Monthly Archives: February 2016

Welsh Cakes

Warm, buttery, ever so light and delicately sweet, these little Welsh Cakes are a lovely teatime treat and take next to no time to whip up. A real feeling of ‘granny’s home-baking’ comes with them, delightfully crisp on the outside and softer and slightly crumbly in the middle; and they can be enjoyed either with just a sprinkling of caster sugar or with butter and jam or cream and summer fruits – I loved them straight from the pan – not all of them made it to the tin for later enjoyment with the family!

Makes 16

What you need…

1 x 6cm cookie cutter

225g plain flour

85g caster sugar

½ teaspoon mixed spice

½ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

50g butter, cut into chunks

50g lard, cut into chunks, plus a little extra for frying

50g currants

1 egg, beaten

Caster sugar to serve (optional)

What to do…

Tip the flour, sugar, mixed spice, baking powder and salt into your food processor and whiz just to mix them all together. Drop in the butter and lard and whizz again until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add your currants and whizz to mix in. Finally, slowly add your beaten egg, whizzing until you can see the dough forming.

Tip the lot out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough comes together – it should be a similar consistency to short crust pastry.

Roll out to 1 cm thick and cut out rounds with your cookie cutter, re-rolling any trimmings. Drop a small knob of lard into a heavy-based frying pan and melt over a moderate heat. Cook your Welsh Cakes in batches – 2-3 minutes each side, until they are lovely and golden brown and crisp on the outside.

Serve warm if possible but if not, allow to cool on a cooling rack, sprinkle with sugar (if that’s your serving preference) and keep them in an airtight tin (for up to a week apparently – not that we’ll ever get to test that notion!)

Inspired by…

Good Food Magazine (March 2008)

How easy…

Ever so! And really quick too!

 

 

 

Honeycomb Ice Cream

It’s another OMG moment!!!!! Mary Berry made this on Monday night and I did think, “Ooh, I gotta give that one a go!” Made yesterday and sampled today – what can I tell you – its unbelievably easy to make (and a whole lot of fun, given the honeycomb process) and tastes absolutely out of this world – I’m not kidding – give this a go – it won’t be the last time you make it! How can anything this amazing be this simple?! Thank you Mary!!!

Serves 8

What you need…

1 large sheet of Bake O Glide/non-stick baking paper

1 x 900g loaf tin

4 tablespoons golden syrup

150g caster sugar

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

600ml double cream

397g (1 tin) full-fat condensed milk

2 teaspoons popping candy (optional)

OK, so we can agree: this isn’t diet ice cream but what a horrid concept that is anyway!!!

What to do…

In a large, deep saucepan, chuck in the syrup and sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the temperature to moderate and simmer for 5-6 minutes until you have a beautiful honey-coloured caramel.

Remove from the heat and tip in the bicarbonate of soda, mixing like crazy until it is evenly incorporated and foaming (reminds me of one of Connagh’s slightly dodgy childhood experiments!)

Tip the foaming honeycomb out onto your Bake O Glide or baking paper – it will naturally spread into a large circle and then just stop spreading as it starts to set. Leave for about 20 minutes, until the honeycomb has hardened and cooled down and then break into bite-sized pieces – dead easy – it looks much tougher than it actually is! Pop a third of the honeycomb into an air-tight container and save for decoration later.

Whilst the honeycomb is cooling, do a couple of jobs; firstly, fill the loaf tin with cold water and then empty it again. Line the tin with cling film (the water residue helps the cling film to stick to the tin).

Next, fill the saucepan that you used to create the honeycomb with water and then put it on a high heat. As the water comes to the boil, it will melt the residue honeycomb that is stuck to the inside of the pan – then you can just chuck it down the sink – no horrid scrubbing!

Then, make the ice cream: whip the double cream into soft peaks and then stir in the condensed milk. Tip in the remaining two-thirds of the honeycomb and popping candy, if using, and stir to disperse evenly.

Pour into the prepared loaf tin, level off the top and cover with cling film. Freeze overnight.

To serve, tip out and remove the cling film. Sprinkle with the saved honeycomb. Leave for 10 minutes to soften enough to cut, then cut into slices – don’t be mean with them – people are only going to ask for seconds!

