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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!

 

 

Anglo Italian Trifle

If one could describe a dessert as voluptuous in flavour and totally indulgent, this would be it. Amaretti and sweetened mascarpone rather than cream give this trifle an Italian twist, something which is emphasised by the Limoncello that it is laced with. Definitely naughty but difficult to say no to a second helping. This Anglo Italian Trifle is best enjoyed with a group of rowdy, hedonistic friends after a dribbly lunch or dinner or as the perfect alternative (or addition) to Christmas Pudding.

Serves 12

What you need…

1 x pretty, 2-litre glass trifle bowl

8 trifle sponges

1 jar of blackcurrant jam

100g Amaretti biscuits, plus a handful for the topping

300ml Limoncello

600g frozen fruits, defrosted: summer fruits work well

2 eggs, separated

100g caster sugar

750g mascarpone cheese

What to do…

Split the trifle sponges and make into sandwiches with the jam; then wodge them into your trifle bowl. Crush the Amaretti biscuits in your hand and sprinkle them all over the trifle sponges then pour over 180ml Limoncello.

Tip the fruit over the sponges and Amaretti, perhaps arranging the bigger attractive fruit around the edges – for presentation purposes – you’ll be able to see them through the glass.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Put to one side.

In a large bowl, use an electric whisk to whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until the mixture is thick and smooth . Still whisking, slowly add 60ml of Limoncello, creating a light, moussey mixture. Whisk in the mascarpone until everything is smoothly combined. Add the remaining Limoncello and give the mixture a final whiz with the electric whisk. Tip in the egg white and fold in with a balloon whisk – this makes the mascarpone ‘cream’ lovely and airily light.

Dollop the mascarpone ‘cream’ on top of the fruit and gently, spread it a little, creating little soft peaks.

Cover the trifle and and pop in the fridge overnight, allowing all the flavours to gather and the Limoncello to permeate the fruit, sponges and Amaretti, mingling with the fruit to create sheer yumminess.

About one hour before you want to plunge the spoon into your delectable dessert, take it out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Just before serving, crush the remaining Amaretti biscuits and scatter over the top of the trifle. (We have also decorated our with birthday candles and made it a very special birthday cake). Your Anglo Italian Trifle is now ready to be demolished! Just gorgeous!

Tips…

Change the fruit to reflect the season.

Keep tasting the mascarpone cream as you add the Limoncello – I like my trifles quite boozy – you may want a little less alcohol….or perhaps a tad more!

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Dead easy: no cooking, more of an assembly job with a bit of whisking but it looks and tastes spectacular!

Lovely, Comforting Lasagne

Sooooo lovely and comforting, both to make and to eat – this is such a lovely family supper dish

Serves 6

What you need…

Ovenproof dish (mine is 20cm x 30cm)

Splash of olive oil

1 kg minced beef

500g minced lamb

150g mozzarella, torn up

A handful of fresh sage leaves

Lasagne sheets, fresh or dried (enough to cover your ovenproof dish three times)

for the tomato sauce

Splash of olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 bay leaves

2 x 400g tins of chopped Italian tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato puree

for the white sauce

1 litre milk

Pinch nutmeg

½ onion, peeled and sliced

Small handful black peppercorns

80g butter

60g plain flour, sieved

120g – 150g grated fresh Parmesan

Sea salt & black pepper

What to do…

Heat a large, deep frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Slowly fry the garlic until lightly coloured, then add the rosemary, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato puree. Cook gently for 45 minutes with the lid on.

Add the meat to your tomato mixture and simmer for 20 minutes, creating a tomato and meat ragu.

Meanwhile, put the milk, nutmeg, onion and black peppercorns into a medium sized saucepan and bring gently to the boil. Melt the butter in a third saucepan (large) and tip in the flour. Mix well to form the beginning of a roux sauce (it will look like a glossy ball). Gradually add the flavoured milk – one ladle at a time and through a sieve (you don’t want all the peppercorns and onions in there), stirring it well until you have a thick, smooth white sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and add Parmesan and seasoning.

Remove the rosemary and bay leaves from the tomato and meat ragu.

Preheat the oven to 180c / 350 f / gas 4 and butter a large baking dish.

Cover the bottom of the dish with lasagne sheets. Then cover with a thin layer of your ragu. Then cover with a thin layer of the white sauce. Repeat with a further two sets of layers – pasta, ragu and white sauce – ending with white sauce. Scatter over the torn mozzarella and sage leaves.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and let your lovely, comforting lasagne settle for maybe 10 minutes. Serve with a fabulous, robust bottle of Italian wine.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

It is easy but does take time: you need to be in the right mood. Choose your music, open a nice bottle of red and enjoy the process. The cooking smells are wonderful and definitely contribute to the enjoyment of this dish. There are however loads of pans to wash up but….it’s worth it! I wash them whilst the lasagne is in the oven so that when I sit down, I’m totally relaxed.

 

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