Monthly Archives: February 2019

Just Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The 37th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook and this one gets my vote for the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I have tried – I don’t bother looking for alternatives any more!

This is just such an easy recipe: great to do with the little ones or for them (if you’re willing to share). The cookies are everything they should be: sweet, buttery and with plenty of chocolate going on: who could resist?!

Makes 18 or so

What you need…

2 x baking sheets, lined with parchment paper

150g unsalted butter, room temperature

80g soft light brown sugar

80g granulated sugar

A pinch of sea salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large, happy egg

250g plain flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

100g dark chocolate chips

100g milk chocolate chips

What to do…

Using a standalone electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugars, salt and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Chuck in the egg and beat some more until incorporated.

Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix in well. Then, tip in the chocolate chips and fold them into the mixture evenly (we can’t have any cookies deprived of their chocolate!)

Roll the dough into a long log – about 5cms diametre – wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge for 3 hours.

Preheat your oven to 170°c / 325°f/ gas 3½.

Remove from the fridge and slice the log into 1cm pieces. Shape the slices into balls and pop onto the baking sheets, leaving plenty of space between each one for spreading. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Remove from the oven but leave on the baking sheets for a minute or two whilst they firm up and then transfer to a cooling rack, popping one in your mouth just to check that they taste as good as they smell. Maybe have another just to be doubly sure…. When cool, serve on a pretty plate and watch them be demolished!

Inspired by…

Nathan Outlaw

How easy…

Rather too easy: I knock these up on a regular basis!

Asparagus Tart with Brie and Caper Dressing

The 36th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is lovely starter or snack – easy to make and sensational on the eye and the palate!

This is a lovely tart, combining the nutty, earthy and creamy flavour of brie with the clean, fresh taste of asparagus and the sharp, piquancy of the cheeky little caper dressing – delicious and ideal for sharing with friends as a starter or as a light lunch.

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

1 x baking sheet

500g ready-made puff pastry

1 happy egg, beaten

500g really fresh asparagus

250g Brie, sliced

Sea salt and black pepper

for the dressing

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons olive oil

A squeeze fresh lemon juice

What to do…

Roll out the pastry to a large rectangle, around 23cm x 30cm. Using a knife, score another rectangle 2.5cm inside the edge, without cutting right through the pastry. Brush the 2.5cm ‘frame’ with the beaten egg and place on a baking sheet. Chill for 15 minutes.

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

Trim the asparagus to fit across the inside of the frame. Blanch for 3 minutes in boiling, salted water then, drain in a colander and ‘refresh’ with cold water.  Set aside the asparagus in the colander.

Bake the pastry in the oven until lightly browned. Remove and then discard the top couple of layers of the inner (scored) rectangle to prevent having a ‘soggy bottom’ underneath the asparagus.

Arrange the asparagus inside the pastry frame, top with the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is gorgeously browned and the cheese has melted.

Mix together the dressing and drizzle over the tart.

That’s it – serve your asparagus tart with brie and capers dressing straight away and enjoy. A glass of crisp, dry white wine wouldn’t go amiss!

Inspired by…

Woman and Home magazine

How Easy…

Really very easy, especially as it looks and tastes so yummy!

 

Mini Yum Babas

The 35th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is a fabulous recipe for a truly spectacular pud that looks and tastes like it was complex to create but is in fact, super easy and quick.

Wow! Wow! Wow! I am soooooo pleased I found this recipe! Individual, little gorgeous very grown up cakes that, whilst saturated in a rum-infused syrup, are so light, that you could very easily devour at least two, perhaps three, in one sitting: so tempting are they!

I’ve wanted to make rum babas for as long as I can remember but was put off by the apparent complexity and time involved in their creation. I read this alternative to the traditional recipe and my first thought was ‘well, I can’t see how that will work’ but I gave it a go anyway – ridiculously quick and easy as well as spectacularly gorgeous, these little retro lovelies will be gracing our dinner party tables until all of our friends have indulged in them! Welcome back from the 1970s, a thoroughly modern version of the fabulous rum baba!

Makes 8

What you need…

1 x 12-cavity mini fluted non-stick pan (I bought one from Amazon for £15 – I can make all sorts of lovely treats in it).

