Snacks and Starters

Stilton and Port

Completely stuffed after Christmas Day but still we eat as the fridge abounds with treats. This one is my favourite – the perfect pairing – Stilton and port!

Serves 1 very happy person

What you need…

1 large slice of good quality Stilton (we schedule an annual trip to Fortnum & Mason, specifically to facilitate this)

1 bottle of late bottled vintage port

What to do…

Remove Stilton from fridge at least an hour before you want to indulge. Place it on attractive plate or slate: there needs to be some ceremony and decorum for the King of English Cheeses.

When ready, pour a good snifter of port. Take a bite of Stilton and enjoy the unique combination of delicious creaminess with the soft piquancy provided by the blue. Take a sip of Port and indulge in the simple but fabulous combination of the two ingredients. So much more together than merely the sum of two parts. Eat and sip, savouring every decadent moment of your Stilton and port. Ideal fare for a Boxing Day snack!

Inspired by…

Decades of tradition, certainly in our house

How easy…

Mastering the art of simply savouring, indulging and relaxing in this simple treat is perhaps the most difficult element to the whole thing – I recommend practice!

 

 

Toasted Walnut and Roquefort Salad

Salads are not just for summer! They are also not boring, well not in this house, anyway. I love this salad and particularly at this time of the year – it is fresh, tasty and feels healthy in comparison to all the heavy meals and naughty desserts. The warmth of the toasted walnuts together with the piquancy of the Roquefort makes for an unexpected and quite delicious pairing – a gorgeous salad that never fails to delight, this is a lovely starter or light lunch.

Serves 4

What you need…

120g walnut halves

120g Roquefort cheese

1 tablespoon walnut oil

Sea salt and black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

100g mixed salad leaves, washed and dried

2 big handfuls of basil leaves, torn

for the dressing

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons walnut oil

3 tablespoons olive oil

What to do…

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

Make the dressing by chucking all the ingredients in a screw-top jar, pop the lid on and shake vigorously.

Pop the walnuts into a small baking tin and pour over 1 tablespoon walnut oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until toasted.

Just before you are ready to serve, chuck your salad leaves into a pretty salad bowl, crumble in the Roquefort, tip in the dressing and finally, the walnuts. Toss your toasted walnut and Roquefort salad so that all the ingredients are evenly mixed and serve immediately. The warmth of the toasted walnuts will soften the Roquefort and taking a forkful of the cheese, nuts and a couple of leaves is quite heavenly! Absolutely delish!

Serving suggestions…

A little garlic bread on the side and a really crisp dry white wine are perfect accompaniments

Inspired by…

No idea – another one ripped out of a magazine years ago – it’s a firm favourite in our house though!

How Easy…

Couldn’t be easier!

Chicken Liver Pate with Brandy

I have a penchant for foie gras parfait, but let’s face it, that’s not very realistic on a regular basis. I have had this recipe for years – torn out from a magazine but I only got around making it this week. I tentatively tried a little and then found that I just wanted more and more! The combination of the brandy and the chicken livers is fabulously rich but the pate is also quite light. Its sufficiently good that can also carry off being served as a starter with a delicious dessert wine – the perfect foil. Try it – it won’t be the last time you make it! Absolutely delicious!

Serves 10 as a starter

What you need…

500g chicken livers, trimmed

2 tablespoons brandy

110g butter

4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves torn from stalks

Pinch nutmeg/a few gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons sherry

4 tablespoons double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Drain the chicken livers and put them in a small bowl. Add the brandy, mix well, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 2 hours.

Heat 25g of the butter in a frying pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken livers from the brandy (keeping the brandy for later) and add to the pan, stir-frying on a moderate heat for 3-5 minutes, until they are browned all over but still pink on the inside. Again, using your slotted spoon, remove the chicken livers from the pan and tip them into your food processor.

Add the brandy into the pan and turn up the heat – cook for a minute or so until the alcohol has evaporated. Using a spatula, scrape every last scrap out of the frying pan and into the food processor.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat 25g of the butter and cook the bacon, onion, thyme, nutmeg and bay leaf over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the onion is quite soft and golden brown. Remove the bay leaf and tip the lot into the food processor with the other ingredients.

In a third (small) saucepan, melt the remaining butter over a gentle heat.

Whilst that’s melting, whizz all the ingredients in your food processor to form a smooth purée. Blend in the parsley and then add the sherry, cream and melted butter. Season to taste. Pour this mixture into either one mould, 10 small ramekin dishes or, as I did, four pretty serving dishes – we ate two over the course of the weekend and I’ve frozen the other two for future enjoyment. Whichever choice you make, chill the pate for at least 12 hours to allow the flavours to gather.

Serve your chicken liver pate with brandy with toasted fresh bread or toasted brioche. If you can run to a dessert wine as well, it works indulgently well. Talk about feasting like kings – fabulous!

Inspired by…

Don’t know – torn from a magazine so many years ago that the page is yellow.

How easy…

Very, very easy and for fantastic results!

