Snacks and Starters

Hot New York Deli Style Pastrami Sandwiches

I’m not really a sandwich kinda girl, but I do hanker for the fabulous ‘Pastrami on Rye’ sandwiches that I indulged in every time I went to New York. That being several years ago now, I sat up very straight when James Martin explained that he was going to show us how to make Hot Paper Bag Sandwiches of Pastrami, Fontina (cheese) and Pickled Cucumber during his Home Comforts series. As ever, I’ve fiddled with the recipe, but the first words out of John’s mouth, were, “Oooh, this is New York on a plate!” And these sandwiches are pretty damned close to what I remember – that wonderful combination of hot pastrami mingling with the slightly sharp yet smooth bite of the mustard, the melted cheese and then the tart cucumber that was masquerading splendidly as gherkin. Wonderful, edgy and given the packaging, slightly rough around the edges – very New York to my mind!

Serves 2

What you need…

Parchment paper

String

75ml cider vinegar or rice wine

25g caster sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

½ cucumber, thinly sliced

1 small bunch dill, leaves only, roughly chopped

6 thin slices sourdough bread (I know, not rye, but it works really well)

20g-ish butter

1 dessertspoon Dijon mustard

150g pastrami, thinly sliced

200g Jarlsberg/Manchego, sliced

What to do…

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

To make the marinade that’s going to transpose your very British cucumbers into all-out New York-attitude gherkins, bring the cider vinegar to a simmer in a pan with the sugar, salt and mustard seeds, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pop your cucumber slices into a bowl and pour over the hot vinegar marinade. Stir in the dill and set aside to infuse.

Meanwhile, toast the sourdough slices and spread with butter. For each of the two sandwiches that you are making, take one slice and spread with mustard, then top with pastrami, then cheese, then the cucumber. Top with another slice of toast and then repeat the layers: mustard, pastrami, cheese, cucumber and then finish off with another slice of toast, but this time, butter side down.

That’s one sandwich done; do the same for the other.

Wrap each sandwich in a large sheet of parchment paper and secure with string. Pop both of your sandwich parcels into the oven and bake for 15 minutes until they are piping hot – enjoy the fabulous aroma emanating from your oven!

Then, it’s present-opening time: snip the string with scissors and unwrap your Hot New York Deli Style Pastrami Sandwiches. OMG – just OMG – simply fab.

Inspired by…

James Martin, Home Comforts

How easy…

More than you would normally do just for a sandwich but then again….they’re so much more than just a sandwich! Very worth it!

Crab and Prawn Coconut Soup

I love this crab and prawn coconut soup: it’s delightfully light, tasty and fragranced but also enough about it to pass as a substantial starter or light main course. 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 quite delightful!

Stilton Soup

OK, so the final bit of Stilton remained in the fridge from Christmas. It wasn’t actually opened until a good way through January but, if it wasn’t to be wasted, I needed to do something with it and we’d got to the end of the delightful ‘Stilton and crackers, perhaps with a glass of port’ thing. So, I thought I’d give this a bash, even though I wasn’t overly certain whether it would even be pleasant. It’s absolutely lovely: smooth, rich and really, really flavoursome. Delia reckoned that this recipe would serve 4 – 6 people as a starter but I decided to serve it as an ‘amuse bouche’ (defined as ‘a little bit of food which is served before the meal to stimulate the appetite) in tiny cups, simply because it is sooooo rich. It’s a lovely little taster to kick off a dinner! And there’s no problem with the leftovers – having served four, the rest was divided into two polythene bags and frozen, available for a couple of other dinners!

Serves 12 as an Amuse Bouche

What you need…

Splash rapeseed oil

3 shallots, chopped

1 leek, cleaned and sliced

1 large potato, peeled and chopped into chunks

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

570ml water, boiled from the kettle

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

150 ml dry still cider

110g Stilton cheese, cut into small chunks

275ml milk

1 tablespoon double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, then add the vegetables and a pinch of salt. Pop the lid on and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a small balloon whisk, stir the stockpot into the water until it has dissolved. Set aside your stock.

