Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

 

If you have friends popping around for lunch (as I did today) close to Christmas and you’ve already over-extended yourself on the ‘to-do’ list (as I do, repeatedly), this is the perfect dessert – it’d dead easy, really lovely and very Christmassy but light. You can knock it up in a jiffy and it cooks itself whilst you’re enjoying your main course. A bonus is the scent of Christmas that wafts through the house as it’s cooking!

Serves 6

What you need…

18 x 23cm baking dish, about 5cm deep, lightly buttered

6 slices bread from a large loaf

50g softened butter

3 rounded tablespoons mincemeat

60ml milk (or Oatly if you want to cut down on dairy)

60ml double cream (or the Oatly version)

3 large eggs

75g caster sugar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

25g candied peel, finely chopped

What to do…

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

Generously butter the bread slices on one side, then spread the mincemeat over three of them and put the other three slices on top, effectively creating mincemeat sandwiches. Spread the rest of the butter across the top slice of each sandwich and cut each one into quarters to make little triangles.

Arrange the triangular sandwiches, butter side up, overlapping each other and almost standing upright in the baking dish.

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs and caster sugar together and pour the mixture over the bread, ensuring that all the bread is moistened. Scatter the candied peel over the top with demerara sugar. Pop in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until it’s puffy and golden – the Christmas smell as it’s cooking is wonderful.

Serve your Christmas mincemeat bread and butter pudding straight away, perhaps with a little double cream and a whole bunch of festive cheer!

Tip…

Try different breads, rather than just plain white – there are some lovely festive loaves in the supermarkets at the moment.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith (this is essentially my version of her Chunky Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding but with the Marmalade replaced by mincemeat!

How easy…

It couldn’t be easier: an absolute gift during the festive season!

 

 

Anglo Italian Trifle

If one could describe a dessert as voluptuous in flavour and totally indulgent, this would be it. Amaretti and sweetend mascarpone rather than cream give this trifle an Italian twist, something which is emphasised by the Limoncello that it is laced with. Definitely naughty but difficult to say no to a second helping. This Anglo Italian Trifle is best enjoyed with a group of rowdy, hedonistic friends after a dribbly lunch or dinner or as the perfect alternative (or addition) to Christmas Pudding.

Serves 12

What you need…

1 x pretty, 2-litre glass trifle bowl

8 trifle sponges

1 jar of blackcurrant jam

100g Amaretti biscuits, plus a handful for the topping

300ml Limoncello

600g frozen fruits, defrosted: summer fruits work well

2 eggs, separated

100g caster sugar

750g mascarpone cheese

What to do…

Split the trifle sponges and make into sandwiches with the jam; then wodge them into your trifle bowl. Crush the Amaretti biscuits in your hand and sprinkle them all over the trifle sponges then pour over 180ml Limoncello.

Tip the fruit over the sponges and Amaretti, perhaps arranging the bigger attractive fruit around the edges – for presentation purposes – you’ll be able to see them through the glass.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Put to one side.

In a large bowl, use an electric whisk to whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until the mixture is thick and smooth . Still whisking, slowly add 60ml of Limoncello, creating a light, moussey mixture. Whisk in the mascarpone until everything is smoothly combined. Add the remaining Limoncello and give the mixture a final whiz with the electric whisk. Tip in the egg white and fold in with a balloon whisk – this makes the mascarpone ‘cream’ lovely and airily light.

Dollop the mascarpone ‘cream’ on top of the fruit and gently, spread it a little, creating little soft peaks.

Cover the trifle and and pop in the fridge overnight, allowing all the flavours to gather and the Limoncello to permeate the fruit, sponges and Amaretti, mingling with the fruit to create sheer yumminess.

About one hour before you want to plunge the spoon into your delectable dessert, take it out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Just before serving, crush the remaining Amaretti biscuits and scatter over the top of the trifle. (We have also decorated our with birthday candles and made it a very special birthday cake). Your Anglo Italian Trifle is now ready to be demolished! Just gorgeous!

