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Little Sticky Toffee Puddings with Naughty, Decadent Sauce

The 2nd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my recipe book: I can see I’m going to get fat doing this – we’re going to have to indulge in these soon!

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 either with double cream or salted caramel ice-cream (recipe to follow later this week). Simply, to die for!

Serving suggestion…

Indulge with a good bottle of dessert wine, Monbazillac, Chateau Peyronnette, 2014 in this instance, takes these little lovelies 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…

Delia Smith, whose fabulous and ingredient-stained ‘Christmas’ cookery book contains the original recipe, un-tinkered-with.

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

The first of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my recipe book, I re-read this recipe and started salivating (sorry, not an attractive notion) to the point that we are having this again this weekend!!!!

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

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 I think works brilliantly)

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!

Trio of New Year’s Eve Puds

Looking forward to a lovely New Year’s Eve get together with friends, where we all contribute a course. Mine, happily, is puds so we have tried and tested recipes: Tiramisu, Luscious Lemon Pavlova (both courtesy of Nigella Lawson) and a half-sized 365 Chocolate Celebration Cake (which is not being shared with friends but devoured by my kids!) Cheers! And wishing everyone a lovely New Year’s Eve and a fabulous 2019 xx

For the recipe for each delectable pud, type in the pudding name in the search box in the top right hand corner of my home page.

Espresso Martini

Discovered by my son, Connagh, when we went out to dinner to celebrate exam results a few years back, this wonderful cocktail presents itself in all innocence but it is in reality deliciously naughty and has the potential to knock your socks off! Rather splendid for a Saturday night, me thinks!

Serves 2

What you need…

100ml vodka

70ml Kalhua/coffee liqueur

2 shots espresso coffee

Ice

Cocktail shaker

Two Martini glasses

What to do…

Pop the Martini glasses in the freezer whilst you make the cocktail.

Tip all the ingredients into the cocktail shaker and shake, shake, shake, smashing up the ice in the process and making this cocktail fabulously chilled.

Pour into your Martini glasses and watch as the cocktail separates to top the dark lushness with a creamy espresso top. Pass one glass to your drinking companion, sip and indulge. Delicious and soooooo naughty. A rich, sweet ice-cold coffee with a tangiable kick. The only problem is that it’s quite difficult to put the glass down – just one more sip…

One, however, is probably enough!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver has published the recipe together with a lovely anecdote as to its creation but we first tried it at the Windsor Grill.

How Easy…

Ridiculously! Also, in our house, Connagh always makes them which means I can sit back and RELAX

 

 

Stilton Soup

I don’t know about you, but inevitably there is a bit of Stilton lurking in our fridge after the festivities and there are only so many times that even I can enjoy cheese and crackers with or without poached pears so this soup is a fabulous recipe for using any leftovers of this lovely delicacy.  It’s absolutely lovely: smooth, rich and really, really flavoursome. Delia reckoned that this recipe would serve 4 – 6 people as a starter but I decided to serve it as an ‘amuse bouche’ (defined as ‘a little bit of food which is served before the meal to stimulate the appetite) in tiny cups, simply because it is sooooo rich. It’s a lovely little taster to kick off a dinner! And there’s no problem with the leftovers – having served four, the rest can be divided into freezer containers, available for a couple of other dinners!

Serves 12 as an Amuse Bouche

What you need…

Splash of rapeseed oil

3 shallots, chopped

1 leek, cleaned and sliced

1 large potato, peeled and chopped into chunks

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

570ml water, boiled from the kettle

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

150 ml dry still cider

110g Stilton cheese, cut into small chunks

275ml milk

1 tablespoon double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, then add the vegetables and a pinch of salt. Pop the lid on and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a small balloon whisk, stir the stockpot into the water until it has dissolved. Set aside your stock.

Stir the flour into the vegetables and, when evenly mixed in, gradually add the cider, stirring the whole time. Add the chicken stock, pop the lid back on the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add the milk and Stilton and increase the heat to high. Stir until the cheese has melted and the soup is just below boiling point. Taste. Season. Taste. When you’re happy with the seasoning, stir in the cream.

Tip the whole lot into your blender and whizz until your Stilton soup is smooth and creamy. Serve – it really is rather delightful and has a definite indulgent feel to it – enjoy!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith,

How easy…

Really, really easy – no effort at all and I love the fact that you can freeze it, ready for future dinners!

Merry Christmas: The Icing on the Cake!

The final finishing touches to my Christmas cake, I love rough royal icing: it’s so forgiving of any patchy marzipan application and also of my total lack of ability to cake-decorate beautifully. Anyway, here we are my attempt. Only two sleeps to go!!!!

