Snacks and Starters

Sweet Apple Relish

This delightful slightly tart yet sweet relish is a perfect accompaniment to my ‘New Favourite Chicken Liver Paté’ but would also work brilliantly with a game terrine or pie, spicy sausages or adorning a fabulous cheeseboard (one of my favourite meals all by itself!). It’s easy to make and will keep in the fridge for several weeks.

Makes 250ml

What you need…

25g butter

2 eating apples, peeled cored and diced (5mm)

50g caster sugar

25ml sherry vinegar

75ml red wine

Pinch of salt

What to do…

Melt the butter over a moderate heat. When it begins to foam, tip in the apples and cook for 2-3 minutes until they begin to turn golden around the edges.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir thoroughly and cook for 5 minutes until reduced and jam-like with the apples cooked through but not mushy.

Allow to cool before serving or decanting into a sterilised jar and popping in the fridge, awaiting an opportunity to indulge! (I will make some at the beginning of December for all those casual dates with cheese that we have planned!)

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

No effort at all

 

 

My New Favourite Recipe for Chicken Liver Paté

For years I have been making a truly wonderful chicken liver paté recipe, confident that the recipe couldn’t be bettered. And then….I found this one in Rachel Allen’s ‘Entertaining at Home’. It is absolutely gorgeous – a rich, smooth paté beautifully flavoured with port, brandy and thyme. I am now switching my allegiance and it’s definitely on the ‘favourites’ list for when friends come around for dinner. Give it a go – if you love opulent, rich patés, you’ll love this.

Serves 4 – 6 as a starter

What you need…

250g chicken livers, trimmed

110g butter

50g shallots, chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

95ml port

25ml brandy

Sea salt and black pepper

Sweet apple relish to serve, optional

What to do…

Melt 15g butter in a large frying pan over a moderate heat and when it starts to foam, tip in the chicken livers. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the livers) ensuring that they are still pink in the middle. Tip into your food processor.

In the same pan, melt a further 15g butter over a moderate heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 6 – 8 minutes until golden. Tip in the thyme, 75ml of the port and all of the brandy and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Tip all the ingredients into your food processor, scraping the pan to make sure you get all the goodness.

Pour the remaining port into the pan, whop up the heat to high and boil for 30 seconds before adding to the food processor. Whizz everything together until smooth. Cut the remaining butter into cubes, plop them in and whizz again to incorporate. Taste, adjust seasoning, whizz and taste again.

Spoon into one serving bowl or individual dishes, smooth over and cover with cling film. Pop in the fridge until about 20 minutes before you want to indulge – the flavours really come to the fore at room temperature. The sweet apple relish is a good accompaniment (as is a lovely little glass of dessert wine) but isn’t vital – this paté is quite happy taking centre stage!

Tip…

The paté freezes really well, so I’m going to double up on the recipe so that there’s always some available for those spontaneous ‘drop-ins’.

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

Very easy – a bit of frying and a bit of whizzing – job done!

 

 

Thai Crab Filling

So, it turns out that Mary Berry’s recipe for the filling for Thai crab poppadom canapés makes for a perfect, if rather luxurious sandwich!

What to do…

Type ‘crab’ into the search box in the top right hand corner of my home page and the recipe for Thai crab poppadom canapés will come up. Choose some really lovely fresh bread and follow the instructions for the filling, adding a little greenery to complete! Gorgeous!

Inspired by…

Needing to distract myself from a miserable, blustery day and initially, Mary Berry

How easy…

It’s a sandwich – not hard!

Summer Strawberries for Breakfast

What better way to start the day? Pull up a chair in a sunny patio spot, admire the blue skies, the warmth of the sun and the birds singing – I kid you not: absolute bliss! Add to this perfect list of ingredients some sweet English strawberries and a really good espresso….and relax…

What you need…

All of the above or a similar delightful setting

A slice or two of sourdough bread, toasted

A goodly portion of ricotta

A handful of sweet, ripe strawberries, sliced (and English if possible)

A drizzle of maple syrup

A sprig of mint, to garnish (optional)

What to do…

Load your sourdough toast with as much ricotta as you fancy. Top with as many strawberries slices as you like and then drizzle with maple syrup. Serve with really good espresso in the garden! Absolutely delicious.

Inspired by…

I had something similar in a fab cafe in Portsmouth last summer and this is my take on it – it just tastes like you think an English summer breakfast should!

How easy…

Do I need to specify that…?

 

Baked Camembert in Bread

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!

