Toasted Walnut and Roquefort Salad

Salads are not just for summer! They are also not boring, well not in this house, anyway. I love this salad and particularly at this time of the year – it is fresh, tasty and feels healthy in comparison to all the heavy meals and naughty desserts. The warmth of the toasted walnuts together with the piquancy of the Roquefort makes for an unexpected and quite delicious pairing – a gorgeous salad that never fails to delight, this is a lovely starter or light lunch.

Serves 4

What you need…

120g walnut halves

120g Roquefort cheese

1 tablespoon walnut oil

Sea salt and black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

100g mixed salad leaves, washed and dried

2 big handfuls of basil leaves, torn

for the dressing

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons walnut oil

3 tablespoons olive oil

What to do…

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

Make the dressing by chucking all the ingredients in a screw-top jar, pop the lid on and shake vigorously.

Pop the walnuts into a small baking tin and pour over 1 tablespoon walnut oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until toasted.

Just before you are ready to serve, chuck your salad leaves into a pretty salad bowl, crumble in the Roquefort, tip in the dressing and finally, the walnuts. Toss your toasted walnut and Roquefort salad so that all the ingredients are evenly mixed and serve immediately. The warmth of the toasted walnuts will soften the Roquefort and taking a forkful of the cheese, nuts and a couple of leaves is quite heavenly! Absolutely delish!

Serving suggestions…

A little garlic bread on the side and a really crisp dry white wine are perfect accompaniments

Inspired by…

No idea – another one ripped out of a magazine years ago – it’s a firm favourite in our house though!

How Easy…

Couldn’t be easier!

Turkey Wellington

This is a brilliant way to serve turkey if you just fancy the breast – it can be made a day in advance (so therefore reducing the pressure if you’re entertaining a crowd), looks and tastes amazing; and the meat is really moist. Thumbs up all around really!

Serves 8-10

What you need…

for the cranberry sauce

The following fabulously festive, tangy sauce makes more than enough for the Turkey Wellington, to serve as its accompaniment at the meal and perhaps, to get out again with cold turkey and gammon slices the next day.

300g fresh cranberries

200g caster sugar

45ml Kirsch

75ml water

for the wellington

1.6 kg turkey breast, skin off

Sea salt and black pepper

Olive oil

1 large bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked

Cranberry sauce (as above)

6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped

3 sprigs rosemary

600g mixed mushrooms, cleaned

1 knob butter

2 teaspoons truffle oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

What to do…

For the cranberry sauce, chuck all the ingredients into a saucepan on a moderate heat and let it all bubble away until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes), stirring every now and then.

Squish the berries with the back of a wooden spoon and then transfer the whole lot to a serving bowl. Leave to cool (the sauce will thicken up to an almost jelly-like consistency). It is now ready to use. This can be made several days in advance – it keeps really well in the fridge for a week.

For your wellington, preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Place the turkey breast upside down on a board and gently slice into the natural join of the breast muscle to open it out and make a pocket – Jamie says to just do this but for some reason I managed to make two pockets – it doesn’t really matter – read on and you’ll see why. Rub olive oil all over the breast and particularly in the pocket(s). Season well and then sprinkle over half the thyme leaves, again ensuring that the pocket(s) get lots. Push cranberry sauce into the pocket(s), poking it in as far as it will go and filling up the space. Fold it back into shape and use cocktail sticks to ‘stitch’ the pocket seams together. If you can, roll the turkey breast up, swiss roll style. If it won’t comply, don’t worry about it – mine didn’t!

Either way, transfer the turkey breast to a baking tin making sure that it is covered in oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the remaining thyme. Cover with foil and pop in the oven for 60-70 minutes until just cooked through – using a thermometer, you want it to be 72°c at the thickest point. Once cooked, set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, pop the bacon into your food processor and whizz until chopped up quite small. Splash some olive oil into a large frying pan on a medium heat and, using a spatula to get every last bit of bacon out of the processor bowl, add the bacon to the pan, cooking for 5-10 minutes until golden and really crispy. Strip the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and add to the pan for a minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and rosemary from the pan and set aside to cool.

Pop the mushrooms in your food processor and whizz until they are chopped up quite small. Add another splash of oil to the frying pan if there isn’t enough fat left behind by the bacon, tip in the mushrooms, a splash of water and sauté for 10 minutes. Melt in the knob of butter and set the mushrooms side to cool. Once cooled, season with salt and pepper mix in the truffle oil. Taste the mushrooms to see if you want any more seasoning or oil.

