Rosemary-Roasted Root Vegetables

Winter Sunday Roasts in our house are one of the highlights of the weekend. Generally, we have roast chickens served with the lightest, fluffiest Yorkshire Puddings, fabulous gravy and these wonderful roasted root vegetables. As the herbs used in these vegetables mingle with the cooking smells of the chickens, a unique and simple gorgeous aroma permeates the house. It doesn’t matter how horrible the weather is outside, the cooking smells and the knowledge of the meal that is shortly to come brings a lovely warmth inside. Kitchen rules apply: G&Ts on the side and a good bottle of red opened and waiting to accompany this fine meal! The Sunday Roast is prepared by John – which makes it even better – and I only get involved in the preparation of these delicious vegetables. A further joy is the single baking dish that is used to cook them in – minimal washing up! Try them as an alternative to your normal Sunday Roast vegetables – you’ll love them.

 Serves 4

 What you need…

1 large ovenproof dish (mine is 20cm x 30cm x 7cm deep), lightly buttered

½ swede, peeled and cut into wedges

6 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways

4 parsnips, peeled and halved

2 turnips, peeled and quartered

2 red onions, peeled and quartered

2 large red potatoes, washed quartered

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 sprigs of rosemary

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

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

Chuck all the vegetables into your ovenproof dish.

Scatter over the rosemary and pour over the oil. Mix everything together ensuring that the rosemary and oil are evenly dispersed among the vegetables.

Pop in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Take them out and give them a quick stir before popping them back in for a further 20 minutes. Enjoy the wafting aroma of rosemary!

Serve your rosemary-roasted root vegetables with the rest of your Sunday Roast, indulge in far too much lovely food and retire to the sofa for a little afternoon snooze!

Tips…

Aim to have your chunky vegetables pieces roughly the same size.

Used ready-prepared Cooks’ Ingredients’ frozen, chopped garlic – so much easier than all that peeling and chopping.

For a slight variation, I sometimes add thyme and sage as supplements to the rosemary.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith’s Winter Collection

How easy…

Spectacularly easy and only one pot to wash up. You can also prepare them and then cover the raw vegetables and herbs with cling-film for up to 2 hours before popping them in the oven, which provides the added bonus of allowing the flavours to develop even further.

Plum and Apple Crumble Tart

Serves 8 – 10

I saw Mary Berry do this as part of the James Martin Saturday Kitchen show last month and was very taken with the lusciousness look of her version (with blackberries and apple). A pastry case together with a sweet, crunchy, nutty crumble topping and filled with the soft, sweet fruit – what a lovely combination for a dreary January day! I will just say that my tart tin is a full 5cms smaller than hers, as well as being shallower, but, as is my way, I kept the ingredients quantities roughly similar to her recipe, hence, whilst Mary’s tart was neat and flat, mine was mountainous and rather rustic-looking! That said, it tastes absolutely gorgeous and definitely fulfils the need for a little indulgent, comfort food – another one of those dishes that gets left on the side for a couple of hours after serving, with a handy spoon available just to check that it’s still ok…..

What you need…

1 x 28cm loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin, 3-4 cms deep, lightly buttered

Baking beans

for the pastry

225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

125g cold butter, cut into cubes

30g caster sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 – 2 tablespoons water

for the filling

2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks

150g caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

500g plums, stoned and quartered

for the crumble topping

175g plain flour

100g cold butter, cut into cubes

50g rolled oats

100g demerara sugar

50g chopped almonds

What to do…

For the pastry, whizz the flour and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, egg and water and whizz again until the mixture comes together as a smooth dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured worktop and roll it out into a circle that’s about 3mm thick and large enough to line the tart tin base and sides. Press the pastry into the base and side of the tin and make a small lip around the top with the excess pastry. Prick the base all over with a fork and then pop in the fridge for 15 minutes.

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

Line the chilled pastry case with baking/parchment paper and baking beans, then pop in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the lip of the pastry is light golden-brown. Remove the baking beans and paper and reduce the oven to 150°c / 300°f / gas 2 and bake for a further 8-10 minutes or until the pastry is a light golden brown all over. Set aside to cool.

Increase the oven temperature back up to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

While the pastry is cooking, prepare the filling: place the apples, sugar and water into a medium saucepan and cook over a moderate heat, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. Cover the pan, and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes. Mix in the plums, pop the lid back on and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whilst the pastry and filling are cooling, make the crumble topping by popping all the ingredients into your processor (great to use it twice in one recipe without the need for washing up!) Whizz until everything is evenly mixed together and crumb-like.

