Tag Archives: dinner

Venison with Red Wine & Chocolate Sauce (oh yeah!) with Celeriac & Apple Purée

O M G! This is so very, very special! Delectable, delicious, de-lovely – absolutely incredible! OK, enough adjectives! This is a dish worth celebrating – venison can be dear (or deer – see what I did there!!). I paid £17 for 600g which serves 4 so that’s £4.25 each which I didn’t think was too bad given the ‘off-the-scale’ enjoyment that was registered: the meat is so succulent and very flavoursome without being ‘gamey’. Paired with the rich red wine and chocolate sauce and complemented by the sweet, crisp celeriac and apple purée: a better trio I cannot imagine! An ideal dinner party dish, this is so good and not at all difficult (especially if you prepare the sauce and purée in advance); you simply must give it a go!!!! (Don’t let the long ingredients list put you off – it’s sooooo worth it!)

Serves 4

What you need…

600g venison loin

Rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed

2 thyme sprigs

2 garlic cloves, chopped

50g unsalted butter

Sea salt and black pepper

for the sauce

Rapeseed oil

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed/grinded

300ml robust red wine

200ml water from the kettle

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

50g dark chocolate, grated

25g cold unsalted butter, chunked

Pinch of salt

for the purée

1 celeriac head, peeled and chunked

500ml semi skimmed milk

500ml water

2 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 tablespoon caster sugar

25g unsalted butter

Pepper (white’s better as it blends in but I only had black, which works equally as well)

What to do…

So, we’re going to turn the ingredients list all around: first making the chocolate sauce and then the purée, both of which can then be popped in the fridge for use later in the day or even the following day.

To the sauce: heat a splash of oil in a saucepan over a moderate heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, until they start to caramelise.

Add the herbs, juniper berries and peppercorns and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by two-thirds. Meanwhile, make a strong chicken stock by using a balloon whisk to dilute your chicken stockpot into the hot water. Add the stock to the pan, bring back to the boil and then simmer until reduced by half.

Into a jug, tip the grated chocolate. Strain the sauce into the jug and then plop in chunks of butter. Use your balloon whisk again dissolve both the chocolate and butter into the sauce. Season with a pinch of salt. Taste, say ‘wow’ and vow to leave the sauce alone until it’s on your plate with the venison! Cover with cling film and set aside until needed.

Next the purée: pop the celeriac into a large saucepan with the milk and water. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently until the celeriac is soft. Into your blender pour a couple of ladles of the cooking liquid and then, using a slotted spoon, add the celeriac chunks. Set aside. Pour the remaining cooking liquid into a jug and set aside.

Wipe out your pan and pop it back onto the heat with a splash of water, the apple and sugar. Simmer gently until the apple is soft and beginning to break apart. Use a spatula to scrape the lot into the blender with the celeriac. Whizz until smooth, adding more cooking liquid if needed. Add the butter, season, whizz, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Set aside until needed.

That’s most of the ‘work’ and mess done. At this stage you could cool both the sauce and purée and pop them in the fridge until tomorrow if you were preparing in advance for a dinner party. I made mine in the morning and then just left them on the worktop side until I was ready to cook dinner in the evening.

To the main event: preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Rub the venison loin with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Also, rub in the juniper berries all over the meat. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan over a high heat, add the venison and sear on all sides for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Add the thyme, garlic and butter to the pan and baste the venison for 2 minutes. Cover the meat with foil and then transfer the pan to the oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the pan and rest, still covered by the foil, on a warmed plate for 10 minutes.

Whilst all that is going on, have your sauce and purée and sauce in separate saucepans over a low heat just to warm through.

Carve the venison into thick slices; try not to dribble in anticipation. Onto each diner’s plate, plop or swirl some purée, arrange a few venison slices on the top and then drizzle with the sauce. Enjoy with a simple green vegetable and a lovely glass or two of red wine. Consider for a moment how wonderful life can be! Enjoy!

Tip…

I found the size of the venison too ungainly to deal with as one piece so chopped it in half….worked for me!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Really easy. And if you prep the sauce and purée in advance, the actual cooking of the venison takes no time at all and is a sinch!

