Monthly Archives: February 2017

Favourite Chocolate Brownies

I seem to be making these gorgeous, gooey-in-the-middle, rich and sumptuous brownies on an almost weekly basis (on demand!) and across a variety of geographical locations: they are adored and indulged in across all age groups and might be faintly addictive. Anyway, the recipe has already been blogged, ‘Sumptuous Chocolate Brownies’, but I thought a second mention might be appropriate and I’ve also updated the picture which originally had Christmas decorations in. Instead, we now have chief cookie and cake bakers as well as expert bowl and spatula lickers, Sophia and Georgia! Try this recipe – you won’t look back!

American-Style Buttermilk Pancakes

Shrove Tuesday is coming and I decided this year to take a departure from the traditional pancake batter and instead tried this American-style pancake recipe and it was sooooo worth it! In our indulgent taste test (in the name of blog research) we tried both savoury pancakes with smoked salmon and a dill sauce followed by pancakes with caramelised bananas and either chocolate or caramel spread. Wow!!!!! (John’s first five words) Fluffy and light, smooth and indulgent, I’m afraid the days of traditional pancake batter may well be behind me, these are absolutely terrific and feel like an utter treat.

Makes 6 – 8 pancakes, depending on how big you like them

What you need for the buttermilk pancakes…

150g plain flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Pinch of salt

2 large, happy eggs, separated

284ml carton buttermilk

Knob of butter for frying

What you need for the smoked salmon and dill sauce topping…

1 large, happy egg yolk

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 dessertspoon caster sugar

Pinch of salt

150ml rapeseed oil

Small bunch dill, finely chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

Smoked salmon (100g tops 3 pancakes)

A few dill sprigs, lemon wedges and creamed horseradish to serve

What you need for the caramelised banana and chocolate topping…

Per pancake:

Sprinkling of caster sugar

1 banana, sliced thickly,

Either Dulce de Leche (milk caramel spread) or chocolate spread or Nutella

Dollop of ice cream to serve (we had brandy ice cream – recipe already blogged – which was incredible but vanilla would work well)

What to do…

Make the Dill sauce up to three days in advance. This means that you can just enjoy the pancake-making on the day that you want to eat them.

Put the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and use your handheld electric whisk to beat until a foam is beginning to form. Very slowly pour in the oil, whisking the whole time, to create a thickened Hollandaise-style sauce. Stir in the dill and lemon juice, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge until needed.

For each warmed pancake, dollop on around a dessertspoon of dill sauce and spread over the pancake. Arrange or plop on as much smoked salmon as you fancy and garnish with a few dill sprigs. Serve with lemon wedges and a little creamed horseradish on the side: wow and awesome!!!!

And to the pancakes! In a medium mixing bowl, use your handheld electric whisk to beat the egg whites until they form soft floppy peaks. Set aside. Unplug the whisk and rinse.

Mix the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and mix in. Slowly pour in the buttermilk, using your handheld electric whisk to mix it in thoroughly, forming a thick, smooth batter.

Add one tablespoon egg whites to the batter and use a balloon whisk to incorporate. Add the rest of the egg whites in two batches, again using the balloon whisk to gently incorporate, creating a light, fluffy batter.

Heat a large frying pan over a moderate heat and lightly grease with butter. For each pancake, drop in a ladleful of batter, smoothing it down a little with the back of the ladle to create pancakes that are about 10cm wide and 1cm thick. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes on each side and then keep warm in a low oven whilst you cook the rest. Add your choice of topping and either slowly indulge or demolish with relish!!!! (We tried the first approach but quickly made the transition to the second!)

For the caramelised banana and chocolate topping. Warm a small frying pan over a moderate heat with the sprinkling of caster sugar covering the bottom of the pan. As soon as the sugar has melted, chuck in the banana slices. As soon as the melted sugar turns red, flip the bananas and cook for a couple of minutes until they are well caramelised. Don’t muck about with them as they’ll break up. Remove from the heat and set aside whilst you spread your choice of chocolate or caramel spread over your warmed pancake. Tip the banana slices over the top and then dollop on your ice cream. Roll your eyes in the ecstasy that is this pancake – guard it against jealous housemates!

American Pancakes with Smoked Salmon & Dill Sauce w

Tip…

This quantity of the dill sauce is enough for 6 – 8 pancakes, but if like us, you only make up half the batter for savoury ones, the sauce will keep in the fridge for 3 days and is brilliant served with grilled or roasted fish.