When all the elements for the Turkey Wellington are cool, prepare for the assembly! Lightly butter a baking tin large enough for the breast.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out one 500g block of puff pastry so that it is roughly 6cm bigger than the turkey breast all round. Roll out the second pastry block so that it is large enough to cover the breast and some.

On the smaller piece of pastry, spread out 1/3 of the mushrooms onto the middle to cover an area the same size as your turkey breast. Remove the cocktail sticks and place the breast on top. Spread the remaining mushrooms all over the top of the turkey breast, packing it in and smoothing it out as you go. Sprinkle on the crispy bacon and rosemary, then brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Lay the second sheet of pastry over the top, gently mould it around the shape of the breast, pushing all of the air out and seal together. Trim the edges to around 4cm, then pull, twist, tuck and pinch the pastry together.

Brush the whole thing with beaten egg and shove it in the fridge uncovered overnight until you’re ready to cook. Clear up, pour wine, relax.

When it’s time to indulge, cook at 180°c / 350°f / gas 4 for 50 – 60 minutes or until risen, puffy and beautifully golden. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving this fabulous, all dressed up bird! Serve with turkey gravy and enjoy – you can’t fail to – absolutely gorgeous!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver showed me the Turkey Wellington recipe on his ‘Christmas with Bells On’ series and the Cranberry Sauce is care of Nigella.

How easy…

It is easy but it takes time and patience. The joy of it is preparation a day ahead of the actual eating – it makes it worth every moment of prep and it really is very delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sumptuous Chocolate Brownies

Dark, slightly gooey, indulgent little squares of naughtiness: there’s nothing quite like a good chocolate brownie and this recipe is gorgeous, easy and quick – lovin’ it!!!

Makes 20

What you need…

250g unsalted butter

200g 70% dark chocolate

80g cocoa powder, sifted

65g plain flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

360g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

What to do…

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

Lightly butter and line a 24cm square baking tin with greaseproof/parchment paper. Roughly break up your chocolate and pop it into a large heatproof bowl together with the butter. Put the bowl over a steamer, sitting in a saucepan of simmering water. Melt the butter and chocolate, mixing until smooth.

In another bowl, thoroughly mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar.

Take the melted butter and chocolate mixture off the heat and stand the bowl on a tea towel on your worktop (to prevent the bowl slipping). Add the dry ingredients to the bowl, mixing them in thoroughly.

Whisk the eggs and then tip them into the rest of the mixture, whisking them in until you have a lovely silky, glossy smooth mixture.

Pour your brownie mix into the baking tin and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. When done, your sumptuous chocolate brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle.

Allow to cool in the tin, then carefully transfer the bake to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares. Purely for quality control reasons, now is a good time to try one – just to make sure that they are OK – and ooooooooh, yummy, reach for another…

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

Dead easy!

Christmas Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

 

If you have friends popping around for lunch (as I did today) close to Christmas and you’ve already over-extended yourself on the ‘to-do’ list (as I do, repeatedly), this is the perfect dessert – it’d dead easy, really lovely and very Christmassy but light. You can knock it up in a jiffy and it cooks itself whilst you’re enjoying your main course. A bonus is the scent of Christmas that wafts through the house as it’s cooking!

Serves 6

What you need…

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

6 slices bread from a large loaf

50g softened butter

3 rounded tablespoons mincemeat

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

60ml double cream (or the Oatly version)

3 large eggs

75g caster 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 mincemeat over three of them and put the other three slices on top, effectively creating mincemeat 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 triangular sandwiches, butter side up, overlapping each other and almost standing upright in the baking dish.

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs and caster 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 Christmas smell as it’s cooking is wonderful.

Serve your Christmas mincemeat bread and butter pudding straight away, perhaps with a little double cream and a whole bunch of festive cheer!

Tip…

Try different breads, rather than just plain white – there are some lovely festive loaves in the supermarkets at the moment.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith (this is essentially my version of her Chunky Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding but with the Marmalade replaced by mincemeat!

How easy…

It couldn’t be easier: an absolute gift during the festive season!

 

 

Anglo Italian Trifle

If one could describe a dessert as voluptuous in flavour and totally indulgent, this would be it. Amaretti and sweetend 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!

