Monthly Archives: March 2016

Black Velvet Baby Cakes

Never one to miss an opportunity to make cake, today I am presented with St. Patrick’s Day and in celebration made these lovely cakes that are spectacularly easy and fast to whip up as well as being indulgently delicious! They also bring together that wonderful combination of Guinness and Champagne! The dark, rich and quite dense sponge contrasts perfectly with the light, frothy, sweet cream, emulating the famous cocktail perfectly. The serving suggestion is to accompany these cakes with a glass of Champagne, but it’s a tad early for that – they work equally well with a cup of good, strong coffee – indulge and enjoy!

Makes 6

What you need…

6 x dariole moulds, well buttered and bases lined with parchment paper

100g butter, room temperature, cut into chunks

175g light brown soft sugar

1 egg

100g self-raising flour

50g ground almonds

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

5 tablespoons cocoa, plus a little extra for decorating

150ml Guinness

for the cream topping

200ml double cream

25g icing sugar

Splash Champagne

What to do…

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

Chuck the butter, sugar, egg, flour, almonds, bicarbonate, cocoa and Guinness into your food processor and whizz until lump-free. Divide the mixture evenly between the dariole moulds, pop them on a baking tray and stick them in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until risen and a skewer poked in comes out clean.

Cool for 15 minutes and then remove them from their tins (see tip) and cool completely, keeping them the same way up – no need to invert.

Using a handheld electric whisk, whip the cream together with the icing sugar and Champagne until nice and thick and simply dollop on top of your cakes. Serve your fabulous black velvet baby cakes with a glass or two of Champagne – what could be nicer?! Thank you St. Patrick!

Tip…

No matter how thoroughly I butter dariole moulds, I have historically had a bit of a stress getting things out of them until John introduced me to this method. Rather that slipping a smooth knife down the sides of the cake to loosen it from the tin, simply tap the tin sharply and all the way around with the handle of a metal knife – they come out beautifully then – have used this method with panna cottas, ice cream and mousses as well as cake – thank you darling!

The story behind Black Velvet…

Amazing what you can find on Google: “This famous drink was invented in 1861 at Brook’s Club in London. Prince Albert had died, everyone was in mourning. The story goes that the steward at the club, overcome with the emotion of the occasion, ordered that even the champagne should be put into mourning and proceeded to mix it with Guinness. The taste was so delicious the Black Velvet quickly became extremely popular.”

Inspired by…

Good Food Magazine (2011)

How easy…

Whiz, bake, whip, enjoy – that’s it!!!!

Lemon Sole with Brown Shrimp and Caper Butter Sauce

 

I’m becoming a regular visitor to the recently found fishmongers in Windsor. I wanted skate today but he’d just sold the last lot so I was reminded of a recipe seen on James Martin’s Saturday Kitchen this weekend with lemon sole and here is my tweaked version. It’s fast, simple and absolutely lovely – something that I am convinced is to do with the minimal tinkering applied to the fish – its natural flavours are there to be enjoyed, enhanced by a lovely little simple sauce. Just yummy!

Serves 4

What you need…

Splash rapeseed oil

800g lemon sole, cleaned and filleted to 4 portions

Sea salt and black pepper

100g unsalted butter

90g brown shrimp, cooked and peeled

2 teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed

Juice of two lemons

Small handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

What to do…

On a high heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Bubble away until the butter turns a lovely golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and, standing as far away as is feasible, pour in the lemon juice – it will go crazy and spit – you don’t want this all over you! Set aside and then add the brown shrimp, capers and parsley. Put back on the heat and keep warm on a very low heat, whilst you cook the fish.

Season the sole fillets with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and once hot, add the fish and cook for 3 minutes on each side.

Serve the fish and then drizzle over some of the brown shrimp and caper butter sauce. It’s lovely. Once a again, a reminder that the simple things in life often provide the most pleasure! (Providing you first have good quality fish, in this case!) Enjoy your lemon sole with brown shrimp and caper butter sauce!

Serving suggestion…

Parmentier potatoes together with creamed leeks with chestnut and thyme crumble (didn’t photograph – will post another day!)

