Author Archives for Cindy Duffield

Torta Di Cappuccino

OMG!!!! This is a totally luscious ‘tart-mousse’ – I’m not sure which category it fits in but I can tell you this – a dark chocolate digestive biscuit base is topped with something in between a cake and a mousse that is richly flavoured with coffee and chocolate – the combination is staggeringly gorgeous, I mean staggeringly!! And somehow, as much as it’s rich, it’s also light: temptation on a plate. If you feel like sharing (I’d urge against) you can make it a day in advance of a dinner party or friends coming for supper.

Serves 8 – 10 (or perhaps just 1!)

What you need…

23cm diameter spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered

for the base

375g dark chocolate digestive biscuits

3 tablespoons double cream

75g butter, melted

for the topping

500g mascarpone

140g caster sugar

3 eggs

100g chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa solids), broken up

3 tablespoons Kahlua

125ml espresso or REALLY strong coffee

Icing sugar, to decorate

Chocolate coffee beans, to decorate

What to do…

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

To make the base, whizz your biscuits in a food processor to create crumbs, then mix with the cream and melted butter. Tip the biscuit mix into the cake tin, spread evenly and press down so the mix is good and solid. Pop in the fridge whilst you do the rest.

Put your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then into a steamer over a pan of simmering water to gently melt.

Using a handheld electric whisk, beat the mascarpone and caster sugar together in a large bowl until soft and light.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Gradually add to the mascarpone mixture, whisking the whole time.

Go back to your melted chocolate and mix in the Kahlua and coffee. Then add to the mascarpone mixture, whisking continually to ensure that all the ingredients are evenly blended.

Pour over the biscuit base and bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until the centre is set (no jiggling) and the top is evenly brown.

Leave to cool and when cold, transfer from the cake tin to a pretty serving plate. Decorate with sifted icing sugar and chocolate coffee beans, either scattered haphazardly or in a ring around the edge of the dessert. Take one slice of your Torta di Cappuccino, just to make sure that it’s OK. Enjoy the sheer, delectable enjoyment of that moment and then decide if you like the people you’re with enough to share it with!!!!

Torta Cappuccino 2 w_1_1

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

It’s not difficult at all. I feel that is should have been, given the end result but no, it was very straight forward.

Seared Tuna with Chilli and Coriander Dressing

The first trip to the newly discovered fishmongers in Windsor (O’Driscolls) netted the bounty of fresh tuna steaks. They looked pretty good before I did anything to them but this easy, fast recipe really emphasises the natural flavours of the tuna and then jazzes them up with a zingy, fresh combination brought about by the wonderful combination of chillies, lime and coriander. Great dish for supper or lunch and I do believe it’s healthy too!

Serves 4

What you need…

A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Pinch salt

Grated zest of 4 limes

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 x 150g fresh tuna loin steaks (about 1½ cms thick)

for the dressing

6cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Juice from the 4 limes

4 tablespoons olive oil

Another good handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

To make the dressing, put the ginger, chillies and garlic into a bowl and mash into a pulp – if you have a pestle and mortar, that’s perfect; if not, use the end of a rolling pin to bash your ingredients. Add the lime juice and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then the coriander together with salt and pepper. Mix together and set aside to allow the flavours to infuse.

In a separate bowl, mix together the coriander, salt, lime zest and oil to create a loose paste. Brush one side of each tuna steak with the paste.

In a large frying pan, heat the remaining oil over a high heat. Add the tuna steaks, paste-side down and fry for 1 minute. Brush the remaining paste on the tops of the steaks and then flip them, cooking them for a further minute – the tuna will still be rare inside – cooked any more than this and it will lose its flavour and become dry and chewy.

Serve two tuna steaks per person and pour over a tablespoon of the dressing onto each serving. Pour the remaining dressing onto a salad of mixed leaves (iceberg lettuce, chicory, baby spinach and coriander work well).

Enjoy your tasty, zesty seared tuna with chilli and coriander dressing and feel ALIVE!

Inspired by…

No idea! The original recipe was torn from a magazine years ago but my version actually bears very little resemblance anyway.