The Most Sensational, Naughty Sauce for Steak

I watched Michael Caines do this a couple of weeks ago and just had to give it a go. It is soooooo much more than the gloriousness that it looked on telly. It really is the most sensational sauce to serve with steak and has a taste and texture that simply evoke ‘naughty!’ Michael did his with Madeira but our bar was not forthcoming but seemed heavily stocked with sweet sherry, so that was substituted – it worked REALLY well. But finally, a word of caution: don’t try and rush the ‘reduction’ elements of this sauce – I know from experience that the sauce then ends up thin and that the flavours aren’t of the full intensity assures this recipe is right at the top of our favourites list!

Serves 4 (I’ve doubled up on the sauce quantities because we do enjoy lots of sauce, so you may not need the quantities that I have listed, depending on your own sauciness)

What you need…

4 x 200-250g sirloin steaks

Olive oil

300ml boiling water from the kettle

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

50g butter

6 shallots, thinly sliced

150g button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked

220ml sweet sherry (I use Harveys Bristol Cream)

300ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

First, make your stock by dissolving ¾ chicken stockpot into the boiling water, using a balloon whisk to help the process. Set aside.

Over a moderate heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook until the shallots are transparent.

Add the button mushrooms and continue cooking until they are slippery in texture. Stir in the thyme.

Slosh in the sherry and simmer until reduced by half.

Pour in the chicken stock and reduce by half again.

Gently pour in the cream and reduce by half yet again – you will then have a lovely thick, opulent sauce. Add a little black pepper, taste (chef’s privilege) and adjust the seasoning to taste. Make a resolution not to keep on tasting until it’s served! Keep warm on a low heat, stirring occasionally whilst you cook your steaks.

Onto each steak, massage in 1 teaspoon oil. Then season to your liking. Flip the steaks and give them the same treatment on the other side.

Heat another frying pan over a hot heat. Pop in the steaks and cook for 4 minutes on each side, depending on how you like your steak. Remove the steaks and serve them onto warmed plates, allowing them to rest for a couple of minutes.

Decant your luscious sauce and pop it into the middle of the table to allow your fellow diners to help themselves – remind them about the need to share: they’ll want the lot to themselves! Indulge and enjoy! Serve with a bit of greenery, maybe some exotic mushrooms and Hasselback potatoes. Simply scrummy!

Inspired by…

Michael Caines

How easy…

Very easy as long as you take your time and allow the reductions to work their magic.

Venison and Mushroom Suet Pudding

Serves 6 – 8

An alternative to our traditional Sunday Roast, we haven’t had a suet pudding for years and I have to wonder why. The pastry is light but absorbs the flavours of the filling, which in this case was a wonderfully rich mix of venison, mushrooms and port. I loved the theatrical presentation associated with turning it out of its cooking bowl as well – will it, won’t it, will it, won’t it and then almost a sigh as the pudding parted ways with the bowl and plopped onto the plate, to be quickly followed by a rush of wonderful, rich gravy. A proper winter dish this – who cares if it’s cold and windy outside?!

What you need…

1 x 1.5 litre pudding basin, lightly buttered

1 x steamer, saucepan and lid

for the filling

1 beef stock pot (I use Knorr)

300ml boiling water (from the kettle)

300ml port

2 tablespoons well-seasoned self-raising flour

750g venison, diced

2 shallots, chopped

1 leek, trimmed, cut lengthways and then sliced

250g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and chunkily sliced

Handful thyme sprigs, leaves picked

Sea salt and black pepper

for the pastry

350g self-raising flour

175g shredded beef suet

Sea salt and black pepper

Cold water to mix

What to do…

In a jug dissolve the stock pot into the boiling water. Top up with the port. Set aside.

In a roomy bowl, tip in the seasoned flour. Add the venison and toss around in the flour so that the meat is thoroughly covered. Chuck in the shallots, leek, mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside.

To make the suet pastry, sift the flour into another large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the suet and mix the ingredients together using a spatula. When blended, add a few drops of cold water and mix in using the spatula. Keep adding the water a few drops at a time, mixing all the while, until the pastry is claggy and sticky. Either carry on with the spatula or go in with your hands, working the mix together until it is a smooth, elastic dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean.

