Monthly Archives: October 2016

Christmas Mincemeat

I blogged Christmas Mincemeat last year but thought it was worth a reminder and I do so enjoy making it. Immediately after finishing this batch and trying the first mince pies, I resolved to make a second batch: one is simply never going to get us through Christmas! If you like mince pies, I urge you to make this: you will NEVER buy mincemeat from the supermarket again! It is dead easy to make, fills the house with the unique uplifting and festively nostalgic aromas of Christmas and tastes a world apart from anything commercial. My first – but far from last – compliments of the (forthcoming) season! Indulge and enjoy!

What you need…

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

225g suet

350g raisins

225g sultanas

225g currants

150g dried cranberries

225g candied peel, finely chopped

350g soft dark brown sugar

Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

50g flaked almonds

4 teaspoons ground mixed spice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ nutmeg, grated

6 tablespoons brandy

What to do…

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

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

Pop the casserole, with its lid on, into the oven and cook for 3 hours. (If you leave the house, forgetting to do this, telephone the husband and ask him to do it!!!)

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

When it’s cold, stir in the brandy and spoon into clean jars with lids/seals. Keep your Christmas mincemeat in a cool, dark cupboard until you are ready to make your mince pies, which in my case was the day after – I had to check it, after all!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

A little weighing and stirring job before it cooks itself.

 

 

 

 

The Most Sensational, Naughty Sauce for Steak

I watched Michael Caines do this a couple of weeks ago and just had to give it a go. It is soooooo much more than the gloriousness that it looked on telly. It really is the most sensational sauce to serve with steak and has a taste and texture that simply evoke ‘naughty!’ Michael did his with Madeira but our bar was not forthcoming but seemed heavily stocked with sweet sherry, so that was substituted – it worked REALLY well. But finally, a word of caution: don’t try and rush the ‘reduction’ elements of this sauce – I know from experience that the sauce then ends up thin and that the flavours aren’t of the full intensity assures this recipe is right at the top of our favourites list!

Serves 4 (I’ve doubled up on the sauce quantities because we do enjoy lots of sauce, so you may not need the quantities that I have listed, depending on your own sauciness)

What you need…

4 x 200-250g sirloin steaks

Olive oil

300ml boiling water from the kettle

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

50g butter

6 shallots, thinly sliced

150g button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked

220ml sweet sherry (I use Harveys Bristol Cream)

300ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

First, make your stock by dissolving ¾ chicken stockpot into the boiling water, using a balloon whisk to help the process. Set aside.

Over a moderate heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook until the shallots are transparent.

Add the button mushrooms and continue cooking until they are slippery in texture. Stir in the thyme.

Slosh in the sherry and simmer until reduced by half.

Pour in the chicken stock and reduce by half again.

Gently pour in the cream and reduce by half yet again – you will then have a lovely thick, opulent sauce. Add a little black pepper, taste (chef’s privilege) and adjust the seasoning to taste. Make a resolution not to keep on tasting until it’s served! Keep warm on a low heat, stirring occasionally whilst you cook your steaks.

Onto each steak, massage in 1 teaspoon oil. Then season to your liking. Flip the steaks and give them the same treatment on the other side.

Heat another frying pan over a hot heat. Pop in the steaks and cook for 4 minutes on each side, depending on how you like your steak. Remove the steaks and serve them onto warmed plates, allowing them to rest for a couple of minutes.

Decant your luscious sauce and pop it into the middle of the table to allow your fellow diners to help themselves – remind them about the need to share: they’ll want the lot to themselves! Indulge and enjoy! Serve with a bit of greenery, maybe some exotic mushrooms and Hasselback potatoes. Simply scrummy!

Inspired by…

Michael Caines

How easy…

Very easy as long as you take your time and allow the reductions to work their magic.

Warm Salad of Scallops, Black Pudding, Bacon and Apples

This warm salad of scallops, black pudding, bacon and apples is just fabulous! The so very savoury bacon and earthy distinctiveness of black pudding contrast beautifully with the buttery caramelised apples and the delicate flavours of the scallops. Equally, the dressing is a lovely combination of sharp intermingled with sweet – the whole thing works spectacularly well and this just makes for a really great treat of an autumnal salad. Give it a go – yummy!

Serves 4

What you need…

3 firm apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges

50g unsalted butter

Pinch of caster sugar

6 slices back bacon, chopped

12 large, fresh scallops

200g black pudding, skinned and sliced

100g of your favourite mixed salad leaves

Sea salt and black pepper

for the dressing

3 teaspoons wholegrain mustard

3 teaspoons maple syrup

6 teaspoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Arrange your salad leaves on a serving plate and set aside.

For the dressing, tip all the ingredients into screw-top jar, put the lid on tightly and shake like mad to combine thoroughly. Season, shake again. Taste. Set aside if you’re happy with the seasoning.

Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the apples and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and toss the apples around gently to evenly coat. Cook over a moderate heat for 7 – 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are caramelised all over. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat another frying pan and cook the bacon over moderate heat for 1-2 minutes to release some of the fat. Whack up the heat to high and stir-fry until lovely and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and pop onto a piece of kitchen paper. Set aside.

Pour most of the fat away from the frying pan and return to a high heat. Add the scallops and sear for 2 minutes, seasoning as you go. Flip them over and then add the black pudding, cooking it for 1 minute on each side. Again, using a slotted spoon remove the scallops and black pudding from the pan and pop them on the kitchen paper with the bacon.

Tip or arrange your bacon, scallops and black pudding over the salad leaves. Add the lovely caramelised apples and then give your dressing another mad shake before drizzling it over the lot. Put in the middle of the table and let everyone dive in – it’s bloody gorgeous and so far removed from any normal association with any salad!!!! Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Delicious magazine

How easy…

Quick cooking, just 2 frying pans and a jam jar to clear; and an assembly job – dead easy!

 

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie

Historically, I have made my apple and blackberry pies by rolling out ready-made pastry and chucking into the pie dish chopped raw Bramley apples with blackberries, sprinkling with sugar, topping with pastry and whopping in the oven: we all thought these were fine. So, when I saw this recipe, I did think it involved a lot of faffing about, but… the difference is phenomenal! The pie is so very, very delicious: sweet, scrumptious apple given an extra depth of flavour and warmth by the addition of cinnamon and ginger and the lovely Autumnal blackberries with the cheeky little zing of the orange zest – a wonderful combination that brings in one mouthful everything that is wonderful about this lovely season! Give it a go!

Serves 6 – 8 (if you’re conservative with your portion sizes!)

What you need…

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

1 x baking sheet

750g short crust pastry (ready-made or home-made – see recipe for Lemon Tart, already blogged: you will need double the quantity)

3 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

150g golden caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

50g unsalted butter

Pinch salt

200g blackberries

Zest from ¼ large orange

1 egg, lightly beaten

What to do…

Roll half the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and line the base of your tart tin, trimming the pastry so that there is a little overhanging. Prick the base, line with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Pop in the fridge for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, put the apples, sugar, spices, butter and salt in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to moderate and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft. Remove from the heat, tip in the blackberries and orange zest. Stir gently to evenly incorporate and set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4. Put the tart tin on the baking sheet and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and baking beans and bake for a further 10 minutes. Brush the inside of the case with beaten egg and return to the oven for 2 minutes. Cool briefly and then, using a serrated knife, trim the overhanging pastry.

Roll out the remaining pastry again to a pound coin thickness and then cut into strips – mine were just over 1 cm wide. Brush the rim of the pastry case with beaten egg and then, using a slotted spoon, (we don’t want any soggy bottoms) add the fruit to the case. Use the strips to make a lattice topping, trimming the edges level with the pie case. Brush the lattice topping generously with beaten egg and then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove, sprinkle with a little more sugar and then cool for at least 15 minutes. Remove from the tin and serve with double cream (if you’re John) or as it comes (if you’re me). Taste the very best flavours of Autumn – yum, yum, yum!

Tip…

For illustrations on easily creating a lattice topping for your pie, see my blogged Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Lattice Pie, inspired by our national treasure, Mary Berry.

Inspired by…

My Waitrose magazine

How easy…

It’s not difficult but there is quite a lot of faffing around so you do need the time available but hey, it’s worth it!

Vincisgrassi with Chicken Livers, Parma Ham and Porcini Mushrooms

Gutsy and gorgeous this lasagne, it feels like the type of comforting and tasty dish that you should come home to after a hard day’s labour. It’s rich and creamy but not sickly and the mushrooms and chicken livers combined with the parma ham ensure it has real depth of flavour. Lovely and so different from my usual, favourite traditional lasagne. This one will be punctuating the winter menus regularly from now on.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x baking dish (mine is 26 x 18 x 7cms deep) lightly buttered

50g dried porcini mushrooms

250ml boiling water from the kettle

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

150g parma ham slices

6 sheets fresh lasagne

30g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

450g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced

400g chicken livers, trimmed and coarsely chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

for the sauce

1 small onion, peeled and halved

8 cloves

1 litre milk

6 fresh bay leaves, crumpled

2 large thyme sprigs

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

75g butter

65g plain flour

150g cheddar, grated

¼ nutmeg, grated

What to do…

For the sauce, tip into a medium saucepan the onion, cloves, milk, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.

Make your stock by pouring the boiling water into a jug, dropping in the stockpot and dissolving it using a balloon whisk.

Put the porcini mushrooms into a small bowl and pour over the stock. Pop a saucer over the top to keep the mushrooms submerged. Set aside.