How easy…

Really, really easy. The key to success is great, fresh tuna.

 

 

Celery Soup

OK, don’t, like I did, dismiss this out of hand – I cannot believe how unexpectedly, stunningly delicious this soup is! Honestly! I was asked to make celery soup by John, following a visit to his acupuncturist – bear with me – it’s worth it. Just so you’re in the loop, he had his gall-bladder removed two years ago and his digestive system has never been right since (another story for another time). The acupuncture is working (again, another story) but the lovely lady he sees recommended celery soup, saying it would help with digestion. I put off making it for several weeks, pronouncing it dreary and was subsequently astonished at how lovely such a basic soup is. Then comes the good bit – I researched the health properties of celery – wow! It’s a super food – it has incredible properties – I’ve included a summary underneath the recipe. But I urge you to try this one – easy, quick, cheap delicious and spectacularly good for you!!!!!

Serves 4

What you need…

Splash olive/rapeseed oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

450g celery, cleaned, trimmed and sliced

400ml boiling water from the kettle

1 chicken stock pot (I use Knorr)

What to do…

Pour the hot water onto the stockpot and, using a small balloon whisk, dissolve to create your stock.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a moderate heat and then tip in the garlic, onion and celery. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, until softened.

Add the chicken stock, bring it to the boil, pop a lid on the pan and then reduce the heat to low, simmering gently for 15 minutes.

Transfer the soup to your blender and whizz until smooth and thick.

Pour into big mugs or soup bowls and enjoy your celery soup, reflecting that in life, it is often the simple things that bring the most satisfaction. Enjoy!

Tip…

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped garlic – a quick shake direct into the pan rather than all that peeling and chopping business.

Serving suggestion…

I like this soup straight up, but if wanted a little variation, try a little swizzle of double cream or perhaps a few drops of truffle oil.

Inspired by…

James Tanner, Ready Steady Cook

How easy…

You can practically do it in your sleep!

Let’s talk about celery…

OK, so clearly it contains loads of water and that’s always good. However, if we look at the vitamins and minerals: A, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, K, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium are amongst the long list associated with this humble vegetable.

 

Moving along more scientifically, celery is a rich source of flavonoids which studies have shown lower inflammation as well as reducing the risk of heart disease, enhancing the immune system and inhibiting the growth of abnormal cancer-causing cells! It also contains something called pectin-based polysaccharides – including apiuman (I’m out of my depth here) which appear to have special importance in producing anti-inflammatory benefits, with studies demonstrating improved integrity of the stomach lining, decreased risk of stomach ulcers and better control of levels of stomach secretions!

Because chronic oxidative stress and excessive inflammation are key risk factors in the development of many cancer types, it’s not surprising that scientists are interested in the potential benefits of celery intake for cancer prevention. While there is speculation about celery benefits for stomach cancer, colon cancer, and bladder cancer, there are as yet no actual human research studies in any of these areas. Hopefully, future research studies will address the potential cancer-related benefits of celery much more closely.

My vote is that it has to be good for you and that this simple soup is a great way to get your quota!

 

 

 

Venison and Mushroom Suet Pudding

Serves 6 – 8

An alternative to our traditional Sunday Roast, we haven’t had a suet pudding for years and I have to wonder why. The pastry is light but absorbs the flavours of the filling, which in this case was a wonderfully rich mix of venison, mushrooms and port. I loved the theatrical presentation associated with turning it out of its cooking bowl as well – will it, won’t it, will it, won’t it and then almost a sigh as the pudding parted ways with the bowl and plopped onto the plate, to be quickly followed by a rush of wonderful, rich gravy. A proper winter dish this – who cares if it’s cold and windy outside?!

What you need…

1 x 1.5 litre pudding basin, lightly buttered

1 x steamer, saucepan and lid

for the filling

1 beef stock pot (I use Knorr)

300ml boiling water (from the kettle)

300ml port

2 tablespoons well-seasoned self-raising flour

750g venison, diced

2 shallots, chopped

1 leek, trimmed, cut lengthways and then sliced

250g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and chunkily sliced

Handful thyme sprigs, leaves picked

Sea salt and black pepper

for the pastry

350g self-raising flour

175g shredded beef suet

Sea salt and black pepper

Cold water to mix

What to do…

In a jug dissolve the stock pot into the boiling water. Top up with the port. Set aside.

