Snacks and Starters

Light and fluffy Individual Cheese Soufflés

I have skirted around making soufflés until recently but had achieved success making sweet ones. For savoury ones though, this was a first and made with extra tips from James (Martin), they are absolutely heavenly! Unbelievably light and fluffy, gorgeously tangy and flavoursome, these lovely little soufflés are an absolute delight to make and to indulge in – so light and tasty, they’re gone in a flash. An ideal dinner starter or light lunch, served with a fresh green salad.

Serves 4 – 6, depending on the size of your ramekin dishes

What you need…

4 – 6 ramekin dishes, liberally and thoroughly buttered (this is key to helping the soufflés rise)

1 x deep-sided roasting dish

25g fresh Parmesan, finely grated

25g unsalted butter

25g plain flour

300ml semi-skimmed milk

75g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

75g Gruyère cheese, grated

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper

4 happy eggs, separated

What to do…

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

Divide the Parmesan between the ramekins and roll around the insides to coat the sides then tip out any excess and set aside to add to the sauce later.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a moderate heat. Tip in the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring the whole time, until a light golden brown. Gradually add the milk, again stirring the whole time until you have a thick, smooth sauce (I start off with a wooden spoon and then, when the sauce becomes looser, switch to a balloon whisk). Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a clean bowl use an electric handheld whisk to beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Set aside.

Back to your saucepan: stir in the Cheddar, Gruyère and remaining Parmesan together with the Dijon; then remove from the heat and season to taste. Use your balloon whisk to beat in the egg yolks.

Fill your kettle up with water and switch on to boil.

Back to the soufflé mixture: add half the egg whites to the cheese mixture and use the balloon whisk again to beat thoroughly to combine. Then, continue to use the whisk, but gently, to fold in the remaining egg whites, keeping in as much air as possible.

Pour the mixture into your prepared ramekin dishes, then smooth the top of the mixture with a palette knife, flattening it all the way across (I forgot to do this bit which is why they look the way they do!)

Put the ramekins into your roasting dish and half fill the dish up with just-boiled kettle water. Place in your oven for 8 – 10 minutes until risen, golden and wonderfully wobbly.

Serve immediately, diving your spoon into this delicious, tangy cloud of a dish – yummy!

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Really easy, quite quick and pretty foolproof, I’d say! The trickiest bit is photographing them before they start to deflate!!!!

 

 

 

Chilled Cucumber and Crayfish Soup

Delicate and delightfully refreshing, this velvety chilled soup is perfect for a summer lunch with friends. The light, subtle flavour of the cucumber is uplifted with lemon and chilli oils and the added luxury of crayfish tails makes this little number a surprisingly lovely addition to a sunshiny day! It can also be cooked a day in advance of eating – perfect for summertime relaxation with friends and a bottle of crisp white!

What you need…

2 x screw top jars with lids

500g hot water from the kettle

1 vegetable stockpot (I use Knorr)

4 tablespoons olive oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried, crushed chillis

100g unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cucumbers, halved, deseeded and finely diced

1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped plus extra to garnish

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

400ml full-fat natural, creamy yogurt

Sea salt and black pepper

240g crayfish tails (yum!)

What to do…

First make a vegetable stock by using a balloon whisk to help dissolve the stockpot into the hot water from the kettle. Set aside.

Next, into one jar pour 2 tablespoons olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Pop on the lid, shake like mad and set aside. Likewise, with the second jar, pour in two tablespoons of olive oil and tip in the chillis. Pop on the lid, shake and set aside.

To the main event: melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat, tip in the onion and garlic and cook gently for 6-8 minutes or until softened but not brown. Tip in the cucumber and again cook gently for another 5 minutes – the aroma is quite delightful!

Pour in the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes. Transfer to your blender, tip in the herbs and whizz until smooth. Set aside to cool completely and then gently stir in the yogurt. Season, taste and season again if necessary. Chill for anything between 2 hours and overnight.

When ready to serve, ladle the chilled soup into bowls, scatter in the crayfish tails, drizzle over the lemon and chilli-infused oils and garnish with a few sprigs of dill. Delightful!

Inspired by…

Waitrose.com

How easy…

Extremely and the fact that you can make it ahead is even better!

 

 

 

 

Spicy Lebanese-Inspired Lamb Pasties

The contents of these wonderfully light, soooooo tasty pasties was supposed to be incased in pizza dough to create calzone but I didn’t fancy that; instead opting for ready-made short-crust pastry. The end result was even better than I had anticipated and a bit of a hit in our kitchen (Connagh had his own supply that were snaffled through alarmingly quickly).

The delicious, sweet lamb is gently spiced with the wonderful combination that is cumin, cinnamon and paprika and then nestled together with the tasty crunch of roasted pine nuts mixed with spinach and potatoes. Gorgeous when they come straight out of the oven but equally lovely cold (as Connagh will attest) so ideal for picnics, al fresco lunches or just…snaffling snacks!

