Monthly Archives: May 2016

Absolutely Fabulous Pavlova

One of my favourite summer desserts, Pavlova is just divine: sweet, ripe fruit on top of whipped double cream, all gracing wonderful meringue: crisp on the outside and deliciously light, soft and slightly chewy on the inside. The combination is just heavenly and the joy of this recipe is that it is ridiculously easy to make – I’d never made meringue before finding this recipe but it has always been a success – in every way – and a firm favourite on our summer menus.

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

250g caster sugar, plus 3 – 4 teaspoons for the cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon malt vinegar

300ml double cream (or more if you want to pile it high!)

At least 1 x 300g punnet of ripe summer strawberries or a combination of your favourite summer fruit – I often combine strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. The amount of fruit is all about personal preference

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 140°c / 275°f / gas 1.

Line a baking tray with Bake O Glide/parchment paper and draw a 23cm circle on it (as guidance for later).

Using an handheld electric whisk, beat the egg whites and salt together until very stiff. Then, gradually whisk in the 250g caster sugar until it forms stiff peaks – this takes 3 – 4 minutes. Fold in the vanilla extract and vinegar.

Plop the meringue mixture onto your baking tray, gently spreading it to fit the drawn circle. Pop it into the oven and leave for 1 hour until firm. Then – and this is key – switch the oven off but leave your meringue in for a further 30 minutes with the door closed.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Discard the lining paper and put your meringue onto a pretty serving plate.

Whisk the cream and 3 – 4 teaspoons of sugar together (the amount of sugar depends on your personal taste) until stiff and then pile on top of the meringue. Arrange the fruit on top, stand back, admire your handy work and then serve – just divine – this is one of those desserts that is so light and delicious, I just keep coming back for one more spoonful….time and time again. Enjoy!

Pavlova close up w

Tips…

Don’t waste the egg yolks – they can be frozen for another use.

If I’m feeding a crowd, I’ll double up on these ingredients and made a great big Pavlova and then use the remaining 6 egg yolks to make a large tiramisu – a thoroughly naughty conclusion to any meal!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Very, very easy and simply delicious!

Just Yummy Garlic and Mozzarella Bread

I know what you’re thinking: has she gone mad? She’s stuck up a recipe for garlic bread!!!!! But, bear with me – how many times have you bought garlic bread from the supermarket as a quick accompaniment to pasta or to add to a barbecue and when you cut in to it: huge disappointment – there’s a measly smear of butter in the middle of each slice with barely a hint of garlic – not good enough! My garlic bread is crisp (sometimes too crunchy if I forget about it) on the outside and moist on the inside – so buttery it has been know to drip down a chin or two. Loads of garlic and Italian herbs – it’s lovely. And these days, thanks to my daughter, Maddie, it has the addition of Mozzarella cheese, which makes it even naughtier and even yummier. A sinch to make and really quick, avert your eyes from those supermarket offerings: this is proper garlic bread!

Makes loads! I make a load of garlic butter in one hit, taking it out of the fridge as and when I need it over the course of a month. We soon get through it in the summer months – ideal for garlic bread, for basting lobster tails (if we’re lucky enough) or other fish and for swishing new potatoes in on the odd occasion!

What you need…

250g butter, softened

8 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ tablespoons dried Italian herb mix (mine has a little chilli in it which gives it a real kick)

2 teaspoons garlic granules

1 baguette

Mozzarella cheese

What to do…

Using a fork, mash together the butter, garlic, herbs and garlic granules to form your lovely garlic butter.

Slice the baguette at a slight diagonal and nearly but not quite all the way through. Take a butter knife and slather the garlic butter onto each side of the bread slice – don’t be tempted to cut back – think ‘slather’. Wodge in thin slices of mozzarella cheese in between each slice and then squish together the bread slices and wrap in foil before popping in the oven for 40 minutes. If you’d rather just straight garlic bread, then skip the mozzarella and wrap the bread loosely in foil and pop it in the oven for 40 minutes. Either way, check your garlic bread after 30 minutes to see that it’s starting to crisp up on the outside.

Serve with pasta, a barbecue, a picnicy supper or just on its own with drinks – lovely!!!

Tips…

Italian seasoning is available from supermarkets however…if you have a friend who is travelling through an Italian airport, ask them to pick up a bag of the Italian pasta seasoning from there – it’s just that little bit more special – I use it in a variety of pasta dishes as well as in this garlic butter.

I haven’t put a quantity for mozzarella cheese, but whatever’s left, use it up in a salad with tomatoes and basil, drizzling over olive oil and balsamic to serve. Just yum!