Inspired by…

Bryn Williams, Saturday Kitchen

How easy…

Ever so. All you need is great fish to start with and lemon sole is nothing like as expensive as Dover Sole, so…..no holding back!

Pani Puri

This is my first tentative foray into Indian food. Well, that’s not quite true; in December, I was seen to throw the entire chicken curry that I had attempted down the waste disposal – it was THAT bad. I knew I needed help and have since spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with my lovely friend, Bina, who patiently took me through several delectable dishes, which we then enjoyed over dinner. A popular street food, Pani Puri is what we enjoyed to start with and it was delicious! Puris are little crispy puffed up ‘balls’ made from wheat semolina. They don’t taste of too much until you stuff them up with this lovely filling and a choice of spicy and tangy chutneys. Topped with Sev Mamra (spicy puffed rice), these are quite delicious: the crispy shell of the puris breaks open to reveal the gently spiced filling, the kick and tanginess of the different chutneys and the cooling freshness of the coriander – a really lovely alternative to canapés and great fun, because the best bit is that you put all the elements on the table, letting friends and family assemble their own puris. My scribbled notes, taken on my afternoon with Bina, are perhaps not as accurate as they could be but John and I thoroughly enjoyed my efforts!

Makes 10

What you need…

 10 x Pani Puri (they come in boxes of 40+ from Indian supermarkets and last for ages)

1 jar ready-made green chilli chutney

1 jar ready-made date tamarind chutney

Sev Mamra (available in different sized bags – you can enjoy whatever is left over simply as a snack on its own – very moreish!)

for the filling…

2 red potatoes, chopped small

Splash rapeseed oil

2 Indian or small red onions, chopped small

2 teaspoons coriander/cumin powder (Dhana Jeerer)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

200g tinned brown chick peas (Kala Chana), strained and rinsed

Handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Using your finger, tap out a hole in the top of each of the pani puri – it’s not too important how big, just large enough to get the filling into! Pop them on a serving plate and onto the table where you’ll be eating.

Tip the potatoes into a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and then simmer until soft. Strain through a sieve.

Dry the pan and add the rapeseed oil. Over a moderate heat, fry the onions and all of the dried spices and cook 5 minutes. If the mixture gets too dry, splash in a little water, just to keep the mixture moist.

Stir in the potatoes and chick peas and warm through. Chuck in a couple of teaspoons of chopped coriander, setting the rest aside until you’re ready to eat. And that’s your filling made!

In 4 pretty little serving bowls, spoon out some of each of the chutneys, the coriander and the sev mamra. In a larger bowl, serve the warm filling. Add the bowls to the table next to the pani puri. Equip everyone with plate and teaspoons and watch your guests’ delighted faces as they create their own starter or canapés, popping a little filling into the bottom and then topping with each of the chutneys, perhaps some fresh coriander and then the sev mamra – just delicious!

Inspired by…

Bina! (Thank you soooooo much)

How easy…

Really easy – there’s only the filling to make and then everyone makes their own!

 

Homemade Pesto

 

This fits into the category of ‘if it tastes THAT good and is THAT easy’, why buy ready-prepared! This is gorgeous and just shouts ‘fresh’ – it’s tangy and really, really flavoursome. It literally took about 2 minutes to make, including getting the ingredients from the fridge! As well as stirring through pasta (which is what it was made for) I can also use it with gnocchi, as a topping for Italian toasted bread, to top pizza or popped on a nice bit of steak……the list goes on. Give it a go – it’s really lovely!

Makes enough for pasta for 4 – 6

What you need…

Large handful of basil

Large handful of flat-leaved parsley

40g roughly grated Parmesan

15g pine nuts

2 anchovy fillets

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

80ml olive oil

½ teaspoon sugar

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Juice ½ lemon (optional)

What to do…

With the exception of the lemon juice, put the lot in your food processor. Whizz until a rough paste is created. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Whizz. Taste again. Add lemon juice, if liked. Whizz. Serve. Enjoy and feel jolly smug that something tasting this great requires next to no effort!

Tip…

Keep your pesto sauce in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

Inspired by…

Delicious magazine

How easy…

Ridiculously. You could almost do it in your sleep!

