Monthly Archives: August 2016

Chocolate Malteser Cake

Serves 16+

Your kids can grow up but some things never change. Connagh and I saw Lorraine Pascale make this cake on telly several years ago and we have made it twice since. Asked what kind of cake he would like for his 17th birthday and this was the request! I’ve changed Lorraine’s original recipe, replacing her sponge and butter cream recipes with those used to create my 365 cake – my all time favourite chocolate cake. The result? Fabulous if I don’t say so myself – the cake didn’t last long though: the sponge is so, so light but lusciously chocolatey; likewise the butter cream is sumptuously rich and chocolately without being sickly. Simply divine.

What you need…

2 x 20cm / 8” cake tins (spring form or loose-bottomed ideally), lightly buttered and lined on the bottom with parchment paper.

340g unsalted butter, room temperature

340g caster sugar

6 eggs

1 dessertspoon vanilla extract

140g milk

225g self-raising flour

85g cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

for the chocolate butter cream

75g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa) broken into pieces

150g unsalted butter, room temperature

300g icing sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the decoration

Around 800g Maltesers (this will be too many but I have accounted for the chef’s privileges that go along the way! It equates to 7 x 120g boxes or 2 and a bit x 360g boxes).

What to do…

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

Using a food processor, beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Whilst it’s still beating, add in the eggs, one at a time, ensuring that each is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix in.

In a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Then, add in the ingredients from the food processor and, using a balloon whisk, fold together all the ingredients until they are thoroughly blended. Divide the chocolate sponge mixture between the two cake tins.

Bake the sponges in the oven for 45 minutes until the cake is firm and an inserted skewer comes out dry.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tins and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the butter cream, made especially gorgeous by the use of the melted chocolate.

Put your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then into a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Gently melt the chocolate and then set aside until it is cool enough to touch.

In a separate bowl, sieve in the icing sugar and then beat together with the butter. Add the vanilla essence and then tip in the warm chocolate. Mix together using a small balloon whisk to ensure it is evenly and thoroughly blended. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Spread the butter cream lavishly and evenly across the bottom sponge. Pop on the top sponge. Using a spatula or palette knife spread more butter cream all over the outside of the assembled cake, taking particular care to fill in the gap between the two sponges. Don’t be sparing – this is one decadent chocolate cake and should be spared no naughtiness! Run a palette knife lightly around the cake and then over the top so that you have a smooth surface onto which you can pop your Maltesers.

‘Pre-clean’ the butter cream bowl before sticking it in the dishwasher: you know exactly what I mean – a small spatula, fingers – anything will do – it’s too good to waste – tastes amazing! If you have small child (or older) children around, they always seem happy to help with this particular job!

Spend time plopping on your Maltesters. I start at the bottom of the cake, going around and around the cake until I ultimately end up in the centre of the top! Lorraine Pascale was somewhat more precise in her arrangement, involving a ruler! Serve! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Decadent, delicious, delovely…just one more piece please.

Chocolate malteser cake 2

Inspired by…

Lorraine Pascale for the concept and a mish-mash of other chocolate cake recipes to get the one I love.

How easy…

Very easy; you just need time to play with the Maltesers!

 

Unexpectedly Lovely Broccoli Salad!

I’ve never thought about including broccoli in a salad and when I saw this salad, I was a little dubious. However, having tried it, I’m an absolute fan! The broccoli brings crunch and substance to the salad and tastes super-healthy. A perfect foil is provided by both the apple and red pepper, which also deliver a gentle sweetness; and the pine nuts just finish it off beautifully. It’s vibrant, fresh, unusual and really tasty. It’s also really fast and stupidly easy!

Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish

What you need…

300g broccoli, chopped very small

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped very small

1 apple, cored and chopped very small

30g pine nuts

for the dressing

30ml olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon runny honey

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Tip all the dressing ingredients into a screw top jar and shake like mad. Taste and adjust salt and pepper seasoning if necessary. Set aside.

In your salad bowl, pop the rest of the ingredients.

Tip over the salad dressing, toss all the ingredients together so that they are evenly mixed. Serve! Yep, that’s it! And it’s really great!

In the Thermomix…

If you’re lucky enough to have one of these machines, just chuck all ingredients into the bowl and hit 5 seconds at speed 4. The broccoli, pepper and apple only need to be cut into rough chunks, as the machine does the rest!

Inspired by…

Thermomix: The Basic Cook Book

How easy…

Whichever way: stupidly easy!