Sooooo, soooo naughty but……sooooo, sooooo good!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

As the lady says, “Foolproof!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarte Tatin

The famous accidental fruit pudding that was created by the French sisters, ‘Tatin’! However, it’s acclaim didn’t really start gathering apace until it was introduced to Paris’ Maxim’s in the 1920’s. It has apparently never left the menu since. Anyway, this version is certainly not as glamorously presented as those of more practiced cooks, however it is quite delicious! The sticky, rich and golden brown caramelised apples together with crunchy, sweet pastry are just a heavenly combination. Mine never looks overly attractive – think homemade rustic rather than French elegance, but hey, its taste more than makes up for its humble appearance – just gorgeous!

What you need…

for the pastry

1 x heavy, ovenproof 23cm frying pan

210g plain flour, sifted

100g unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 egg yolk

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons caster sugar

3 tablespoons water

for the filling

90g unsalted butter

180g caster sugar

1.4kg Cox’s apples, peeled, cored and quartered

What to do…

Chuck all the pastry ingredients into your food processor and whizz until a breadcrumb consistency is reached. Tip out onto your work surface and knead for about 1 minute, until the dough is formed. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: melt the butter over a low heat in the frying pan and then evenly sprinkle over the sugar. Arrange the apples snugly in circles on top of the sugar. Turn the heat up and cook for 15-20 minutes, gently bubbling the butter mixture until a deep golden caramel forms.

Let the apples cool a little.

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

Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface, creating a circle slightly larger than your frying pan. Place the pastry over the top of the apples and tuck in the edges (work quickly so that the heat of the apples doesn’t soften the pastry).

Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Ooooh, the lovely smell of apples wallowing in loads of sugar and butter!

Stand your frying pan on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes, allowing the tart to firm up.

To serve (with your heart in your mouth) invert the Tarte Tatin onto a serving plate, praying it comes on in one! Just so you know, mine doesn’t always come out quite in one and there might be a little apple reshuffling required! Anyway, serve hot with crème fraiche , double cream or Greek yogurt. Utterly delightful!

Inspired by…

A torn out recipe from a magazine that I’ve had in my ‘to do’ file for longer than I’ve had children!

How easy…

The making is very straightforward. However, the ‘getting out of the pan’ is a bit hit and miss for me. I shall clearly just have to persevere until I get that bit right. It doesn’t matter though! A lovely little tart it is!!!

 

Sunshine Shorties

So, today the sun came out and it actually felt like spring! I rustled these up in no time – they’re childishly simple (ideal to make with little people), ever so quick and really, really tasty – crunchy oats with a softer middle and just a hint of golden syrup – the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. And bonus: I got to enjoy my cup of tea and shorties, having photographed them, in the garden’s sunshine (rather than the studio where food has been confined to for months!) The perfect choice for a day that feels like spring really is on its way!

Makes 30

What you need…

2 x baking trays, lightly buttered or lined with Bake O Glide

125g butter

125g caster sugar

1 teaspoon golden syrup

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon boiling water

125g porridge oats (gluten-free works equally well)

125g self-raising flour

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 160°c / 325°f / gas 3.

Put the butter, sugar, syrup, bicarbonate of soda and water into a large saucepan and melt. Remove from the heat and tip in the oats and flour. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Place teaspoon-sized balls on the prepared baking trays, leaving space for them to spread out. Pop them in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. When they’ve set slightly, cool them completely on a wire rack. That’s it! Make tea; scoff delicious shorties!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Childishly simple and sooooooo quick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Plaice with Mustard and Tarragon Sauce, Asparagus and Peas

This is a really lovely, delicate and light fish supper. The sauce is quite piquant and, when tasted on its own, really rather strong. But, take a forkful that includes a little fish, greenery and sauce and the combination is fabulous: the sauce is the perfect foil for the delicate fish – it just all works brilliantly. And – bonus – you can make the sauce ahead, leaving just a few minutes cooking of the fish and vegetables just before you want to eat. It’s on the ‘favourites’ list for me!

