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Proper Old-Fashioned Shortbread

The 87th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this shortbread is so butterly good, that it’s practically a staple food in our kitchen!

Utterly delicious, delectable and delightful is this recipe for buttery, sweet shortbread! And also, they are a doddle to make and take just minutes.  The only downside is that it’s so easy to keep making them: perfect with morning espresso, afternoon tea, a quick dip into the tin just because….

Makes 8 – 12 slices in a 23cm tin

What you need…

1 x 23cm lightly buttered, lined fluted tart tin

175g plain flour

125g butter, cubes and at room temperature

50g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

A good pinch of salt

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out/¾ teaspoon vanilla paste

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 190˚c / 375˚f / gas 5.

Chuck all the ingredients into your food processor and pulse until a dough is formed.

Dump the dough into your tart tin and use the side of a short glass to gently and evenly ‘roll out’ the dough to fill the tin. Fork the edges.

Pop into your oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes and then cut it into 8 – 12 segments as soon as it comes of out the oven.

When cool, sprinkle with caster sugar.

That’s it! Enjoy with a hot cup of tea, an espresso or just by themselves – seriously yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

It’s a doddle!

 

 

Absolutely Fabulous Pavlova

The 68th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is a happening event this Easter weekend together with a couple of other naughties – very excited!

One of my favourite summer desserts, Pavlova is just divine: sweet, ripe fruit on top of whipped double cream, all gracing wonderful meringue: crisp on the outside and deliciously light, soft and slightly chewy on the inside. The combination is just heavenly and the joy of this recipe is that it is ridiculously easy to make – I’d never made meringue before finding this recipe but it has always been a success – in every way – and a firm favourite on our summer menus.

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

250g caster sugar, plus 3 – 4 teaspoons for the cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon malt vinegar

300ml double cream

1 x 300g punnet of ripe summer strawberries or a combination of your favourite summer fruit – I often combine strawberries, raspberries and blueberries

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 140°c / 275°f / gas 1.

Line a baking tray with Bake O Glide/parchment paper and draw a 23cm circle on it (as guidance for later).

Using an handheld electric whisk, beat the egg whites and salt together until very stiff. Then, gradually whisk in the 250g caster sugar until it forms stiff peaks – this takes 3 – 4 minutes. Fold in the vanilla extract and vinegar.

Plop the meringue mixture onto your baking tray, gently spreading it to fit the drawn circle. Pop it into the oven and leave for 1 hour until firm. Then – and this is key – switch the oven off but leave your meringue in for a further 30 minutes with the door closed.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Discard the lining paper and put your meringue onto a pretty serving plate.

Whisk the cream and 3 – 4 teaspoons of sugar together (the amount of sugar depends on your personal taste) until stiff and then pile on top of the meringue. Arrange the fruit on top, stand back, admire your handy work and then serve – just divine – this is one of those desserts that is so light and delicious, I just keep coming back for one more spoonful….time and time again. Enjoy!

Tips…

Don’t waste the egg yolks – they can be frozen for another use.

If I’m feeding a crowd, I’ll double up on these ingredients and made a great big Pavlova and then use the remaining 6 egg yolks to make a large tiramisu – a thoroughly naughty conclusion to any meal!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Very, very easy and simply delicious!

Hasselback Potatoes

The 16th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, Hasselbacks are a great little aside to many a dish.

I first saw these on MasterChef and having tried them once, they’ve graced our plates many times since, so popular are they! They tick all the boxes – easy, exceedingly tasty – something between sautéed, really great chips and roasties – they taste fantastic anyway and I just love the way they look after they’ve fanned out in the oven during cooking. My version is slightly healthier than the original (unusually for me), which uses butter as well as oil.

Serves 4

What you need…

12 medium potatoes

5 tablespoons rapeseed oil

Sea salt (course crystals work spectacularly well, giving these potatoes a lovely glistening crunch)

What to do…

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

Take each potato and put it onto a wooden spoon and cut across it at roughly 3mm intervals. Because the potato is on the spoon, your knife won’t be able to cut all the way through but will stop on the lip of spoon: it is this that enables the fanning out of the potato during the cooking process – so damned easy but so impressive (well, I’m easily pleased).

Pour the rapeseed oil into your baking tin and pop it onto the hob over a high heat. Once the oil is hot, place in the potatoes, cut-side down into the oil, swizzle them around and then turn them over so that the cut-sides are facing upwards. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pop them in the oven to let them do their thing. How long they take depends on their size – 40 minutes for medium potatoes but longer for bigger ones. Keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when they are crisp on the outside but still soft in the middle.

Serve and enjoy this lovely version of the humble potato!

Inspired by…

Annie, a contestant on MasterChef, who in turn attributed the recipe for these Swedish potatoes to Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Very, very easy – they do themselves while you do other things!

 

The Yummiest Profiteroles

The 7th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, I love making profiteroles and the sheer exuberance that is eating these little gems filled with fluffy, sweet cream and topped with an indulgent quantity of intense, dark chocolate – heaven!