Cut the parma ham slices in half lengthways, stack them up, then cut them across in thin slivers. Set aside.

Drain the porcini, reserving the stock, then squeeze out any excess liquid.

Heat the 30g butter and olive oil in frying pan, add the porcini and fry gently for 2 minutes. Add the chestnut mushrooms, increase the heat to high and fry for 3 minutes. Add the reserved stock and cook until the liquid has almost disappeared. Chuck in the chicken livers and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring. Tip in the parma ham, separating the slices as you go, and stir until well mixed. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper – go easy on the salt – the parma ham has a lot in it.

Whilst you are doing that stuff in the frying pan, you need also to be making the sauce. Strain the milk, discarding the onion, cloves, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns. Then bring it back to the boil. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the ring so that it continues to stay warm.

Melt the 75g butter into a medium pan, tip in the flour and cook gently for 2 minutes, stirring. Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the milk, stirring the whole time. Bring back to the boil and simmer gently over a very low heat for 10 minutes or until it thickens.

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

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in half the grated cheddar and the nutmeg. Season, taste, adjust if necessary.

Line the base of your baking dish with 2 sheets of lasagne. Spoon over a third of the chicken liver mixture, then a third of the sauce. Repeat this process –lasagne, mixture, sauce – two further times. Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and pop your vincisgrassi into the oven for 30 – 35 minutes until golden and bubbling. Enjoy the fabulous aroma that drifts from the oven as you clear up your pots and pans.

To serve, I think this is best plonked into the middle of the table with a large spoon and everyone involved asked to help themselves. Pour yourself (and them) a large glass of full-bodied red and enjoy. It’s a meal that could be served with salad but definitely requires relaxed, convivial conversation….and more red…

If you’re lucky enough to have a Thermomix…

To make the sauce, just stick all the ingredients except the cheddar into the bowl and cook for 7 minutes at 90° on speed 4. Tip in half your cheese and set it to stirring at a low speed for about 2 minutes. Leave the sauce in the bowl until you’re ready to assemble.

Inspired by…

Delicious Magazine

How easy…

Easy but quite long haul with quite a bit of washing up. But you know what, it was worth it!

Moist Plum and Amaretti Bake

Utterly delicious and dead easy, I cut this traybake up to make lots of bite-sized sponges that are delectably easy to just pop in as I’m passing the cake tin – which is left out permanently. Sweet plums combined with ground almonds provide a gorgeous Autumnal moistness to these sponges and the crumbled amaretti biscuits add a lovely depth of flavour. Ideal with a cup of tea, coffee or just on their own!

Makes loads – it depends how you cut up the traybake – I think I made about 40 poppables! (Forgot to count – sorry!)

What you need…

1 x 30 x 23cm traybake tin, buttered and lined with parchment paper or Bake O Glide

4 large plums, slightly under-ripe

125g self-raising flour

75g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 large, happy eggs

200g caster sugar

200g butter, softened

Zest of 1 orange, grated finely

7 amaretti biscuits, crumbled

What to do…

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

Halve and de-stone the plums and then cut into wedges. Set aside.

Tip the flour, almonds, baking powder, eggs, caster sugar, butter and orange zest into your food processor. Whizz until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Tip the mixture into your traybake tin and spread it about evenly.

Scatter over the amaretti crumbs and top with a layer of plums. I arranged mine in lines of wedges all facing the same way but that’s not necessary as the sponge rises and hides them anyway.

Pop in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out dry.

Cool in the tin, dust with icing sugar and cut up into whatever sized sponges you fancy. Enjoy these lovely little moist gems of Autumnal sponge.

Inspired by…

Country Living magazine

How easy…

I made them before breakfast on Sunday morning – deliciously relaxed, very easy.

 

 

 

Chicken Breasts with Tarragon and Mustard Cream Sauce

In this dish, the humble chicken breast is smothered in a light but tangy velouté sauce, transforming the chicken into something that is absolutely delicious. I made loads of sauce (we do like our gravies and sauces in this house) so there was plenty to around and then, uncouth individuals that we are, there was sufficient left for us to dive into the jug and finish it off with a spoon. One very, very yummy supper dish.

Serves 4

What you need…

1 chicken stock pot (I use Knorr)

500ml boiling water from the kettle

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

4 plump chicken breasts or supremes

6 tablespoons white wine

Sea salt and black pepper

60g butter

4 tablespoons plain flour

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped

2 egg yolks

200ml soured cream

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Paprika

What to do…

To make a chicken stock, pop the stockpot into a jug and top up with boiling water, using a balloon whisk to help it dissolve quickly. Set aside.

In a roomy saucepan, heat the oil and seal the breasts quickly on both sides – don’t allow to brown. Tip in the wine and 6 tablespoons of chicken stock. Pop on the pan lid, turn down the heat to low and poach gently for 20 minutes, until cooked.