Inspired by…

Who knows! I’ve been doing this for years and everyone loves it!

How easy…

Very, very!

 

 

Fast and Fantastic Summer Strawberry Ice Cream

So, you know those hot days when it gets to mid afternoon and you fancy a little treat but frankly, it’s too early for wine….? Well, yesterday was one of those days and I think that perhaps this bank holiday weekend may serve up a couple of hot, sunny days. Anyway: wow, I tried the fastest, loveliest strawberry ice cream – it set me up for the rest of the day! We normally have a little double cream in the fridge (I know, you’re shocked) but also, I’ve started freezing strawberries if it looks like they’re going to go off before we finish them (I always buy too many – direct from the farm, they’re so tempting) so given these lovely set of circumstances, I can now have a fabulous strawberry ice cream within seconds and on a whim! Definitely give this one a go – there’ll be no going back to supermarket cartons, I promise.

Serves 2

What you need…

200g frozen strawberries, hulled (and halved if they are large)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

150ml double cream

2 teaspoons sugar (optional and probably not necessary if your strawberries are ripe and sweet)

What to do…

Fit the cutting blade rather than the blending one into your food processor. Chuck in all the ingredients. Whizz. The frozen strawberries will break up and freeze the double cream. When you’re happy with the consistency – either still slightly lumpy with fruit or completely smooth – your choice, then serve! That’s it! Sit in the garden and marvel at the simplicity of this treat on a gorgeous English summer afternoon. Doesn’t get much better than that! Oooooh, the bad news is that it doesn’t really re-freeze, so…you need to eat the lot! Enjoy!

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

There isn’t an adjective to describe quite how easy this is!

Prawn and Pomegranate Salad with Mint and Coriander

This is quite simply a really yummy salad: the delicate fishiness of prawns intermingled with citrusy, fresh coriander, the cool cucumber, the aromatic, sweet mint and then the tart piquancy of pomegranate seeds. All of those flavours rolling around together are just fabulous and the pomegranate seeds make the salad look like it’s bejeweled! Simply lovely served with barbecued fish! Try it – you’ll love it!

Serves 4 as a side dish or starter

What you need…

Seeds from ½ pomegranate (buy ready-prepared if you can – lot’s easier)

7cm length cucumber, peeled, sliced and then quartered

2 large handfuls coriander, chopped

Small handful mint leaves, torn

A selection of your favourite salad leaves (I like rocket, red chicory, baby gem, baby spinach, iceberg)

200g cooked prawns

for the dressing

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon runny honey

A squeeze of lemon juice

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Into a screw-topped jar, tip all the dressing ingredients, screw the lid on tightly and set aside.

In a large, roomy salad bowl, chuck in all your ingredients.

Just before you are ready to eat, shake your dressing like mad and then pour over the salad before tossing all the elements together so that everything is evenly mixed and coated with dressing.

Tips…

Sometimes, I buy raw prawns and cook them in a splash of oil and salt about 30 minutes before we eat this salad, adding them at the last minute. The slight warmth of the prawns seems to emphasise the other flavours – really lovely.

A variation on the pomegranate is strawberries, hulled and quartered. Less tart, they give the salad a gentler tone.

For extra crunch, include some sugar snap peas that have been sat in boiling water for 2 minutes before being refreshed in cold water and then drained.

Include basil and parsley to make up the leaves if you happen to have any in the fridge. There are no rules, just a mix of flavours you enjoy together.

Inspired by…

I’m not sure: I think I made it up!

How easy…

See, it’s just salad, which I’ve always viewed as something that should be dead simple but really tasty.

 

Heavenly Hasselback Potatoes

I first saw these a few weeks ago on MasterChef and having tried them once, they’ve adorned our plates several times since, so popular are they! They tick all the boxes – easy, exceedingly tasty – something between sautéed, really great chips and roasties – they taste fantastic anyway and I just love the way they look after they’ve fanned out in the oven during cooking. My version is slightly healthier than the original (unusually for me), which uses butter as well as oil.

Serves 4

What you need…

12 medium potatoes

5 tablespoons rapeseed oil

Sea salt (course crystals work spectacularly well, giving these potatoes a lovely glistening crunch)

What to do…

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

Take each potato and put it onto a wooden spoon and cut across it at roughly 3mm intervals. Because the potato is on the spoon, your knife won’t be able to cut all the way through but will stop on the lip of spoon: it is this that enables the fanning out of the potato during the cooking process – so damned easy but so impressive (well, I’m easily pleased).