Makes enough for a rough snow scene for a 20cm round cake

What you need…

500g icing sugar

3 egg whites from happy eggs

1 teaspoon glycerine

What to do…

Dump the icing sugar and egg whites into a large bowl and whisk together until stiff peaks form, using an electric handheld whisk.  Add the glycerine and whisk until evenly incorporated.

Apply to your cake using palette knife, spreading the icing evenly around the sides and across the top. Use the back of a teaspoon to ‘whip up’ snowy peaks!

Wodge in your chosen figurine(s) and sit back and admire your handiwork! Your Christmas cake is now complete! A glass of fizz would go down nicely now! Merry Christmas!

Tip…

For the ‘frosted’ rosemary that I opted for this year, lightly whisk an egg white until its frothy and then brush fresh rosemary sprigs with it before rolling the sprigs around in caster sugar. Set aside on baking parchment for at least three hours. I also sprinkled a little icing sugar over them. A bit different – I like them anyway!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

As about as simple as it gets!

 

 

Baked Glazed Gammon

Serves 8 with left overs

For many years now, we have reserved the baked gammon for Christmas Eve. When the present-wrapping is all done and all the preparation is finished for the big day, it’s time to sit down for hot gammon sandwiches in squishy, chunky fresh bread, washed down with a glass of fizz. The aroma of this wonderful dish cooking in its final stages is something I will always associate with Christmas but we do sneak it in a couple of other times throughout the year. The spirit of Christmas should be with us all year around, after all!

What you need…

1 x unsmoked gammon joint, weighing about 4 kg

1 carrot, cut in half

1 onion, cut in half at root

1 celery stick

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

for the glaze

8 tablespoons good quality marmalade

2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

2 tablespoons black treacle

A handful of cloves

What to do…

Soak the gammon overnight if you’re having it for lunch or all day if you are having it in the evening. Discard the soaking water before starting.

Put the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with water and add the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, cover and then turn down the heat to a low simmer for 2¾.

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

When the gammon is cooked, remove from the cooking water and set aside to drain.

Make the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients (except the cloves) together in a bowl.

Cut the rind off the gammon, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat diagonally in a criss-cross pattern and then stud with cloves all over. Put the gammon in a roasting tin, brush/spoon over the glaze and bake for about 30 minutes until sticky and golden. The smell will make you swoon! Serve your baked, glazed gammon with warm gorgeous doorstep bread and salted butter. Yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

The easiest baked gammon recipe I have tried and soooooo delicious!

 

 

Christmas Cocktails

 

When I was in my teens, my parents had an annual ritual of inviting friends and neighbours (one and the same?) around for Boxing Day drinks. Proceedings would begin at 11am and conclude at the stroke of 1 o’clock, at which point they would all depart the house to go the pub, where festive celebrations would continue. Apart from being light-headed by midday, what I remember most about these events was the organisation. My mum would get up and prepare the canapés and a buffet in attempt to soak up the vast number of cocktails to be consumed. My job was to make great pitchers of the things in readiness for the onslaught! My father would then jauntily trip (not literally – that would be later) down the stairs, freshly showered 10 minutes before the first of the guests arrived. For years, this was part of Christmas and it was a real enlivener after Christmas Day. So, here are a couple of my favourite cocktails. Raising a glass to my dad – cheers!

Champagne Cocktail

Serves 1 person ready to celebrate

What you need…

1 x Champagne flute

1 sugar cube

Cognac/brandy

Champagne

1 maraschino cherry

What to do…

Pop your sugar cube into the bottom of the Champagne flute and pour in enough Cognac/brandy to soak into the cube. Top up with Champagne and chuck in the cherry if liked. Done! One celebration in a glass!

Baileys Espresso Martini

Serves 1 very lucky person

What you need…

1 x cocktail shaker

1 x martini glass

A handful of ice

50ml Baileys

25ml vodka

1 espresso shot

3 coffee beans to decorate (optional)

What to do…

Chuck all the ingredients (with the exception of the coffee beans) into the cocktail shaker. Pop the lid on (!) and shake like mad. Gently pour into your martini glass and decorate with coffee beans, if using. Find a large comfortable chair to sit in with your Baileys espresso martini, sit back, sip, relax, enjoy, repeat the last three instructions until glass is drained. Merry Christmas!

Tequila Sunrise

Serves 1 person looking for some holiday sunshine in a glass

What you need…

1 x highball glass

A handful of ice

50ml tequila

Fresh orange juice to top up

1 tablespoon grenadine

Half an orange slice

1 maraschino cherry

What to do…

Fill the glass up with ice and pour over the tequila. Top up with orange juice. Pour the grenadine down the side of the glass so that it sinks to the bottom.