Chimichurri Verde with Steak

I’m not overly partial to steak, normally favouring a couple of fillets over the course of a year rather than a more regular cheaper cut. That said, John found this Brazilian-inspired recipe towards the end of the Olympics and we thought we’d give it a bash. Wow! The steaks – purchased from our local butcher – were so very succulent but it was the chimichurri that lifted them from your average rib eye to something really quite fantastic. We are DEFINITELY having these again. I also reckon that you could use the chimichurri to dress up a more mundane fish steak. I have a feeling we’ll be trying it with all sorts!

Serves 4

What you need…

50ml cider vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

100ml olive oil

30g fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely

30g fresh coriander, chopped finely

15g fresh oregano, chopped finely

1 dried red chilli, chopped

3 spring onions, trimmed and sliced finely

4 garlic cloves, chopped

Splash of rapeseed oil

4 x 240g 1cm rib eye steaks

What to do…

First, make the chimichurri by tipping all the ingredients (except the rapeseed oil and steaks!) into a screw top jar, pop the lid on a shake like mad. Pop the jar in the fridge for anything between 30 minutes and 24 hours to let the flavours develop.

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 4.

Gently bash the steaks each side with a steak mallet.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a hot frying pan and fry the steaks for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer them to a baking tray and smother them with half the chimichurri. Pop them in the oven and cook for 10 minutes (for medium).

Serve straight from the oven, ideally with garlicky crushed new potatoes or hasselback potatoes (both already blogged) and something green (broccoli that has been steamed and then tossed in garlic and either chilli- or anchovy-infused oil would work really well) together with a generous dollop of the remaining chimichurri on the side – simple but stunning!

Inspired by…

Waitrose Weekend

How easy…

Ever so, especially as the chimichurri can be prepared up to a day in advance.

Nectarine, Almond and Polenta Cake with Marsala Mascarpone

Yum: I’m not sure if this recipe comes from Sicily, where Marsala originates, but it certainly tastes like it does! A dense and exceptionally moist, sweet sponge created by in the inclusion of nectarine pulp, Marsala, polenta, almonds and olive oil, this cake is absolutely delicious served with the sweet, rich and Marsala-infused mascarpone and when you complete the dish with a couple of slices of ripe nectarines, it’s just wonderful and so very, very summery. An added bonus is that it keeps really well for a couple of days if you don’t demolish it all on the first!

Serves 8 – 10

What you need…

1 x 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

150g caster sugar

3 ripe nectarines plus a further 3-4 to serve (depending on how many of you are having your cake and eating it!)

125ml sweet Marsala wine

190ml extra virgin olive oil

240g caster sugar

100g polenta

250g ground almonds

3 large eggs, beaten

for the Marsala mascarpone

500g mascarpone

100g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

4 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine

What to do…

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

Fill a large saucepan with water and add the caster sugar. Bring to the boil and gently drop in the nectarines. Turn down the heat and gently poach them for 30 minutes, until tender.

Drain the nectarines and cool. Slice the fruit off the stone and pop the flesh into your food processor. Add the 125 ml Marsala and whizz to a purée, Add the remaining cake ingredients and whizz again to create a smooth batter. Pour into your cake tin and bake for 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, use a handheld electric whisk to beat together all the ingredients for the Marsala mascarpone ‘cream’. Also, slice up the remaining nectarines, discarding the stones.

Pop the cooled cake onto a pretty serving plate and dust with icing sugar, arrange some nectarine slices on the top and offer the remaining slices to your fellow cake eaters together with the lovely Marsala mascarpone – delightfully delicious.

Inspired by…

Delicious Magazine online

How easy…

Ridiculously! And it can be made ahead.

Monkfish with Asparagus Risotto and Sage Oil

This is a lovely warm and comforting risotto with the rather sumptuous addition of monkfish. Very filling and very easy to make, it’s very slow cooking process also makes for some relaxation time. I love sage and the sage-infused oil adds just perfect finishing touch to this tasty family supper dish.

What you need…

for the sage oil

40ml olive oil

A small handful of sage leaves, roughly chopped

for the risotto

1 x baking tray, lined with Bake O Glide or buttered to prevent the fish sticking

500ml water, boiled in the kettle

1 vegetable stockpot (I use Knorr)

16 – 20 asparagus spears (depending on how much you like your asparagus)

Splash of olive oil

Knob of butter

3 shallots, finely chopped

400g risotto rice

350ml white wine

Sea salt and black pepper

800g monkfish, cut into biggish bite-sized chunks

30g Parmesan cheese, grated

What to do…

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

In a small saucepan, tip in the oil and sage leaves and turn onto the lowest heat, leaving the sage to infuse into the oil whilst you do the rest of the recipe.