Drain your cooked fruits through a colander, collecting the juice in a bowl for later. Spoon the fruit into the pastry case. Sprinkle over the crumble topping, covering all the filling and bake the tart for 20 – 25 minutes or until the crumble is crisp and golden brown.

Serve your plum and apple crumble the tart warm, with a little of the reserved fruit juice and some double cream or custard. Simply yummy!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry, Absolute Christmas Favourites

How easy….

Very easy – like Delia, Mary Berry is very precise with her instructions. I’m always a bit nervous about pastry but this was dead easy and absolutely lovely!

New York Caesars Salad, My Way

Many years ago I had a marketing job that meant, in the name of work, I ate out a lot. And I mean a lot. There was also the occasional overseas trips undertaken and twice I was lucky enough to visit New York on business. Labeled a ‘jolly’, the trip was as much about food as it was the thrills of Manhattan: huge hotel breakfasts followed by large, leisurely lunches and obscenely over-indulgent dinners punctuated each day. There’s only so much a girl can eat even if the food is amazing so I quickly took to choosing Caesars Salad as my default choice for lunch, being the perfect foil for the inevitable heavy, rich dinners that I knew would follow. I’ve never had a Caesars Salad as good as those I enjoyed in New York and so ended up developing my own version: New York Caesars Salad, My Way! I have no idea how close to the authentic recipe mine is but it’s pretty close to those savoured in Manhattan. It’s light but edgy – salad with attitude I’d say – and really enlivening – give it a go!

Serves 2

What you need…

4 good-sized slices back bacon

300g mixed salad leaves (including iceberg for the crunch), torn

A good handful of freshly grated Parmesan

for the croutons

1 slice bread from a large loaf

50g butter

for the dressing

60ml olive oil

30ml white wine vinegar

3 anchovies

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper to season

What to do…

For the croutons, cut bread roughly into 1cm squares and pop into a bowl with the butter and then into the microwave for 1 minute. Stir to make sure the butter is evenly distributed and pop back in for another 40 seconds. Repeat this last process until the croutons are golden and crispy. In my microwave, I do 3 x 40 seconds.

(N.B. microwave times may vary – I rarely use a microwave so ours is old and pretty inferior so yours may do the job much quicker).

Set the croutons aside to cool.

Dry-fry the bacon until its crispy. Remove from the pan and as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, chop it up into bite-sized pieces (I use scissors for this – it’s quicker than a knife for me). Put the chopped pieces on kitchen paper to absorb the moisture whilst the bacon cools.

In a jam jar, chuck all the dressing ingredients in together, screw on the lid and shake vigorously to mix everything together and break down the anchovies.

When you are ready to serve, tip your salad leaves into a large roomy salad bowl and throw in the bacon. Add half the Parmesan and then the dressing. Toss everything together. Either divide into two bowls or serve to the table in the salad bowl. Whichever way, scatter over more Parmesan and finally, the croutons. Enjoy! It really is a wonderful salad!

Serving suggestion…

I like New York Caesar’s Salad on it’s own as a main course, but it also works well served with steak or as a starter, perhaps with garlic bread.

Tip…

Cooks’ Ingredients frozen, chopped garlic from Waitrose – just tip some in the dressing rather than all that peeling and chopping….

Inspired by…

New York!

How easy…

Ever so!

Brandy Snaps

I remember growing up in the 1970s and many a weekend punctuated by my parents’ dinner parties. All that rushing around in the daytime concocting wonderful dishes – Dad normally on the mains and mum on the desserts. Then the tidy up, quick bath and ready to receive guests. Featured in many of those evenings were after dinner drinks: port, brandy and liqueurs, which sadly have largely fallen out of fashion these days and the 1970s-iconic brandy snaps. Shop bought, full of sugary whipped cream, I remember praying that they wouldn’t all be eaten and inevitably they weren’t (I suspect I was allocated one or two from the outset). There is nothing quite like the crunch of the golden, lacy brandy snap quickly followed by the luscious cream; the combination of which made the taste buds wake up and party! They’ve been on my list for a while so here’s the first attempt. I decided against the traditional cigar shape, thinking that might stretch me too far this time around. But having done them once, I’ll give that a go next time.