Pour the rapeseed oil into your baking tin and pop it onto the hob over a high heat. Once the oil is hot, place in the potatoes, cut-side down into the oil, swizzle them around and then turn them over so that the cut-sides are facing upwards. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pop them in the oven to let them do their thing. How long they take depends on their size – 40 minutes for medium potatoes but longer for bigger ones. Keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when they are crisp on the outside but still soft in the middle.

Serve and enjoy this lovely new (for me) version of the humble potato!

Inspired by…

Annie, a contestant on MasterChef, who in turn attributed the recipe for these Swedish potatoes to Nigella Lawson

 How easy…

Very, very easy – they do themselves while you do other things!

 

Pasta Puttanesca

 

I haven’t made this for years (pre-kids!) and I don’t know why – just forgotten about the recipe I suppose. I make lots of pasta dishes – some follow recipes, some are made-up favourites and some depend on what’s languishing in the bottom of the fridge. But this one stands apart from the crowd – it’s gutsy with intense flavours – tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, capers and olives all party together against the backdrop of tomatoes and basil – a great pick-me-up of a lunch or supper. Really yummy.

Serves 4

What you need…

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 fresh chillis, de-seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, plus extra for garnishing

Black pepper

100g anchovies (bought in jars in olive oil)

300g black olives, pitted

2 tablespoons capers, drained

2 x 400g tins good quality Italian chopped tomatoes

1 x 142g tin tomato purée

Sea salt

Spaghetti! (How much is dependent on how hungry you are! I use gluten-free, just because it doesn’t sit so heavily on my stomach)

What to do…

Heat the oil over a moderate heat and add the garlic cloves, chillis and basil. Cook briefly until the garlic is pale gold. Then tip in all the other sauce ingredients except the salt (anchovies are salty so leave the addition of salt until the end).

Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer very gently without a lid for 40 minutes – the smell will be amazing and at the end, the sauce will be lovely, thick and bursting with flavour. Taste and add salt, if required.

Meanwhile, cook your spaghetti according to the packet instructions – mine takes about 12 minutes, so I put the water on to heat up about 20 minutes before the sauce is ready.

Drain the pasta pour over your gutsy sauce and mix together. Serve garnished with basil and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. A glass or two of a robust Italian red wouldn’t go amiss either!

Puttanesca close up w

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

So very easy. It also has the added benefit of comprising store cupboard ingredients so it’s a great mid-week special when your scouring the kitchen for inspiration!

 

Rhubarb and Amaretti Cake with Orange and Rosemary Glaze

Once finished, I thought that this was quite an unassuming looking cake, but once tasted – WOW – I completely changed my mind. It is the reason the word ‘luscious’ was invented, surely! This cake is moist and the combination of the rosemary and orange is a marriage made in heaven. Ground almonds, as part of a list of cake ingredients, are fast becoming a favourite as their inclusion automatically guarantees a lovely moist, moreish sponge. And then the rhubarb: just yum, yum, yum: another one to add to your ‘must try’ list.

Serves 10-12

What you need…

1 x 23cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tin, lightly buttered and lined on the bottom with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

225g unsalted butter, cut into chunks

200g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs, lightly beaten

Zest of 2 oranges, finely grated

200g ground almonds

50g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

8 amaretti biscuits, broken into small chunks

2 sticks rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 6cm pieces and halved lengthways to produce 12 – 16 lengths

Granulated sugar to sprinkle

for the glaze

Juice of 1 orange

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

20g granulated sugar

Squeeze fresh lemon juice

What to do…

Into your food processor, chuck the butter and sugar and whizz until they are combined, pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and whizz some more to disperse. Whilst whizzing, gradually add the eggs, making sure that each addition is fully mixed in before pouring in some more.

Tip in the orange zest, almonds, flour and baking powder and whizz to evenly combine. Remove the plastic blending blade from your food processor and then gently stir in the amaretti chunks.

Tip the lot into your tart tin. Gently push in the rhubarb pieces in a spoke pattern, leaving them two thirds uncovered (they will sink in the oven).

Bake for 40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If the cake becomes mainly golden brown before the cake is properly cooked through, loosely cover with foil for the remaining baking time.

Leave to cool in its tin for 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle the tart tin. Remove from the tin (whilst still on its base) and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Whilst the cake is cooking, make the syrup: into a saucepan, tip the orange juice, rosemary and sugar. Heat and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cool. Add a little squeeze of lemon juice. Taste. Add more if the syrup is still too sweet for your taste.

Once both the cake and syrup are cool, pierce the cake all over with a skewer and then gently and slowly pour over the syrup, pausing whilst it sinks in, if necessary.