Remove the breasts from the liquid, season, cover and set aside, keeping warm.

In a second jug, tip the cooking liquid and top it up with the stock to make up 500ml. Discard the remainder of the chicken stock. Give your saucepan a quick wipe out with kitchen paper.

To make your velouté sauce, melt the butter in the saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for a few seconds without browning. Tip in the tarragon and quickly stir in to evenly incorporate. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the stock. Simmer, stirring until thickened.

In your stock jug, mix together the egg yolk, cream and mustard. Then gradually add to the sauce, stirring the whole time just for 2 minutes over a low heat. Taste, adjust the seasoning if you’d like to and then pour over the chicken breasts. Sprinkle over paprika to serve this quite simply delicious supper dish.

Inspired by…

Lynn Bedford Hall, New Creative Cuisine (thanks Helen)

How easy…

Simplicity itself and such a wonderful outcome

Baked Orange Marmalade Sponge

Simply stunning and stunningly easy, this sponge is oh-so light but has a fabulously indulgent tangy zestiness flavour. It entices you with it’s aroma and when you’ve dug your spoon in once, there is no option but to just keep on going – absolutely delicious – give this one a go – you definitely won’t be disappointed!

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x 1.2 litre pudding basin

1 x deep baking dish

200g butter, softened plus extra to grease your basin.

4 tablespoons orange marmalade

200g caster sugar

Zest of 3 large oranges

4 eggs, lightly whisked

200g self-raising flour

4 tablespoons milk

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 140°c / 275°f / gas 3.

Liberally butter your basin and pop in the fridge to cool slightly. Then tip in the marmalade and brush so the whole of the inside of the bowl is covered.

In your food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale and fluffy. Tip in the orange zest and whizz again until evenly incorporated. Gradually add in the whisked egg, whizzing the whole time. Then tip in the flour and milk and whizz again to mix in.

Half fill your baking dish with boiling water from the kettle. Set aside.

Re-brush your marmalade, that has probably slithered to the bottom of the bowl, so that it covers the sides again and tip in the sponge mixture. Pop the bowl into the baking dish of boiling water and stick the whole thing into the oven, uncovered.

Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Insert a skewer in to make sure it’s cooked through – it should come out dry.

Remove from the oven and loosen the sponge from the bowl gently using a palette knife. Now the breath-holding bit: invert your sponge out of the bowl onto a pretty serving plate – it will gently slither out – I promise.

Remove bowl and admire your handiwork – it’s a pretty fine-looking sponge. Serve on it’s own or with a little double cream. Either way, for something so simple, it is simply stunning.

Inspired by…

Tom Kerridge

How easy…

Stunningly so!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Kiev

 

Another dish harking back to the 70s – an oldie but a goodie as they say. I don’t know why I’ve never made this before but having tried it, I’m definitely making chicken kievs again. To cut through the crispy coating to the succulent chicken is lovely enough but then the big reveal: the garlicky butter oozes out of the meat and the wonderful aroma wafts towards you – so enticing and what I hadn’t appreciated until I tried this was that the chicken breast is flavoured throughout with garlic and the butter has assured a special moist lusciousness. I wouldn’t bring back the 1970s but this dish is staying firmly on this decade’s favourite list!

What you need…

4 plump skinned chicken breasts (or supremes)

125g dried breadcrumbs (see tip)

40g Parmesan

2 large happy eggs, lightly whisked

50g plain flour

Pinch paprika

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

String!

For the garlic butter

100g butter, softened

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

What to do…

Use a fork to mash together all the garlic butter ingredients. Dump the whole lot onto a large piece of cling film and use the cling film to help you create a log shape. Pop the garlic butter in the freezer for 1 hour.

Lay the chicken breasts on a chopping board and use the point of a sharp knife to make a deep pocket in the middle of each one. Slice discs of garlic butter from your log and insert them into the pockets – be generous. Pull the meat together to cover the garlic butter and use the string to tie up the chicken breast like a parcel.

Take 3 plates. On the first, mix together the flour and paprika. On the second, tip the whisked eggs and on the third, mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Now the fun bit, dip each breast, first in the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Repeat the process for an extra crispy coating. Pop them on a plate and into the fridge for 1 hour.

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

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat and then fry the kievs for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Pop onto a baking tray – pocket side up and cook for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

Enjoy the ensuing garlicky aroma. Remind everyone about the string before they tentatively try their first bite and then devour the rest – they’re that good, honest!

Tip…

To dry out the bread, I stuck 2½ slices of white bread in a low oven for 10 minutes or so, before roughly cutting them up and whopping them in the food processor to create the breadcrumbs.

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How easy…

Very easy and really satisfying to make but you do have to be at home for the afternoon so that you can have time for the butter to sit in the freezer for an hour and the kievs to chill in the fridge for a further hour. Absolutely worth it though.