Sunshine Shorties

So, today the sun came out and it actually felt like spring! I rustled these up in no time – they’re childishly simple (ideal to make with little people), ever so quick and really, really tasty – crunchy oats with a softer middle and just a hint of golden syrup – the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. And bonus: I got to enjoy my cup of tea and shorties, having photographed them, in the garden’s sunshine (rather than the studio where food has been confined to for months!) The perfect choice for a day that feels like spring really is on its way!

Makes 30

What you need…

2 x baking trays, lightly buttered or lined with Bake O Glide

125g butter

125g caster sugar

1 teaspoon golden syrup

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon boiling water

125g porridge oats (gluten-free works equally well)

125g self-raising flour

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 160°c / 325°f / gas 3.

Put the butter, sugar, syrup, bicarbonate of soda and water into a large saucepan and melt. Remove from the heat and tip in the oats and flour. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Place teaspoon-sized balls on the prepared baking trays, leaving space for them to spread out. Pop them in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. When they’ve set slightly, cool them completely on a wire rack. That’s it! Make tea; scoff delicious shorties!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Childishly simple and sooooooo quick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Plaice with Mustard and Tarragon Sauce, Asparagus and Peas

This is a really lovely, delicate and light fish supper. The sauce is quite piquant and, when tasted on its own, really rather strong. But, take a forkful that includes a little fish, greenery and sauce and the combination is fabulous: the sauce is the perfect foil for the delicate fish – it just all works brilliantly. And – bonus – you can make the sauce ahead, leaving just a few minutes cooking of the fish and vegetables just before you want to eat. It’s on the ‘favourites’ list for me!

Serves 4

What you need…

500g asparagus, trimmed

100g frozen peas

1.5kg plaice, filleted and cut into portions

Splash rapeseed oil

1 baby gem lettuce, shredded

Small knob of butter

Sea salt and black pepper, for seasoning

Olive oil to drizzle

for the sauce

100ml water

½ fish stockpot (I use Knorr)

Splash rapeseed oil

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

4 tablespoons cider vinegar

100ml dry, still cider

2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard

100ml double cream

4 teaspoons chopped tarragon, stalks reserved

2 teaspoons capers

What to do…

First, blanch the asparagus. Pop in a deep frying pan of boiling, salted water and simmer vigorously for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside. Dry the frying pan – you’ll be using it again later.

Remove the frozen peas from the freezer and tip them out onto a plate to start defrosting.

In a jug, create some fish stock by pouring in 100ml water from your kettle and dissolving the fish stockpot, using a small balloon whisk. Set aside.

Now to the sauce: heat a splash of rapeseed oil in a pan over a moderate heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cider vinegar and bring to the boil. Pour in the cider and fish stock and bubble furiously until the stock is reduced by half. Add the mustard, cream and tarragon stalks and simmer, reducing and thickening the sauce so that it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the tarragon stalks and discard. Stir in the capers and chopped tarragon. Set aside.

When you’re about ready to eat, preheat your grill to medium and either oil a baking tray or line it with Bake O Glide. Sprinkle salt all over the tray and lay your fish fillets on top, skin side up. Place under the grill and cook for 6 minutes, checking the last minute or two to avoid overcooking.

Meanwhile, put your sauce back on a very gentle heat, just to keep it warm.

Return to your frying pan and splash in the rapeseed oil. When hot, add the lettuce and wilt for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and peas with the knob of butter and warm through for a couple of minutes. Season to taste.

Remove the fish from the grill and leave to rest for a couple of minutes.

To serve, arrange the greenery on warmed plates and place the fish on top, skin side up. Drizzle with a little olive oil and then spoon the sauce around the fish. Don’t attack – it’s to be savoured but remember to get a little bit of everything on each forkful and enjoy the combined flavours – simply lovely!

Tips…

Instead of all that peeling and chopping, I buy Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped shallots and frozen chopped garlic from Waitrose – lovely and fresh and saves a lot of faffing about.

Inspired by…

Chef, Nathan Outlaw and my bro, who insisted that I couldn’t do this blog without this Nathan Outlaw book in my collection – good call, Martin!

How easy…

Really, really easy and a pleasure to make!

Ginger Panna Cotta with Rhubarb

A lovely light dessert with beautifully contrasting flavours: the panna cotta is light, fresh and ever so slightly tart whilst the rhubarb is lovely and sweet: the two come together in perfect harmony and this dessert takes just a few minutes to make – simply delicious!