In a roomy bowl, tip in the seasoned flour. Add the venison and toss around in the flour so that the meat is thoroughly covered. Chuck in the shallots, leek, mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside.

To make the suet pastry, sift the flour into another large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the suet and mix the ingredients together using a spatula. When blended, add a few drops of cold water and mix in using the spatula. Keep adding the water a few drops at a time, mixing all the while, until the pastry is claggy and sticky. Either carry on with the spatula or go in with your hands, working the mix together until it is a smooth, elastic dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean.

Separate ¼ of the dough from the rest and set aside for the lid of your pudding. On a lightly floured work surface, give the remaining dough a quick knead to create a ball and then roll it out to create a circle of about 32cm diameter. Line the bowl with the pastry, gently pressing it into place and leaving some pastry hanging over the lip of the bowl.

Go back to your filling and with your hands, mix everything together so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Tip the whole lot into the pastry-lined bowl.

Pour in the stock and port and add more seasoning.

Roll out the pastry lid. Wet the top edges of pudding pastry and pop the lid on, pressing down all around the edges to seal. Trim off the excess pastry.

Cover with a double sheet of foil, pleated in the centre to allow room for expansion while cooking. Secure it with string and then place in a steamer over a saucepan of boiling water. Pop a lid on and then turn the heat down so that the water is simmering. Steam for 5 hours, checking the water level every now and then (I have ruined many a pan steaming Christmas puddings and letting the water run dry – it doesn’t go down well with the husband!)

Now to serve it! You could play safe and serve it straight from the bowl but where’s the fun in that?! Instead, slide a palette knife around the edge and then put your serving plate over the top of the pudding bowl. Tip the whole lot upside down (or in my case, ask John to) so that the plate is now on your work top and the pudding bowl is inverted. Wait, holding your breath, until the pudding gives a sigh and plops onto the plate. Breathe. Rush excitedly to the table with a large serving spoon and dig in. Thoroughly enjoy your Venison and Mushroom Suet Pudding!

Tip…

Instead of peeling and cutting up shallots, try Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients, frozen, chopped shallots – a quick shake and the job’s done!

Inspired by…

I used Delia Smith’s recipe for the suet pastry and then threw caution to the wind and put in the pudding whatever I fancied – it worked though!

How easy…

It takes minutes to assemble, there’s no pastry-resting business going on and then you just leave it to cook itself so it’s really very easy. It’s not a last minute option though – 5 hours cooking time does require a bit of organisation.

Heavenly Hot Chocolate Soufflés

Wow! Just wow! These chocolate soufflés are simply heavenly: light, pillowly outside and then delectably soft and melty inside. The first spoonful was tentative; after that, these soufflés were attacked with relish! If you have the time, give them a go: you won’t be disappointed.

What you need…

4 x 180ml ramekin dishes, lightly but thoroughly buttered

25g 70% dark chocolate, finely grated

for the ganache (a word that simply means whipped cream and chocolate)

4 tablespoons double cream

50g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces

1 tablespoon cocoa

for the crème patisserie (don’t be put off, this essentially is French for posh, flavoured custard)

2 tablespoons plain flour

2 teaspoons caster sugar

½ teaspoon cornflour

1 egg yolk

1 whole egg

4 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon double cream

25g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces

for the egg whites

6 egg whites (freeze the yolks for a future Tiramisu!)

85g caster sugar

What to do…

For the ganache: gently warm the cream in a pan. Just before it boils, remove from the heat and tip in the chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir vigorously to dissolve the chocolate, gradually adding in the cocoa to create a lovely velvety texture. Set aside to cool.

And now to the crème patisserie: mix together the flour, sugar and cornflour.

Put your egg and egg yolk into a large mixing bowl and, using a handheld electric whisk, whisk them together. Whilst whisking, add in half the flour mixture to create a smooth paste then, tip in the rest and whisk until fully incorporated. Set aside.

Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat, tip in the chocolate and, using a small balloon whisk, whisk until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Gradually stir the melted chocolate mix into the flour paste. When mixed in return to the pan and cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Towards the end of the 5 minutes, you will notice that it is thickening up, turning into a smooth paste. Remove from the heat and set aside until cold, mixing occasionally with the balloon whisk.

Prepare your ramekin dishes by tipping some of the grated chocolate into each one, rolling the dish around and tilting it as you do to ensure that the dish is evenly coated in chocolate.

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

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks using your electric hand whisk. Whilst still whisking, gradually sprinkle in the caster sugar and keep whisking to create stiff peaks (it’s this that will give the light volume to the soufflés)

In a large bowl, mix together the crème patisserie and ganache. With a spatula, stir in 2 tablespoons of egg white, then carefully fold in 1/3 of the rest, cutting through the mixture. Fold in another 1/3. Switch to a balloon whisk and fold in the remainder – don’t overwork it: you’ll lose the volume.

Spoon the mixture into the dishes, filling them up. Then bang the dishes on your work surface to make sure the mixture fills each ramekin evenly.

Sprinkle a little grated chocolate (left over from coating the ramekins) into the centre of each. Pop your soufflés onto a baking tray and bake for 18-20 minutes or until they are risen and are set on the top but wobble nicely when moved!

Serve on their own, with double cream or salted caramel ice cream (previously blogged). It doesn’t matter, these heavenly hot chocolate soufflés are divine!

Tips…

You could prepare the crème patisserie and ganache a couple of hours in advance, if you were having these little gorgeousnesses for dinner, leaving you very little to do just before serving. They would need to be kept somewhere cool but not as cold as the fridge.

Whenever I need good quality dark chocolate in baking, I use ‘Menier Chocolat Patissier’. It’s great chocolate, easily available and very easy to break up for the required weights listing in recipes. It also comes in 100g bars, which works perfectly for this pud.

Inspired by…

www.bbcgoodfood.com

How easy…

They’re not difficult but you need to have time on your hands to allow the ganache and the chocolate mixture for the crème patisserie to cool. There’s also quite a lot of clearing up to do. When I’d finished making them and was peering in the oven to see if they were going to rise to the occasion, I wasn’t sure that they were worth the time, effort and mess, but on tasting them, I concurred that they absolutely were!

 

Red Pepper and Herb Salmon Fillets with Spiralized Vegetables

We eat a lot of salmon and I have a variety of different approaches to cooking it, all of which we love. But when I saw this dish being prepared on Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking first episode, I thought that it would make an interesting change. She served hers with spiralized vegetables, which also fired my imagination, and the necessary spiralizer was duly ordered that night! The vegetables are a nice change (and might make for easier persuasion with little ones given their presentation) and the fish was quite delicious and stupendously easy – a great family supper.

Serves 4

What you need…

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

140g full fat cream cheese

20g Parmesan, finely grated

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 heaped tablespoon chives, chopped

4 chunky salmon fillets

Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 roasted red pepper from a jar, finely sliced

Sea salt and black pepper

for the spiralized vegetables

1 x spiralizer (I bought my online for £13)

2 large courgettes, topped and tailed

3 large carrots, topped, tailed and peeled

Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon parsley

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

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

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, chives, salt and pepper.

Pop the salmon fillets onto your baking tray and then season with salt and pepper. Spread over the cream cheese mixture equally over each fillet.

In a small bowl, mix together the lemon zest and parsley and then sprinkle over the fillets. Arrange the red pepper slices in an ‘X’ over the top of the salmon fillets.

Pop in the oven and cook for 15 – 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through. Put one fillet on each serving plate.

Meanwhile, feed each of your vegetables through the spiralizer, adopting a ‘pencil-sharpening’ action to produce long spaghetti-like strands.

Pour the oil into a wok or deep frying pan on a moderate heat. Tip in your vegetable strands, season with salt and pepper and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and parsley and divide onto each serving plate with the fish.

Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish and vegetables and serve your red pepper and herb salmon fillets with spiralized vegetables: light, delightful and quite a different turn on cooking salmon. Enjoy!