In another pan, make a vegetable stock by dissolving the stockpot into the boiling water, using a balloon whisk to speed up the process. Set aside.

Trim your asparagus (I just break mine roughly in the middle). Set aside the lovely tips and roughly chop the remaining woody ends, adding them to the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle heat, just to keep it warm.

In a third, wide saucepan, heat the oil and butter over a moderate heat. Add in the shallots and sauté until they are soft but not brown (5 minutes maybe). Add the rice and stir for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and stir on a casual basis until it has all been absorbed (I normally faff around doing other bits and pieces at this point).

Using a slotted spoon, remove the chopped asparagus from the stock and discard. Chuck the asparagus tips into the rice, season with sea salt and black pepper and then add 1 ladle of stock into the rice and turn the heat down so that it is very gently simmering. More casual stirring required. Once that first ladle has been absorbed, add another and keep going like this until all the stock has been used. It is important to do this slowly (15 – 20 minutes) and over a low heat to ensure that the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. If you run out of stock before the rice is properly cooked, add a little boiling water. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

As the last ladle goes in, place the monkfish chunks on your baking tray and drizzle over a little sage oil, including the leaves. Season and pop in the oven and cook for 10 minutes – it’s cooked when it bounces back when poked!

Whilst the fish is cooking, remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Pop the lid on and let the risotto rest to become lovely, oozy and creamy for 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon or plonk a wee mountain of asparagus risotto onto each plate (definitely warmed) and then scatter over the monkfish, before drizzling over the remaining sage oil. Enjoy! Just enjoy – absolutely delightful.

Tip…

Rather than peeling and chopping shallots, I buy the frozen ‘Cooks’ Ingredients Handful of Shallots’ from Waitrose, which simply require a quick shake out of the packet – much easier!

Inspired by…

My Waitrose magazine for the idea, a little Jamie Oliver for the approach and quite a lot of Cindy-meddling with the ingredients!

How easy…

Very, very easy but risotto takes time. Some good background music, someone to chat to in a warm kitchen with a cold glass of white wine produce perfect results!

 

Salmon with Sauce Verte and Garlicky Crushed New Potatoes

 

In this dish, the salmon is at its best – simply roasted with a little seasoning and a squeeze of lemon. But then you add the sauce verte, which has a summer-fresh piquancy about it and is the perfect foil to the fish. And finally, there are the potatoes: OMG – they are soooooooo yummy – we are having these with several more dishes over the next few weeks. The garlic-infused oil and milk mingling with the roughly crushed potatoes is a thing of loveliness as well as being really quite addictive! The whole thing together is a really easy, scrummy family supper dish.

Serves 4

What you need…

for the potatoes

12 new potatoes, washed

120ml milk

120ml olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Large pinch of sea salt

for the sauce verte

50g spinach

50g watercress

50g flat leaf parsley, leaves only

A handful tarragon leaves

A handful basil leaves

150g crème fraiche

100g mayonnaise

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

for the salmon

1 x baking sheet, lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

4 salmon fillets

Squeeze of lemon juice

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

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

For the potatoes, put all the ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil and then turn down low, pop a lid on, and cook gently for 20 – 25 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and infused with the garlicky oil: yum! Roughly crush the potatoes with a fork, taste and adjust seasoning according to your preference.

Whilst the potatoes are cooking, make the sauce verte and cook the fish. First, the sauce verte: bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the spinach and watercress for 1 minute. Drain through a colander and then tip the vegetables into a bowl of iced water. Drain again and then put them into your food processor and blend with the herbs until fine. Add the crème fraiche, mayonnaise and lemon juice and whizz until bright green. Season, whizz, taste, season again if liked. Decant into a serving jug. Set aside.

For the salmon, put the fish on the baking tray, skin-side up. Pop in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Turn over, season and squeeze lemon juice over before returning to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

To serve, place a portion of the potatoes into the centre of each plate and place the salmon fillet on the top. Either drizzle, dot or spoon the sauce over the top or pass the jug around so that people can help themselves. Enjoy this lovely, light family supper dish – really scrummy!

Inspired by…

John Torode, Saturday Kitchen

How easy…

Really extremely easy – I love it when something so lovely takes so little effort!

