, skin side down, in the dry pan for about nine minutes, then turn the breast over and cook for a further six minutes. Keep an eye on it – it can scorch quite easily (as evidenced in my photogograph!)

Towards the end of the duck cooking time, wilt the spinach in a pot with just a couple of spoonfuls of water and little salt for two minutes.

To serve, place a mound of spinach on each plate and top with one tarte tatin, removed from the tin and served fruit side up. Put the duck on the plate and drizzle the jus/sauce around the plate.

Delicious doesn’t cover it! This recipe for Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin is a rich, lovely treat, ideal for dinner party. Halve the ingredients and make a sumptuous romantic dinner for two.

Tips…

You’ll have some pastry left over – you could always re-roll it and create another few fruit tatins but for use as desserts or perhaps a couple of Apple Roses (see my other recipes).

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped shallots – quick and saves all that crying!

Inspired by…

Julian Owen-Mold

How easy…

It’s really easy providing the duck breasts are the same size and therefore cook evenly during the same time. It’s quite smelly and the hob will be a mess at the end, but it’s worth it and surely, if you’ve done the cooking, someone else should clear up!

 

Butternut Squash Soup

This is a wonderful, warming, Autumnal soup that is so comforting but made extra special with one of my favourite additions: truffle oil! A lovely lunch on a dreary grey day, this soup is also an excellent dinner party starter and has been served up to most, if not all of our friends, all of whom love it!

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

Glug of olive oil

1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning or sage

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

I red onion, roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 celery sticks, trimmed and roughly chopped

Three sprigs of rosemary

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Kg butternut squash

1 litre chicken stock (I use 2 x stock pots), heated

Truffle oil to serve (my favourite is Carluccio’s Olio al Tartufo Bianco – some other brands taste too oily)

What to do…

In a large saucepan, pour in your glug of olive oil and heat on medium.

Add the Italian seasoning, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, chilli, salt and pepper. Turn down heat to low and leave to soften for 15 minutes.

Add the butternut squash and stock, bring to the boil. Then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the rosemary stems and then food-process the rest to produce this wonderful, thick autumnal Butternut Squash Soup.

Serve drizzled with a little truffle oil.

Tip…

I’ve taken to buying, garlic and chilli, amongst other herbs and spices, from the Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen range – they come ready chopped and so they get added to recipes via a quick shake or two, rather than being precisely measured out!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

It really doesn’t come any easier than this! You can also make it a couple of days before you want it – keeping it in the fridge – and it freezes really well. So, quite often, I’ll double up on the ingredients, freezing half.

 

 

 

 

365 Chocolate Celebration Cake

I created this cake from a mish-mash of different recipes and having seen an image from The Clandestine Cake Club’s cookbook with Smarties toppling out of the middle of the cake. It caught my imagination! What a great way to celebrate my ‘365 images that make me smile’ project (whereby I spent a year posting a picture captured each and every day that made me happy). I decided that my version would be all chocolate but I wanted a sponge that was light and fluffy, a butter cream that was rich and to finish it off, the opulence that comes with a thick coating of shiny chocolate. This cake, made for the first time here, did not disappoint and I think it is perfect for a celebration.

I’ve used Smarties, but chocolate buttons would work equally well or, if it’s going to be demolished in one day, fresh raspberries would be delightful!

Serves 16+

What you need…

2 x 20cm / 8” cake tins (spring form or loose-bottomed ideally), greased and lined on the bottom with parchment paper.

1 deep cookie cutter (I used a 7cm-wide one but you could use a wider one if you wanted more sweets hidden in the cake).

 340g unsalted butter, room temperature

340g caster sugar

6 eggs

1 dessertspoon vanilla extract

140g milk

225g self-raising flour

85g cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

for the chocolate butter cream and Smarties surprise

 50g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa) broken into pieces

100g unsalted butter, room temperature

200g icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

225g Smarties

for the decoration

150g unsalted butter, room temperature

250g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 180°c / 350° / gas 4.

Using a food processor, beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Whilst it’s still beating, add in the eggs, one at a time, ensuring that each is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix in.

In a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Then, add in the ingredients from the food processor and, using a balloon whisk, fold together all the ingredients until they are thoroughly blended. Divide the chocolate sponge mixture between the two cake tins.

Bake the sponges in the oven for 45 minutes until the cake is firm and an inserted skewer comes out dry.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tins and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the butter cream, made especially gorgeous by the use of the melted chocolate.

Put your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then into a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Gently melt the chocolate and then set aside until it is cool enough to touch.