Tips…

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen, chopped garlic and just shake in a rough amount rather than peeling and chopping garlic cloves – it’s the little things that make life easier!

I’m rubbish at chopping herbs, so instead use a clean pair of sharp kitchen scissors – works a treat.

When you choose your carrots and courgettes, make sure they are big, fat ones – they work much better with the spiralizer.

Inspired by…

Mary Berry, Foolproof Cooking

How easy…

Really simple and hardly any clearing up

 

 

Panfried Scallops with Black Pudding and Ginger Palm Sugar Chutney

Ooooooooh, what a treat! The scallops and the black pudding are a marriage made in heaven; a little of each together with a forkful of streaky bacon and then just a tad of ginger chutney – just sublime! This would make an incredible starter. For us, I used enough ingredients for just two and then four of us grabbed forks and just dived in. A great way of experimenting and this one is a dish that will definitely be repeated……a proper portion each next time! The ginger chutney, by the way, is divine – fresh and piquant – and there is enough here to keep the left over in the fridge to serve as a foil for other really savoury dishes.

Serves 2

What you need…

1 x baking tray, lined with Bake O Glide or greaseproof paper

Splash olive/rapeseed oil

6 scallops

6 slices black pudding

2 rashers good quality streaky bacon

100g baby spinach

for the ginger and palm sugar chutney

100g fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

100ml water

2 cloves

100ml palm sugar

What to do…

Starting with the chutney, pop the ginger into a small saucepan with the water and cloves. Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove the cloves and add the sugar and dissolve. Set aside until cool. Tip into your blender and whizz until the ginger is reduced to small chunks. Job done – put into a screw-top jar – you’ll have loads left over after you’ve assembled your dish – which can be stored in the fridge for an accompaniment to other dishes

Put your slices of black pudding onto the baking tray and pop under a hot grill, cooking for 4 minutes. Flip them and cook for a further four minutes.

Whilst that’s going on, in a medium-sized frying pan, heat the oil over a moderate heat and add the scallops, cooking for 2 minutes on one side before turning over for another 2 minutes. When you turn over the scallops, add your rashers of bacon to the pan, keeping your scallops to one side of the pan and your bacon to the other. Using a fork, keep flipping the bacon until its cooked and crispy on both sides – about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, tip in a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt as well as the spinach. Pop on the lid, whack up the heat to high and wilt the spinach – it should take no longer than 5 minutes to come to temperature and wilt (maybe quicker if you have a gas hob). Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to assemble the dish.

For each person, arrange on the plate a line of spinach leaves. Top with a row of black pudding slices and scallops, alternating them as you go. On the very top, lay a rasher of streaky bacon. In front, or around your scallops and black pudding drizzle the fabulous ginger and palm sugar chutney. Serve your panfried scallops with black pudding and ginger palm sugar chutney and watch the faces of delight! Gorgeous!

Inspired by…

James Martin, Home Comforts

How Easy…

Really easy, especially as the dish looks and tastes so spectacular!

 

 

Delectable Orange Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A lovely cake exuding the zestiness of fresh orange, this gorgeous cake uses rapeseed oil instead of butter as well as almonds in the ‘sponge’ to create a dense, moist cake that keeps for ages or would do if we weren’t tempted to cut just one more slice! Topped with a frosting that is the perfect foil to the luscious cake and decorated with crispy, homemade candied orange peel, this is a sweet revelation!

Serves 8-10

What you need…

1 x 23cm spring form cake tin, lightly buttered

5 large oranges

100ml rapeseed oil

4 large eggs

450g caster sugar

125g self-raising flour

125g ground almonds

2 teaspoons baking powder

150g full fat cream cheese

150g crème fraiche

25g icing sugar

150ml cold water

What to do…

Preheat oven to 170°c / 325°f / gas 3.

Grate zest of 3 oranges into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cut out the remaining flesh from the 3 oranges, chop roughly and chuck into your blender. Whizz, gradually adding the rapeseed oil until it is all thoroughly blended. Set aside.

Add 250g of the caster sugar and your eggs to the orange zest and, using a handheld electric whisk, whisk until the mixture is pale, thick and creamy.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, ground almonds and baking powder.