110g icing sugar, sifted

40g ground almonds

100g egg whites (from 2 – 3 large, happy eggs)

2 teaspoons maple syrup

60g unsalted butter, melted and then cooled but still soft

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

50g flour, sifted

½ teaspoon baking powder

for the rum syrup

300ml hot water from the kettle

300g caster sugar

100 – 150ml Caribbean dark rum

for the glaze

1 rounded dessertspoon apricot jam

2 tablespoons water

What to do…

The evening before you want to indulge in your babas, use an electric handheld whisk to combine the icing sugar and ground almonds in a large bowl. Tip in the egg whites and whisk to blend, then add the maple syrup, butter and vanilla extract, still whisking. Finally, add the flour and baking powder, whisking to combine. Cover with cling film and pop into your fridge and leave overnight.

Perhaps now is a good time to make the rum syrup: tip the caster sugar into a jug and top up with the water from the kettle. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool. Pour in 100ml rum, taste and then add more rum until it tastes just the way you like it (150ml for me!). Set aside.

The following morning, preheat your oven to 200˚c / 400˚f / gas 6.

Liberally butter 8 of the baba moulds and then dust with flour, tipping them upside down to get rid of the excess.

Spoon the baba mixture into the prepared moulds, filling them to just over half way. Pop into your oven for 12-14 minutes until golden and firm.

Leave in their moulds for 5 minutes, then use the tip of a knife to tease them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Place your babas into a shallow dish and then use a cocktail stick to prick them all over. Pour the syrup all over them and leave them to soak for 40 minutes, occasionally using a spoon to baste them with the syrup – it will mainly soak into the babas, leaving only a little in the bottom of the dish.

Make the glaze by putting the jam and water into a small saucepan and gently heating, stirring to combine. Brush the glaze all over the babas.

Transfer them to serving places and share them to delighted friends and family (but NOT their children!) with sweetened, whisked double cream and fruit of your choice. Be ready to offer seconds!

Inspired by…

The ‘sponge’ recipe was in the Mail on Sunday’s ‘You’ magazine and the syrup and glaze were taken from a 1970’s classic: Supercook!

Flaming Good Pan-Fried Pork Fillet with Prune and Armagnac Cream Sauce

The 34th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is a stunning little dinner number, ideal to ‘wow’ your family and friends and best of all, it takes very little effort.

It is only since I have been doing this blog, that I’ve tried the odd pork recipe – seriously, never cooked it and rarely eaten it beforehand. I have however become a total convert – this dish (and the pulled pork recipe) seal it! This dish is absolutely stunning – unbelievably quick and easy as well as tasting out of this world. The pork is delightful but it is the sauce of Armagnac, prunes and cream that creates the sensation that is this dish. Try it – it won’t be the last time! Simply delish!

Serves 4

What you need…

16 semi-dried prunes

Armagnac

1 650g pork tenderloin fillet, cut into 1 cm slices

Sea salt and black pepper

Knob of butter

150ml double cream

What to do…

The night before you want to enjoy this dish, pop the prunes into a screw-top jar and pour in Armagnac until they are just covered. With a fork, squish the prunes down into the Armagnac. Put the lid on and leave overnight to allow the intermingling flavours to develop.

For the meal, drain the prunes through a sieve, collecting the Armagnac in jug. Chop the prunes into quarters. Set aside.

Place the slices of pork onto a board and use a meat mallet or rolling pin to flatten them out into thin slices. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a frying pan until hot, melt the butter and then add the slices of pork, frying on each side for 1 – 2 minutes or until golden and just cooked through. You will need to do this in batches so have a warmed dish ready for the cooked pork.

Once all the pork is cooked and in the warmed dish, add the Armagnac to the pan and carefully flambé the Armagnac (the first time I did this,  the flames were HUGE so be careful – they last for just a few seconds – pouring the Armagnac in slowly helps with the health and safety issues!) Once the flames have dissipated, add the prunes and cook for 2 minutes, mashing them gently with the back of a spoon.

Add the cream, season with salt and pepper and cook for a further minute.  Serve the pork slices and pour over the decadent sauce and then…enjoy every morsel. That’s it – so simple and this dish is absolutely terrific – it tastes like you’ve spent hours in the kitchen rather than just a few moments! Really fabulous!

Serving suggestions…

Sauté potatoes go well and we enjoyed ours with roasted cauliflower.

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Dead easy – you just need to remember to create your drunken prunes the night before!

 

 

Focaccia Sharing Bread with Rosemary

 

The 33rd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this lovely – and I can’t stress enough how simple – bread goes down a storm in our house – a really regular event, especially as part of al fresco lunches in the summer.

