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

 

Christmas Mincemeat and Mince Pies

Before this blog, it had never occurred to me to make either my own mincemeat or my own pastry. The latter happened for the first time last week and as for mincemeat – I am a total convert. It’s spectacularly simple and fills the house with festive fragrance as it gently cooks in the oven. I did struggle with the pastry (too short apparently, according to John – the pastry, not me!) but wow! I can honestly say that these mince pies are the best I’ve ever tasted – it’s not my cooking, but the fantastic recipes!

for the mincemeat

Makes 2.75kg (6 – 7 jars, I used a collection of different sized jam jars!)

What you need…

450g cooking apples, cored, left unpeeled and chopped small

225g suet

350g raisins

225g sultanas

225g currants

150g cranberries

225g candied peel, finely chopped

350g soft dark brown sugar

Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

50g flaked almonds

4 teaspoons ground mixed spice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons brandy/cognac

for the sweet shortcrust pastry (makes about 12 mince pies)

1 x 12-hole tartlet tin, lightly buttered

125g unsalted butter

65g icing sugar

1 egg yolk

250g plain flour

1 – 2 teaspoons water

for the finish

1 egg, lightly beaten

icing sugar to dust

What to do to make the mincemeat…

The evening before you want to cook the mincemeat, combine everything, except the brandy/cognac, in a large casserole, stirring the ingredients in as you add them to make sure that they are thoroughly mixed. Pop the lid on and leave in a cool place overnight to allow the flavours to gather.

The following morning, preheat the oven to 120°c / 225°f / gas ¼.

Pop the casserole, with its lid on, into the oven and cook for 3 hours.

Remove from the oven and over the next few hours, whilst it is cooling, give it a little stir every now and then to make sure that the now melted suet is evenly distributed and coating the other ingredients, rather than being separate.

When it’s cold, stir in the brandy and spoon into clean jars with lids/seals. Keep your Christmas mincemeat in a cool, dark cupboard until you are ready to make your mince pies.

What to do to make your mince pies…

Mix together the butter and icing sugar until they are completely blended. Add the egg yolk and then the flour. Kneed until you have a smooth dough. If you’re struggling to get it to stick together, add a little water and continue to knead. Leave to rest for at least 1 hour before using.

Preheat the oven to 190°c / 375 °f / gas 5.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a little less than 5mm thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out 12 rounds slightly larger than the tartlet moulds for the pie bottoms and gently push them in. Fill them with mincemeat. Using a cookie cutter 2 sizes smaller than the first, cut another 12 rounds for the lids. Brush a little beaten egg around the edges of the lids and stick them to the top of the mince pies. Brush with little more egg and then, using a sharp knife, cut a little hole in the top of each one to allow the steam to escape during cooking.

Bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Transfer to a cooling rack and when cool, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar.

Take a bite and absolutely relish the abundant gorgeousness of these festive treats – a good reason to have Christmas all year around! Once you’ve made your first Christmas mincemeat and mince pies, you’ll never revert to shop-bought again!

Tip…

Ideally, make your mincemeat in October/November. Stored in a cool place, it will keep for months and just needs to be brought out whenever you fancy a quick batch of festive loveliness!

Inspired by…

Team effort here: mincemeat by Delia Smith; pastry from Raymond Blanc

How Easy…

On the mincemeat, very little effort for such a lovely outcome. I nearly gave up on the pastry as it kept falling apart when I stuck to the original recipe. The addition of a little water resolved the issue and it was worth persevering.

 

 

Chicken with Mushrooms and Soured Cream

I did this for friends who were coming to supper. The original plan was to have fish but their son, Ali (you know who you are!) doesn’t eat fish so our planned meal had to be quickly revised. I found this recipe and just wasn’t sure about the soy sauce and sherry thing going on – I couldn’t imagine how it was all going to taste. Persuaded by John and the fact that we had all the ingredients, I went ahead, somewhat apprehensively. Imagine my delight when it turned out simply wonderfully. My only problem that evening was that I hadn’t cooked enough – we all wanted seconds. Never one to be accused of small portions, the following recipe will feed four hungry people. Try it, love it and add it to your autumn and winter favourites list!