Quick and Easy Eggs Benedict

Always fancied this one as a lazy Saturday morning treat but the prospect of perfecting hollandaise sauce always put me off. That and the fact that my poached eggs have always been a bit hit and miss. So, having discovered solutions for both of those issues, there was no holding me back! The result is a lovely dish that definitely sets the tone for a relaxed weekend: think soft, running egg dribbling over salty-sweet ham and nestling on a warmed toasty English muffin and to finish – a good dollop of the rich silky, smooth hollandaise sauce – enjoy with strong coffee, a paper full of good news (!) and some gentle background music. Happy Weekend!

Serves 4

What you need…

4 large, happy eggs

4 slices Serrano ham

4 English muffins, sliced in half

for the hollandaise sauce

200g butter

4 happy egg yolks

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ tablespoon Dijon mustard

What to do…

Put a wide saucepan of water over a high heat to come to a rapid simmer in readiness for poaching your eggs.

For each egg, lay a 40cm sheet of non-PVC cling film flat on a work surface and rub with a little oil. Crack your egg into the middle and then pull in the sides of the cling film and gently squeeze out any air around the egg. Twist, then tie a firm knot in the cling film to secure each of your eggs snugly inside. Set aside your 4 weird little parcels whilst you conjure up the hollandaise sauce.

In a small saucepan, gently melt the butter. Meanwhile, in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (bain marie) tip in the egg yolks, lemon juice and Dijon mustard and whisk together using a handheld electric whisk.

Transfer the melted butter to a jug and very, very gradually add it to the egg yolks, a little at a time, whisking the whole time, to create a smooth, thickened sauce. Taste and adjust the flavour by whisking in a little more Dijon or wholegrain mustard, if liked. Take the bain marie off the heat but keep the bowl over the water to keep the sauce warm whilst you finish off the main dish. Pop a small balloon whisk or a spoon in there to give the sauce a quick stir every now and then.

Now, whop your muffin halves in the toaster/under the grill and cook until golden.

Meanwhile, drop your egg ‘parcels’ into the pan of simmering water and poach for 6 – 7 minutes, until soft-poached.

For each lucky person enjoying this little morning treat, pop the two halves of each muffin onto a warmed plate and drizzle over a little hollandaise sauce on both. Arrange a slice of Serrano ham on the bottom half of the muffin.

Snip open a cling film parcel, unwrap the egg and place on top. Drizzle with more hollandaise and…..enjoy! Scrumptious!

Tip…

If you’re wondering what the other half of the muffin is used for, it’s to mop up the excess runny egg!

Inspired by…

Well, this one is a bit of a collaboration! I have Izy Hossack (student and blogger) to thank for her hollandaise sauce recipe; Jamie Oliver for his approach to poached eggs and James Winter, who wrote one of my favourite cook books ‘Who Put the Beef in Wellington’ for the recipe idea!

How easy…

I know that I’ve simplified this dish, particularly the hollandaise sauce, which may not be authentic. That said, it’s a quick and easy very yummy treat my way!

Festive Jerusalem Artichoke and Pea Soup

I love this soup: warming, smooth and creamy but with a little flash of festive flavouring just to finish it off – it’s also minimal effort – a lovely gift of a lunch or starter.

What you need…

1 litre hot water from the kettle

2 chicken stock pots (I use Knorr)

500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and chunked

400g frozen peas

10g tarragon, finely chopped

20g parsley, finely chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

to garnish (optional)

3 tablespoons cranberry and port sauce (M&S do a good one)

3 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons fresh cranberries

12 vacuum-packed chestnuts

2 tablespoons butter

A splash of olive oil

What to do…

First, make a litre of chicken stock by dissolving the stock pots into the kettle water – a balloon whisk makes this very easy. Pour the stock into a large saucepan and tip in the Jerusalem artichoke chunks. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and let them cook, gently bubbling for 25 minutes or until very soft. Go off and do something else (in my case – a quick whizz around the block with the dog).

Cook the peas from frozen in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain them and refresh them by pouring cold tap water over them (retains their bright green colour).

Into your blender tip the artichokes and their cooking stock together with the herbs, salt and pepper drained peas – you’ll need to do this in batches – whizz until smooth. Return the soup to its saucepan and keep warm on a low heat.

In a wee saucepan, gently heat the cranberry and port sauce with the water and cranberries until they start to pop.

In a little frying pan, melt the butter with the oil and then gently sauté the chestnuts for a couple of minutes, until they are sweet and fragrant.

Serve your vibrant soup into deep bowls and then spoon a little of the cranberry mixture into the middle, topping with 3 chestnuts per person: warming, smooth, creamy and so comforting with that little flash of festive flavouring on the top.

Tip…

Once you’ve peeled each knobbly chunk of Jerusalem artichoke, chuck it into a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice – prevents browning.