Revani

Ooooh, this is lovely, especially with a double espresso mid morning! (My exact words were, “Yum, that was naughty and delicious!” Torn out of a magazine, this recipe for Greek Revani is gorgeous! Using semolina creates a denser sponge than normal and the syrup that is absorbed into it makes this delightful treat really moist and moreish. Gentle flavours and fragrances of orange and lemon permeate and, despite its delightfully squidgy density, it’s so light that it’s very easy to simply reach for a second slice. Highly recommended – absolutely delicious! Also, dead easy and really quick to make!

Serves 10

What you need…

1 x 23cm spring form cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

5 eggs, separated

100g caster sugar

50g plain flour

100g semolina

¼ teaspoon salt

Zest of 1 orange

50g unsalted butter, melted

50g no-peel marmalade

for the syrup

250g caster sugar

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

½ vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out

300ml water

What to do…

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

Chuck your egg yolks and sugar into the food processor and whizz until light and creamy. Whilst still running, tip the flour and semolina into the processor and then the salt, orange zest, melted butter and marmalade. Keep whizzing until smooth.

In a separate bowl, use an electric hand held whisk to whip up the egg whites until they form soft peaks and then gently fold into the cake batter in 3 batches.

Pour the whole lot into your cake tin and pop in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Put all the ingredients, including the vanilla pod into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Allow to cool a little and then sieve the syrup into a jug. Squish some of the vanilla seeds through the sieve into the strained syrup (this isn’t necessary – it’s more for appearance than taste).

When the cake has cooled for 20 – 30 minutes, transfer it from the tin to a serving plate and then use your skewer to pierce holes all over the cake, poking it right the way through. Gently pour over the syrup, watching as it soaks into the sponge, making it lovely and moist. I didn’t tip all the syrup in all at once but gradually, coming back to the cake every few minutes and pouring a bit more over once the previous amount had been absorbed, until it was all gone.

That’s it – all done, ready to indulge in – absolutely delicious!

Serving suggestion…

On its own is fabulous but if you want to dress it up a little, spoon a dollop of Greek yogurt on the top, sprinkling with slightly crushed pistachios – delightful!

Tip…

As much as Revani is gorgeous and impossible to resist when first cooked, keep it in the fridge and it will ‘gather’ over a couple of days, tasting – dare I say it – even better!

 Inspired by…

Yotam Ottolenghi for Waitrose magazine

 How easy…

Spectacularly and the results far outweigh the effort!

Revani Close up w

Fantastic Feast of Pulled Pork

OK! A savoury OMG moment! I can count the number of times I have eaten pork on the fingers of one hand probably (other than bacon and sausages – they don’t count!) But…I am drawn to a pig roast but it never quite delivers in taste what the enticing aromas promise. So, anyway this recipe caught my attention and I have to say that I am now a total convert! This pork was succulent and sooooo tasty; flexible too – it was happy stuffed in rolls or dressed up with plums and a lovely potato and apple combination that I made up on a whim. Seriously, for a relaxed family and friends supper that everyone will just love, give this one a go. Oh also, zero effort – pop in oven and walk off for 6 hours – love it!

Serves 4-6

What you need…

for the pork…

1 x roasting tin, lined with enough foil to cover the pork

1.6Kg shoulder of pork, string and rind removed

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1½ tablespoons dark brown sugar

300ml hot water

for the sides…

4 red potatoes, chunked

2 cloves of garlic, chopped,

1 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper

Splash of olive oil

2 Pink Lady apples, cored and chunked

4 Ciabatta rolls

Knob of butter

4 – 6 plums, halved and stoned

What to do…

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

In a small bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.

Unroll the pork and pop it in the foil-lined roasting tin. Rub the mixed ingredients all over the pork and pop it straight in the oven for 30 minutes to brown. Reduce the heat to 150°c / 300°f / gas 2. Pour the water into the foil and then wrap the foil around the joint and seal tightly. Cook for around 6 hours or until tender.

Just before you get to the end of the 6-hour cooking time, pop the red potatoes in a baking dish, scatter over with garlic and dried rosemary, salt and pepper and the splash of olive oil; stir to mix everything together thoroughly.

Increase the oven back up to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7 and uncover the pork. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes the remove from the oven. At the same time, pop in the baking dish of potatoes.