 Serves 4

 What you need…

 1 large baking dish (mine is 30cm x 20cm x 7cm deep)

1 kg chicken thighs

2 teaspoons paprika

Splash rapeseed oil

Sea salt and black pepper

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons plain flour

500ml hot chicken stock (I dissolved 2 Knorr stock pots into 500ml water)

300g brown mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

150g wild mushrooms, rinsed

5 teaspoons sweet sherry

4 teaspoons soy sauce

125ml soured cream

 What to do…

Preheat oven to 170°c / 325°f/ gas 3.

Lightly butter (going off the word ‘grease’) your baking dish.

Sprinkle the paprika evenly over the chicken thighs.

Heat the oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan and fry the chicken on both sides until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove to the baking dish, fitting them in together snugly in a single layer. Season lightly.

To the frying pan juices, add the onion and garlic and sauté lightly. Tip in the flour and mix it in evenly. Slowly add the hot stock, stirring continuously. When thickened, remove from the heat and then add the mushrooms, sherry and soy sauce. Add the soured cream slowly (to avoid curdling).

Pour over the chicken and bake, uncovered, for 90 minutes or until the sauce is a lovely, thick and bronzed. It’s quite simply gorgeous!

Serving suggestion…

Chicken with mushrooms and soured cream goes really well with boiled, seasoned basmati and wild rice

 Inspired by…

Lynn Bedford Hall, New Creative Cuisine and Helen, who introduced me to this old but fabulous book.

 How easy…

Really, really easy with the added benefit that you can clear up the cooking pots whist it does it’s thing in the oven – very relaxed cooking for superb results.

Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

This delightful bread and butter pudding is based on the classic version but all dressed up! A gorgeous crunchy, slightly zesty top contrasts wonderfully with the soft, fluffy inside of light custard-soaked bread. So simple and so spectacular – it should definitely be a regular on the winter menu.

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

18 x 23cm baking dish, about 5cm deep, lightly buttered

6 slices bread from a large loaf

50g softened butter

2 rounded tablespoons thick cut orange marmalade

60ml milk (or Oatly if you want to cut down on dairy)

60ml double cream

3 large eggs

75g sugar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

25g candied peel, finely chopped

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 180°c / 350° f / gas 4.

Generously butter the bread slices on one side, then spread the marmalade over three of them and put the other three slices on top, effectively creating marmalade sandwiches. Spread the rest of the butter across the top slice of each sandwich and cut each one into quarters to make little triangles.

Arrange the sandwiches, butter side up, overlapping each other and almost standing upright in the baking dish.

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs and sugar together and pour the mixture over the bread, ensuring that all the bread is moistened. Scatter the candied peel over the top with demerara sugar. Pop in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until it’s puffy and golden – the smell as it’s cooking is absolutely divine.

Serve your marmalade bread and butter pudding straight away, perhaps with a little double cream.

I then leave what’s left over on the worktop to cool down before it goes in the fridge for the next day. However, the fact that I leave a teaspoon in it as well means that very little actually makes it to the fridge – it’s just too tempting!

 Tip…

Try different breads, rather than just plain white, especially those with added fruit.

 Inspired by…

Delia Smith

 How easy…

It couldn’t be easier: make a few marmalade sandwiches, a bit of whisking, a smidge of scattering and the job’s done!

 

Epic Hot Chocolate

I saw Jamie do this on television and was truly inspired – it tastes absolutely incredible – like the hot chocolate you hear about in the very best fairy tales! The recipe is for a large jar of the mix – I have no idea how many glorious mugs it will make, but it’s so easy to make, you can simply and quickly top it up if it’s running low, something that I think may happen quite regularly!

What you need for the mix…

1 x preserving/Kilner clip top glass jar

2 tablespoons Horlicks

2 tablespoons cornflour

3 tablespoons icing sugar

4 tablespoons quality cocoa

100g 70% dark chocolate, finely grated

1 pinch cinnamon

for two mugs…

1 pint milk or Oatly if you’re keeping your dairy intake low

What to do…

Pour milk into a large saucepan and bring almost to the boil on a medium heat.

Meanwhile, take a large jar and chuck in all the chocolate mix ingredients, clip on the lid and give the mix a really good shake – that’s it job done! For two gloriously, silky rich mugs of hot chocolate, tip 4 heaped tablespoons of the mix into the hot milk and use a balloon whisk and incorporate all the ingredients. Bring your epic hot chocolate gently to the boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, whisking all the time – it will get naughtily gloopy in a really, really good way.