Tips…

Change the fruit to reflect the season.

Keep tasting the mascarpone cream as you add the Limoncello – I like my trifles quite boozy – you may want a little less alcohol….or perhaps a tad more!

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Dead easy: no cooking, more of an assembly job with a bit of whisking but it looks and tastes spectacular!

Chicken Liver Pate with Brandy

I have a penchant for foie gras parfait, but let’s face it, that’s not very realistic on a regular basis. I have had this recipe for years – torn out from a magazine but I only got around making it this week. I tentatively tried a little and then found that I just wanted more and more! The combination of the brandy and the chicken livers is fabulously rich but the pate is also quite light. Its sufficiently good that can also carry off being served as a starter with a delicious dessert wine – the perfect foil. Try it – it won’t be the last time you make it! Absolutely delicious!

Serves 10 as a starter

What you need…

500g chicken livers, trimmed

2 tablespoons brandy

110g butter

4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves torn from stalks

Pinch nutmeg/a few gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons sherry

4 tablespoons double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Drain the chicken livers and put them in a small bowl. Add the brandy, mix well, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 2 hours.

Heat 25g of the butter in a frying pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken livers from the brandy (keeping the brandy for later) and add to the pan, stir-frying on a moderate heat for 3-5 minutes, until they are browned all over but still pink on the inside. Again, using your slotted spoon, remove the chicken livers from the pan and tip them into your food processor.

Add the brandy into the pan and turn up the heat – cook for a minute or so until the alcohol has evaporated. Using a spatula, scrape every last scrap out of the frying pan and into the food processor.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat 25g of the butter and cook the bacon, onion, thyme, nutmeg and bay leaf over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the onion is quite soft and golden brown. Remove the bay leaf and tip the lot into the food processor with the other ingredients.

In a third (small) saucepan, melt the remaining butter over a gentle heat.

Whilst that’s melting, whizz all the ingredients in your food processor to form a smooth purée. Blend in the parsley and then add the sherry, cream and melted butter. Season to taste. Pour this mixture into either one mould, 10 small ramekin dishes or, as I did, four pretty serving dishes – we ate two over the course of the weekend and I’ve frozen the other two for future enjoyment. Whichever choice you make, chill the pate for at least 12 hours to allow the flavours to gather.

Serve your chicken liver pate with brandy with toasted fresh bread or toasted brioche. If you can run to a dessert wine as well, it works indulgently well. Talk about feasting like kings – fabulous!

Inspired by…

Don’t know – torn from a magazine so many years ago that the page is yellow.

How easy…

Very, very easy and for fantastic results!

 

 

Chocolate Candy Christmas Chalet

Ok, so for this one, I’m not going to list the ingredients or the process, but rather, just give you the link to the youtube video – it’s much easier to see how this lovely lady makes her chocolate candy Christmas chalet than for me to explain it. She makes it look unbelievably easy but I have to say, I did struggle rather – my first roof collapsed, I forgot to cut out a door and my window sills kept sliding down the walls. All that said, I’m sure that someone more experienced in a bit of cake decorating would find this really easy. In the end, I wasn’t too disappointed with my effort. The lovely lady on the youtube video made a Christmas house; mine is more of a rustic chocolate chalet! Anyway, it tastes great and we have a large plastic box in the fridge full of all the left over chocolate, so happy days! If you give it a go, enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmg7WRtgOlU

Cod with Pesto Mash, Tomatoes and Basil

This is an easy, healthy dish that makes a lovely light supper or lunch. I was a bit perturbed preparing the slightly green mash but it tastes absolutely delicious and is a splendid alternative to the butter-laden ‘heart-attack’ mash that my family usually enjoys!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking tray, lightly buttered/oiled

300g potatoes, peeled

A good knob of butter

A splosh of milk

4 teaspoons pesto (I use Sacla)

Sea salt and black pepper

4 chunky fillets of cod

4 large tomatoes, halved and then sliced

A few basil leaves, torn

4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

A little paprika

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

Bring the potatoes to the boil in salted water. Cover and simmer for15-20 minutes, until soft. Drain, then mash or whisk, adding the butter, milk, the pesto and some seasoning. Check the texture and taste, then add more butter, milk, pesto or seasoning according to your taste.