Separate ¼ of the dough from the rest and set aside for the lid of your pudding. On a lightly floured work surface, give the remaining dough a quick knead to create a ball and then roll it out to create a circle of about 32cm diameter. Line the bowl with the pastry, gently pressing it into place and leaving some pastry hanging over the lip of the bowl.

Go back to your filling and with your hands, mix everything together so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Tip the whole lot into the pastry-lined bowl.

Pour in the stock and port and add more seasoning.

Roll out the pastry lid. Wet the top edges of pudding pastry and pop the lid on, pressing down all around the edges to seal. Trim off the excess pastry.

Cover with a double sheet of foil, pleated in the centre to allow room for expansion while cooking. Secure it with string and then place in a steamer over a saucepan of boiling water. Pop a lid on and then turn the heat down so that the water is simmering. Steam for 5 hours, checking the water level every now and then (I have ruined many a pan steaming Christmas puddings and letting the water run dry – it doesn’t go down well with the husband!)

Now to serve it! You could play safe and serve it straight from the bowl but where’s the fun in that?! Instead, slide a palette knife around the edge and then put your serving plate over the top of the pudding bowl. Tip the whole lot upside down (or in my case, ask John to) so that the plate is now on your work top and the pudding bowl is inverted. Wait, holding your breath, until the pudding gives a sigh and plops onto the plate. Breathe. Rush excitedly to the table with a large serving spoon and dig in. Thoroughly enjoy your Venison and Mushroom Suet Pudding!

Tip…

Instead of peeling and cutting up shallots, try Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients, frozen, chopped shallots – a quick shake and the job’s done!

Inspired by…

I used Delia Smith’s recipe for the suet pastry and then threw caution to the wind and put in the pudding whatever I fancied – it worked though!

How easy…

It takes minutes to assemble, there’s no pastry-resting business going on and then you just leave it to cook itself so it’s really very easy. It’s not a last minute option though – 5 hours cooking time does require a bit of organisation.

Partridge with Wild Mushroom Ravioli

This is a proper winter indulgence: the rich sauce and delicious partridge perfectly contrasted by the lightness of the ravioli, packed with intense flavour. The first time I made this, I used a pasta machine to make my own pasta and whilst it wasn’t hard, it was messy, time-consuming and quite tricky to deal with the ever-lengthening pasta strips and to get them to the necessary thinness (thick pasta is not great). So, on the basis that life’s too short, I’ve replaced that process with the use of ready-made pasta – it’s a lot easier unless you are a perfectionist with either a lot of time on your hands and a love of clearing up or an absolute whizz with the pasta machine! Given that change, this dish is lovely, indulgent and really quite quick to knock up!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 partridges (ask your butcher to separate and de-bone the breasts from the rest of the birds)

2 small carrots, peeled, topped and tailed

1 onion, peeled and quartered

1 bay leaf

for the ravioli

1 x cookie cutter, 7-8cms wide

12 fresh lasagne sheets

Knob of butter

100g wild/mixed mushrooms

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked

150ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

for the sauce

1 beef stock pot (I use Knorr)

Splash olive oil

Knob of butter

250g wild/mixed mushrooms

100ml double cream

A few sprigs thyme, to garnish

What to do…

Remove your lasagne sheets from the fridge to come to room temperature.

Separate the partridge breasts from the rest of the birds, leaving the breasts in the fridge for now. Cut from the remaining partridge carcass whatever meat you can get and pop it into your food processor – we’ll get back to that later.

To enhance your sauce, make a quick stock: take a medium saucepan and chuck in the remaining partridge carcass, carrots, onion and bay leaf, season and cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer for 20 minutes. Sieve the ‘stock’ into a jug, retaining just 200ml (chuck the rest) and then, using a small balloon whisk, mix in the stock pot. Your stock is now ready. Set aside.

Using a medium-sized frying pan, melt a knob of butter over a moderate heat and then add the mushrooms and thyme, cooking them whilst stirring, for 2 minutes. Throw the cooked mushrooms and thyme together with the cream into the food processor with the partridge. Season and then blend until smooth. If you are preparing in advance you can stick this in the fridge now until you are ready to finish off.