Inspired by…

Nigel Slater

How easy…

Low maintenance – it pretty much cooks itself and then you just need to whizz. The finishing touches create a bit of washing up but they’re worth it!

 

 

 

 

Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup

This soup was described as a ‘hug in a bowl’ and I totally agree. Absolutely delicious with the delicate cauliflower flavour being beautifully complemented by the earthiness of the chestnuts and rich decadence of the cream. Simply delightful, comforting and the perfect antedote to a dreary old Autumn day!

Serves 4

What you need…

Splash of olive oil

1 large red onion, chunked

1 large cauliflower, chunked into florets

250ml milk

850ml vegetable/chicken stock

150ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

200g vacuum-packed chestnuts

25g Parmesan, shaved

Drizzle of truffle or olive oil, to serve

What to do…

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and chuck in the onion, cooking over a low heat for 10 minutes, until softened. Tip in the cauliflower, milk and stock and bring to a simmer, cooking for a further 15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. Pour in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Chuck in the chestnuts and pour the lot into a blender, whizzing until smooth.

Serve your hug in a bowl topped with Parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of truffle or olive oil. Simple and gorgeous!

Inspired by…

bbcgoodfood.com

How easy…

Delightfully!

Salt Beef (from scratch) Sandwiches

OK, so a recipe for sandwiches!!! However, these do have the wow factor and takes a week to make as I made the salt beef from scratch. You don’t have to do that but I wanted to. John’s mum used to make the most amazing salt beef and I wanted to try and emulate it – it wasn’t quite of the same calibre but it was pretty damned good and tasty enough for me to decide to do it from scratch again. The cut of beef is also dead cheap and will feed a crowd. This sandwich is spectacular – the tangy pickles, the smooth Swiss cheese together with the succulent beef – truly a thing of wonder with a definite nod towards New York delis! Every sense in me immediately demanded a second sandwich…or a third! My kinda sandwich!!!

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

for the brine

140g soft light brown sugar

175g coarse sea salt

2 teaspoon black peppercorns

½ tablespoon juniper berries

4 cloves

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs of thyme

1.25 litres water

for the beef

1.2kg piece of beef brisket

1 large carrot, chunked

1 onion, peeled and chunked

1 celery stick, chunked

1 leek, chunked

1 bouquet garni

6 garlic cloves

for the sandwiches (quantities depend on how many you’re making)

Sliced bread, buttered

Emmental slices

Pickled cumbers, sliced

for the sweet mustard

½ teaspoon English mustard powder

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

1 tablespoon runny honey

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

A pinch of salt

What to do…

Put all the ingredients for the brine into a very large saucepan and gradually bring to the boil, stirring to help the sugar and salt dissolve. Once it comes to the boil, let it bubble away for two minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely.

Pierce the meat all over with a skewer. Put it in a large, sterilised plastic box or bucket (something non-reactive) and cover the meat with the brine; it must be totally immersed. Pop a lid on and leave in cold room or fridge for seven days.

Take the beef out of the brine and rinse it, then put it in a pan with the vegetables, bouquet garni and garlic, adding enough cold water to cover. Bring the water to simmering point, then leave to poach REALLY gently for two and a half to three hours. Cook until the meat is completely tender (check with a skewer).

Cut into wafer thin slices.

For each sandwich, butter 2 slices of bread and sandwich together with a slice of Emmental. Heat a griddle pan until hot, then griddle on both sides until the cheese has melted. Meanwhile, chuck all the sweet mustard ingredients into a screw-top jar, pop the lid on and shake like mad. Set aside.

Open up the sandwich and assemble your sandwich – piles of salt beef topped with pickled cucumbers and sweet mustard and then the remaining slice of bread with melted cheese. Squeeze together and tuck in – bloody gorgeous and all of your senses will simply demand another one!

Tip…

This sandwich is great with either hot or cold salt beef.

Inspired by….

A combination of two recipes; one from Diana Henry and the other from Waitrose magazine.

How easy…

Not hard at all – just remember that you’re going to fancy a salt beef sandwich one week before you want to eat it!!!!

 

 

Chicken Liver Paté with Brandy Revisited

In prep for a family gathering this weekend, I’m revisiting a few old favourites. Friday night will be a couple of cocktails followed by paté, cheeses, dips, breads and olives whilst we all catch up, so here’s the first, made today but frozen until Friday morning. This is genuinely one of the most lovely patés I have ever tasted, surpassed only by one or tried in posh restaurants! Great for sharing and also for advance prep – I’ve made one sharing dish for Friday and a further three for future occasions. Very yummy!

For the full recipe, go to the top right hand corner search box on my home page and type in Pate – this recipe together with a couple of others will pop up. Enjoy!

1 2 7