 

 

Poached Egg with Asparagus and Parma Ham

 

You know how sometimes the ridiculously simple can be stunningly good – this little recipe fits that description. I can’t give you exact measurements because this is definitely one that is defined by your individual taste and appetite. Bottom line though, it’s a gorgeous little indulgent lunch or starter that you can knock out in no time and will knock your socks off! This version of poaching an egg is also fabulous, creates no washing up and is failsafe (dare I say it!)

Serves 1

What you need…

A few slices of Parma Ham, up to you; it depends how much you fancy

A few asparagus spears, again as much as you fancy

1 Large Egg

Parmesan, grated, again the amount depends on your taste

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

On your worktop, layout out one 30cm square piece of cling film. Lay another, the same size on top. (The size is a rough guide). Rub a teaspoon of olive oil all over the middle of the top piece. Pick up the double cling film layers gently push into a teacup. Break your egg into the cling film and then pick up the corners and edges of the cling film layers and tie in a knot so that you egg is in a little cling film bundle. Pop into a saucepan of boiling water, turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 5-6 minutes.

Take the asparagus and cut the hard ends off (usually about half of the spear) and pop them into a separate shallow pan of boiling, salted water. Boil for about 4 minutes – test one to see if it’s cooked to your liking. Drain in a colander.

Arrange the Parma ham and cooked asparagus on a plate.

Cut your poached egg ‘bundle’ just below the knot and tip the egg out onto the Parma ham and asparagus.

Season with Parmesan, salt and pepper. Break open the egg and watch with delight as the yolk dribbles all over the asparagus and ham. For maximum enjoyment, try a bit of everything with each forkful. Serve with toasted Italian bread – Pane Pugliese (very crispy). Altogether poached egg with asparagus and Parma ham can be described as very yummy!

Inspired by…

The poached egg is Jamie Oliver’s. The dish itself is just kinda out there I think.

How easy…

About as easy as it gets!

 

 

Leek and Potato Soup with Nutmeg and Truffle Oil

 You know those drab winter days when you want to dress down in all your cosiest clothes and snuggle up in an overstuffed armchair next to a roaring fire? This is the soup for those days! Lacking the armchair and fire, this soup still cheers me up. The wholesomeness of the vegetables is made slightly less virtuous with the addition of a little truffle oil and the nutmeg gives it a gentle, warming kick.

 Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

 Splash of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and roughly sliced

2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped

400g leeks, trimmed and roughly sliced

1 apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

400g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

1.8 litres boiling water

2 chicken stock pots (I use Knorr)

Sea salt and black pepper

½ grated fresh nutmeg

A little drizzle of truffle oil (I use Carluccio’s Olio al Tartufo Bianco)

What to do…

To make your leek and potato soup with nutmeg and truffle oil, splash a little olive oil into a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the garlic. Then add the carrots, onions and leeks. Mix together with a wooden spoon and leave on the heat for around 10 minutes with the lid askew.

Pop your stock pots into a big jug and add a little water – maybe 400ml and then use a balloon whisk to dissolve the stock pots into the water. Top the jug up with boiling water to 1.8 litres.

Pour the stock into the saucepan with your vegetables and then add the potatoes and apple. Stir and then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on.

Pour the soup into your food processor jug (you will probably have to divide it into two as the jug doesn’t have the capacity for all of the soup). Add the nutmeg and whizz until smooth and then return to the saucepan. Taste. Season. Taste. Season. When you’re happy with the taste, serve into homely mugs or sophisticate bowls – whatever takes your fancy. Drizzle a little truffle oil on the top and……relax and enjoy your winter-warming soup.

Tips…

This gorgeous truffle oil comes in a tiny (55ml) bottle and IS expensive, but a little goes a very, very long way and it will last for ages. It’s worth having in the cupboard – I use it to take dishes from the really quite ordinary to the really rather indulgent!

I’m recommending the Cooks’ Ingredients frozen, chopped garlic from Waitrose. No peeling or chopping, just a quick shake into the pan and then back in the freezer.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

A bit of chopping, a bit of boiling and a bit of whizzing – very easy and done in a flash

 

Breakfast Boudins

Thank you Sue K. for sharing this recipe that appeared on the ‘buzzfeedtasty’ page on Facebook. These little breakfast lovelies are such treats and just a bit different. They were certainly a lovely start to our Sunday.

Makes 6

What you need…

Muffin tin, greased

Cookie cutter

3 slices bread

3 teaspoons Parmesan or Cheddar cheese, grated

6 rashers back bacon

6 eggs

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

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

Choose a cookie cutter that is the same size as the bottom of your muffin tin holes and cut six circles from your bread slices, nestling them snugly into the bottom of six of the holes.

Sprinkle a teaspoon of cheese into each one.

Dry-fry the bacon so that it’s only just cooked and remove from the pan, setting aside until it’s cool enough to handle. Wrap each rasher around the edge of each muffin hole and then break an egg into each one.

Season with salt and pepper and pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Transfer your breakfast boudins to warm plates and take to your kitchen table, already laden with knives and forks, freshly squeezed orange juice, steaming coffee and the weekend newspapers. Bliss!