Serves 6

What you need…

2 leaves gelatine

350ml double cream

225ml Stones Green Ginger Wine

30g caster sugar

50ml water

3 pieces sliced stem ginger, from a jar

2 sticks rhubarb, trimmed and cut into little chunks (3 sticks if they’re skinny)

What to do…

Pop the gelatine into some cold water to soften.

Meanwhile, bring the cream and ginger wine to the boil in a medium-sized pan, stirring gently. As soon as it starts to bubble, remove from the heat. Squeeze the water from the gelatine sheets and pop them into the cream and ginger wine mixture. Stir until the gelatine is dissolved and the mixture is thickened.

Sieve into a jug and then pour into 6 pretty glasses or ramekins.

Pop in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours.

To prepare the rhubarb, heat the sugar, water and stem ginger in a small saucepan, bringing it to the boil. Add the rhubarb and cook on the high heat for 1 minute, then remove from the heat, cover the pan with cling film and set aside, leaving the rhubarb to finish cooking in the residual heat.

When ready to serve, spoon the rhubarb and juices over the panna cottas and just dive in!

Inspired by…

Tom Kerridge

How easy…

Dead easy and it takes no time!

Brûléed Cheesecake

This is lovely, light, fluffy and quite luscious in the middle; with an extra bit of pizzazz provided by the crunchy, sweet brûléed topping – sinfully delicious and therefore very easy just to keep digging into for just that little bit more! And then of course, there’s the quite necessary opportunity to play with a blowtorch – great fun and very easy to get carried away! Give it a go!

Serves 10-12

What you need…

1 x 20cm round spring-form cake tin, lightly buttered and bottom lined with parchment paper/Bake O Glide

1 x kitchen blowtorch!

for the biscuit base

100g unsalted butter, melted

250g digestive biscuits

4 tablespoons demerara sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 egg yolk, beaten

for the filling

Zest of 1 lemon

500g full fat soft cheese

125g golden caster sugar

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

3 eggs, beaten

200ml full fat crème fraiche

for the brûlée topping

2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

What to do…

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

Roughly break up the biscuits and chuck them in your food processor (with the blade attachment). Whizz until they look like chunky breadcrumbs.

Thoroughly mix together the digestive crumbs, sugar, butter and ginger. Tip into the cake tin and, using a straight-sided glass, firmly press the mixture evenly across the base and 3cm up the sides. Pop in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Brush over the egg yolk and pop back in the oven for a further 3 minutes to seal.

In a large bowl, use a spatula to mix together the lemon zest, cheese, sugar, cornflour and vanilla. Using a handheld electric whisk, work in the eggs until smooth and then, returning back to the spatula, fold in the crème fraiche.

Pour the filling over the base, pop in the oven and bake for 10 minutes; then reduce the temperature to 140°c / 275°f / gas 1 and bake for a further 45 minutes or until set to a gentle wobble. Turn the oven off but leave your brûléed cheesecake in for 1 hour, with the oven door left ajar. Cool completely and then pop in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Release your cheesecake from the confines of its tin (I didn’t dare to remove the tin bottom for fear of total collapse). Scatter over the golden caster sugar and arm yourself with the blowtorch! Brûlée the top until the sugar turns a deep coppery brown – for a bit of theatre, do this at the table! Serve and enjoy the unique combination that is the crunchy sweet brûlée topping with the lovely light and fluffy cheesecake filling! Utterly delightful!

Inspired by…

My Waitrose magazine

How easy…

Very easy. The digestives need bullying into place but even if there’s a bit of crumbling going on, it just adds to the homemade appeal!

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!

Espresso Panna Cotta

It’s OMG time again! Made this on a bit of a whim this morning, mainly to see how hard it would be to extract from the mould and also whether my allocation of gelatine was sufficient to maintain the ‘w’ factor (wobble) whilst being set. Both tests worked and then obviously, we had to test the finished product. OMG AGAIN! This espresso panna cotta is light and silky smooth but the combination of vanilla and coffee produce a simply exquisite flavour. The only problem is that they are so light, we felt obliged to try another one! Try it – it’s easy, quick and simply sensational.

Serves 4 – 6 depending on the size of your moulds

What you need…

6 dariole moulds or ramekin dishes

285ml double cream

210ml full fat milk

1 vanilla pod, split in half (but retained) and seeds scraped out

4 gelatine leaves

150g caster sugar

4 teaspoons good quality instant coffee granules (I used Lavazza)

What to do…

Fill your moulds up with cold water. (I have always done this in the belief that it helps in the ultimate extraction of jellies, mousses etc. I can’t find any actual authentication of this – it may be an old wives’ tale – but I’m not taking the chance just to see – it’s always worked for me!)