 

 

 

Marsala-Baked Summer Peaches with Mascarpone Cream

Utterly delicious is my description. John’s is a little more vibrant: peaches with dogs’ bollox cream! Why? I have no idea but it’s stuck in this house, so when the British Summertime rolls around, there is an inevitable request for this dish – using John’s language – and we all know what he’s talking about! Anyway, the point is that this lovely pudding is delicious and easy: the light and fresh ‘cream’ contrasts perfectly with the rich Marsala sauce in which the peaches sit so prettily; and the whole things simply exudes ‘summer’. Like I said, utterly delicious! (It also keeps in the fridge very well, so can be indulged in over a number of days if there are only two of you enjoying it!)

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x shallow baking dish

6 firm ripe peaches

40g caster sugar

275ml Marsala wine

2 x cinnamon sticks

1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways

1 rounded teaspoon arrowroot

for the cream

4 rounded tablespoons mascarpone

4 rounded tablespoons fromage frais

A few drops of vanilla extract

1 dessertspoon caster sugar

What to do…

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

First of all, you need to relieve the peaches of their skins and there’s a really easy way to do it. Halve the peaches and remove their stones. Pop two halves into a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water. Don your marigolds and after 30 seconds, remove one of the halves from the water and just slip off it’s skin – it will come straight off – dead easy. Do the same to the second half. Then, repeat the process with the remaining peach halves, two at a time, using freshly boiled water for each set of two halves (it won’t work so well if the water has cooled slightly). That done, the rest is a delight to do!

Place the peach halves into your baking dish, rounded side down. In a jug, mix together the Marsala and sugar and then pour over the peaches. Wodge in the cinnamon sticks and vanilla pod halves and pop in the oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and, using a ladle, transfer the Marsala ‘sauce’ to a small saucepan, discarding the vanilla pod halves and cinnamon sticks. Mix the arrowroot with a little cold water and then add it to the saucepan, whisking it in over a gentle heat until the sauce has slightly thickened.

Pour the sauce back over the peaches and set aside to cool. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge over night to allow the flavours to fully develop.

To make the ‘cream’, use an electric handheld whisk to beat together all of the ingredients and serve in a pretty bowl or jug.

Ideally, enjoy this lovely little dessert on a balmy summer’s evening with friends.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

Very easy: a simply delicious dish, all round. And, you prepare it the day before you want it which is always a bonus in my book!

 

 

Never Fail Raspberry Soufflé

Ooooooooh, you’re going to love these! So, so light with cloud-like fluffiness and just bursting with raspberry flavour, these soufflés are simply heavenly! When I saw the ‘never fail’ element of the recipe name, I was a little skeptical but they really are so very easy to make and quite spectacular on the enjoyment front!

Serves 4

What you need…

for the purée

200g fresh raspberries

30g sugar

3g cornflour

25ml water

for the soufflé

4 ramekins

A little butter

4 egg whites

100g caster sugar, plus extra for preparing the ramekins and dusting

What to do…

Blend the raspberries to a purée and then pass through a sieve to remove the pips.

Place the purée in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.

In the meantime, in another saucepan, tip in the sugar and half the water. Bring to the boil and cook until the sugar starts to caramelise, turning a light golden brown. Quickly remove from the heat and tip into purée, whisking it in. If the caramelised sugar starts to set (mine did) just pop the saucepan back onto a moderate heat and whisk the purée until the caramel melts again and is evenly incorporated.

Using a fork, mix the cornflour into the remaining water and then add to the purée, whisking it in.

Leave the purée to cool. You can make the purée the day before you need it, covering it with cling film and keeping it in the fridge if you like.

Just before you’re ready to indulge in these little pots of gorgeousness, preheat your oven to 180° / 350°f / gas 4. Liberally butter four ovenproof ramekins and then sprinkle some caster sugar all over the butter, tipping out the excess. Pop the ramekins into the freezer.

Whisk together the eggs whites and caster sugar until they are stiff and shiny.

Tip one third of the egg whites into your cold raspberry purée and whisk in, creating a smooth paste. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites so they are evenly incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the ramekins up to the top. Bang them down on your work surface to release air bubbles. Using a palette knife, scrape the excess off the top of each ramekin and wipe a little butter around the rim of each pot (to prevent the soufflé from sticking). Dust with a little caster sugar.

Pop the ramekins onto a baking tray and slip them into the oven, baking for 8 minutes. Watch them rise: other than the eating them, this is the best bit!