Chicken Liver Pate with Brandy

I have a penchant for foie gras parfait, but let’s face it, that’s not very realistic on a regular basis. I have had this recipe for years – torn out from a magazine but I only got around making it this week. I tentatively tried a little and then found that I just wanted more and more! The combination of the brandy and the chicken livers is fabulously rich but the pate is also quite light. Its sufficiently good that can also carry off being served as a starter with a delicious dessert wine – the perfect foil. Try it – it won’t be the last time you make it! Absolutely delicious!

Serves 10 as a starter

What you need…

500g chicken livers, trimmed

2 tablespoons brandy

110g butter

4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves torn from stalks

Pinch nutmeg/a few gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons sherry

4 tablespoons double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Drain the chicken livers and put them in a small bowl. Add the brandy, mix well, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 2 hours.

Heat 25g of the butter in a frying pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken livers from the brandy (keeping the brandy for later) and add to the pan, stir-frying on a moderate heat for 3-5 minutes, until they are browned all over but still pink on the inside. Again, using your slotted spoon, remove the chicken livers from the pan and tip them into your food processor.

Add the brandy into the pan and turn up the heat – cook for a minute or so until the alcohol has evaporated. Using a spatula, scrape every last scrap out of the frying pan and into the food processor.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat 25g of the butter and cook the bacon, onion, thyme, nutmeg and bay leaf over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the onion is quite soft and golden brown. Remove the bay leaf and tip the lot into the food processor with the other ingredients.

In a third (small) saucepan, melt the remaining butter over a gentle heat.

Whilst that’s melting, whizz all the ingredients in your food processor to form a smooth purée. Blend in the parsley and then add the sherry, cream and melted butter. Season to taste. Pour this mixture into either one mould, 10 small ramekin dishes or, as I did, four pretty serving dishes – we ate two over the course of the weekend and I’ve frozen the other two for future enjoyment. Whichever choice you make, chill the pate for at least 12 hours to allow the flavours to gather.

Serve your chicken liver pate with brandy with toasted fresh bread or toasted brioche. If you can run to a dessert wine as well, it works indulgently well. Talk about feasting like kings – fabulous!

Inspired by…

Don’t know – torn from a magazine so many years ago that the page is yellow.

How easy…

Very, very easy and for fantastic results!

 

 

Chocolate Candy Christmas Chalet

Ok, so for this one, I’m not going to list the ingredients or the process, but rather, just give you the link to the youtube video – it’s much easier to see how this lovely lady makes her chocolate candy Christmas chalet than for me to explain it. She makes it look unbelievably easy but I have to say, I did struggle rather – my first roof collapsed, I forgot to cut out a door and my window sills kept sliding down the walls. All that said, I’m sure that someone more experienced in a bit of cake decorating would find this really easy. In the end, I wasn’t too disappointed with my effort. The lovely lady on the youtube video made a Christmas house; mine is more of a rustic chocolate chalet! Anyway, it tastes great and we have a large plastic box in the fridge full of all the left over chocolate, so happy days! If you give it a go, enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmg7WRtgOlU

Cod with Pesto Mash, Tomatoes and Basil

This is an easy, healthy dish that makes a lovely light supper or lunch. I was a bit perturbed preparing the slightly green mash but it tastes absolutely delicious and is a splendid alternative to the butter-laden ‘heart-attack’ mash that my family usually enjoys!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking tray, lightly buttered/oiled

300g potatoes, peeled

A good knob of butter

A splosh of milk

4 teaspoons pesto (I use Sacla)

Sea salt and black pepper

4 chunky fillets of cod

4 large tomatoes, halved and then sliced

A few basil leaves, torn

4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

A little paprika

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

Bring the potatoes to the boil in salted water. Cover and simmer for15-20 minutes, until soft. Drain, then mash or whisk, adding the butter, milk, the pesto and some seasoning. Check the texture and taste, then add more butter, milk, pesto or seasoning according to your taste.

Place your cod fillets on the baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Spread a goodly portion of the pesto mash over the top of each fish fillet, piling it quite high. Mix the sliced tomato and basil together, season and arrange on top of the mash. Sprinkle with Parmesan – 1 teaspoon per person should be perfect – and dust with paprika.

Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the fish has turned white. Serve your baked cod with pesto mash, tomatoes and basil immediately – enjoy this lovely, light dish that certainly perks up the rather plain but healthy cod fillet! Goes beautifully with a selection of green veg.