Makes 12 good sized brandy snap bowls

What you need…

2 x large baking sheets, lined with baking parchment or ‘Bake-O-Glide’ (see Tips)

60g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

60g caster sugar

60g plain flour, sifted

½ teaspoon ground ginger, sifted

What to do…

Heat the butter, syrup and sugar in a medium pan until the mixture is fully melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature for about 20 minutes.

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

Tip the flour and ginger into the butter mixture ands stir to make a thick paste.

Dollop 4 tablespoons of the brandy snap mixture onto each of the lined baking sheets – spacing far apart – they REALLY spread.

Put one tray in the oven and bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes, until deep golden and lacy.

Remove the first tray from the oven and pop the other one in.

Allow the first batch to cool for a few minutes until they are slightly firm but still pliable. Lift them out, one at a time, and mould them over an upturned glass/teacup or ramekin to make a bowl shape. They take a couple of minutes to set so maybe have three or four glasses. Once set, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

After 7-8 minutes baking, remove the second set from the oven and repeat the cooling, moulding, cooling process with them. I split the brandy snap cooking into two to give myself enough time to mould the first four without worrying that the second four might be hardening too much to shape.

Once cool, store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to serve. Serve these sweet, crunchy bowls with whatever takes your fancy. They work particularly well with strong-flavoured ice cream (e.g. salted caramel, brandy, coffee) or cream topped with seasonal fruits, as shown in the image. Enjoy! Especially good with an espresso coffee on the side!

Tips…

Only in the last month did I discover Bake-O-Glide. Having far too much Champagne and canapés at my friend Susan’s house, I watched as she put tray after tray of food in her Aga, re-using the same Bake-O-Glide. Each time, the canapés really did glide off the lined baking trays with ease. No scrubbing or soaking afterwards. She simply put the Bake-O-Glide in the dishwasher and then it was ready for use again. A total convert, I now use this all the time – it’s not expensive, easily available (ordered off the Internet and it arrived the next day) and can be used 100s of times. If you already know about this stuff, you’ll think I’m bonkers; if not, order some now: total revelation!

To get the golden syrup to slide easily off your tablespoon, first wipe the spoon with olive oil – works brilliantly (saw this on Simply Nigella).

Inspired by…

Good Housekeeping

How easy…

They are not difficult but you do have to give them your full attention.

Two-Ways Salmon Pasta with Basil and Lemon

This is a lovely pasta dish that is simultaneously light but comforting, zesty and fresh but soothing on the stomach. It comes from a book published in the early 1990s by the wonderful Keith Floyd called ‘Floyd on Hangovers’ – a witty little tome that contains advice on detoxing and a selection of recipes for the day after the night before! Having never suffered a hangover (I know, I’m sorry!) I’m not sure why I was bought the book and have since mislaid it, but I’ve been doing this version of one of his recipes for years. It seems a fitting one for New Year’s Day, I thought, although we enjoy it throughout the year.

As delicious as it is, I feel that on this occasion that I should share some of the nutritional benefits (and the reasons why the recipe was in the book, I guess). Both salmon and basil have anti-oxidant qualities, with the former offering omega 3 and vitamins D and B12 and the latter providing vitamins A, K, C, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium (who knew?!!!!) and from lemon of course, vitamin c. So there’s a real ‘feel-good’ aspect to this one – great kick off for the New Year!

Serves 2

What you need…

A splash olive oil

2 salmon fillets

2 lemons

120g smoked salmon

Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

2 good handfuls of basil, torn

Pasta of your choice (I prefer gluten-free)

What to do…

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

Rub olive oil all over a piece of foil and pop the salmon fillets in it. Squeeze half a lemon over the fish, season and then make the foil into a loose parcel. Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked al dente.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and pop in your pasta according to the packaging instructions – mine normally takes about 12 minutes.

In another large saucepan, squeeze into it the juice of 1½ lemon plus some sea salt and loads of roughly ground black pepper. Roughly tear up the smoked salmon into bite-sized pieces and arrange around the top edges of the saucepan – some will drop into the lemon juice – no worries. Using a fork, remove the skin from the oven-baked salmon and flake the fish into chunks, tipping them into the saucepan as you do. Throw the basil in over the top.

When your pasta is cooked, turn on the heat under the saucepan with all the ingredients in to moderate. Drain the pasta and tip into the salmon, basil, lemon juice mixture. Splash in a little olive oil and then mix everything together, incorporating the salmon from the edges of the saucepan evenly throughout.