Makes 12 – 14

What you need…

1 x 14cm saucer

2 x baking sheets, lined with parchment paper or Bake O Glide

6 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, chopped finely

2 garlic cloves, chopped

400g lamb mince

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground paprika

175g spinach leaves

300g potatoes, diced and just cooked

1kg ready-made short-crust pastry

Plain flour, for dusting

1 egg, lightly beaten

What to do…

First of all, make the filling. Dry-fry the pine nuts until golden – don’t take your eyes off them – they brown really quickly. Tip out onto kitchen paper and set aside.

In the same frying pan, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Stir in the spices and sauté for a further 10 minutes.

Add the spinach and cook until just wilted. Stir in the pine nuts and cooked potato. Season well. Set aside to cool. (You could do this several hours in advance or even the day before, keeping the cooled mixture in the fridge).

When you’re ready to assemble your pasties, preheat your oven to 200˚c / 400˚f / gas 6.

Dust your work surface with plain flour and roll the pastry out to about 5mm thick. Use the saucer to create 12- 14 pastry circles, inverting it onto the pastry and cutting around it with a sharp knife.

Use a spoon to dollop some mixture onto one half of each circle. Brush the edges of the pastry with water and then bring them together, crimping to ensure a good seal. Brush each pasty with beaten egg and pop them in the oven on the baking trays to cook for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown and yummy-looking!

Allow to cool down just a little before commencing the snaffling! Enjoy – rather lovely!

Inspired by…

Ideal Home Magazine

How easy…

Ever so, especially with the ready-made pastry!

Dips and Tapenades for Drinks or a Picnic

Having friends around for drinks or a picnicky lunch? Dips are always welcome. Here we have a selection of tapenades and dips to tempt the taste buds – the juicy, sweet but piquant sun-dried tomato version and the more earthy, intense olive one both shout with flavours of the Mediterranean. Then, there’s this recipe for guacamole which combines the luscious creaminess of avocado with a fresh coriander edge and a real kick of chilli. The three were all made in advance and in less than half an hour, using a mini food processor for each one and a quick wipe out in between – simple! Hummus – a staple in our household – has already been blogged but takes just seconds to knock up. In essence, dip into a quick, easy and vast array of flavours- yummy!

What you need…

for the Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Tapenade

200g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained

A large handful of fresh basil leaves

1 garlic clove, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil (from the jar of sun dried tomatoes if possible)

50g pine nuts

for the Olive Tapenade

100g pitted black olives, drained

100g pitted green olives, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 anchovies in oil, drained

½ garlic clove, peeled

Black pepper, to taste

for the Guacamole with Coriander

1medium tomato, quartered

1 just-ripe avocado, peeled and roughly chopped

½ fresh green chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped

½ garlic clove, peeled and chopped

A large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Zest of half a lime, finely grated

A good squeeze lime juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

What to do…

Stick all the ingredients for the sun-dried tomato tapenade into your food processor. Whizz until smooth. Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Rinse out your food processor and blade. Dry with kitchen paper. Chuck all the ingredients for the olive tapenade into your processor and whizz until smooth. Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Rinse out your food processor and blade. Tip all the ingredients for the guacamole into your processor, marvel at how lovely it is to have such a great gadget and then whizz the ingredients until the consistency is as you would like – rustically chunky, elegantly smooth or something in between! Decant into a serving bowl. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge until needed.

Serve with hummus and an assortment of breads, crackers and crudités; some cold, crisp dry white wine and most importantly a good collection of family and friends. Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

An absolute whizz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Crab Poppadom Canapés

Quick, easy and absolutely scrumptious, these lovely little canapés – courtesy of Mary Berry – enliven the delicate, sweet flavour of the crabmeat in a light, fresh, slightly oriental dressing, perfectly topping the crunch of poppadoms. They are simply delightful and easily ‘poppable’ little canapés – perfect for our Friday night tradition of G&Ts at 6pm.

Makes 8 – 10

What you need…

100g white crabmeat, flaked finely

½ fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sweet chilli dipping sauce

Squeeze of lime juice

Sea salt and black pepper

1 dessertspoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped

8 – 10 mini poppadoms

What to do…

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the poppadoms so that they are thoroughly mixed together. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours) to allow the flavours to develop.

When you’re ready to indulge, use a teaspoon to plop some mixture into each mini poppadom, creating 8 – 10 gorgeous little canapés. Serve alongside G&Ts, fizz, or crisp white wine and enjoy the combined crunch of the poppable poppadom with the delicate, fresh and slightly oriental flavours of the filling – yum, yum!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

An absolute doddle!

 

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

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

Baby, it’s cold outside but this soup is a real winter warmer! It’s also simplicity itself and is absolutely lovely, exuding the deep, rich flavours of the Stilton which are beautifully foiled by the broccoli – simply lovely and ridiculously simple to make. If you’ve got any leftover Stilton, this is definitely the way to go. I’m going to make sure that we regularly have some leftover Stilton!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

1 onion, chopped finely

2 sticks celery, sliced

1 leek, sliced

2 medium potatoes, diced

1 knob butter

1 litre boiling water from the kettle

2 x chicken stockpots (I use Knorr)

1 head broccoli, roughly chopped

140g Stilton, roughly chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the celery, leek, potato and a knob of butter; stir everything together until the butter has melted. Pop on the lid and let the lot sweat for 5 minutes.