Tip the cream and milk into a heavy-based saucepan and, over a moderate heat, bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Add the vanilla seeds and the pod, then remove from the heat. Set aside for 5 minutes, allowing the mixture’s flavours to infuse.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 3 – 4 minutes. Then, squeeze out the extra water and add the gelatine to the warm cream/milk mixture. Stir until dissolved.

Add in the coffee granules and stir until they are dissolved. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a jug, discarding the vanilla pods and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Empty the moulds of their water. Don’t wipe them out but simply fill the moulds up with your panna cotta mixture. Pop in the fridge and leave to set for at least 3 hours.

When you have your spoon poised and you’re ready to indulge, dip each mould into a small bowl of hot water (poured from the kettle) for just 10 – 15 seconds – you will see the edge of the panna cotta coming away from the mould – leave it not a second longer but quickly invert it onto your serving plate. It will come out beautifully glossy and speckled with the vanilla seeds. And the taste is all rich, smooth, cool coffee – simply sensational! I’m going to have to make some more really soon!

Serving suggestion…

You could serve this with a chocolate sauce or perhaps a couple of Amaretti biscuits but to be honest, I think any accompaniments would detract from this little pud’s natural loveliness. It needs nothing – enjoy!

Inspired by…

Paul Merrett, www.bbc.co.uk

How easy…

Very, very easy and really quick and next to no mess and….there isn’t a single reason why not to try it!

 

 

Chicken Supremes with Wild Mushrooms and Tarragon Sauce

A lovely supper dish this one, in which the sauce is the absolute star of the show. Having tasted it, I am sure that you could also use this sauce to accompany veal or pork as alternatives to the chicken that I have used here. Essentially, the creamy yet vibrant sauce adds a real zing to fairly plainly roasted or dry-fried meat. A real winner!

What you need…

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

Good glug and then a splash of rapeseed oil

6 chicken supremes (breasts with the fillet and wing bone attached) with skin on

2 knobs butter

3 shallots, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

500ml water

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

200ml dry white wine

150ml double cream

250g wild or chestnut mushrooms

Handful tarragon sprigs, leaves picked

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Squeeze lemon juice

What to do…

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

Heat your glug of oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat and cook the chicken, skin-sides down, for 3-4 minutes until golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and arrange snugly, skin-sides up, in your baking dish, cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes or until they are cooked through. Rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. First of all, dissolve the chicken stockpot into a jug containing the 500ml boiling water (from the kettle) – a small balloon whisk is ideal for the job. Set aside.

In your frying pan, add a knob of butter to the remaining chicken juices and melt over a low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 7 minutes. Add the chicken stock and white wine, turn up the heat to high and cook for 15 minutes, reducing the liquid and cooking off the alcohol. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In another pan, melt your second knob of butter with a splash of oil over a high heat. Tip in the mushrooms and cook over a high heat, stirring, until they are golden.

Return to your sauce and very gradually, stir in the cream. Then, chuck in the cooked mushrooms, tarragon, mustard and lemon juice. Mix together. Taste. Season. Taste. Put the pan back on a very low heat to keep warm, until you are ready to serve.

Pour the sauce all over the cooked chicken breasts and pop your casserole dish in the middle of the table and request that everyone ‘digs in’. Enjoy your delightful chicken supremes with wild mushrooms and tarragon sauce perhaps with a lovely glass of white burgundy – a very nice pairing indeed! Cheers!

Tips…

The sauce can be made in advance and kept chilled until needed. When you reheat it though, do so gently – overheat it and it will go thin (as experience has shown me).

Rather than using fresh garlic and shallots, I replace them with Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen versions – a quick shake of roughly the right amount into the pan is so much easier than all that peeling and chopping!

Inspired by…

Delicious Magazine

How easy…

Very easy, especially as the sauce can be made in advance and the associated cooking pots, washed and put away.

 

 

Parisienne Café (or French Coffee)

A child of the 1970’s, I have memories of many trends and fashions that were introduced, often in bad taste, but this morning I woke up (worryingly) thinking of French coffee, thoughts that instigated a little trip down memory lane. Each Sunday, my dad would cook – usually something from his Supercook cookbook collection – whilst sipping large glasses of homemade wine (another story). After the mid-afternoon lunch, he would retire to HIS chair and snooze whilst mum and I would clear up – her washing and me drying. That done, there would be a return to the dining table for French coffees, a job that was mine as I was particularly good at floating the cream. This little ritual was then followed by another: a few games of Backgammon with my dad –inevitably he won!!!