Then, simply serve and enjoy your lovely, fresh, enlivening and gentle two-ways salmon pasta with basil and lemon!

Inspired by…

Keith Floyd, Floyd on Hangovers

How easy…

Very, very easy. A good one for a mid- eek supper

 

 

 

 

Truly Scrumptious Salted Caramel Ice Cream

I’ve never made ice cream before but somewhere down the line I’ve acquired an ice-cream maker. However, when I decided to try out this recipe I didn’t realise that the bowl had to be put in the freezer 24 hours beforehand! So, this one was done by hand and having done it once this way, I’m afraid that the machine is back where it came from, at the back of the cupboard. This ice cream is an absolute cinch to make and tastes truly scrumptious! Not only that, but it’s quite a soft ice cream, so if you have a bit of craving for ice-cream NOW, there’s no waiting about whilst it softens enough to scoop. So, this first attempt will be quickly followed by a second, third, fourth…try it and enjoy!

Serves 6 – 8 (unless you keep it secret, in which case just the 1!)

What you need…

170g caster sugar

225ml double cream

150ml milk

4 egg yolks

½ teaspoon sea salt

What you do…

Place a medium sized saucepan on a high heat and add 140g of the caster sugar. Heat, shaking the pan occasionally until the sugar melts into a rich caramel colour.

Take off the heat and slowly add the double cream, using a balloon whisk to incorporate it into the sugar. Bring back to the boil. Pour in the milk, again whisking in.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl use an electric hand-held whisk to beat together the egg yolks and remaining 30g caster sugar until you have a pale, mousse-like mixture. Pour the hot caramel into the bowl and whisk the lot together. Set aside to cool down.

Add the salt to the cooled mixture and pour it all into a deep plastic bowl and pop it in your freezer.

After 45 minutes, take it out of the freezer and whisk vigorously using your electric hand-held whisk – it will have started to freeze around the edges – break up the frozen sections and return to the freezer.

Repeat this process another three times at 45-minute intervals and then leave it – it should be ready within 4 hours of first going in the freezer.

Take a spoon or scoop and delve in to check your handiwork – truly scrumptious is the best that I can come up with but that doesn’t cover it – delectable, delicious, delightful…I could go on but really, you just need to try your own truly scrumptious salted caramel ice cream!

Serving suggestion…

Amazing with little sticky toffee puddings, scrumptious chocolate brownies (both on previous blogs) or, as in the picture here, with brandy snaps (recipe to follow) or… on it’s own – just you, the spoon and the ice cream!

Inspired by…

Another foodie blogger: A Spoonful of Sugar (www.aspoonfulofsugarblog.com)

How easy…

Sooooooooo easy, just don’t forget that it’s in the freezer for whisking part!

 

Christmas Breakfast Boudins

The original version of this went down an absolute storm in November – lots of friends tried it and loved it; so last night when I found a packet of pigs in blankets lurking in the fridge, my son suggested this version of the popular Breakfast Boudins. We made them this morning and they were absolutely delightful!

 Makes 6

 What you need…

1 x muffin tin, lightly buttered

1 x small baking tin, lightly buttered/oiled

1 x cookie cutter

3 slices bread

6 rashers back bacon

6 pigs in blankets

6 eggs

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

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

Pop the pigs in blankets into the baking tin and then into the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, 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.

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.

Remove the pigs in blankets from the oven and pop one in each muffin hole. Then break an egg into each one.

Season with salt and pepper and pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve your Christmas Breakfast Boudins with steaming mugs of tea or coffee and enjoy a lovely light breakfast with a little reminder of the seasonal festivities! Yum.

Tip…

I reckon that you could also swap out the pigs in blankets for a little spinach and smoked salmon for a different take on this lovely breakfast.

Inspired by…

www.facebook.com/buzzfeedtasty for the original recipe and Connagh, for the inspired twist!

How easy…

Really easy. A lovely, light and different breakfast.

 

Little Sticky Toffee Puddings with Naughty, Decadent Sauce

Soooooo gorgeous, sooooo yummy, soooooo bad for you! Well, in reality I guess the puddings aren’t that bad but the sauce!!!! Simply melt together butter, cream and sugar – that says it all. Oh, and there’s also the ice cream that we like to serve them with – that’s not healthy either, but what a heavenly combination. Like many desserts, it is after all the naughty element that tempts us, making them an absolute treat. These are a real winter favourite in our house. Give them a go, and they will be in your house too!