Pour into two mugs, sit back with your feet up and enjoy – a few cookies on the side wouldn’t go amiss (these ones are Cranberry and White Chocolate – will post recipe in a couple of days).

Alternative serving suggestions…

This hot chocolate is excellent for the purpose of dunking cookies!

It is VERY rich, silky and thick so another lovely option is to serve your epic hot chocolate in little espresso cups

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How Easy…

Insanely

 

 

Light and Zesty Lemon Tart

A really light, creamy yet zesty, fresh version of this classic dessert, this lemon tart is quite simply, delightful. Seconds all round, please.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x 23cm/9in shallow tart tin, with a removable base

1 x flat baking sheet

for the pastry

175g flour

Pinch of salt

100g butter, straight from the fridge

25g caster sugar

1 egg, separated: yolk in one cup and white in another

2 dessertspoons water

for the filling

3 eggs

125g granulated sugar

Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons

100ml double cream

What to do…

Grease your tart tin.

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour until the mixture is like crumbs. Add the sugar and gently mix in with a spatula. Beat the egg yolk and then tip into the mixture, stirring until the mixture sticks together. At this point add the water, one teaspoon at a time until the mixture comes together – you may not need the whole 2 dessertspoons.

Cover your working surface with cling film and then flour lightly. Roll out your pastry on the cling film until about 5mm thick, creating a circle as best you can. Cover with another piece of cling film and then slide a flat baking sheet underneath the whole lot to lift it and pop in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°c / 375°f / gas 5.

Remove pastry from fridge and, keeping the pastry between the two pieces of cling film, gently roll it out until it’s about 3mm thick and large enough to line the bottom and sides of the prepared tart tin.

Remove the top piece of cling film and gently place the pastry upside down (cling film facing up) into the tin. Gently press into the edges and using your thumb, break off the pastry of the top edge of the tin to give a neat finish. Remove the cling film and pop the pastry into the freezer for 10 minutes.

The pasty needs to be blind-baked now so line it roughly with parchment paper, making sure the sides are also covered with the paper. Chuck in a load of baking beans (or dried pulses which can be used many times over) and blind-bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry feels dry.

Remove the paper and beans. Lightly beat your egg white and use it to brush over the pastry. Pop the pastry back in the oven for two minutes.

Take out of the oven and put to one side until you are ready to make your filling (this could be immediately, later on in the day or even the next day).

Set the oven to 120°c / 250°f / gas ½.

In a food processor, pop your eggs and sugar and whizz for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is pale and creamy. Add the lemon juice and zest and process for a further 5 minutes. Pour in the cream and whizz for another 5 minutes.

Pour into the pastry case and pop it straight in the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling has just set in the centre.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before taking the tart out of its tin and transferring to a pretty plate or cake stand. When it’s completely cool, dredge icing sugar over the top. Slice and serve your light and zesty lemon tart – it’s fresh and zingy, light and frankly, delightful!

Serving suggestion…

A little splash of double cream works wonderfully and this is a great dessert to serve with a ‘sticky’ dessert wine.

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

Well, at the time of first making this, I had never made my own pastry but I nervously followed that element of the recipe to the letter and ….it was too ‘short’. The second time, I adapted it and added more water and it was absolutely delightful. The lemon filling is quite heavenly and a dead easy – just a case of processing.

I do love this recipe, because the ‘tricky’ bit, i.e. the pastry, can be done in advance and the filling is dead easy.

Steak au Poivre

A classic I know but, oh how wonderful and totally indulgent – a real treat. I don’t eat steak much and have a growing concern about the amount of hormones pumped into livestock, so when we do occasionally have fillet (2 or 3 times a year, I feel the need to stress) we bypass the supermarket and visit butchers whose meat we know to be as happy and healthy as possible. The sensation as this fabulous meat alights your tongue – ahhh, worth a celebration all by itself!

Serves 4

What you need…

4 gorgeous fillet steaks, about 4cms thick

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

Splash of olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

Beef stock made from 1 stockpot (I use Knorr) dissolved into 400ml boiling water

1 tablespoon brandy/cognac

150ml soured cream

Salt for seasoning

What to do…

Prepare your steaks waaaaaay ahead of time if you want to optimise the flavours and textures. Start by crushing your peppercorns. You can use a pestle and mortar to do this or put them between 2 A4-sized pieces of cling film (on a board) and bash them with either a rolling pin or meat tenderiser).