After 10 minutes, remove the pork from the oven, cover with foil and rest for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6. Tip the apples into the potatoes, stir in and roast for another 25 minutes.

10 minutes before you are ready to serve, pop the ciabatta rolls into the oven to warm through – they should only take 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over a moderate heat and then place in the plum halves, flesh side down. Turn the heat up to high and cook for 10 minutes until the flesh is just starting to go golden brown.

Everything is now ready and your can dive in. Put the lot onto a serving platter, start pulling the pork with two forks and then leave it on the platter for everyone else to help themselves: pulled pork in ciabatta rolls or just on it’s own with the wonderful addition of a few of those potatoes and the OMG plums – they go sooooooo well. Whichever choice, it doesn’t matter – it will all go! Enjoy – a fantastic feast of pulled pork that requires next to no effort!

Inspired by…

Lovepork.co.uk

How easy…

Seriously, next to zero effort for a really fantastic sharing supper!

Passion Fruit Pots of Summer Sunshine

Another one from Mary Berry’s foolproof series, these little Passion Fruit Pots are simply delicious – they are light and fresh and the best description that I can give each of them is ‘a little pot of summer’! You can practically taste the sunshine! Simple to make, simply gorgeous to taste and quite simply, a ‘must-have’!

 Serves 6

 What you need…

 6 pretty glasses or pots to serve

600ml double cream

100g caster sugar

6 passion fruit

Juice of 1 lime

What to do…

Halve 5 of the passion fruit and scoop out the seeds and juice into the blender part of your food processor. Whizz until smooth – this will enhance the flavour and the fabulous smell will remind you of an English summer morning! Sieve into a jug. Set aside the sieved juice and throw away the seeds.

Pour the cream into a medium-sized saucepan, add the sugar and stir slowly over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then, increase the heat and boil for 3 minutes, then remove from heat.

Add the cream to the juice and stir to combine. Add the lime juice and stir – you will see that the mixture is thickening up nicely. Pour into your 6 glasses and then pop in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

To serve, cut the remaining passion fruit in half, scoop out the seeds and juice and divide between the 6 glasses – you don’t need much but it is a nice finishing touch!

Enjoy your little pots of summer sunshine – quite simply delightful!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Extremely easy and quick to whip up!

John’s Yorkshire Puddings

John’s Yorkshire Puddings are legendary. Family and friends get REALLY excited when they come to us for a Sunday Roast. John cooks the lot and it is unquestionably in a league of its own! Every element of the meal is wonderful however the Yorkshires and his gravy are simply spectacular! I’ve met many people who reckon they can’t make decent Yorkshire Puddings – try this recipe – it will transform your Sunday Lunch!

Serves: this recipe makes one large Yorkshire Pudding and 12 tiddlers. I can’t tell you how many they serve – they get demolished whether there’s 6 of us, 8 or 10!!!

1 x 20cm round baking tin and 1 x 12-hole muffin tin

Fat from top of gravy stock from the previous week’s Roast Dinner or goose fat or lard

270g plain flour

4 large eggs

275ml full fat milk and 200ml water (in same jug)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 heaped tablespoons suet

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7. I have assumed you are using the same oven to roast your meat (we have 2 chickens).

Ideally, you will have a jug of stock from the previous week’s roast dinner and topping this will be a layer of fat. Scoop off the fat and put in half tsp in the bottom of the individual moulds and two dessertspoons in the ‘family-sized’ mould. (The stock should be used as the base for this week’s gravy, excluding any remaining fat).

If you’re starting from scratch, do the same with either goose fat or lard.

Sift the flour into the bowl of a standalone electric mixer. (If you don’t have one, use a roomy bowl with an electric handheld whisk) Make a well and break in the eggs. Whisk slowly. Whilst whisking, gradually pour in the milk and water. Turn the speed up to medium and whisk for 2 minutes. Switch mixer off. Using a spatula, loosen any stuck flour from the sides or bottom. Season to taste. Mix at medium speed for a further two minutes. Leave to rest until cooking time.

Pop your baking tray and muffin tin into the oven and heat until the fat is smokin’ hot!

Sprinkle the suet into the batter and give it a quick whizz. Ladle the mixture into the your hot baking tray and muffin tin. Pop them both into the oven and cook for around 20 minutes or until golden brown. Watch those babies rise!!!!!!