Serve immediately – dip in your spoon and indulge in a lovely pink cloud of sheer heaven – the fresh raspberry flavours excite the taste buds whilst the soufflé gently evaporates over your tongue, all the while you’re dipping your spoon in for the next mouthful!

Inspired by…

Adam Handling

How easy…

The caramelising of the sugar can be a little tricky but if you keep your eye on it, shouldn’t be a problem. Other than that, it’s really easy and fast, once the purée has been made. I love the fact that you can do that bit the day before: the rest is dead easy.

 

Chilled Lemon Grass and Coriander Vichyssoise

 

This is an absolutely delightful chilled soup: perfect for a starter at a summer lunch or supper party when the weather is hot. It’s light and refreshing, fragrant and elegant; and the combination of the coriander with lemon grass produce a really lovely but delicate Thai flavour. There’s no coconut milk in it, which I was surprised about, but the inclusion of new potatoes provide the necessary substance without the cloyiness that you sometimes experience with coconut milk. Really delicious – give it a go!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 handfuls fresh coriander

4 lemon grass stems

4 spring onions

50g butter

2 medium onions, chopped

275g new potatoes, chunked

150ml milk

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

First of all, you need to make a stock. In a large saucepan, pour 850ml water. Pick the leaves from the coriander and chuck the stalks into the water, saving the leaves for later. Likewise, with the spring onions and lemon grass: trim the ends, remove the outer skin, chucking those bits that you would normally discard into the water as well. Pop a lid on the pan, and bring the water to boil before reducing the heat to gently simmer the ‘stock’ for 30 minutes – it is this process that provides the soup with real depth of flavour.

Meanwhile, chop up your lemon grass and spring onions.

Strain the stock into a jug, discarding the trimmings. Wipe out your saucepan and then add the butter, melting it over a low heat. Add the lemon grass, onions and potatoes, pop the lid back on the pan and gently ‘sweat’ the vegetables over a low heat for 10 minutes. Then, add the stock, milk and three quarters of the coriander leaves (retaining the rest for the garnish). Season with sea salt and black pepper, pop the lid back on, turn the heat up so that the soup just starts to boil and then reduce the heat again and let the soup simmer gently for 25 minutes.

Leave the soup to cool and then chuck the lot into your food processor/blender and whizz until smooth. If you want a really smooth, silky soup, strain it through a sieve into a jug. If not, just tip it from the processor into the jug. Cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy this lovely soup.

Pour into bowls and sprinkle over the remaining coriander leaves and chopped spring onions: delightfully delicious!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

An absolute sinch – takes some time but you can walk away to do other things whilst it’s gathering its flavours. Also, you can make it the day before and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to garnish and serve: no hassle!

Mirin-Glazed Salmon

You can tell the summer holiday season is upon us: my recipes are leaning towards fast but tasty family suppers. This one is lovely – I’m a salmon fan anyway, but this recipe, with its dark, sweet and salty glaze, gives the fish a whole different persona: the humble salmon is sensationally transformed into a dish that at once combines being sweet, savoury, tender and crisp – delicious!

Serves 4

What you need…

60ml mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)

50g light brown sugar

60ml soy sauce

4 x 125g chunky salmon fillets

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 spring onions, sliced

What to do…

In a shallow dish, mix together the mirin, sugar and soy sauce until the sugar has dissolved. Pop in the salmon fillets and marinate for 3 minutes on the first side before flipping them and marinating them for a further 3 minutes on the other side. Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan on a high heat.

Dry-fry the salmon for 2 minutes. Flip them over, pour over the marinade and cook for a further 2 minutes. They will be only just cooked – perfect for this recipe – but you can leave them in for another minute or so if you’d prefer.

Using a fish slice, remove the salmon from the pan and onto a serving dish. Add the rice vinegar to the pan and warm through – a couple of minutes, maximum.

Pour the simply yummy glaze over the salmon and scatter over the spring onions. Voilà! That’s it – so fast, so easy and so damned tasty!

Tip…

If you have any fish leftover, pop it into the fridge and serve cold the next day with salad – fantastic. This was our plan, but Connagh elected to have seconds instead – plan dashed!

Serving suggestion…

Basmati and wild rice goes really well. I also sautéed some pre-boiled broccoli with sliced button mushrooms in chilli and garlic – adding a splash of mirin and soy sauce at the end – really lovely!

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

So, so easy, so so fast, so so delicious!