Place your cod fillets on the baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Spread a goodly portion of the pesto mash over the top of each fish fillet, piling it quite high. Mix the sliced tomato and basil together, season and arrange on top of the mash. Sprinkle with Parmesan – 1 teaspoon per person should be perfect – and dust with paprika.

Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the fish has turned white. Serve your baked cod with pesto mash, tomatoes and basil immediately – enjoy this lovely, light dish that certainly perks up the rather plain but healthy cod fillet! Goes beautifully with a selection of green veg.

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Very – perfect weekday lunch or supper. Very little mess and dead easy to do.

Scones with Strawberry Compote

I studied photography at a fabulous old mansion house called Woodley Hill House. It was run by a great team, who we all got to know really well and who helped us through the trials and tribulations of women in their 40s training in a new skill and getting overly emotional over exams. Anyway, each morning session was punctuated with tea break, for which we would all troop over from our classroom to the main house. The kitchen, in those days, was run by a lovely lady who had an absolute gift for making wonderful scones. I swore then that I would try to emulate them. This vow, coupled with the knowledge that John was legendary for making scones in his early teens, was put keenly into focus when I watched James Martin on Saturday Kitchen whip up these scones and ‘cheats jam’ in no time at all. So, this is my take on those. I can’t remember if they are as good as the college ones – probably not – they were to die for – and we’ll never know how they compare to John’s youthful offerings, but they’re pretty damned good and a cinch to make!

Makes 12 little ones (I figured they wouldn’t be so bad for the waistline if they were little!)

What you need…

5cm diametre cookie cutter

Baking sheet, lightly buttered

225g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

25g caster sugar

50g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

150ml whole milk

for the strawberry compote

250g strawberries, hulled and halved

100g jam sugar

60ml water

1 heaped teaspoon arrowroot

What to do…

For the strawberry compote, pop the strawberries, sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and, using a small balloon whisk, mix in the arrowroot. Set aside to cool.

To make your scones, use a roomy bowl to sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar. Add the butter and using your fingertips, quickly rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the milk, a little at a time, working to form a smooth dough. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

Lightly flour your work surface (I cover my surface with cling film and then flour it – this means less cleaning up at the end as I just roll up the cling film complete with all the left over pastry bits and chuck the lot in the bin – job done!)

Roll out the dough until about 2cm thick. Using your cookie cutter, cut 12 scones out of the dough – avoid twisting the cutter to loosen the dough as this could result in uneven rising – just tap the dough out instead.

Place your scones on the baking tray and dust with flour.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until just starting to brown.

To serve your scones with strawberry compote, split the scones, lather with clotted cream and then dribble over the compote – delish!!!

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Very easy – I was most surprised!

 

 

 

 

 

Coq au Vin

 

This is an oldie but a goodie: rich and flavoursome – perfect for a winter supper. The basis for this recipe was pulled from my dad’s ‘Supercook’ collection. Anyone my age will remember this phenomenon that went through the very hot year that was 1976 through until 1979. The weekly (I think) magazines were collected and ultimately inserted proudly into the white and gold Supercook binders. My dad loved to cook and experiment and Supercook was the source of many of his weekend recipes. Try this one – it’s another of those that I love – you pop them in the oven and they finish themselves off whilst you make the kitchen tidy again.

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking dish (mine is 30cm x 20cm x 7cm deep)

10 – 12 chicken thighs

4 tablespoons flour, well seasoned with sea salt and black pepper

Splash of rapeseed oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

200g lean bacon, chopped

12 shallots

1 teacup parsley, chopped

2 bay leaves

½ bottle red wine

125ml boiling water

2 x Knorr chicken stock pots

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

200g button mushrooms, cleaned

What to do…

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

Make some chicken stock by popping the stock pots into a jug and then filling it to 125ml with boiling water, dissolving the stock evenly into the water using a balloon whisk.