One of my son’s favourites, these little profiteroles are fabulously naughty: pop them in and just revel in the indulgence that pervades your taste buds! One is never enough!

What you need…

50g butter, preferably unsalted, plus a knob

2 tablespoons caster sugar

150ml water

75g plain flour, sifted with a pinch of salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

300ml double cream

200g good quality dark chocolate

What to do…

Heat the oven to 220°c/200°c fan/gas 7.

Put the butter and 2 teaspoons of the caster sugar in a saucepan with the water. Place the pan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have melted, then bring to the boil. Take off the heat, tip in the flour all at once and beat energetically with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then, using a food processor beat in the eggs bit by bit until you have a stiff, glossy mixture. Rinse two baking trays with cold water, shaking off any excess so they are slightly damp (this helps the choux pastry to rise). Using two teaspoons, spoon blobs of the mixture onto the baking trays. Then place in the oven and cook for about 18-20 minutes until well risen and brown. Remove the profiteroles from the oven and cut a small slit in the base of each one so they don’t collapse. Cool on a wire rack.

When they are cold, whisk together the remainder of the caster sugar and double cream until just holding its shape. Sweeten to taste. Spoon cream into a piping bag and using the slits in the base of the profiteroles, fill each bun to nearly bursting point with cream (these desserts are exuberant so no half-heartedness here – total indulgence or don’t bother!)

Break up the chocolate and put into a heatproof glass bowl in a steamer over a pan of boiling water. When the chocolate has melted, use a spoon to spread it over the profiteroles – again, no holding back – it should be dribbling down the sides in an ‘artistic’ manner. Put the chocolate-topped profiteroles in a cool room to set. Stack up on top of one another to create a mountain of naughtiness and serve. Just scrummy!

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How Easy…

Really easy if you follow the instructions! The wrong flour results in flat, hard disks (I know from experience) but give them a little attention and you will be addicted!

 

100 Favourite Recipes Cookbook

Since starting ‘Cooking the Books’ in 2015, I have amassed nearly 400 recipes that I have loved testing, tasting, photographing and blogging but the original point of all of this – other than indulging my love of abundant cooking, sharing, eating and drinking – was to write a cookery book for my kids, contained in which were our favourite family recipes and it has not yet been realised.

So, over the next few months, I am going to rifle the pages of my blog and randomly pick out 100 of my favourite recipes, haphazardly creating the book so long ago promised (I have tried over the last six months to do this in a grown up, structured fashion but it just isn’t happening). Tomorrow then, is the beginning of my 100 favourites and when I reach the end, I will have my promised book to share with family and friends and it will have evolved as each of the recipes did – they just took my fancy!

And once I close the final chapter on my favourite 100, a new chapter will begin in my kitchen – new recipes but taking a different approach – I hope you enjoy both the old favourites: lavish, sumptuous, rich and indulgent; as well the new: bountiful, vibrant and effervescent. Cheers!

Stilton Soup

I don’t know about you, but inevitably there is a bit of Stilton lurking in our fridge after the festivities and there are only so many times that even I can enjoy cheese and crackers with or without poached pears so this soup is a fabulous recipe for using any leftovers of this lovely delicacy.  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 can be divided into freezer containers, available for a couple of other dinners!

Serves 12 as an Amuse Bouche

What you need…

Splash of 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!

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!

Delia’s Classic Christmas Cake

If you’re planning on making your own Christmas cake this year, then don’t leave it much longer: the cake – which is so easy to make and simply gorgeous – needs feeding (with brandy) every 10 days or so between now-ish and the main event in December. Moist, laden with fruit and festive flavour, this recipe – another one inspired by Delia Smith – is fabulous and again, the smell as it’s cooking is heaven-scent! Enjoy!

What to do…

For the full recipe, type ‘Christmas Cake’ into the search box in the top right hand corner of my home page

Favourite Chocolate Cake

So, almost as enthusiastic about cooking and food as her mother, Maddie was asked if there was anything that she would like me to cook on her return from uni. Given that I know how much time she spends trawling the blog and whinging that she’s not here to try it all, I was rather surprised that her instant and first response was….chocolate cake!!!! Anyway, here it is – slightly out of focus (we need to practice your camera skills, Madz) and with a rather manic looking version of me. This is our favourite recipe for chocolate cake and it disappears in a flash!!!!

What you need…

For the sponges, use the ingredients shown for the 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake recipe

For the chocolate buttercream filling and frosting, use double those shown in the 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake recipe

Pre-made chocolate decorations

What to do…

Follow the 365 recipe but slice the two sponges in half horizontally, creating four sponge tiers and use the increased gorgeous buttercream to sandwich all four together and spread all over the sides and top.

Decorate with pre-made chocolate decorations of your choice.

Inspired by…

My first blogged recipe: 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake

How easy…

Really easy and relaxing to make

 

 

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