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Very – perfect weekday lunch or supper. Very little mess and dead easy to do.

Scones with Strawberry Compote

I studied photography at a fabulous old mansion house called Woodley Hill House. It was run by a great team, who we all got to know really well and who helped us through the trials and tribulations of women in their 40s training in a new skill and getting overly emotional over exams. Anyway, each morning session was punctuated with tea break, for which we would all troop over from our classroom to the main house. The kitchen, in those days, was run by a lovely lady who had an absolute gift for making wonderful scones. I swore then that I would try to emulate them. This vow, coupled with the knowledge that John was legendary for making scones in his early teens, was put keenly into focus when I watched James Martin on Saturday Kitchen whip up these scones and ‘cheats jam’ in no time at all. So, this is my take on those. I can’t remember if they are as good as the college ones – probably not – they were to die for – and we’ll never know how they compare to John’s youthful offerings, but they’re pretty damned good and a cinch to make!

Makes 12 little ones (I figured they wouldn’t be so bad for the waistline if they were little!)

What you need…

5cm diametre cookie cutter

Baking sheet, lightly buttered

225g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

25g caster sugar

50g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

150ml whole milk

for the strawberry compote

250g strawberries, hulled and halved

100g jam sugar

60ml water

1 heaped teaspoon arrowroot

What to do…

For the strawberry compote, pop the strawberries, sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and, using a small balloon whisk, mix in the arrowroot. Set aside to cool.

To make your scones, use a roomy bowl to sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar. Add the butter and using your fingertips, quickly rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the milk, a little at a time, working to form a smooth dough. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

Lightly flour your work surface (I cover my surface with cling film and then flour it – this means less cleaning up at the end as I just roll up the cling film complete with all the left over pastry bits and chuck the lot in the bin – job done!)

Roll out the dough until about 2cm thick. Using your cookie cutter, cut 12 scones out of the dough – avoid twisting the cutter to loosen the dough as this could result in uneven rising – just tap the dough out instead.

Place your scones on the baking tray and dust with flour.

Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until just starting to brown.

To serve your scones with strawberry compote, split the scones, lather with clotted cream and then dribble over the compote – delish!!!

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Very easy – I was most surprised!

 

 

 

 

 

Coq au Vin

 

This is an oldie but a goodie: rich and flavoursome – perfect for a winter supper. The basis for this recipe was pulled from my dad’s ‘Supercook’ collection. Anyone my age will remember this phenomenon that went through the very hot year that was 1976 through until 1979. The weekly (I think) magazines were collected and ultimately inserted proudly into the white and gold Supercook binders. My dad loved to cook and experiment and Supercook was the source of many of his weekend recipes. Try this one – it’s another of those that I love – you pop them in the oven and they finish themselves off whilst you make the kitchen tidy again.

Serves 4

What you need…

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

10 – 12 chicken thighs

4 tablespoons flour, well seasoned with sea salt and black pepper

Splash of rapeseed oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

200g lean bacon, chopped

12 shallots

1 teacup parsley, chopped

2 bay leaves

½ bottle red wine

125ml boiling water

2 x Knorr chicken stock pots

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

200g button mushrooms, cleaned

What to do…

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

Make some chicken stock by popping the stock pots into a jug and then filling it to 125ml with boiling water, dissolving the stock evenly into the water using a balloon whisk.

Coat the chicken thighs with the seasoned flour.

Heat the oil in a deep-sided frying pan. Add the chicken and fry on a medium-high heat until gold brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces and pop them into your baking dish – they’ll fit nice and snugly.

If the frying pan is dry, add another splash of oil and when hot, add the garlic, onion and bacon, frying gently until pale gold.

Stir in any leftover coating flour (this will make the sauce lovely and thick), and then add the shallots, parsley, bay leaves, wine and stock.

Bring to the boil, stirring, then taste. Season. Taste. When you’re happy, carry on.

Tip the mushrooms into the baking dish over the chicken and then pour over the sauce from the frying pan. Cover with foil and pop in the oven for 1 hour until the chicken is tender.

Serve your lovely Coq au Vin with green vegetables (we favour broccoli) and potato – baked or sautéed if you fancy. It’s lovely, definitely French and just perfect for a winter family supper! Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Supercook

How easy…

Very easy. The only bit I don’t like about this is the prep of the onions and shallots, which instigates a bout of violent sneezing and then mascara-ruining crying. But once that’s out the way, a simple but lovely dish!

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