Serves 4

What you need…

500g asparagus, trimmed

100g frozen peas

1.5kg plaice, filleted and cut into portions

Splash rapeseed oil

1 baby gem lettuce, shredded

Small knob of butter

Sea salt and black pepper, for seasoning

Olive oil to drizzle

for the sauce

100ml water

½ fish stockpot (I use Knorr)

Splash rapeseed oil

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

4 tablespoons cider vinegar

100ml dry, still cider

2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard

100ml double cream

4 teaspoons chopped tarragon, stalks reserved

2 teaspoons capers

What to do…

First, blanch the asparagus. Pop in a deep frying pan of boiling, salted water and simmer vigorously for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Dry the frying pan – you’ll be using it again later.

Remove the frozen peas from the freezer and tip them out onto a plate to start defrosting.

In a jug, create some fish stock by pouring in 100ml water from your kettle and dissolving the fish stockpot, using a small balloon whisk. Set aside.

Now to the sauce: heat a splash of rapeseed oil in a pan over a moderate heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cider vinegar and bring to the boil. Pour in the cider and fish stock and bubble furiously until the stock is reduced by half. Add the mustard, cream and tarragon stalks and simmer, reducing and thickening the sauce so that it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the tarragon stalks and discard. Stir in the capers and chopped tarragon. Set aside.

When you’re about ready to eat, preheat your grill to medium and either oil a baking tray or line it with Bake O Glide. Sprinkle salt all over the tray and lay your fish fillets on top, skin side up. Place under the grill and cook for 6 minutes, checking the last minute or two to avoid overcooking.

Meanwhile, put your sauce back on a very gentle heat, just to keep it warm.

Return to your frying pan and splash in the rapeseed oil. When hot, add the lettuce and wilt for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and peas with the knob of butter and warm through for a couple of minutes. Season to taste.

Remove the fish from the grill and leave to rest for a couple of minutes.

To serve, arrange the greenery on warmed plates and place the fish on top, skin side up. Drizzle with a little olive oil and then spoon the sauce around the fish. Don’t attack – it’s to be savoured but remember to get a little bit of everything on each forkful and enjoy the combined flavours – simply lovely!

Tips…

Instead of all that peeling and chopping, I buy Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped shallots and frozen chopped garlic from Waitrose – lovely and fresh and saves a lot of faffing about.

Inspired by…

Chef, Nathan Outlaw and my bro, who insisted that I couldn’t do this blog without this Nathan Outlaw book in my collection – good call, Martin!

How easy…

Really, really easy and a pleasure to make!

Ginger Panna Cotta with Rhubarb

A lovely light dessert with beautifully contrasting flavours: the panna cotta is light, fresh and ever so slightly tart whilst the rhubarb is lovely and sweet: the two come together in perfect harmony and this dessert takes just a few minutes to make – simply delicious!

Serves 6

What you need…

2 leaves gelatine

350ml double cream

225ml Stones Green Ginger Wine

30g caster sugar

50ml water

3 pieces sliced stem ginger, from a jar

2 sticks rhubarb, trimmed and cut into little chunks (3 sticks if they’re skinny)

What to do…

Pop the gelatine into some cold water to soften.

Meanwhile, bring the cream and ginger wine to the boil in a medium-sized pan, stirring gently. As soon as it starts to bubble, remove from the heat. Squeeze the water from the gelatine sheets and pop them into the cream and ginger wine mixture. Stir until the gelatine is dissolved and the mixture is thickened.

Sieve into a jug and then pour into 6 pretty glasses or ramekins.

Pop in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours.

To prepare the rhubarb, heat the sugar, water and stem ginger in a small saucepan, bringing it to the boil. Add the rhubarb and cook on the high heat for 1 minute, then remove from the heat, cover the pan with cling film and set aside, leaving the rhubarb to finish cooking in the residual heat.

When ready to serve, spoon the rhubarb and juices over the panna cottas and just dive in!

Inspired by…

Tom Kerridge

How easy…

Dead easy and it takes no time!

Brûléed Cheesecake

This is lovely, light, fluffy and quite luscious in the middle; with an extra bit of pizzazz provided by the crunchy, sweet brûléed topping – sinfully delicious and therefore very easy just to keep digging into for just that little bit more! And then of course, there’s the quite necessary opportunity to play with a blowtorch – great fun and very easy to get carried away! Give it a go!