In a jug, use a balloon whisk to dissolve the chicken stock pots into the boiling water to create a litre of chicken stock.

Remove the vegetable saucepan lid and pour in the stock and any tough, chunky bits of broccoli stalk. Cook for 10 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Add in the rest of the broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes. Tip your soup into a blender and whizz until smooth. Return the soup to your saucepan and add the Stilton, stirring it gently over a low heat until the cheese has melted. Taste, season, taste again and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Divide between 4 bowls and enjoy this wonderful winter warmer treat of a soup! (Or share between two of you and freeze the rest for another day)

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How easy…

Dead easy! I carried on unpacking shopping and sorting out admin whilst it cooked itself!

Chicken, Mozzarella and Pesto Filo Parcels

I saw Tom Daley do these on TV and thought that they looked so very tasty as well as being so very easy and they are exactly that! An ideal gift of a lunch or supper (you do feel like you’re opening a present when you cut into them), these are really lovely and much more filling than I had thought. We did also think ‘ideal student food’ – one for you, Maddie!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking sheet, lined with reusable baking parchment

2 tablespoons olive oil

A large handful basil leaves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons pine nuts

450g skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces

8 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped

250g mozzarella, chopped

8 rectangular sheets filo pastry, cut in half to make 16 squares

50g butter, melted

Sea salt and black pepper

What you do…

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6. Pop in your baking sheet to warm up whilst you make the parcels.

To create a pesto, put the oil, basil and pine nuts in mini chopper if you have one and whizz until smooth. If you don’t have a mini chopper, just chop the basil and nuts as finely as you can and then mix them with the oil.

Put the chicken, tomatoes and mozzarella into a bowl and add the pesto. Season liberally and stir everything together.

Take 4 squares of filo pastry and lay them one on top of another, but turning each one a little to the right to create a star outline once all four are on top of one another.

Divide the mixture evenly between the four pastry ‘stars’ piling it up in the middle of each.

Brush a little melted butter in a fat circle around the mixture and then scrunch each ‘star’ together to create 4 large moneybag shapes. Brush each parcel all over (except the base) with butter – this will help the pastry stick together and will also turn it a gorgeous golden brown when cooked.

Pop the parcels onto your preheated baking tray and bake them in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden.

There’s quite a bit of theatre to serving them: they look amazing and then when you cut into them for ‘the big reveal’ the delightful crunch of the buttery filo pastry gives way to the really very yummy contents inside!

Chick, Mozz & Pesto Filo Parcels Open w

Serving suggestion…

Green vegetables or a salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and avocado, drizzled with a olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard dressing (which is what we did together with some fresh, warm, chunky bread – delish!)

Inspired by…

Olympic diver and now chef, Tom Daley

How easy…

Fabulously easy and very attractive on the eye as well as the palette!

 

 

Creamy Artichoke Soup with Parmesan-Coated Peelings

Simply gorgeous! I’ve had this recipe for a couple of years but had difficulty locating the lumpy bumpy tubers called artichokes. Spotted in Waitrose this week, I thought I’d give this a go. Having never tried artichokes, I had no idea what to expect so I was delighted to taste a gorgeous soup that is distinctive, smooth and elegant. We had it for supper but it would make a fabulous (and easy) dinner party starter – give it a go!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking sheet, lined with baking parchment

Juice ½ lemon

500g Jerusalem artichokes

2 teaspoons rapeseed oil

25g butter

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 x 140g floury potato, roughly chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

600ml boiling water from the kettle

2 chicken stockpots (I use Knorr)

3 tablespoons double cream

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked and finely chopped

What to do…

Half-fill a large bowl with tap water and squeeze in the lemon juice. Peel the artichokes and cut them into chunks, chucking them into the lemony water. Toss the peelings into a separate bowl, add the oil and stir in. That’s the prep done!

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, potato, sea salt and black pepper. Drain the artichokes and tip them in as well. Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables over a low heat with the lid on for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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

Use a balloon whisk to dissolve the stockpots into the boiling water and then pour it over the vegetables. Pop the lid back on and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the artichokes are tender.

Tip the lot into your blender and whizz until smooth. Tip back into the saucepan, stir in the cream, taste and adjust the seasoning to suit.

Meanwhile, prepare the artichoke peelings to garnish. Spread the oiled peelings over your baking tray and pop in the oven for 5 minutes. Turn them over and scatter with Parmesan and rosemary. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Pour this gorgeous soup into four bowls and garnish with the Parmesan peelings – just divine!

What Jerusalem artichokes are all about…

From the sunflower family and also known as sunchokes, these tubers grow underground and look like large, lumpy, bumpy knobs of ginger. They taste slightly nutty and smoothly savoury: a cross between an artichoke heart and the best potato you’ve ever had!

Inspired by…

bbcgoodfood.com

How easy…

Really easy; the only tricky and somewhat time-consuming bit is peeling the artichokes because they’re so knobbly.

 

 

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