This lovely bread is an ideal accompaniment to garlicky starters like Gambas Pil Pil, as part of an Italian-inspired antipasti lunch or simply to dip into olive oil with balsamic vinegar. However you choose to enjoy it, Focaccia is just lovely….and so simply to make, especially if you have a food processor or electric stand mixer.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x shallow baking tray (26 x 36cms or larger) lightly oiled

500g strong white bread flour

7g fast action dried yeast

10g fine salt

325ml warm water

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for coating and then drizzling

A sprinkle of sea salt

2 – 3 rosemary sprigs, cut to create around 12 little sprigs!

What you do…

If you have a mixer, fit it with the dough hook and then tip into the bowl the flour, yeast, salt, water and the tablespoon of oil. Mix on a low speed for 10 minutes until smooth and silky. If you don’t have a mixer, it’s the same process but by hand – somewhat more tiring and intensive (you can’t just walk away leaving it to do its own thing!)

Shape the dough into a ball and coat with a little olive oil. Pop into a clean bowl (I wash out the one I’ve just used to make the dough), cover with cling film and leave to rise to double its size (45-60 minutes depending on the warmth of the room).

Tip the dough out onto a work surface and press into a rough rectangle. Place on your baking tray and press the dough outwards with your fingers, right into the corners. Leave to rise again, loosely covered (with a plastic bag for instance) for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 250˚c / 480 ˚f / gas 10.

Using your fingertips to poke deep holes across the whole surface, almost to the bottom. Drizzle the tope generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Poke the rosemary sprigs into the holes and then pop into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 200˚c / 400˚f/ gas 6 for a further 10 minutes.

Leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes whilst you enjoy the wonderful rosemary-infused aroma.  Tear, share and enjoy…..simply yummy and nothing quite like it!

Inspired by…

River Cottage

How easy…

Very, very easy, especially if you have a mixer! Great to knock up to make a relaxed lunch or supper just a little more special.

 

 

Miso-Marinated Cod with Stir-Fry

 

The 32nd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this lovely supper dish is quite simply fast and fabulous!

A great mid-week family supper that is super-quick to make and has stunning Umami-ish flavours – tangy, tantalising and tasty; it’s gently spicy rather than powerfully hot and so good that I’ve had it three times in two weeks!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking tray, lined with foil

4 x bamboo skewers

650g skinless cod/haddock fillets, cut into cubes

4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

4cm ginger, peeled and sliced thinly

1 teaspoon dried, crushed chillis

2 x 300g packs of your favourite vegetable stir-fry

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

2 tablespoon hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

Sea salt and black pepper

Lime wedges, to serve (optional)

for the marinade

2 tablespoon miso paste

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons mirin

4 tablespoons light soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

What to do…

First to the marinade: combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season with a little black pepper. Add the fish, then cover and chill for anything between 15 minutes and overnight (I did an hour).

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

Thread the fish onto skewers, then arrange on your baking tray.

Drizzle a tablespoon of the remaining marinade over each skewer and pop into the oven until cooked though (10minutes) turning half way through cooking.

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the spring onions, ginger and chilli and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Tip in the vegetables, hoisin and sweet chilli sauces and stir-fry for 5-6 minutes, or until just tender. Serve with the fish skewers and extra lime wedges for squeezing over. Absolutely delightful and prepared in minutes!

Inspired by…

Tesco.com

How easy…

Ridiculously!

Truly Scrumptious Lemon Drizzle Cake

The 31st of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this cake is kinda a ‘go-to’ for instant cake-satisfaction – fast, easy and scrumptious!

I just love this cake! For two reasons: firstly it is spectacularly easy to make and secondly, because it is truly scrumptious! Not naturally a spontaneous baker, I have even taken to quickly whipping up this cake on a whim just when we fancy a little slice of something yummy (gorgeously moist and gently zingingly lemony) with our afternoon cuppa (him: tea, me: double espresso). Try it once and it will be on your favourites list!

Serves 8

What you need…

900g loaf tin, liberally buttered and parchment paper-lined

3 large eggs

175g self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

175g butter, softened

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Zest of 1½ lemons, finely grated

for crunchy lemon icing

100g granulated sugar

Juice of 1½ lemons

What to do…

Preheat oven to 180c / 350 F / gas 4.

Chuck all the cake ingredients into a food processor and beat together thoroughly.

Tip into the loaf tin and bake in oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown and shrinking away from the sides of the tin slightly.