Serves 10-12

What you need…

1 x 20cm round spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered and bottom lined with parchment paper/Bake O Glide

1 x kitchen blowtorch!

for the biscuit base

100g unsalted butter, melted

250g digestive biscuits

4 tablespoons demerara sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 egg yolk, beaten

for the filling

Zest of 1 lemon

500g full fat soft cheese

125g golden caster sugar

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

3 eggs, beaten

200ml full fat crème fraiche

for the brûlée topping

2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

What to do…

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

Roughly break up the biscuits and chuck them in your food processor (with the blade attachment). Whizz until they look like chunky breadcrumbs.

Thoroughly mix together the digestive crumbs, sugar, butter and ginger. Tip into the cake tin and, using a straight-sided glass, firmly press the mixture evenly across the base and 3cm up the sides. Pop in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Brush over the egg yolk and pop back in the oven for a further 3 minutes to seal.

In a large bowl, use a spatula to mix together the lemon zest, cheese, sugar, cornflour and vanilla. Using a handheld electric whisk, work in the eggs until smooth and then, returning back to the spatula, fold in the crème fraiche.

Pour the filling over the base, pop in the oven and bake for 10 minutes; then reduce the temperature to 140°c / 275°f / gas 1 and bake for a further 45 minutes or until set to a gentle wobble. Turn the oven off but leave your brûléed cheesecake in for 1 hour, with the oven door left ajar. Cool completely and then pop in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Release your cheesecake from the confines of its tin (I didn’t dare to remove the tin bottom for fear of total collapse). Scatter over the golden caster sugar and arm yourself with the blowtorch! Brûlée the top until the sugar turns a deep coppery brown – for a bit of theatre, do this at the table! Serve and enjoy the unique combination that is the crunchy sweet brûlée topping with the lovely light and fluffy cheesecake filling! Utterly delightful!

Inspired by…

My Waitrose magazine

How easy…

Very easy. The digestives need bullying into place but even if there’s a bit of crumbling going on, it just adds to the homemade appeal!

Hot New York Deli Style Pastrami Sandwiches

I’m not really a sandwich kinda girl, but I do hanker for the fabulous ‘Pastrami on Rye’ sandwiches that I indulged in every time I went to New York. That being several years ago now, I sat up very straight when James Martin explained that he was going to show us how to make Hot Paper Bag Sandwiches of Pastrami, Fontina (cheese) and Pickled Cucumber during his Home Comforts series. As ever, I’ve fiddled with the recipe, but the first words out of John’s mouth, were, “Oooh, this is New York on a plate!” And these sandwiches are pretty damned close to what I remember – that wonderful combination of hot pastrami mingling with the slightly sharp yet smooth bite of the mustard, the melted cheese and then the tart cucumber that was masquerading splendidly as gherkin. Wonderful, edgy and given the packaging, slightly rough around the edges – very New York to my mind!

Serves 2

What you need…

Parchment paper

String

75ml cider vinegar or rice wine

25g caster sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

½ cucumber, thinly sliced

1 small bunch dill, leaves only, roughly chopped

6 thin slices sourdough bread (I know, not rye, but it works really well)

20g-ish butter

1 dessertspoon Dijon mustard

150g pastrami, thinly sliced

200g Jarlsberg/Manchego, sliced

What to do…

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

To make the marinade that’s going to transpose your very British cucumbers into all-out New York-attitude gherkins, bring the cider vinegar to a simmer in a pan with the sugar, salt and mustard seeds, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pop your cucumber slices into a bowl and pour over the hot vinegar marinade. Stir in the dill and set aside to infuse.

Meanwhile, toast the sourdough slices and spread with butter. For each of the two sandwiches that you are making, take one slice and spread with mustard, then top with pastrami, then cheese, then the cucumber. Top with another slice of toast and then repeat the layers: mustard, pastrami, cheese, cucumber and then finish off with another slice of toast, but this time, butter side down.

That’s one sandwich done; do the same for the other.

Wrap each sandwich in a large sheet of parchment paper and secure with string. Pop both of your sandwich parcels into the oven and bake for 15 minutes until they are piping hot – enjoy the fabulous aroma emanating from your oven!