What you need…

8 x 175g metal pudding basins, thoroughly buttered and with a little round of greaseproof paper in the bottom.

1 x baking tray

175g stoned, chopped dates

175ml boiling water

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

2 teaspoons coffee essence (I use Camp)

¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

75g butter, at room temperature

150g caster sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

175g self-raising flour, sifted

for the naughty sauce

175g soft brown sugar

110g butter

6 tablespoons double cream

What to do…

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

Begin by putting the chopped dates in a bowl and pouring the 175ml boiling water over them. Add the vanilla, coffee essence and bicarbonate of soda and leave on one side. Next, in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric hand whisk until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy.

Gradually add the beaten egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. After that, carefully and lightly fold in the sifted flour, using a metal spoon. Then, fold in the date mixture, including the liquid.

Right now, it’ll look really sloppy – that’s fine: it’s supposed to. Divide the mixture equally between the eight pudding basins. Place on a baking tray and pop in the oven for 25 minutes.

When cooked, leave to cool for five minutes. Slide a small palette knife around each pudding and turn it out. If they’ve risen too much, you may need to lop off the tops so that they will sit evenly on the plate when you turn them (which means you get to sample the sponge – yipppeee: chef’s privileges.

Place the puddings into a shallow baking tray.

Next, make the sauce by tipping all the ingredients into a saucepan and very gently heating them until the sugar has completely dissolved.

To serve, pre-heat the grill to a medium-high setting and pour the sauce over the wee puddings. Place under grill so the tops of the puddings are about 13cm from the heat and let them warm through for five minutes (keep an eye on them: different grills pump out different heats and you don’t want them to burn). The tops should go slightly crunchy and the sauce will be hot and bubbling

Serve your little sticky toffee puddings with naughty, decadent sauce either with double cream or salted caramel ice-cream (recipe to follow later this week). Simply, to die for!

Serving suggestion…

We were given a bottle of Monbazillac, Chateau Peyronnette, 2014, by my cousin’s hubby-to-be, Matt, when they stayed in the run up to Christmas. When I tried this wine with the sticky toffee puddings, it took them from being ‘sodding incredible’ (with the ice cream) to ‘wow! Just wow!’ with the wine!!! Just fabulous!!! One of those experiences without which life just isn’t complete!

Tips….

This recipe is for eight puddings. I always make eight and then freeze those not required at that time in their moulds, which just leaves you to decide how much of the naughty sauce you make – totally yummy, I can eat this by the spoonful…without the puddings! Really, very naughty but wickedly good.

So, for two people: 60g soft brown sugar, 40g butter, 3 tablespoons double cream; for four people: 120g soft brown sugar, 80g butter, 6 tablespoons double cream.

Inspired by…

My friend, Helen, who served them to us at supper one evening and of course, Delia Smith, whose fabulous and ingredient-stained ‘Christmas’ cookery book contains the original recipe, un-tinkered-with.

Tomato and Ricotta Tart

Colourful, light and really tasty, you can throw this tart together in minutes for a really lovely light lunch, starter or tasty snack when you’ve had enough indulging in really rich food. Very lovely. Enjoy!

Serves 4

 What you need…

 15g butter

2 red onions, halved and sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

500g puff pastry

100g ricotta

250g cherry tomatoes, halved

Olive oil for drizzling

A few fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked

What to do…

Preheat oven to 200°c / 400° / gas 7.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the onions, season and cook gently for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the puff pastry to about 5mm thick. Transfer to a baking tray that has been slightly warmed in the oven but isn’t too hot to handle! Spread over the onion and garlic mix, leaving a 1cm border uncovered. Dollop on the ricotta, scatter over the tomatoes, season well and then drizzle over olive oil, sprinkle with thyme and then pop in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the tomatoes are soft and juicy.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly for 5 minutes. Serve your tomato and ricotta tart as a ‘rough cut and share’ snack or starter.

Tip…

Instead of peeling and crushing garlic cloves, use Cooks’ Ingredients frozen, chopped garlic from Waitrose – a quick shake directly into the pan is so much easier!

Goats cheese and olives are a nice alternative to the ricotta.

Inspired by…

Delicious magazine (from a long time ago)

How easy…

Dead easy providing you assemble on the baking tray – the original instructions suggested assembling on your work surface and then transferring to an oven hot baking tray – this required me, my cousin and her husband-to-be to achieved. It’s much easier my way and tastes great!

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!

 

 

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