Carefully fold in half the puréed orange mixture into the egg mixture. Then fold in all of the flour mix before folding in the remaining orange purée.

Pour the cake mixture into your cake tin and pop it into the oven to bake for 1 hour or until the cake is golden brown and risen. Check it’s cooked by inserting a clean skewer into the centre: if it comes out clean, it’s done; if not, pop it back in for another 5 minutes and then check again.

Meanwhile, to make the frosting, whisk together the cream cheese, crème fraiche and icing sugar in a bowl and then pop it in the fridge until it’s needed.

For the homemade candied peel: using a vegetable peeler, peel the remaining two oranges and then julienne the zest finely (I forgot to do this last bit so my candied peel was chunky!)

Pour the water into a saucepan and stir in 150g of the remaining caster sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, stir in the julienned orange peel, then bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes to reduce the liquid and make a light syrup.

Strain the zest. Don’t chuck the syrup down the sink – it would be great for an orange drizzle cake or popped in the fridge ready for those fruity cocktails that require sugar syrup!

Sprinkle the remaining caster sugar into a shallow bowl, chuck in the zest and toss it about until it’s all coated with glistening, crunchy sugar.

Retrieve your cake from the oven and cool slightly in the tin before releasing from spring form and cooling completely on a wire rack.

When the cake is cold, spread the frosting over the top and then scatter over the candied peel. Simple but absolutely lovely! Indulge in your first slice of delectable orange cake with cream cheese frosting and candied peel and enjoy as your taste buds dance for joy!

Inspired by…

James Martin, Home Comforts

How easy…

Very easy and also very relaxed because the cake is in the oven for an hour, leaving you loads of time to do the frosting and candied peel in a leisurely fashion.

 

 

 

 

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with Whisky Sauce and Asparagus Parcels

Burns Night Supper! Over the years, we’ve been to many a Burns night bash and the food has ranged from appalling to mediocre – rarely better than that. And until this evening, I always thought that whisky was harsh and horrible: a horror that needed to be dispensed with in the name of tradition as fast as possible. Tonight however, we stayed in and did this fabulous take on the Burns Night fare. The haggis dish was waaaaaaay better than I could possibly have hoped for and met with considerable enthusiasm all around the table. We are DEFINITELY having this again – I would recommend it highly, Burns Night or not. And then there was the whisky. I unearthed a bottle that has remained untouched since John’s 60th birthday and WOW! sheer nectar. That said, it was a Knockando Single Malt, aged 12 years. It was a gift – I’m not looking up the cost but it finished off this delightful meal perfectly!

Serves 4

What you need…

for the asparagus parcels

One flat baking tray, lightly oiled

8 asparagus spears, trimmed

2 slices prosciutto di parma

Sea salt and black Pepper

Just a little Parmesan cheese, grated

for the whisky sauce

Knob butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons whisky (any old blended, not the Knockando!!!)

2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard

200ml water

1 beef stock pot (I use Knorr)

80ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

for the haggis

1 x cookie cutter (slightly larger than the diametre of the haggis) lightly oiled

1 Haggis (I love the ‘Simon Howie, the Scottish Butcher’, it’s slightly spicy and very yummy).

8 potatoes, peeled and halved

125g butter

Splash milk

4 turnips, peeled and halved

6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

What to do…

To prepare the asparagus parcels, poach the asparagus in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes. Drain and cool to the point that they are easy to handle.

Lay out one slice of Parma ham. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Parmesan and then cut in half lengthways.

Using one ‘half slice’ of Parma ham, place two asparagus spears at one end and roll up so the Parma ham is the wrapping around your asparagus. Place on your baking tray. Repeat with the remaining asparagus and Parma ham so that you have four asparagus bundles – one each – they’re just a garnish, really.

Pop them in the fridge until you are nearly ready to serve.

You can also pre-prepare the sauce. Using a balloon whisk dissolve the stock pot into the water. Set aside. Melt the butter over a moderate heat and gently fry the shallots for 10 minutes. Add the wholegrain mustard and mix in well. Pour in the beef stock and bring to the boil. Add the whisky, boil for another minute to remove the alcohol and then turn the heat down and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then gradually stir in the cream. Set aside until nearly ready to serve.

