Monthly Archives: December 2015

Poached Egg with Asparagus and Parma Ham

 

You know how sometimes the ridiculously simple can be stunningly good – this little recipe fits that description. I can’t give you exact measurements because this is definitely one that is defined by your individual taste and appetite. Bottom line though, it’s a gorgeous little indulgent lunch or starter that you can knock out in no time and will knock your socks off! This version of poaching an egg is also fabulous, creates no washing up and is failsafe (dare I say it!)

Serves 1

What you need…

A few slices of Parma Ham, up to you; it depends how much you fancy

A few asparagus spears, again as much as you fancy

1 Large Egg

Parmesan, grated, again the amount depends on your taste

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

On your worktop, layout out one 30cm square piece of cling film. Lay another, the same size on top. (The size is a rough guide). Rub a teaspoon of olive oil all over the middle of the top piece. Pick up the double cling film layers gently push into a teacup. Break your egg into the cling film and then pick up the corners and edges of the cling film layers and tie in a knot so that you egg is in a little cling film bundle. Pop into a saucepan of boiling water, turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 5-6 minutes.

Take the asparagus and cut the hard ends off (usually about half of the spear) and pop them into a separate shallow pan of boiling, salted water. Boil for about 4 minutes – test one to see if it’s cooked to your liking. Drain in a colander.

Arrange the Parma ham and cooked asparagus on a plate.

Cut your poached egg ‘bundle’ just below the knot and tip the egg out onto the Parma ham and asparagus.

Season with Parmesan, salt and pepper. Break open the egg and watch with delight as the yolk dribbles all over the asparagus and ham. For maximum enjoyment, try a bit of everything with each forkful. Serve with toasted Italian bread – Pane Pugliese (very crispy). Altogether poached egg with asparagus and Parma ham can be described as very yummy!

Inspired by…

The poached egg is Jamie Oliver’s. The dish itself is just kinda out there I think.

How easy…

About as easy as it gets!

 

 

Leek and Potato Soup with Nutmeg and Truffle Oil

 You know those drab winter days when you want to dress down in all your cosiest clothes and snuggle up in an overstuffed armchair next to a roaring fire? This is the soup for those days! Lacking the armchair and fire, this soup still cheers me up. The wholesomeness of the vegetables is made slightly less virtuous with the addition of a little truffle oil and the nutmeg gives it a gentle, warming kick.

 Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

 Splash of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and roughly sliced

2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped

400g leeks, trimmed and roughly sliced

1 apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

400g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

1.8 litres boiling water

2 chicken stock pots (I use Knorr)

Sea salt and black pepper

½ grated fresh nutmeg

A little drizzle of truffle oil (I use Carluccio’s Olio al Tartufo Bianco)

What to do…

To make your leek and potato soup with nutmeg and truffle oil, splash a little olive oil into a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the garlic. Then add the carrots, onions and leeks. Mix together with a wooden spoon and leave on the heat for around 10 minutes with the lid askew.

Pop your stock pots into a big jug and add a little water – maybe 400ml and then use a balloon whisk to dissolve the stock pots into the water. Top the jug up with boiling water to 1.8 litres.

Pour the stock into the saucepan with your vegetables and then add the potatoes and apple. Stir and then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on.

Pour the soup into your food processor jug (you will probably have to divide it into two as the jug doesn’t have the capacity for all of the soup). Add the nutmeg and whizz until smooth and then return to the saucepan. Taste. Season. Taste. Season. When you’re happy with the taste, serve into homely mugs or sophisticate bowls – whatever takes your fancy. Drizzle a little truffle oil on the top and……relax and enjoy your winter-warming soup.

Tips…

This gorgeous truffle oil comes in a tiny (55ml) bottle and IS expensive, but a little goes a very, very long way and it will last for ages. It’s worth having in the cupboard – I use it to take dishes from the really quite ordinary to the really rather indulgent!

I’m recommending the Cooks’ Ingredients frozen, chopped garlic from Waitrose. No peeling or chopping, just a quick shake into the pan and then back in the freezer.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

A bit of chopping, a bit of boiling and a bit of whizzing – very easy and done in a flash

 

Christmas Mincemeat and Mince Pies

Before this blog, it had never occurred to me to make either my own mincemeat or my own pastry. The latter happened for the first time last week and as for mincemeat – I am a total convert. It’s spectacularly simple and fills the house with festive fragrance as it gently cooks in the oven. I did struggle with the pastry (too short apparently, according to John – the pastry, not me!) but wow! I can honestly say that these mince pies are the best I’ve ever tasted – it’s not my cooking, but the fantastic recipes!

for the mincemeat

Makes 2.75kg (6 – 7 jars, I used a collection of different sized jam jars!)

What you need…

450g cooking apples, cored, left unpeeled and chopped small

225g suet

350g raisins

225g sultanas

225g currants

150g cranberries

225g candied peel, finely chopped

350g soft dark brown sugar

Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

50g flaked almonds

4 teaspoons ground mixed spice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons brandy/cognac

for the sweet shortcrust pastry (makes about 12 mince pies)

1 x 12-hole tartlet tin, lightly buttered

125g unsalted butter

65g icing sugar

1 egg yolk

250g plain flour

1 – 2 teaspoons water

for the finish

1 egg, lightly beaten

icing sugar to dust

What to do to make the mincemeat…

The evening before you want to cook the mincemeat, combine everything, except the brandy/cognac, in a large casserole, stirring the ingredients in as you add them to make sure that they are thoroughly mixed. Pop the lid on and leave in a cool place overnight to allow the flavours to gather.

The following morning, preheat the oven to 120°c / 225°f / gas ¼.

Pop the casserole, with its lid on, into the oven and cook for 3 hours.

Remove from the oven and over the next few hours, whilst it is cooling, give it a little stir every now and then to make sure that the now melted suet is evenly distributed and coating the other ingredients, rather than being separate.

When it’s cold, stir in the brandy and spoon into clean jars with lids/seals. Keep your Christmas mincemeat in a cool, dark cupboard until you are ready to make your mince pies.

What to do to make your mince pies…

Mix together the butter and icing sugar until they are completely blended. Add the egg yolk and then the flour. Kneed until you have a smooth dough. If you’re struggling to get it to stick together, add a little water and continue to knead. Leave to rest for at least 1 hour before using.

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

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a little less than 5mm thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 12 rounds slightly larger than the tartlet moulds for the pie bottoms and gently push them in. Fill them with mincemeat. Using a cookie cutter 2 sizes smaller than the first, cut another 12 rounds for the lids. Brush a little beaten egg around the edges of the lids and stick them to the top of the mince pies. Brush with little more egg and then, using a sharp knife, cut a little hole in the top of each one to allow the steam to escape during cooking.

Bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Transfer to a cooling rack and when cool, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar.

Take a bite and absolutely relish the abundant gorgeousness of these festive treats – a good reason to have Christmas all year around! Once you’ve made your first Christmas mincemeat and mince pies, you’ll never revert to shop-bought again!

Tip…

Ideally, make your mincemeat in October/November. Stored in a cool place, it will keep for months and just needs to be brought out whenever you fancy a quick batch of festive loveliness!

Inspired by…

Team effort here: mincemeat by Delia Smith; pastry from Raymond Blanc

How Easy…

On the mincemeat, very little effort for such a lovely outcome. I nearly gave up on the pastry as it kept falling apart when I stuck to the original recipe. The addition of a little water resolved the issue and it was worth persevering.