Coat the chicken thighs with the seasoned flour.

Heat the oil in a deep-sided frying pan. Add the chicken and fry on a medium-high heat until gold brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces and pop them into your baking dish – they’ll fit nice and snugly.

If the frying pan is dry, add another splash of oil and when hot, add the garlic, onion and bacon, frying gently until pale gold.

Stir in any leftover coating flour (this will make the sauce lovely and thick), and then add the shallots, parsley, bay leaves, wine and stock.

Bring to the boil, stirring, then taste. Season. Taste. When you’re happy, carry on.

Tip the mushrooms into the baking dish over the chicken and then pour over the sauce from the frying pan. Cover with foil and pop in the oven for 1 hour until the chicken is tender.

Serve your lovely Coq au Vin with green vegetables (we favour broccoli) and potato – baked or sautéed if you fancy. It’s lovely, definitely French and just perfect for a winter family supper! Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Supercook

How easy…

Very easy. The only bit I don’t like about this is the prep of the onions and shallots, which instigates a bout of violent sneezing and then mascara-ruining crying. But once that’s out the way, a simple but lovely dish!

Toad in the Hole

There’s nothing quite like it on a cold winter’s day, is there? Toad in the hole – with no soggy bottom – and a great gravy – sticks to the ribs and is soooooo warming and comforting. Our version has great mountainous sides, plunging into the sausagy middle – something easily attainable from the batter whisking and the use of suet. Whip it up, stick it in the oven and serve – great for an early-week supper, particularly as you can use the Sunday roast’s left over gravy to serve it with. Try as we have done in the past, we now tend to avoid accompanying vegetables – why spoil a naughty thing?!

Serves 4 hungry people

What you need…

1 x baking dish, lightly buttered (my usual dish is 30cm x 20cm x 7cm deep)

12 of your favourite sausages

275 g plain flour

4 eggs

300ml milk/Oatly if you’re cutting down on dairy

180ml water

Sea salt and black pepper

A good handful of suet

What to do…

Preheat oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

Pop the sausages into the baking dish and bake them on the middle shelf in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they are just starting to colour.

Using an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, eggs, milk, water, salt and pepper until there are no lumps and you have a lovely, smooth batter.

Whisk in the suet into the batter – just enough to get it incorporated (mix it for too long and you’ll beat out the raising agent).

Remove the sausages from the oven and quickly tip in the batter. Put it straight back in the oven and cook for 30-ish minutes, turning half way through to ensure and even bake. The batter should be golden, crispy around the edges and cooked properly through the middle; sausages good and brown poking through the batter.

Serve your fabulous winter toad in the hole immediately – huge great wedges for each lucky person. Ideally, top with the rich gravy left over from your Sunday Roast Dinner. Sit back at the end, patting the belly and pronounce that you can do nothing further for the rest of the day!

Tip…

If you don’t have any left over gravy available, this is my quick stop-gap version which does a fine job! For four people, tip 150g Bistro chicken gravy granules into the bottom of a large jug. Gradually add boiling water from a kettle, mixing in the granules evenly using a balloon whisk. Keep adding water until you have a gravy that is your preferred consistency (we like ours thick). Add a good glug of Pellegrino Marsala Superiore to the gravy and taste – maybe add a bit more. The Marsala adds a wonderful depth of flavour. If you have time, you can bring this to the boil in a saucepan and cook off the alcohol, but we never have and we’re all quite close to normal!

Inspired by…

John the husband and Delia Smith

How easy…

Ever so! A bit of whisking and then the oven does the rest. A perfect weekday meal!

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Amaretti Cake

A scrumptious moist cake that combines the sweetness of chocolate with the texture and bite of Amaretti biscuits and almonds and then delivers a hint of orange, delighting the taste buds! It keeps for days (in the unlikely event that every last divine morsel isn’t devoured in minutes) and is a cinch to make – created this morning in just a few minutes whilst still in PJs! Give it a whirl!