Inspired by…

Delicious magazine

How easy…

Really easy and very worth it. I’d definitely make the dill sauce in advance though as there was a lot of washing up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiced Haddock Chowder

Real comfort food this, it’s a thick, chunky and really flavoursome soup – an ideal lunch or supper that will surely brighten even the coldest and most miserable winter’s day – also dead easy to make!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 haddock fillets

568ml (1 pint) milk

4 bay leaves

10 peppercorns

25g butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, roughly chopped

½ swede, roughly chopped

1 large potato, peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon plain flour

2 tablespoons flatleaf parsley, chopped

What to do…

Cut the haddock fillets in half and pop them into a saucepan with the milk, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to the boil and then pop the lid on, removing from the heat and leaving the flavours to infuse.

Melt the butter and then sauté the onion until just soft. Add the carrot, swede and potato together with the mustard seeds and turmeric and sauté the lot over a moderate heat, stirring the whole time, until lightly browned.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the haddock from the milk.

Scatter the flour over the vegetables cook over a moderate heat, stirring to evenly incorporate. Gradually pour in the infused milk, stirring as you go and then turn up the heat to create a thick sauce. Cook the vegetables in this sauce until they are soft (15 minutes or so).

Break up the haddock into bite-sized chunks and tip it into the pan to warm through.

Serve in rustic bowls (it’s that kind of a soup) with a little chopped parsley to garnish. Enjoy this soup that has the same warming effect as snuggling up in a warm blanket but with the added zing of a little spiciness.

Inspired by…

Nigel Slater

How easy…

A very easy-going, relaxed recipe, rather like the man himself

Chocolate, Coffee and Vanilla Layer Cake

A lovely flavoursome cake that combines some of my favourite flavours: vanilla, caramel and coffee, all wrapped up in chocolate – a lovely treat although no occasion is particularly required….just an appetite for a big slice of naughty cake!

Serves 8 – 10

What you need…

3 x 20cm sandwich tins, buttered and lined with baking parchment

225g butter, softened

225g golden caster sugar

225g plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

4 large, happy eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon coffee extract

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon sea salt

200g dulce de leche (milk caramel spread)

Chocolate stars and edible gold dust (optional, to decorate)

for the glaze

200g dark chocolate, chunked

30g butter

2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted

4 tablespoons coffee extract (or VERY strong coffee)

6 tablespoons golden syrup

What to do…

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

Into your food processor, tip the butter and golden caster sugar and whizz until pale and fluffy. Whilst still whizzing, gradually pour in the egg, thoroughly incorporating each bit before adding any more. Tip in the flour and baking powder and whizz until thoroughly mixed.

Remove one third of the mixture and put it into another bowl. To this third, add the coffee extract and mix in thoroughly. Pour into one of the sandwich tins. Set aside.

Into the remaining mixture in the food processor, add the vanilla bean paste and whizz until mixed in. Divide between the two remaining sandwich tins. Bang all three tins on your work surface to level the mixture in each and then pop all three in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool.

For the glaze, put all the ingredients into a heatproof bowl and set in a steamer over a pan of simmering water. Leave until melted, then whisk together and set aside to cool.

Mix the salt into the dulce de leche. Put a vanilla sponge onto your cake stand and spread half the dulce de leche over the top. Place the coffee sponge over the top and spread the remaining dulce de leche over the top before adding the remaining vanilla sponge.

Once the glaze is cool but not fully set, use a small palette knife to cover the top and sides. The glaze is quite forgiving so you can take your time with this, doing it little by little, going around the a few times to build it up.

Allow it to set until tacky and then sprinkle over the gold dust, before decorating with stars.

Cut nice, big fat slices and enjoy…..

Inspired by…

Not sure: the recipe was clipped from a magazine

How easy…

Very easy for a pretty spectacular shape even if, like me, you’re not good at the presentation aspects of the recipe

Spiced Up Valentine’s Cookies

These were originally called Christmas biscuits, but I didn’t have a chance to make them in December (too many recipes, not enough days) so, on the basis that I believe the spirit of Christmas should last the whole year through, I used the same recipe but swapped the star-shaped cookie cutter for heart-shaped ones and made these little cookies to spice up your Valentine’s Day! They’re light, have a delightful crunch and the warming ‘festive’ spice is quite lovely.

What you need…

1-2 baking trays, buttered or lined with Bake O Glide

250g unsalted butter, softened and chunked

140g caster sugar

1 egg yolk

300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon all-spice

1 teaspoon ground ginger

for the icing

100g icing sugar

1 tablespoon warm water

Food colouring (optional)

What to do…

Tip the butter and sugar into your food processor whizz until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolk and whizz to evenly incorporate. Tip in the flour and spices and whizz to form a dough ball. Wrap up in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thick. Use cookie cutters of your choice (stars for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s, etc) and cut out as many as you can, re-rolling the trimmings as needed.