Layout your pasta sheets and using your cookie cutter, cut two circles from each sheet, producing 24 pasta circles. In the centre of 12 of them, place 1 heaped teaspoon of the mushroom/partridge mixture. Brush around the edges with water and then place another pasta circle on top of each and seal, producing 12 ravioli.

Pop a large pan of salted water on a high heat and bring to the boil.

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

In your frying pan, add to any left over juices, your splash of olive oil and half the knob of butter. Once hot, add the partridge breasts and cook skin-side down for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking tray and pop in the oven for 5 minutes, skin-side up.

Returning to your frying pan, add a tiny bit more butter and once hot, chuck in the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes or until they have floated to the top. Remove with your slotted spoon and put three on each plate.

Gradually stir the cream into the mushrooms and stock to create the delicious rich sauce. Transfer to a jug.

Retrieve the partridge breasts from the oven and add to the plates and then pour over the sauce. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Delicious! Serve either just as it is or maybe with some greenery, wilted spinach perhaps. Either way, your partridge with wild mushroom ravioli will be relished: rich, indulgent and absolutely lovely – enjoy!

Inspired by…

James Martin, Saturday Kitchen (I have reduced the amount of butter he is renowned for using!)

How easy…

Really easy if you don’t go down the route of making your own pasta!

 

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.

Fabulous Fish Thermidor

I have my wonderful friend, Helen, to thank for this dish. She produced it at a girls’ lunch and we all demanded copies of the recipe! It is really luscious and spectacularly easy to make. It can also be made in advance and re-heated. It tastes like a treat but is inexpensive to make – what’s not to like? Recreated at home, this is now on the list of ‘regular supper dishes’.

Serves 6

What you need…

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

800g hake, skinned, filleted and cut into 3cm-ish chunks

45g butter

45g flour, sieved

750ml milk/Oatly alternative (to reduce dairy content)

Sea salt and black pepper

Splash rapeseed/olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

300g white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

100ml tomato purée

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

125g Manchego/Cheddar cheese, grated

4 teaspoons brandy

225g raw jumbo king prawns (optional)

What to do…

Preheat oven to 170°c / 325°f / gas 3.

Tip the milk into a medium saucepan and, on a medium heat, gently poach the fish chunks for five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish from the milk and set aside.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. Tip in the flour and quickly stir it in. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a ladle, slowly add your hot milk, stirring in each ladleful before adding the next.

Return the white sauce to the heat and cook until smooth and thickened. Season and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the onion and mushrooms, frying gently until soft. Then, increase the heat to remove any moisture. Add the white sauce together with the tomato purée, mustard, cheese, brandy and the fish. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the mixture into your baking dish, cover and pop in the oven to heat through for about 30 minutes. Wash up your three pans and relax. A delectably delicious dish awaits!

Fabulous fish thermidor is, as the name suggests, fabulous as it is, but if you wanted to add a little luxurious dimension, open the oven after 15 minutes and stir in your raw prawns. Cook for a further 15 minutes or until the prawns are pink.

Serving suggestion…

Steamed cabbage and leek work really well with a baked potato or basmati and wild rice (a current favourite!)

A bit about Manchego…

Manchego cheese has recently been recommended to me by my lovely friend, Jean. It is a cheesemade in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of the Manchego sheep breed. Official Manchego cheese is to be aged for between 60 days and two years, hence it is a little expensive. However, it is soooooooo worth it – absolutely delicious. Having grated enough for the recipe, there was then quite a lot of cheese-snacking to be done whilst preparing the dish. The cheese has a distinctive flavour, well developed but not too strong, creamy with a slight piquancy. I would urge you to try it!

Inspired by…

Lynn Bedford Hall, The Creative Cuisine (thank you again Helen for introducing me to this old but genuinely inspirational book).

How easy…

Wonderfully! I love these dishes that finish themselves off in the oven, while I quickly tidy up the pots and pans and treat myself to a glass of red!

 

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!

 

 

Monkfish Roasted with Parma Ham and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A lovely dish that is easy to make, very easy on the eye and great tasting.