Serves 8 – 12

What you need…

1 x 20cm round spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered and the base lined with parchment paper

150g 70% dark chocolate

50g Amaretti biscuits

100g ground almonds

175g caster sugar

Zest of 1 orange, finely grated

100g room temperature butter, cut into cubes

4 eggs, beaten

Icing sugar for dusting

What to do…

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

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set in a steamer over simmering water.

Pop the Amaretti biscuits in a zip-lock food bag, seal and then crush the biscuits evenly using a rolling pin.

In a food processor, tip in the biscuits, ground almonds, caster sugar and orange zest and whizz until evenly blended. Add the butter and whizz to blend. Add the eggs gradually, processing the whole time. Then, add the melted chocolate and briefly whizz again until blended.

Tip the mixture into your cake tin and pop your chocolate Amaretti cake mixture into the oven, baking for 35 minutes or until the cake is puffed up and slightly cracked around the edges.

Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 15 minutes before carefully transferring to plate/cake stand. Dust the crisp top with icing sugar and serve, with an espresso, a glass of Disaronno liqueur or just on its own. Divine, but I might have already mentioned that!

 Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

 How easy…

Ever so!

Fabulous Fish Thermidor

I have my wonderful friend, Helen, to thank for this dish. She produced it at a girls’ lunch and we all demanded copies of the recipe! It is really luscious and spectacularly easy to make. It can also be made in advance and re-heated. It tastes like a treat but is inexpensive to make – what’s not to like? Recreated at home, this is now on the list of ‘regular supper dishes’.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x baking dish (mine is 30cm x 20cm x 7cm deep)

800g hake, skinned, filleted and cut into 3cm-ish chunks

45g butter

45g flour, sieved

750ml milk/Oatly alternative (to reduce dairy content)

Sea salt and black pepper

Splash rapeseed/olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

300g white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

100ml tomato purée

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

125g Manchego/Cheddar cheese, grated

4 teaspoons brandy

225g raw jumbo king prawns (optional)

What to do…

Preheat oven to 170°c / 325°f / gas 3.

Tip the milk into a medium saucepan and, on a medium heat, gently poach the fish chunks for five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish from the milk and set aside.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. Tip in the flour and quickly stir it in. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a ladle, slowly add your hot milk, stirring in each ladleful before adding the next.

Return the white sauce to the heat and cook until smooth and thickened. Season and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the onion and mushrooms, frying gently until soft. Then, increase the heat to remove any moisture. Add the white sauce together with the tomato purée, mustard, cheese, brandy and the fish. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the mixture into your baking dish, cover and pop in the oven to heat through for about 30 minutes. Wash up your three pans and relax. A delectably delicious dish awaits!

Fabulous fish thermidor is, as the name suggests, fabulous as it is, but if you wanted to add a little luxurious dimension, open the oven after 15 minutes and stir in your raw prawns. Cook for a further 15 minutes or until the prawns are pink.

Serving suggestion…

Steamed cabbage and leek work really well with a baked potato or basmati and wild rice (a current favourite!)

A bit about Manchego…

Manchego cheese has recently been recommended to me by my lovely friend, Jean. It is a cheesemade in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of the Manchego sheep breed. Official Manchego cheese is to be aged for between 60 days and two years, hence it is a little expensive. However, it is soooooooo worth it – absolutely delicious. Having grated enough for the recipe, there was then quite a lot of cheese-snacking to be done whilst preparing the dish. The cheese has a distinctive flavour, well developed but not too strong, creamy with a slight piquancy. I would urge you to try it!

Inspired by…

Lynn Bedford Hall, The Creative Cuisine (thank you again Helen for introducing me to this old but genuinely inspirational book).

How easy…

Wonderfully! I love these dishes that finish themselves off in the oven, while I quickly tidy up the pots and pans and treat myself to a glass of red!