Inspired by…

www.facebook.com/buzzfeedtasty

How Easy…

Really easy – great for whipping up on a Saturday or Sunday morning whilst the coffee brews

Asparagus Tart with Brie and Capers Dressing

This is a lovely tart, ideal for sharing with friends as a starter or as a light but delicious lunch

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

1 baking sheet

500g ready-made puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

500g 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!

A Quick Aside…

The image shows the tart made for just two people, using half the ingredients – a lovely little mid-afternoon snack!

Inspired By…

Woman and Home magazine (torn out several years ago!)

How Easy…

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

 

Haggis with Scallops, Caramelised Pear and Beurre Blanc Sauce

Yes, I know it sounds revolting and I was met with considerable apprehension when I announced that I was serving this up. But after the first tentative mouthful, it was proclaimed as really tasty and a culinary success! Haggis, let’s face it, gets bad PR but honestly, this is a really rich, lovely winter dish. Written up here as a starter, it can also be served as a main course, adding green vegetables (steamed leek and cabbage) and potato (Dauphinoise would work well). So, give it a go and be happily surprised!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x 450g good quality Haggis (I used Simon Howie’s Haggis Company).

Splash of olive oil

12 good sized scallops, hand-dived if you can spare the pennies

Sea salt and black pepper

for the beurre blanc sauce

2 shallots, finely chopped

20ml white wine vinegar

40ml white wine

40ml water

75g butter, cut into small chunks

Sea salt and black pepper

for the caramelised pears

50g butter

2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar

3 pears, unpeeled, cored and chopped into 1 cm pieces

What to do…

To cook your haggis, follow the instructions that it comes with. In my case, it was simply to wrap the haggis, skin and clips intact, in foil and pop in a saucepan of water, bringing it to the boil before gently simmering it for 45 minutes.

For the sauce, pop the shallots, vinegar, white wine and water into a saucepan and cook on a moderate heat until the liquid is halved. Remove from the heat and add the butter chunks one at a time, using a balloon whisk to ensure that each chunk is fully blended in before adding the next. Once it is all added, season with salt and pepper and return to the hob, keeping it warm on a low heat.

For the caramelised pears, heat the butter and sugar in a small saucepan on a moderate heat until they are both melted, stirring regularly. Tip in the chopped pears and gently stir them in, ensuring they are all evenly coated with butter. Reduce the heat and just leave them in the pan for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will finish up golden and delicious.

Finally, about five minutes before you are ready to serve, splash a little oil in a frying pan and when it’s hot, chuck in your scallops. Fry them for two minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Season.

To serve your haggis with scallops, caramelised pear and beurre blanc sauce, simply provide each person with one generous slice of haggis in the centre of the plate, topping it with the seared scallops, scatter the pears around the side and drizzle the beurre blanc over the pears.

The vinegar and wine in the beurre blanc sauce provide a gently, slightly sharp contrast to the richness of the haggis and the sweetness of the pear provides a perfect foil to the meat’s depth of flavour. It really works beautifully – simply delicious!

Inspired by…

Loch Fyne Restaurants currently have a version of this on their menus. I hope my interpretation does it justice!

How Easy…

Not difficult but loads of pots and pans, especially if it’s being served with accompaniments for a main course.

Whilst the haggis is cooking, you have plenty of time to make the beurre blanc and then the caramelised pears, just keeping both of them warm until you are ready to serve.

Roast Asparagus in Parma Ham Parcels

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, grated

What to do…

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and drop the asparagus in. Cook in the boiling water for 2 minutes.

Drain and and refresh in cold water. Drain again 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 – she uses hard cheese rather than grated.

How easy…

Really, really easy and your Roast Asparagus in Parma Ham Parcels can be prepared ahead of time – bonus!

 

 

Butternut Squash Soup

This is a wonderful, warming, Autumnal soup that is so comforting but made extra special with one of my favourite additions: truffle oil! A lovely lunch on a dreary grey day, this soup is also an excellent dinner party starter and has been served up to most, if not all of our friends, all of whom love it!

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

Glug of olive oil

1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning or sage

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

I red onion, roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 celery sticks, trimmed and roughly chopped

Three sprigs of rosemary

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Kg butternut squash

1 litre chicken stock (I use 2 x stock pots), heated

Truffle oil to serve (my favourite is Carluccio’s Olio al Tartufo Bianco – some other brands taste too oily)

What to do…

In a large saucepan, pour in your glug of olive oil and heat on medium.

Add the Italian seasoning, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, chilli, salt and pepper. Turn down heat to low and leave to soften for 15 minutes.

Add the butternut squash and stock, bring to the boil. Then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the rosemary stems and then food-process the rest to produce this wonderful, thick autumnal Butternut Squash Soup.

Serve drizzled with a little truffle oil.

Tip…

I’ve taken to buying, garlic and chilli, amongst other herbs and spices, from the Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen range – they come ready chopped and so they get added to recipes via a quick shake or two, rather than being precisely measured out!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

It really doesn’t come any easier than this! You can also make it a couple of days before you want it – keeping it in the fridge – and it freezes really well. So, quite often, I’ll double up on the ingredients, freezing half.