Sprinkle with granulated sugar and then take your first slice…OMG…just so luscious. It’s moist and completely delicious. Prepare to take a second slice – you won’t want to say ‘no’!.

Amaretti cake 2 w

Observation…

In the original recipe, the rhubarb could clearly be seen from the top of the cake, but mine had sunk to the bottom. To be honest: who cares? Mine was still attractive and the cake was absolutely luscious, moist and gorgeous!

Inspired by….

Delicious magazine

How easy…

Very: measure out, whizz, arrange rhubarb, bake and then pour over syrup and sprinkle sugar. Most taxing part: saying no to more!

Affogato al Caffe e Disaronno

Wow! This is just Naughty with a massively capital ‘N’. Ice cream, Disaronno, espresso and chocolate: it tastes like a combination of Italy’s boozy trifle, Tiramisu and my favourite cocktail, Espresso Martini. Equally, we started off eating it with a sundae spoon and ended up drinking it! The biggest problem is that it makes you greedy to get the lot down as quickly as possible, so fantastically naughty, it is! Made in seconds, this could become a really wicked little habit! What can I say: you need to try it!

Serves 1 (but that would be sad: double up and share with your favourite person)

What you need…

1 scoop of vanilla or honeycomb ice cream (previously blogged and works brilliantly in this).

1 tablespoon Disaronno

1 shot freshly made espresso coffee

1 teaspoon good quality dark chocolate, finely grated

What to do…

Wodge ice cream into the bottom of a pretty glass or small cup.

Pour over the Disaronno, then the espresso and then, sprinkle over the chocolate.

Immediately dive in with your spoon, marvel at the wicked gorgeousness of it, plunge in the spoon a couple more times before discarding it to drink the rest of your affogato! There’s probably a more elegant way of enjoying this but….this level of naughtiness deserves some gusto!

Tips…

If you are not quite as partial to Disaronno as I am, you could always swap it for Baileys.

There’s nothing to stop you mucking about with the quantities of any of the ingredients in this pudding-cum-cocktail.

Inspired by…

Gino D’Acampo

How easy…

Dangerously so!

My Favourite Chicken Marinade

I’ve been doing this marinade for years and everyone who has ever tried it has requested the recipe so I thought I’d share. We used it this time to marinade whole chicken breasts before barbecuing them. But on other occasions, I’ve cut the chicken into chunks and fried the chicken in its marinade before adding it warm to a salad of leaves, avocado and bacon. Either way, its lovely: the chicken is succulent and has a rich, almost caramelised flavour – not too sweet but just rather gorgeous – it elevates the simple chicken breast into something much more enticing, if I don’t say so myself! Give it a go!

Serves 4

What you need…

4 skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons dark brown soft sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce/tamari (for gluten-free)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

What to do…

Score the chicken breasts lightly to enable the marinade to get into the meat.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add the chicken breasts, give them a quick stir, cover with cling film and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade with a slotted spoon and barbecue until cooked all the way through.

Serve and enjoy! It really is lovely.

Serving suggestion…

I tried this salad from the Hemsley sisters this weekend and it works spectacularly well with the marinated and barbecued chicken!

Courgette Salad Close Up w

Per person: take 1 courgette, trim the ends and grate the courgette into a bowl.

In a small saucepan, dry-fry a handful of pine nuts for a couple of minutes, just until they are toastie!

Mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil with 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar .

Mix the dressing into the courgette, season well with sea salt and black pepper and tip over the pine nuts. Serve – so simple but absolutely delicious!

Inspired by…

I have no idea where the marinade came from but ‘thank you’ to whoever came up with the combination!

How easy…

I marinate, John barbecues – dead easy!

Scrummy Courgette Salad

I first tried this recipe as a side salad to go with barbecued meats. It’s so simple, I did wonder if it might be just a tad….boring….but I was delightfully surprised – it is a lovely, fresh salad with the added joy provided by the crunch of the pine nuts. Easy, quick, different and delicious!

Serves 1

What you need…

1 large courgette, trimmed

Sea salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons good quality balsamic vinegar

Handful of pine nuts

What to do…

Grate the courgette into your serving bowl. Season liberally with salt and pepper and stir through.

Pop the pine nuts into a small, dry saucepan and dry fry for just a couple of minutes.

Mix together the oil and vinegar.

Mix the dressing into the courgette and tip over the pine nuts. Serve – so simple but absolutely delicious!

Inspired by…

The Hemsley Sisters

How easy…

You could almost do this in your sleep!