Snacks and Starters

Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup

The 46th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is a gorgeous soup that really is a ‘hug in a bowl’ – perfect for right now.

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 antidote to a dreary, cold 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!

 

My Favourite Recipe for Chicken Liver Paté

The 44th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this paté is simply stunning, adored by both me and…by Treacle the dog(amongst others) – leave this for 30 seconds within reach and….it’s vanished (be it me or the dog!) – paté is her absolute favourite!

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 have since switched 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 yummy 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 (already blogged) 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 whizzing – job done!

 

 

American-Style Buttermilk Pancakes

Savoury with Smoked Salmon and Dill Sauce and Sweet with caramelised Bananas and Chocolate/Caramel

The 41st of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this one celebrates Shrove Tuesday but with a couple of totally gorgeous, alternative recipes to the norm!

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

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

What you need for the buttermilk pancakes…

150g plain flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Pinch of salt

2 large, happy eggs, separated

284ml carton buttermilk

Knob of butter for frying

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

1 large, happy egg yolk

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 dessertspoon caster sugar

Pinch of salt

150ml rapeseed oil

Small bunch dill, finely chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

Smoked salmon (100g tops 3 pancakes)

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

What you need for the caramelised banana and chocolate topping…

Per pancake:

Sprinkling of caster sugar

1 banana, sliced thickly,

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

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

What to do…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip…

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

Inspired by…

Delicious magazine

How easy…

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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.

 

 

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!

Crab and Prawn Coconut Soup

The 23rd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this soup makes for an absolute delicious starter. Since finding the recipe, I have returned to it again and again – it’s always received with much delight!

I love this crab and prawn coconut soup: it’s delightfully light, tasty and fragranced but also has enough about it to pass as a substantial starter or light lunch. The seafood flavours are beautifully emphasised by the influences of the lemon grass, fish sauce and coriander – it’s absolutely lovely and you can knock it up in a flash – definitely going on my ‘supper party starters’ list, so if you’re coming around, expect it – you’ll enjoy!

Serves 2

What you need…

Splash rapeseed oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2cm fresh ginger, peeled and then grated

1 lemon grass stem, trimmed and sliced

Pinch hot chilli powder

200g cooked crab meat

500ml boiling water from the kettle

1 fish stockpot (I use Knorr)

200g coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce

225g raw, peeled prawns

2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

Juice of ½ lemon

Good handful chopped fresh coriander

What to do…

In a jug, pop in your stockpot and then pour in 500ml boiling water from the kettle. Whisk with either a fork or small balloon whisk to dissolve and then set your stock aside.

In a large saucepan over a moderate heat, splash in the oil and add the garlic, ginger, lemon grass and chilli powder.  Cook until golden. Tip in the crab meat, stock, coconut milk and fish sauce. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the crab meat and the prawns and cook until the prawns are just pink. Then add the spring onions, lemon juice and coriander. Enjoy this lovely, light fragrant soup – quite delicious!

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy….

Very easy, quick and simply delightful!

Parcels of Roasted Asparagus in Parma Ham

 

The 22nd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, these lovely little canapés have appeared alongside many a drinks do with friends and always go down really well.

This is an ideal canapé to have with pre-dinner drinks, or perhaps to hand around as part of a canapé selection at a Christmas drinks party. These delightful little morsels are absolutely lovely, ideally accompanied by a rather pleasant glass of fizz.

Makes 10

What you need…

One flat baking tin, greased with olive oil

20 x  asparagus spears, trimmed

10 slices prosciutto di parma

Sea salt and black Pepper

Parmesan cheese, finely grated

What to do…

Poach 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 tin.

Repeat until all the asparagus spears and Parma ham have been used up.

You can now leave them in the fridge for a couple of hours, enabling you to go and get ready for your guests.

When ready, pop the baking tin in the oven preheated to 200°c / 400°f / Gas 6 for 4-5 minutes and then serve. Absolutely delightful!

Inspired by…

I can’t quite remember – lots of people seemed to have included a version of this in their cookbooks but I think that Delia Smith was the original inspiration.

How easy…

Really, really easy and they can be prepared ahead of time – bonus!

 

 

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Canapés

The 13th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, these are just scrumptious and are created in seconds – my ‘go to’ canapés!

We first tried these at friends and neighbours, Chris and Suzy, who kindly invited us for lovely, leisurely Sunday evening drinks.  So gorgeous were these little delights that they make an appearance pretty much every time anyone comes around for supper or dinner! They go brilliantly with a glass of fizz, G&T or scrumptious white wine. The watermelon is fresh, sweet and juicy: the perfect foil for the earthy dryness of the feta; and the mint provides a lovely zing finish! All together with a little squeeze of lime, they are simply delicious! Give them a go: they’re quick, easy and just yummy!

Makes around 12 – 15 depending on how large or small you cut your chunks!

What you need…

100g watermelon, chopped into chunky, small slices

100g feta cheese, cut into chunks of a similar size to the water melon

A handful of mint leaves

A squeeze of fresh lime juice

A bunch of cocktail sticks

What to do…

Choose a pretty serving plate and stack these little lovelies together using a cocktail stick to pierce through each layer – watermelon on the bottom, then feta and on the top, either a couple of tiny mint leaves or a larger one folded.

Arrange on your plate and just before you want to enjoy them, give them a quick spritz of lime juice. So simple, so utterly yummy!

Inspired by…

Chris and Suzy: thank you! (who were in turn inspired by Mary Berry)

How easy…

You can knock them up in seconds – no mess, no stress!

Gambas Pil Pil

 

The 3rd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cook book: this one is an absolute favourite of the kids – if they’re involved in the menu planning for a dinner party, this always comes up as the number 1 starter option!

This always feels like a little taste of the Mediterranean as I remember the first time we had this dish was on holiday. So for me, Gambas Pil Pil brings with it warm nights and gentle breezes, long relaxed suppers watching the sun go down before meandering back to our villa. A fabulous starter, it arrives sizzling with the aroma of garlic filling the air.  The plump, garlicky prawns are fabulous and the residual oil is just as enjoyable, mopped up with good, chunky bread (Focaccia in this case). Lovely, simple: enjoy!

Serves 4-6 as a starter or light lunch (We like rather large portions, so maybe bear that in mind when looking at my prawn quantities!)

What you need…

4 – 6  x ovenproof bowls to cook and serve

900g giant prawns, peeled

6 cloves garlic, chopped

2 hot chillis, deseeded and sliced

Sea salt to season

Olive oil

What to do…

Divide the prawns between your dishes. Likewise, divide up the garlic and chilli evenly. Season with salt and then pour over olive oil so that it just covers the top of the prawns. Give them a good mix, cover with cling film and then pop in the fridge until ready to cook. (If possible, I try to do this preparation 24 hours in advance so that the flavours really gather, but equally, we have had them after just a couple of hours ‘marinating’.

Preheat the oven to 240°c / 475° / gas 9.

Remove the cling film and put your bowls on a baking tray and then into the oven for 5 – 10 minutes, until they are pink and sizzling.

Carefully remove from the oven and serve. The most simple of starters or lunches and really, quite delectable. Dunking bread is an absolute must!

Inspired by…

Not sure – the recipe is pretty generic but this particular version, which we have been enjoying for years, was pulled from a magazine…a very long time ago!

How easy…

Very, very easy!