Serve with your roast dinner – we don’t follow convention – Yorkshire Puddings are served with chicken, beef, suet puddings……pretty much everything!

Inspired by…

John who in turn, tweaked Delia Smith’s recipe

365-6 copy

How easy…

They are easy so don’t be hesitant – given them a go!

 

 

Fast, Fresh and Fabulous Smoked Salmon Paté

Stuck for a lovely starter that is simply no hassle at all? Looking for a quick, delicious lunch or perhaps part of a picnic or fridge raid-type of snack? Whichever, this paté is made in about 3 minutes flat and is simply delightful – light, fresh and quite delicious – dress it up or serve it as it comes, this is another one on the favourites list for so many reasons – give it a go – blink and it’ll be done!

Serves 4

What you need…

175g smoked salmon, roughly chopped

75ml double cream

50g crème fraiche

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

What to do…

Chuck the lot in the food processor. Whizz until smooth. Pop into a serving dish, cover with cling film and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to indulge. That’s it! Seriously! Never buying ready-prepared again!

Inspired by…

James Martin…

How easy…

You can almost do this asleep it’s that simple!

Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Lattice Pie

I would put this under the heading of ‘comfort food’. If you’re in the right mood, making the lattice pastry lid is quite relaxing and the actual pie itself is delicious. Despite the amount of cream in it, it is neither too heavy or rich but just rather cheering on a cold, grey evening.

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

1 x baking dish, (something like 26 x 18 x 5cms for these quantities of ingredients)

2 x 375g packs ready-rolled puff pastry

Splash olive oil

450g roasted chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 large leek, washed, trimmed and sliced

150g chestnut mushrooms, washed and chunkily sliced

200ml water

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

200ml white wine

300ml double cream

1 tablespoon tarragon, leaves torn from the stems and chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

1 egg, beaten

What to do…

To make the pastry topping: unroll both sheets of pastry so that they are lying flat. The ready-rolled puff pastry comes on baking paper so there’s no need to prepare your work surface. Cut each piece into long 3cm-wide ribbons (being a little on the OCD side I did actually use a ruler for this bit to ensure accuracy!) If your baking dish is rectangular like mine, one sheet of pastry needs to be cut long-ways and the other width-ways (see pictures). Weave the pastry ribbons together (again see pictures) until you have a pastry top that is large enough to cover your pie. Make sure there are no gaps in between the ribbons or your sauce will bubble through during cooking (mine did!) Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge to firm up whilst you cook the pie filling.

pastry a w Pastry b w pastry c w

 

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

In a jug, dissolve the stockpot into the water, using a small balloon whisk, creating your chicken stock.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over a moderate heat. Add the leeks and cook for 1 minute. Chuck in the mushrooms and cook for a further minute. Add the stock, wine and double cream. Bring to the boil and reduce the liquid until it thickens slightly.

Add the chicken pieces and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix together thoroughly.

Once the chicken has warmed through, remove from the heat and spoon the mixture into your baking dish.

Brush the rim of your baking dish with egg and then flip the lid on top, so that the paper it came on is now facing upwards. Remove the paper and then press down over the rim to seal. Trim off the excess pastry with a sharp knife. Brush the pastry lid with egg and then pop your pie in the oven for 30 minutes, until the filling is piping hot and the pastry is gorgeously puffy and golden brown. Serve straight away – a lovely comforting treat and quite delicious!

Tip…

Your baking dish needs to be full to the brim with the filling otherwise the puff pastry lid will sink into it. Mine did but that said, the puffiness largely covered this mistake once the pie was cooked.

Inspired by…

The lattice pastry lid was demonstrated by Mary Berry. The filling was based on but tweaked from a recipe by Shaun Rankin, www.greatbritishchefs.com.

How easy…

The lattice pastry lid isn’t difficult but takes time, so you have to be in the right mood – if you’re in a mad hurry, this is not a good idea! That said, the rest of the dish is incredibly quick to prepare and then finishes up in the oven, allowing you to tidy up and cook a bit of greenery to go with it.

Also, the necessary roasted chicken was also immediately available to me, being left over from the 2 John cooked for our Sunday Roast.