Pop tin on a cooling rack and leave from 10/15 minutes until the cake is warm rather than hot.

Prick over the top of the cake with a skewer.

Mix together the sugar and lemon juice and pour over the top of the cake whilst it is still in its tin. It will look like there’s loads too much topping – keep the faith and pour the lot in. Walk away.

Come back 10/15 minutes later and the lemon drizzle topping will have largely disappeared – it’s gone into the cake (with the help of your skewering) to ensure that it is wonderfully moist.

When it’s cool rather than cold, loosen the sides away from the tin and lift out, using the paper. Dispense with the parchment paper and serve your delicious lemon drizzle cake – lovely fat slices! At this point, it is beyond delicious – light, reminiscent of being warm with a gentle but gorgeous citrusy tang that simply says, “eat more”. Wonderful!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Spectacularly!

 

 

 

 

 

Dad’s Paella

The 30th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is one of the few that actually got passed down from my dad: it’s a joy to make and even better to eat!

There were several drivers for starting this blog and one of them was that hardly any of my dad’s recipes were retained and he’s no longer around to share them and, he was a great cook. So, to have family favourites photographed and typed up seemed like a good plan – not morbid – the kids and their friends are already delving into those that have been published so far.

Anyway, all that aside, Dad used to make great paella and his recipe was actually retained. I have no idea whether it’s authentic but it’s oh-so tasty – intensely flavoured, bringing to mind images of beachside chiringuitos basking in the Mediterranean sunshine – absolutely delicious!

Serves 6

What you need…

Splash of rapeseed oil

8 chicken thigh fillets

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

100g pancetta, chopped

70g chorizo, chopped (optional: I can’t stand the stuff so left it out)

4 large tomatoes, chopped

600ml hot water from the kettle

2 chick stockpots

250ml dry white wine

2 bay leaves

Sea salt and black pepper

2 mugs long grain rice (about 450g)

Saffron

24 fresh mussels, cleaned

2 fresh squid, thinly sliced

500g clams (I couldn’t get fresh so used ‘Big & Juicy Delicious Clams’ by the Big Prawn Company, Waitrose)

250g raw king prawns

1 mug frozen garden peas

A handful of parsley, chopped

Lemon wedges, to serve

What to do…

First, make your chicken stock by using a balloon whisk to help dissolve the chicken stockpots into the hot water from the kettle. Set aside.

In a large frying pan (I don’t get on with paella pans – the rice always sticks) heat the oil over a moderate heat and then sauté the chicken until golden brown.

Chuck in the onions, garlic and red pepper. Add in the pancetta and chorizo, if using, and sauté until soft.

Chuck in the tomatoes, chicken stock, wine and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together.

Add the rice, some saffron, the mussels, squid and clams, if they’re fresh. If however you’ve bought pre-cooked clams like I did, hold them back until later.

Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking on how the saffron is colouring the rice, adding a little more if you would like a deeper yellow colour.

This is also a good time to pour yourself a glass of Rioja to enjoy, together with the fabulous cooking aromas, during the rest of the paella preparation.

Finally, add in the cooked clams, prawns, peas and parsley, cooking for 10 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink.

Serve flamboyantly if possible (I just feel that paella deserves some kind of a grand entrance) with lemon wedges to a group of chattering family and friends with several glasses of good Rioja!

Tips…

The quantity of mussels, clams and prawns is obviously taste-dependent. One of the joys of this recipe is that you can adapt the ingredients to suit your personal preferences, hence the many varieties of paella available.

My dad added to the bottom of the recipe, ‘Cooked lobster is supposed to go in this as well’, but I don’t think it needs it and that this is a flamboyant step too far!

Inspired by…

Dad

How easy…

Very easy and very relaxed to make as well as such a delight to enjoy.

Light and Zesty Lemon Tart

The 29th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is truly scrumptious and was the recipe in which I finally conquered pastry! (The first time I made it, it fell apart and I was sooooo cross – I woke up at 3am and announced – to myself – that I would not be beaten my a lemon tart! Sad, I know but the perseverance paid off – now I don’t know what the problem was – this is so easy!