To cook the haggis, follow the boiling instruction that comes with it. In my case, it is simply to pop the haggis into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 minutes – couldn’t be easier.

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

In one saucepan, bring your potatoes to the boil in salted water and then simmer for 20 minutes or until soft. Likewise, in another saucepan, bring your turnips and carrots to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes or until soft.

To the potatoes, add 75g butter and the splash of milk and either mash or use a handheld electric whisk to cream the potatoes. Taste and season until it suits you. Pop the lid on to keep warm.

To the turnips and carrot, add 50g butter and similarly, mash or cream with a whisk. Taste and season until it suits you. Pop the lid on to keep warm.

Pop your asparagus in the oven for 4-5 minutes whilst you assemble the dish.

Put your whisky sauce on a moderate heat to warm through.

Drain the haggis and cut it into nice chunky slices.

For each serving, place your cookie cutter, in the centre of the plate and squash into it the creamed potato, filling the cookie cutter two thirds of the way up. Top up with the turnip and carrot mixture. Gently lift the cookie cutter away, wipe over with kitchen roll and run olive oil around the inside again with your finger and repeat the process for each of the other servings. Top your stacks with a chunky slice of haggis and then an asparagus parcel.

Pour the sauce into a jug and serve at the table. Enjoy this wonderful dish of haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky sauce and asparagus parcels with or without any of the other traditions. We just needed an excuse to find a great haggis recipe – enjoy!

Tip…

Rather than finely chopping shallots, I use Cooks’ Ingredients Handful of Chopped Shallots. Frozen and in a foil bag, I just shake into the saucepan roughly the right quantity – dead easy!

Inspired by…

Well…. a bit of a collection of ideas thrown together. I saw an image of one version of the ‘stack’ on the Ocado website and that was enough to get me going. I already had the recipe for the asparagus parcels (previously blogged as a canapé) and the sauce is my own – made up on the spur of the moment and I have to say, rather lovely!

How easy…

Very easy! All the elements kinda cook themselves. I like that the prep on the asparagus and sauce can be done in advance so you’re not juggling like crazy at the end.

Oozy Focaccia Bread with Cheeses, Spinach and Tomato

Warm bread straight from the oven is always a winner but this loaf, stuffed with melted cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach as well as a hint of rosemary is just scrumptious! Ideal as a tearing and sharing starter or as part of a ‘fridge-raid’ supper (where we dump onto the table cheeses, patés and salads and just dive in), Oozy Focaccia bread with Cheeses, Spinach and Tomato is easy enough to ensure it has a regular place at the table.

 Serves 8

 What you need…

1 x lightly oiled baking sheet

500g packet garlic and rosemary focaccia bread mix (I use Wright’s)

300ml hand-hot water

3 tablespoons oil

100g dolcelatte

125g mozzarella

75g baby spinach leaves

55g sun-dried tomatoes

10 rosemary sprigs

1 tablespoon rock salt

What to do…

Tip the bread mix into a large bowl. Stir in the water and 2 tablespoons of oil to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead for 2 – 3 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse and dry your large bowl and lightly oil it. Pop the bread dough into the bowl, cling film it and leave it in a warm place (next to a radiator or in the airing cupboard in my case) for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface again and knead for a another two minutes.

Divide the dough into two and press each into circles of roughly 20cm. Lay one circle onto your baking sheet and scatter over the cheeses, tomatoes and spinach. Wet the rim and then cover with the remaining circle. Pinch the edges to seal. Leave in a warm place for 30 minutes until slightly risen.

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

Push your fingers into the top of the bread to dimple the dough and push small springs of rosemary into the bread. Scatter with rock salt and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Pop in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and risen. Serve warm, gooey slices and enjoy!

Inspired by…

No idea! Another one of those recipes torn from a magazine and kept in a file for several years!

How easy…

Very easy and there is something wonderfully satisfying about kneading bread dough. The only concern, if there is one at all, is to remember before you get going that time is required for the two 30 minute proofings.

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