Garnish your tequila sunrise cocktail with the half an orange slice and cherry.

Sip and savour the pictures that flood your mind of beach, heat, sunshine, blue skies and lapping waves. Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Christmas and a love of cocktails. Boxing Day frivolities!

How easy…

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvellous Marzipan

 

Lovely afternoon today: it’s raining outside but inside I’ve got the Christmas playlist on whilst marzipanning the Christmas Cake. If you’ve never made marzipan before, give it a go – it tastes fantastic, is nothing like the shop-bought stuff and is dead easy, particularly if you have a stand mixer (chuck in all ingredients, fit the dough hook, turn on a slow speed and let it mix until your marzipan dough is created!!!!)

Lightly fragranced and flavoured with almond and vanilla essences, beautifully emphasising the natural gorgeousness of the moist ground almonds, marzipan is a wonder all by itself (hence the many taste checks!!!!!)Take just a few minutes (that really is all it takes) to make your own: you won’t look back!

Makes enough for the 20cm round Christmas cake already blogged and a large handful left over for general mucking about with or making stollen bites (tomorrow).

What you need…

500g ground almonds

250g caster sugar

250g icing sugar

2 eggs

½ teaspoon almond essence

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

1 teaspoon lemon juice

What to do…

Chuck all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and use and handheld electric whisk to beat everything together. When marble-sized balls have been formed, discard the whisk and use your hands to knead the marzipan together into a dough.

Roll the dough out to your personal desired thickness (I do mine just a little thicker than a pound coin but I know some people prefer more and there’s certainly enough marzipan here to accommodate a greater appetite!)

Measure the height of your cake and cut a long strip of marzipan wide enough to wrap around the cake and deep enough to go from top to bottom.

Brush apricot jam all over the side of the cake and stick your marzipan strip to it.

Likewise with the top. Use the original cake tin that you cooked the Christmas cake in as a template to cut out a circle. Brush the top of the cake with the jam and pop on your marzipan circle. Use your fingertips to blend in the sides and top of the marzipan covering.

Pop in a cake tin and leave to dry out for a couple of days before having fun with icing (blog to follow).

Inspired by…

The cake was Delia’s and the marzipan is inspired by Lisa Faulkner.

How easy…

Just a quick mix of ingredients: couldn’t be easier!

Light, Spiced Christmas Bundt

Made to fill a hole in my day when data was being transferred from my old computer to my new one, this cake was thrown together – I had to swap out a load of the ingredients because I didn’t have the original recommended ones and I didn’t have the right tins (mini bundts) so used my favourite ‘spruce tree’ mould but then had to guess on the cooking time. Imagine my surprise when I tasted it and…..it’s really, really gorgeous (dare I say perhaps even nicer than my Christmas cake….jury’s out on that one!) It definitely has a nod towards Christmas cake with the spices and the fruit, but it’s light as well as moist and just very, very lovely – thrown together in minutes; demolished in seconds!

Serves 12

What you need…

1 x 2.5 litre bundt tin

1 x baking sheet

Olive oil, for greasing

100g sultanas

110g raisins

80g currants

150g dates, chopped

40g walnuts, chopped

125ml brandy

150g butter, softened

135g soft dark brown sugar

2 large, happy eggs, beaten

185g plain flour

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice

60ml milk

Icing sugar, for decorating

What to do…

Tip the fruit, nuts and brandy into a small saucepan over a moderate heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the brandy has been absorbed. Cool completely.

Preheat your oven to 140˚c / 280˚f / gas 1 and slide in your baking sheet.

Tip the butter and sugar into your food processor and whizz until pale and creamy (6 minutes or so). Add the eggs, a little at a time, whizzing to combine. Pour in the milk and whizz again to combine.

Use a piece of olive oil drenched kitchen roll to thoroughly grease your bundt tin.

Tip the fruit mixture, flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a large bowl and mix well, ensuring the fruit is thoroughly covered with flour. Tip the whole lot into your bundt tin and pop it into the oven on the baking tray, baking for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cool in the tin. Use a knife to gently prise away the edges of the cake from the sides of the tin and then invert it out onto a pretty serving plate (some banging of the mould may be required!)

Sift over icing sugar ‘snow’ and serve. Light, delicious and ever so festive.

Inspired by…

The Mail on Sunday ‘You’ magazine

How easy….

Really quick and easy – a great last minute Christmas cake!

 

 

 

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