So this morning, I’ve whipped to Tesco’s for the papers and some double cream and we will have a little history repeated, except it’s Connagh who plays me at Backgammon….he doesn’t always win! Funny old world….

I’ve used cognac here because it’s what we happened to have, but you can of course make liqueur coffees with pretty much any thing you fancy: whisky for an Irish or Highland Coffee (depending on where your whisky hails from), Amaretto for an Italian Classico or rum for Calypso Coffee…the list goes on and the choice is yours! Whichever you choose, liqueur coffees are rather indulgent and have a definite ‘chillax’ affect!

Serves 1

What you need…

1 glass, glamorous if possible (I need to get some!)

2 teaspoons demerara/brown sugar

1 tablespoon cognac/brandy

Strong, hot coffee

Double cream

What to do…

Double up on the ingredients and make two – these should be enjoyed together!

For each one, tip the sugar in the bottom of your glass and then pour over the Cognac. Make up your coffee (I use Taylors Rich Italian ground coffee to make up a cafetiere). Pour the coffee into the glass, leaving about a centimeter at the top. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Gently and slowly pour the double cream in over the back of a dessertspoon and watch with delight as the cream floats on the top! Do not stir!!!

Sip the delicious liqueur-infused hot coffee through the cool double cream – absolutely delightful and soooooo indulgent! Enjoy!

Inspired by…

The 1970’s and increasingly odd thought patterns when I wake up in the mornings – recipes, recipes!

How easy…

You don’t have to ask, really. Just go steady with that cream!

 

Just Gorgeous Beef Casserole with Red Wine and Cinnamon

 

I’ve had this recipe in my ‘to do’ file for years but every time I’ve flicked through, I’ve seen the words ‘prunes’ and ‘cinnamon’ in the ingredients list, hesitated and then….moved on. However, I finally decided to try it and, as a woman who has cooked hundreds of beef casseroles, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest! The eclectic mix of ingredients make for a fabulously rich sauce with beautifully intensified, silky flavours – everyone around the table was agreed – this is the best of all that we’ve tried: why did we wait so long? Try it, you’ll love it!

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

1 x ovenproof casserole

600ml boiling water from kettle

2 beef stockpots

1kg braising steak, diced

600ml robust red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon works well)

4 garlic cloves, chopped

4 cinnamon sticks

12 bay leaves

8 slices good quality streaky bacon, chopped

Knob of butter

12 small shallots, chopped

24 baby carrots

16 soft dried prunes

2 tablespoons plain flour

What to do…

The night before! Put the meat, wine, garlic, cinnamon and bay leaves into a large bowl, give them a quick stir and pop in the fridge overnight, allowing the flavours to develop.

The next day, preheat the oven to 150° / 300°f / gas 2.

In a small jug, dissolve the stockpots into the boiling water from the kettle (a small balloon whisk works really well). Set aside.

Drain the meat, reserving the marinade. Then dry the meat on kitchen roll.

Fry the streaky bacon in a large saucepan over a moderate heat until it starts to brown. Add the knob of butter and then the shallots, carrots, prunes and reserved cinnamon and bay leaves. Sauté until the shallots and carrots start to brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ingredients to your casserole dish.

To the pan, add the meat and brown. Tip in the flour, stir well and then reintroduce the shallots mixture. Whack up the heat to high and add the stock and the marinade. Bring it to the boil and then tip the whole lot back into the casserole dish, pop on the lid and then stick it in the oven. Cook in the oven for 2½ hours. The smell, as it’s cooking will be amazing! Take the casserole out and check that the meat is succulent by retrieving one piece and trying it – if it’s not quite falling apart in your mouth, pop it back in for another 15 minutes, but it should be done by now.

Once removed from the oven, leave to rest for 15 minutes and then serve with really lovely buttery mashed potato (naughty) or baked potatoes (good) as well as either boiled broccoli or a steamed leek and cabbage mix. Take your first forkful, and sit back and smile – the flavours really are sublime and frankly, you just want to keep eating more!

Inspired by…

Waitrose Food Illustrated from several years ago!

How easy…

Really easy and so worth it!

 

 

1 25 26 27 35