Stir the flour into the vegetables and, when evenly mixed in, gradually add the cider, stirring the whole time. Add the chicken stock, pop the lid back on the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add the milk and Stilton and increase the heat to high. Stir until the cheese has melted and the soup is just below boiling point. Taste. Season. Taste. When you’re happy with the seasoning, stir in the cream.

Tip the whole lot into your blender and whizz until your Stilton soup is smooth and creamy. Serve – it really is rather delightful and has a definite indulgent feel to it – enjoy!

Stilton Soup 2 w

Inspired by…

Delia Smith,

How easy…

Really, really easy – no effort at all and I love the fact that you can freeze it, ready for future dinners!

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

Red Lentil, Chickpea and Chilli Soup

This is a really wonderful soup, especially when it’s soooo cold out there! The spice provided by the cumin seeds and chilli make you feel all warm inside and give the soup a hint of the Middle-East; then there’s the contrasting fresh kick of the coriander. It’s robust, thick, filling and packed with flavour, it’s also really cheap, very fast and simple. And finally, no naughty ingredients so if you’re doing that whole January dieting thing, this fits in perfectly but tastes fantastic!

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

850ml water, boiled, straight from the kettle

2 vegetable stock pots (I use Knorr)

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Pinch of hot chilli powder

Splash rapeseed oil

1 red onion, roughly chopped

140g red lentils

400g can chopped tomatoes

½ 400g can chickpeas (drain and freeze the rest for another time)

Handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped plus some to scatter over the top

What to do…

Make vegetable stock by filling a large jug up to 850ml with boiling water and drop in the two vegetable stock pots. Use a balloon whisk to dissolve and mix in the stock pots.

In a large saucepan, dry-fry the cumin seeds for about a minute or until they start jumping around the pan! Add the chilli powder and give it a quick stir. Then, splash in some rapeseed oil together with the onion and cook for a further 5 minutes on a moderate heat. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Chuck in the chickpeas and coriander and then put all the soup ingredients into the blender jug of your food processor. Whizz until the soup is a lovely thick and smooth purée.

Pour into soup bowls or mugs and enjoy the heat and sunshine that emanates from your red lentil, chickpea and chilli soup – lovely.

Inspired by…

www.bbcgoodfood.com

How easy…

Childs’ Play!

 

Bread and Butter Pudding Brunch

This is a fabulous weekend breakfast – a real treat: something completely different, dead easy to make and minimal washing up! I tried the first version of this over Christmas and it was just dull but so obsessive has this little blogging project become that I woke up Friday morning re-jigging the recipe in my head and the new version is lovely – the light, fluffy, savoury ‘custard’ works brilliantly with the salty Parma Ham, mushrooms and cheese. Give it a go – perfect with the weekend papers and a leisurely day ahead.

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking dish, lightly buttered (mine is 26 x 18 x 7cms deep)

6 slices bread

80g butter

6 slices Parma Ham

200g mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

3 large eggs

500ml milk

Pinch paprika

Sea salt and black pepper

100g Gruyère, grated

What to do…

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

Take three slices of the bread and butter them. Cut the Parma Ham in half width-ways and lay two halves on each piece of bread, covering each slice. Butter the other three slices and pop on top of the Parma Ham, butter-sides down, making three sandwiches. Butter the top slice of bread. Cut the sandwiches in quarters, diagonally to create four triangles from each sandwich and wodge into your baking dish with the buttered sides facing upwards.

Push the slices of mushroom in between the bread triangles, sharing them evenly throughout.

In a large jug, chuck in your eggs, milk, paprika and seasoning and, using a balloon whisk, blend together to create the custard.

Pour the custard over the bread, ensuring that all of the bread is doused. Scatter over the Gruyère and pop the pudding in the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the bread is golden and crunchy on the top and the pudding is puffed up and gorgeous-looking! Plonk your bread and butter pudding brunch in the middle of the table and ask everyone to dive in – great start to a weekend day!

Inspired by…

Can’t remember which magazine I ripped out the original recipe from, but it didn’t work anyway! This version comes from that lovely place between being asleep and being properly awake when, if you’re me, you’re now re-writing recipes in your head!!!!