Then, it’s present-opening time: snip the string with scissors and unwrap your Hot New York Deli Style Pastrami Sandwiches. OMG – just OMG – simply fab.

Inspired by…

James Martin, Home Comforts

How easy…

More than you would normally do just for a sandwich but then again….they’re so much more than just a sandwich! Very worth it!

Crab and Prawn Coconut Soup

I love this crab and prawn coconut soup: it’s delightfully light, tasty and fragranced but also enough about it to pass as a substantial starter or light main course. The seafood flavours are beautifully emphasised by the influences of the lemon grass, fish sauce and coriander – it’s absolutely lovely and you can knock it up in a flash – definitely going on my ‘supper party starters’ list, so if you’re coming around, expect it – you’ll enjoy!

Serves 2

What you need…

Splash rapeseed oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2cm fresh ginger, peeled and then grated

1 lemon grass stem, trimmed and sliced

Pinch hot chilli powder

200g cooked crab meat

500ml boiling water from the kettle

1 fish stockpot (I use Knorr)

200g coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce

225g raw, peeled prawns

2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

Juice of ½ lemon

Good handful chopped fresh coriander

What to do…

In a jug, pop in your stockpot and then pour in 500ml boiling water from the kettle. Whisk with either a fork or small balloon whisk to dissolve and then set your stock aside.

In a large saucepan over a moderate heat, splash in the oil and add the garlic, ginger, lemon grass and chilli powder. Cook until golden. Tip in the crab meat, stock, coconut milk and fish sauce. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the crab meat and the prawns and cook until the prawns are just pink. Then add the spring onions, lemon juice and coriander. Enjoy this lovely, light fragrant soup – quite delicious!

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy….

Very easy, quick and quite delightful!

Espresso Panna Cotta

It’s OMG time again! Made this on a bit of a whim this morning, mainly to see how hard it would be to extract from the mould and also whether my allocation of gelatine was sufficient to maintain the ‘w’ factor (wobble) whilst being set. Both tests worked and then obviously, we had to test the finished product. OMG AGAIN! This espresso panna cotta is light and silky smooth but the combination of vanilla and coffee produce a simply exquisite flavour. The only problem is that they are so light, we felt obliged to try another one! Try it – it’s easy, quick and simply sensational.

Serves 4 – 6 depending on the size of your moulds

What you need…

6 dariole moulds or ramekin dishes

285ml double cream

210ml full fat milk

1 vanilla pod, split in half (but retained) and seeds scraped out

4 gelatine leaves

150g caster sugar

4 teaspoons good quality instant coffee granules (I used Lavazza)

What to do…

Fill your moulds up with cold water. (I have always done this in the belief that it helps in the ultimate extraction of jellies, mousses etc. I can’t find any actual authentication of this – it may be an old wives’ tale – but I’m not taking the chance just to see – it’s always worked for me!)

Tip the cream and milk into a heavy-based saucepan and, over a moderate heat, bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Add the vanilla seeds and the pod, then remove from the heat. Set aside for 5 minutes, allowing the mixture’s flavours to infuse.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 3 – 4 minutes. Then, squeeze out the extra water and add the gelatine to the warm cream/milk mixture. Stir until dissolved.

Add in the coffee granules and stir until they are dissolved. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a jug, discarding the vanilla pods and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Empty the moulds of their water. Don’t wipe them out but simply fill the moulds up with your panna cotta mixture. Pop in the fridge and leave to set for at least 3 hours.

When you have your spoon poised and you’re ready to indulge, dip each mould into a small bowl of hot water (poured from the kettle) for just 10 – 15 seconds – you will see the edge of the panna cotta coming away from the mould – leave it not a second longer but quickly invert it onto your serving plate. It will come out beautifully glossy and speckled with the vanilla seeds. And the taste is all rich, smooth, cool coffee – simply sensational! I’m going to have to make some more really soon!

Serving suggestion…

You could serve this with a chocolate sauce or perhaps a couple of Amaretti biscuits but to be honest, I think any accompaniments would detract from this little pud’s natural loveliness. It needs nothing – enjoy!

Inspired by…

Paul Merrett, www.bbc.co.uk

How easy…

Very, very easy and really quick and next to no mess and….there isn’t a single reason why not to try it!