In a separate bowl, sieve in the icing sugar and then beat together with the butter. Add the vanilla essence and then tip in the warm chocolate. Mix together using a small balloon whisk to ensure it is evenly and thoroughly blended. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Take your cookie cutter and cut a hole in the centre of each sponge, making sure the hole is in the same place in each sponge so that they will line up once assembled. From each cutout of sponge, slice a 1cm piece across, inserting one back into the bottom sponge.

Spread the butter cream evenly across the bottom sponge. Pop on the top sponge. Using a small spatula or palette knife spread more butter cream across the ‘join’ of the two sponges (so that the edge of the cake will look neat once the chocolate decoration is poured over).

Tip the Smarties into the hole in the middle of the cake and then pop the remaining 1cm deep sponge circle on the top, thus recreating a complete top sponge.

For the decoration, put the remaining broken chocolate in a heatproof bowl in a steamer over simmering water and gently melt. Once melted, mix in the butter. Drizzle over the cake until the top and the sides are covered evenly. Allow to set.

Serve to thrilled gasps as you cut into it when the Smarties tumble out and murmurs of appreciation when they eat it!

Tips…

There will be some melted chocolate left over – dip in some strawberries – great with an espresso after the main event!

Before I drizzle over the melted chocolate, I take a double piece of parchment paper with a circle cut out of the middle which is the same size as the sponges and pop it over the sponges so it is resting on the cake stand, effectively acting as a bib! When I’d finished drizzling (and making a considerable mess) I waited for the chocolate to set and then cut the parchment bib away revealing a spotless cake stand – marvellous!

How easy…

The 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake is very easy but it takes lots of time, mainly because you have to wait for the sponges to cool. If you’re in for the day and can potter about doing other things in between each stage of the cooking and assembly, perfect!

 

 

Baked Glazed Gammon

 

For many years now, we have reserved the baked gammon for Christmas Eve. When the present-wrapping is all done and all the preparation is finished for the big day, it’s time to sit down for hot gammon sandwiches in squishy, chunky fresh bread, washed down with a glass of fizz. The aroma of this wonderful dish cooking in its final stages is something I will always associate with Christmas but we do sneak it in a couple of other times throughout the year. The spirit of Christmas should be with us all year around, after all!

Serves 8 with left overs

What you need…

1 x unsmoked gammon joint, weighing about 4 kg

1 carrot, cut in half

1 onion, cut in half at root

1 celery stick

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

for the glaze

8 tablespoons good quality marmalade

2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

2 tablespoons black treacle

A handful of cloves

What to do…

Soak the gammon overnight if you’re having it for lunch or all day if you are having it in the evening. Discard the soaking water before starting.

Put the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with water and add the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, cover and then turn down the heat to a low simmer for 2¾.

Pre heat the oven to 180°c / 350f / gas 4

When the gammon is cooked, remove from the cooking water and set aside to drain.

Make the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients (except the cloves) together in a bowl.

Cut the rind off the gammon, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat diagonally in a criss-cross pattern and then stud with cloves all over. Put the gammon in a roasting tin, brush/spoon over the glaze and bake for about 30 minutes until sticky and golden. The smell will make you swoon! Serve your Baked Glazed Gammon with warm gorgeous doorstep bread and salted butter. Yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

The easiest baked gammon recipe I have tried and soooooo delicious!

 

 

Broccoli, Anchovy and Garlic Pasta

We love pasta in our house as the number of recipes evidence! This one is a lovely, light and fresh dish with the vitamins of broccoli and the tangy edge provided by the garlic and anchovy. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese finishes it off perfectly! Really yummy!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 heads of broccoli

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

12-16 anchovy fillets, depending on your taste – I love them!

2 hot chillies, de-seeded and chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Dried pasta (see tip)

Sea Salt and black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

What to do…

Chop the broccoli into florets, halving them if they are big ones.

Take a big saucepan and bring to the boil salted water. Add the pasta and cook following the instructions on the packet (mine normally takes about 12 minutes).

Whilst the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok to a medium heat, adding the garlic, anchovies and chillis, smashing up the anchovies as they warm up. Keep the oil warm but not spitting.

Four minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water.

Drain the pasta and broccoli and add them to them to the other pan, tossing them in the oil. Season to taste and serve with a generous your broccoli, anchovy and garlic pasta with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Quite simply delicious!

Tip…

I tend to use gluten-free pasta, simply because it doesn’t weigh down my digestive system like the normal option. Eating pasta with gluten makes me feel uncomfortably full and also very tired at the end of the meal – capable of doing nothing but collapsing in front of the TV. Gluten-free definitely suits me better.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy….

Ever so! Great lunch or quick supper