Place on your baking trays and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350f / gas 4.

Pop the cookies into the oven and bake for 12 minutes.

Let them firm up a bit on the baking trays before carefully transferring them to wire racks to cool.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and then add the warm water gradually, mixing it in until the icing coats the back of a spoon. Add a few drops of food colouring , if using. Spoon into an icing bag fitted with a small writing tube/nozzle (mine was size 1.5). Decorate as you like (I’m not very good at this bit so my decoration was quite basic). Share them around immediately – they only keep for 1 – 2 days but…that shouldn’t be a problem! Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Very easy. My only issue was not reading the bit about resting the dough in the fridge for 2 hours (it ended up going in overnight but the cookies were absolutely fine!)

Instant Chocolate Orange Mousse

This mousse recipe is absolutely sinful! Take time dipping your spoon through the light, cloud-like cream topping into the smooth, velvety chocolate before delighting your tastebuds with this luxuriantly sensuous mousse that is both rich and silky but still light…with a gentle, naughty little kick of Cointreau. Simply divine and no effort to make!

Serves 6

What you need…

150g dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa solids) chunked

175g condensed milk

500ml double cream

Pinch of salt

30ml Cointreau orange liqueur

30ml freshly squeezed orange juice

Finely grated orange zest or chocolate sprinkles to decorate

What to do…

Gently melt the chocolate in a steamer over a pan of simmering water, stirring and scraping down the sides into the middle towards the end. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, pour in the condensed milk and half the double cream. Add the salt and used a handheld electric whisk to beat together until thickened – but only just – when you lift the whisks, they should leave a trail of ribbons.

Stir about one third of the whisked cream into the slightly cooled melted chocolate and use a balloon whisk to gently fold it in. Then, in either 2 or 3 batches, fold the chocolate mixture back into the large bowl of cream and condensed milk, again using the balloon whisk. Then, gently stir in the Cointreau and lastly, the orange juice.

Divide the mousse between 6 pretty glasses or tea cups, leaving a gap of about 1cm from the top. Pop in the fridge for 1 hour…..or 24 – they keep well providing you can keep others in your household from helping themselves.

Just before you want to serve them, use your handheld electric whisk to beat up the remaining cream until thickened but still floppy and then plop a large spoonful on top of each chocolate mousse. Decorate with orange zest or chocolate sprinkles. Serve to a raptuous table of diners

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Done in a flash, next to no effort and absolutely gorgeous!

 

 

 

Venison with Red Wine & Chocolate Sauce (oh yeah!) with Celeriac & Apple Purée

O M G! This is so very, very special! Delectable, delicious, de-lovely – absolutely incredible! OK, enough adjectives! This is a dish worth celebrating – venison can be dear (or deer – see what I did there!!). I paid £17 for 600g which serves 4 so that’s £4.25 each which I didn’t think was too bad given the ‘off-the-scale’ enjoyment that was registered: the meat is so succulent and very flavoursome without being ‘gamey’. Paired with the rich red wine and chocolate sauce and complemented by the sweet, crisp celeriac and apple purée: a better trio I cannot imagine! An ideal dinner party dish, this is so good and not at all difficult (especially if you prepare the sauce and purée in advance); you simply must give it a go!!!! (Don’t let the long ingredients list put you off – it’s sooooo worth it!)

Serves 4

What you need…

600g venison loin

Rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed

2 thyme sprigs

2 garlic cloves, chopped

50g unsalted butter

Sea salt and black pepper

for the sauce

Rapeseed oil

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed/grinded

300ml robust red wine

200ml water from the kettle

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

50g dark chocolate, grated

25g cold unsalted butter, chunked

Pinch of salt

for the purée

1 celeriac head, peeled and chunked

500ml semi skimmed milk

500ml water

2 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 tablespoon caster sugar

25g unsalted butter

Pepper (white’s better as it blends in but I only had black, which works equally as well)

What to do…

So, we’re going to turn the ingredients list all around: first making the chocolate sauce and then the purée, both of which can then be popped in the fridge for use later in the day or even the following day.

To the sauce: heat a splash of oil in a saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until they start to caramelise.

Add the herbs, juniper berries and peppercorns and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by two-thirds. Meanwhile, make a strong chicken stock by using a balloon whisk to dilute your chicken stockpot into the hot water. Add the stock to the pan, bring back to the boil and then simmer until reduced by half.

Into a jug, tip the grated chocolate. Strain the sauce into the jug and then plop in chunks of butter. Use your balloon whisk again dissolve both the chocolate and butter into the sauce. Season with a pinch of salt. Taste, say ‘wow’ and vow to leave the sauce alone until it’s on your plate with the venison! Cover with cling film and set aside until needed.