A really light, creamy yet zesty, fresh version of this classic dessert, this lemon tart is quite simply, delightful. Seconds all round, please.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x 23cm/9in shallow tart tin, with removable base, liberally buttered

1 x flat baking sheet

for the pastry

175g flour

Pinch of salt

100g butter, straight from the fridge

25g caster sugar

1 egg, separated: yolk in one cup and white in another

2 dessertspoons water

for the filling

3 eggs

125g granulated sugar

Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons

100ml double cream

What to do…

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour until the mixture is like crumbs. Add the sugar and gently mix in with a spatula. Beat the egg yolk and then tip into the mixture, stirring until the mixture sticks together. At this point add the water, one teaspoon at a time until the mixture comes together – you may not need the whole 2 dessertspoons.

Cover your working surface with cling film and then flour lightly. Roll out your pastry on the cling film until about 5mm thick, creating a circle as best you can. Cover with another piece of cling film and then slide a flat baking sheet underneath the whole lot to lift it and pop in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°c / 375°f / gas 5.

Remove pastry from fridge and, keeping the pastry between the two pieces of cling film, gently roll it out until it’s about 3mm thick and large enough to line the bottom and sides of the prepared tart tin.

Remove the top piece of cling film and gently place the pastry upside down (cling film facing up) into the tin. Gently press into the edges and using your thumb, break off the pastry of the top edge of the tin to give a neat finish. Remove the cling film and pop the pastry into the freezer for 10 minutes.

The pasty needs to be blind-baked now so line it roughly with parchment paper, making sure the sides are also covered with the paper. Chuck in a load of baking beans (or dried pulses which can be used many times over) and blind-bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry feels dry.

Remove the paper and beans. Lightly beat your egg white and use it to brush over the pastry. Pop the pastry back in the oven for two minutes.

Take out of the oven and put to one side until you are ready to make your filling (this could be immediately, later on in the day or even the next day).

Set the oven to 120°c / 250°f / gas ½.

In a food processor, pop your eggs and sugar and whizz for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is pale and creamy. Add the lemon juice and zest and process for a further 5 minutes. Pour in the cream and whizz for another 5 minutes.

Pour into the pastry case and pop it straight in the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling has just set in the centre.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before taking the tart out of its tin and transferring to a pretty plate or cake stand. When it’s completely cool, dredge icing sugar over the top. Slice and serve your light and zesty lemon tart – it’s fresh and zingy, light and frankly, delightful!

Serving suggestion…

A little splash of double cream works wonderfully and this is a great dessert to serve with a ‘sticky’ dessert wine.

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

Well, at the time of first making this, I had never made my own pastry but I nervously followed that element of the recipe to the letter and ….it was too ‘short’. The second time, I adapted it and added more water and it was absolutely delightful. The lemon filling is quite heavenly and a dead easy – just a case of processing.

I do love this recipe, because the ‘tricky’  bit, i.e. the pastry, can be done in advance and the filling is dead easy.

Oozingly Gorgeous Baked Camembert in Bread

The 28th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is just luscious and always goes down a storm at informal suppers, encouraging primal behaviour of greedily digging in….again  and again…!

Unbelievably yummy, this makes for a fabulous starter or part of a picnic supper of patés and cheeses. Ridiculously simple, it also has the added benefit of bringing a bit of theatre to the table as the knife is inserted and melted Camembert oozes out. The addition of the herbs adds a lovely dimension to a cheese that is already a favourite.

What you need…

1 x baking tray

250g round Camembert

1 round loaf (e.g. boule)

2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked

3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked

Sea salt

Olive oil, to drizzle

What to do…

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

Sit the Camembert in its packaging on top of the bread in the centre, using it as a template to cut around. Set the cheese aside and continue to cut the circle so that it is about 4cms deep. Pull the circle of bread out of the middle to leave a snug hole in which to place your Camembert (packaging removed).

Cut the removed bread into chunks and set all but 2-3 of them aside. Pop the 2-3 chunks of bread into your food processor with the rosemary and thyme and whizz to make crumbs. Stir in some salt (I use rock salt as I enjoy the crunchy chunks).

Put the bread onto your baking tray and sprinkle over the crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and pop into your oven for 20 minutes.  Then, add the reserved chunks of bread to the baking tray, cooking for a further 10 minutes.

Serve the cheese with a ceremonious deep cut into the middle and then use the baked chunks of bread to dip into the oozing yumminess! Delicious!

Tip…

This dish also works spectacularly with Vacherin cheese, but it is only easily available a few weeks each year and is a bit pricey.

Inspired by…

Waitrose Weekend

How easy…

Cut hole in bread. Insert cheese. Sprinkle with bits. Bake. Dead easy!