Serves 4

What you need…

1 small jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil

2 large handfuls of fresh basil

Olive oil

16-20 slices of Parma ham

4 x 200g/7oz monkfish tail fillets, trimmed

Sea salt and black pepper

Balsamic vinegar and rocket (optional, to serve)

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. Place sun-dried tomatoes and half their flavoursome preserving oil in a food processor with all the basil and blend until smooth. While blending, add the remaining preserving oil to the paste until it’s nice and spreadable.

Take four A4-sized pieces of greaseproof paper. Rub some olive oil over each piece and lay about 4 slices of Parma ham snugly next to each other, on each piece of paper. Divide your paste into 4, smearing each quarter evenly over the ham. Then, place your monkfish fillets at one end, season, and, using the greaseproof paper as an aid to wrap the monkfish firmly in the Parma ham, fold and roll up. Slide the Parma ham-wrapped monkfish off the greaseproof paper onto an oiled baking tray (with sides as liquid will escape during cooking and make a right mess of the oven – been there, done that!). Roast for 15-20 minutes.

To serve your monkfish roasted with Parma ham and sun-dried tomatoes, either slice up or serve each portion whole, ideally with really buttery mashed potato. Garnish with drizzled balsamic vinegar over the fish and scattered rocket over the whole plate.

It’s quick, gorgeous and looks like it’s taken hours of slaving. Ideal for a dinner party as it can be prepared in advance, kept covered and refrigerated until you are ready to pop it in the oven; or for a family supper when you fancy something a little different.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How Easy…

Very easy and hardly any clearing up!

Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin

A fabulous Autumnal treat that looks and tastes so sumptuous and actually isn’t that difficult to make. Whoever you make it for will be very appreciative! It’s rich and ever so slightly decadent!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 tartlet tin, with 4 8cm holes, greased

1 9-cm cookie cutter

200g ready-made puff pastry (unless you’re on Bake Off, who has the time to make it?!)

2 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

2 plums, stoned and roughly chopped

5 little knobs of butter

4 dessertspoons of honey

30g shallots, chopped

250ml port

500ml chicken/game stock (made from a stock pot and water)

4 duck breasts, similarly sized

225g spinach

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

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

Score the skin on the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern and season well. Put aside for the moment.

Making the jus/sauce: melt the first knob of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking for five minutes on a low heat. Add the port and stock and reduce until the sauce coats the back of the spoon – about 15 minutes. Set to one side – it doesn’t have to be boiling hot to serve but you may want to reheat just before serving to make sure it’s still runny rather than starting to set.

Making your tarte tatins: in your tartlet tin, place a knob of butter in the centre of each ‘mould’ and pour over one dessertspoon honey over each one. Mix together the apple and plums and then take a handful of the mixed fruit, piling it on top of the honey and butter.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 5mm and, using your cookie cutter, cut out four 9cm circles and place over the top of the fruit, tucking the sides in so that you have four upside down tarts. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take a heavy frying pan, turn the hob heat up to a medium high heat and cook the duck breast, skin side down, in the dry pan for about nine minutes, then turn the breast over and cook for a further six minutes. Keep an eye on it – it can scorch quite easily (as evidenced in my photogograph!)

Towards the end of the duck cooking time, wilt the spinach in a pot with just a couple of spoonfuls of water and little salt for two minutes.

To serve, place a mound of spinach on each plate and top with one tarte tatin, removed from the tin and served fruit side up. Put the duck on the plate and drizzle the jus/sauce around the plate.

Delicious doesn’t cover it! This recipe for Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin is a rich, lovely treat, ideal for dinner party. Halve the ingredients and make a sumptuous romantic dinner for two.

Tips…

You’ll have some pastry left over – you could always re-roll it and create another few fruit tatins but for use as desserts or perhaps a couple of Apple Roses (see my other recipes).

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped shallots – quick and saves all that crying!

Inspired by…

Julian Owen-Mold

How easy…

It’s really easy providing the duck breasts are the same size and therefore cook evenly during the same time. It’s quite smelly and the hob will be a mess at the end, but it’s worth it and surely, if you’ve done the cooking, someone else should clear up!