Next the purée: pop the celeriac into a large saucepan with the milk and water. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently until the celeriac is soft. Into your blender pour a couple of ladles of the cooking liquid and then, using a slotted spoon, add the celeriac chunks. Set aside. Pour the remaining cooking liquid into a jug and set aside.

Wipe out your pan and pop it back onto the heat with a splash of water, the apple and sugar. Simmer gently until the apple is soft and beginning to break apart. Use a spatula to scrape the lot into the blender with the celeriac. Whizz until smooth, adding more cooking liquid if needed. Add the butter, season, whizz, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Set aside until needed.

That’s most of the ‘work’ and mess done. At this stage you could cool both the sauce and purée and pop them in the fridge until tomorrow if you were preparing in advance for a dinner party. I made mine in the morning and then just left them on the worktop side until I was ready to cook dinner in the evening.

To the main event: preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Rub the venison loin with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Also, rub in the juniper berries all over the meat. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan over a high heat, add the venison and sear on all sides for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Add the thyme, garlic and butter to the pan and baste the venison for 2 minutes. Cover the meat with foil and then transfer the pan to the oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the pan and rest, still covered by the foil, on a warmed plate for 10 minutes.

Whilst all that is going on, have your sauce and purée and sauce in separate saucepans over a low heat just to warm through.

Carve the venison into thick slices; try not to dribble in anticipation. Onto each diner’s plate, plop or swirl some purée, arrange a few venison slices on the top and then drizzle with the sauce. Enjoy with a simple green vegetable and a lovely glass or two of red wine. Consider for a moment how wonderful life can be! Enjoy!

Tip…

I found the size of the venison too ungainly to deal with as one piece so chopped it in half….worked for me!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Really easy. And if you prep the sauce and purée in advance, the actual cooking of the venison takes no time at all and is a sinch!

Red Mullet with Saffron, Orange Oil and Spring Onion Barley

I first tried this last week when I was in Penzance with my brother, Martin; this dish is ridiculously easy to make and absolutely delicious! We picked up the freshly caught fish at lunchtime and cooked this up on a whim in the evening. The freshness of the fish evokes a quite wonderful essence of the sea: a beautiful flavour that is enhanced by the lovely and light pearl barley ‘risotto’ – the perfect base for these delightful little fish – just yummy!

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course

What you need…

for the orange oil

Zest of 1 orange, grated finely

75ml rapeseed oil

25ml olive oil

for the main dish

1 x medium baking tin

400ml hot water from the kettle

1 vegetable stockpot (I use Knorr)

8 spring onions

8 red mullet fillets (your fishmonger will do this for you)

Rapeseed oil

50g unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, chopped

100g pearl barley

1 teaspoon saffron strands

200g spinach, washed and trimmed

2 teaspoons dill, chopped, plus extra fronds to garnish

50g Parmesan, grated finely

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Ideally, the day before you want to enjoy this dish, make up the orange oil by putting all the ingredients into a blender and whizzing for 1 minute. Pour the mixture into a jug, cover, pop into the fridge and leave to infuse for 24 hours. Strain into a screw-topped jar and keep in the fridge until needed (it will actually keep for up to 1 month).

Time to prepare this lovely meal! First, a bit of prep: make some stock by using a balloon whisk to dilute the stockpot into the hot water. Set aside. Trim the spring onions and slice finely, keeping the white parts separate from the green. Set aside. That’s it – prep done.

Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a splash of rapeseed oil and the butter. When hot, add the white spring onion slices and the garlic. Stir for 1 minute and then add the pearl barley, stirring for a further minute.

Pour in 200ml of the vegetable stock and add the saffron. Bring to the boil and then simmer on a moderate heat for 20 minutes, checking on it occasionally – if it looks like the stock is being absorbed too soon, add a little more until the 20 minutes is up and the cooking liquid is now almost completely absorbed. Discard any remaining stock.

Add the green spring onion slices, spinach and dill and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the Parmesan, season, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

For the fish, allow 4 minutes before the end of the pearl barley cooking time. Heat your grill to medium. Splash a little rapeseed oil into your baking tin, spread all around and season. Pop the fish in, skin side up and slide the tin under the grill, cooking for 4 minutes or until just cooked through.

Spoon the barley onto warmed plates and arrange the red mullet on the top. Drizzle orange oil over and around the fish and then garnish with dill fronds. Dead easy and absolutely delicious!

Inspired by…

My bro and before him, Nathan Outlaw.

How easy…

Very easy. The freshness and essential flavours of the fish obviate the need for any fancy cooking – it’s all there for you already!