How easy…

Ever so. Stick on some laid-back music, sing along and create.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Caesars Salad, My Way

Many years ago I had a marketing job that meant, in the name of work, I ate out a lot. And I mean a lot. There was also the occasional overseas trips undertaken and twice I was lucky enough to visit New York on business. Labeled a ‘jolly’, the trip was as much about food as it was the thrills of Manhattan: huge hotel breakfasts followed by large, leisurely lunches and obscenely over-indulgent dinners punctuated each day. There’s only so much a girl can eat even if the food is amazing so I quickly took to choosing Caesars Salad as my default choice for lunch, being the perfect foil for the inevitable heavy, rich dinners that I knew would follow. I’ve never had a Caesars Salad as good as those I enjoyed in New York and so ended up developing my own version: New York Caesars Salad, My Way! I have no idea how close to the authentic recipe mine is but it’s pretty close to those savoured in Manhattan. It’s light but edgy – salad with attitude I’d say – and really enlivening – give it a go!

Serves 2

What you need…

4 good-sized slices back bacon

300g mixed salad leaves (including iceberg for the crunch), torn

A good handful of freshly grated Parmesan

for the croutons

1 slice bread from a large loaf

50g butter

for the dressing

60ml olive oil

30ml white wine vinegar

3 anchovies

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper to season

What to do…

For the croutons, cut bread roughly into 1cm squares and pop into a bowl with the butter and then into the microwave for 1 minute. Stir to make sure the butter is evenly distributed and pop back in for another 40 seconds. Repeat this last process until the croutons are golden and crispy. In my microwave, I do 3 x 40 seconds.

(N.B. microwave times may vary – I rarely use a microwave so ours is old and pretty inferior so yours may do the job much quicker).

Set the croutons aside to cool.

Dry-fry the bacon until its crispy. Remove from the pan and as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, chop it up into bite-sized pieces (I use scissors for this – it’s quicker than a knife for me). Put the chopped pieces on kitchen paper to absorb the moisture whilst the bacon cools.

In a jam jar, chuck all the dressing ingredients in together, screw on the lid and shake vigorously to mix everything together and break down the anchovies.

When you are ready to serve, tip your salad leaves into a large roomy salad bowl and throw in the bacon. Add half the Parmesan and then the dressing. Toss everything together. Either divide into two bowls or serve to the table in the salad bowl. Whichever way, scatter over more Parmesan and finally, the croutons. Enjoy! It really is a wonderful salad!

Serving suggestion…

I like New York Caesar’s Salad on it’s own as a main course, but it also works well served with steak or as a starter, perhaps with garlic bread.

Tip…

Cooks’ Ingredients frozen, chopped garlic from Waitrose – just tip some in the dressing rather than all that peeling and chopping….

Inspired by…

New York!

How easy…

Ever so!

Christmas Breakfast Boudins

The original version of this went down an absolute storm in November – lots of friends tried it and loved it; so last night when I found a packet of pigs in blankets lurking in the fridge, my son suggested this version of the popular Breakfast Boudins. We made them this morning and they were absolutely delightful!

 Makes 6

 What you need…

1 x muffin tin, lightly buttered

1 x small baking tin, lightly buttered/oiled

1 x cookie cutter

3 slices bread

6 rashers back bacon

6 pigs in blankets

6 eggs

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

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

Pop the pigs in blankets into the baking tin and then into the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, 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.

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.

Remove the pigs in blankets from the oven and pop one in each muffin hole. Then break an egg into each one.

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

Serve your Christmas Breakfast Boudins with steaming mugs of tea or coffee and enjoy a lovely light breakfast with a little reminder of the seasonal festivities! Yum.

Tip…

I reckon that you could also swap out the pigs in blankets for a little spinach and smoked salmon for a different take on this lovely breakfast.

Inspired by…

www.facebook.com/buzzfeedtasty for the original recipe and Connagh, for the inspired twist!

How easy…

Really easy. A lovely, light and different breakfast.