Fillet doesn’t need tenderising. Instead, put a teaspoon of olive oil onto one side of each steak, spreading it evening over and then, using the heel of your hand, massage the steak – it needs no more than this. Then sprinkle over the crushed peppercorns, pressing them into the meat, saving just 2 teaspoons for use in the sauce. Flip the steaks over and repeat the process on the other side. Cover the steaks with cling film and set aside for several hours.

When you are ready to cook the steaks, get the sauce in order! Using a medium-sized saucepan, pour in your oil and add the shallots and garlic. Cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until they begin to brown. Add the beef stock and saved peppercorns. Add the brandy/cognac and continue simmering until the sauce is reduced by half – 4 – 5 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Then, gradually add the soured cream, stirring continuously – if you add too much, too fast it will curdle so take your time. Once it’s all in, check the taste and season with salt; then put the sauce back on a low heat, whilst you cook the steaks.

For the steaks, take a heavy frying pan and pop it onto a very high heat. Dry fry them (remember, you’ve already rubbed oil into them) quickly for about 1 minute on each side, then lower the heat and cook them how you want them – rare, medium rare, well done etc. Lots of recipes quote timings on this but I’ve found that with steaks this thick, it’s easier to take a sharp knife and cut into the middle of the steaks whilst they are in the frying pan and just check them out!

When they are about there, spoon any cooking juices into the sauce and then serve these mouthwatering steaks immediately with their delicious sauce.

Serving Suggestion…

We like Steak au Poivre with mushrooms that have been cleaned and sliced and then fried in a combination of butter, truffle oil and salt. Potato Dauphinoise works spectacularly well with the peppercorn sauce and the wilted spinach is the token healthy green on the plate! Just yum, yum, yum!

Inspired by…

Well, Delia is partly responsible, as is saveur.com, the online version of the New York Times and my take on all of that…but also our local butcher, who explained to me how to treat the fillet steak with respect: massage only!

How easy…

It’s really very easy. The key is in having the time to do it in a relaxed fashion, which lets face it, is the only way – this meat is expensive and deserves time and respect to properly enjoy the well-earned results. Just find an excuse to indulge!

 

 

Scrumptious Seafood Pasta

Seafood with loadsa garlic in a rich tomatoey sauce with a distinctive fishy edge provided by lovely anchovies – a really wonderful autumn treat

Serves 4

What you need…

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon red chilli, chopped

A handful basil, shredded

3-4 anchovies

4 tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 big glass white wine

Salt and black pepper

150-200g salmon fillet, cut into 2cm squares

A handful of each of the following cooked seafood (scallops, clams, prawns, squid, mussels)

180g raw prawns

Pasta shapes of your choice

What to do…

In a large saucepan, heat salted water to boiling point (for the pasta, in a little while).

In another saucepan, gently heat the oil with the garlic, chilli and anchovies and bring slowly to the boil, mashing up the anchovies as they heat up. Turn down to a low heat and add the tomatoes. When softened, season and then tip in the white wine, bring to the boil and simmer to cook off the alcohol.

At this point, pop your pasta into the boiling water – I use dried gluten-free (lighter on the digestive system) – it normally takes about 12 minutes to cook through.

Add the salmon fillet to your herbs and tomatoes and when cooked, chuck in the seafood and raw prawns. Cook on a gentle heat until the raw prawns have turned pink, the seafood is warm and, in the other pan, the pasta is cooked. Throw in the basil, stirring into the sauce so it’s evenly dispersed.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Mix the whole lot together and add more seasoning if necessary. Serve your lovely, garlicky-fragrant comfort scrumptious seafood pasta straight way and enjoy. It’s not a dish to eat quietly – a noisy family or slightly riotous friends are ideal.

Tip…

The quantities of seafood and salmon are vague because a lot has to do with personal taste – you may prefer more fish and less seafood or vice versa. Alternatively, you may not like mussels (my husband doesn’t) so the quantity of those needs to be reduced. Basically, pop in what you’re going to love eating!

I keep a selection of frozen chopped herbs in my freezer – Cooks Ingredients from Waitrose – makes cooking soooo easy: a shake of fresh herbs from the foil bag rather than teaspoons of this and that! In this recipe, the garlic, chilli and basil all come from those lovely foil bags!

Inspired by…

I kinda made this one up, but can promise you that it’s lovely.

How easy…

Simples!

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

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