Sunday, 16 December 2012

Lavender & hazelnut baklava


Ingredients


Filo pastry, hazelnuts,
lavender jam, butter  
Preparation: 1 hour

I love the sticky, crispy combination of Baklava, but whilst honey and pistachio is an incredible combination... it's Autumn and my cupboards are full of hazelnuts, so I thought I'd experiment a little! Typically for me, lavender was first on my list in terms of a sweet, sticky syrup and I think this works really well.

1) Finely chop your hazelnuts or grind in a mortar and pestle until fine crumbs have formed.

2) Stir in a little melted butter to form a relatively dry nut paste.

3) Line a roasting dish with a sheet of filo pastry and top with a layer of the hazelnut paste, a sheet of filo, another layer of the hazelnut paste and repeat for at least 8 layers, pressing down firmly to ensure that they stick.

4) Trim the excess filo from the outside, and cut a cross-hatch through the filo to form diamond shaped portions. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for about 50 minutes, until the pastry is golden bubbly.

5) Pour the lavender jam over the hot pastry, allowing it to soak through the layers.

Butterbean croquettes


Ingredients


400g butterbeans, 1 tbsp Rachel's Organic Greek Yoghurt, 1 leek, butter, parsley, 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp mustard, old bread, 1 egg
Serves: 6 preparation: 45 minutes

Greek cuisine is magnificent. I love the combination of fresh herbs and citrus flavours with savoury ingredients. These croquettes are so simple but they're packed with flavour and the beans make a nice change from potato.

1) Simmer the butterbeans in hot, salted water for 5 minutes, then strain in a colander.

2) Pulse in a blender and then parse through a sieve, leaving the shell behind and a thick almost pate like consistency in the bowl below.

3) Chop the leek and sautee in a little butter until completely soft. Stir into the bean paste along with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, freshly chopped parsley and a little mustard and Greek yoghurt.

4) Roll the mixture into croquettes. At this stage, if you're preparing ahead you can refrigerate them until you're ready to cook.

5) Whisk an egg into a dish and pulse some stale bread in the blender to form breadcrumbs. Dip the croquette in the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs until thoroughly coated.

6) The traditional Greek method of cooking is to fry them until the breadcrumbs crumbs are crispy. Personally I find baking them in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 degrees to be more than satisfactory and certainly more healthy!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Apple roast vegetables


Ingredients


10 Exquisa potatoes, 2 carrots, 2 parsnips, 2 apples, olive oil,

parsley, basil.
Serves: 4 preparation: 1 hour

French, or haute cuisine would have us believe that the success of a dish, depends on the quality of the sauce. Whilst a good sauce can absolutely transform a dish and demonstrate the skill of the chef... it doesn't need to be anything complex to impress. This cooking technique is a combination of Italian-style olive oil roasting and steaming which retains every bit of the flavour of the ingredients and forms a wonderful, tangy apple sauce. Perfect when served with pork as part of a Sunday roast.

1) Slice the potatoes in half, peel the carrot and potato and cut into chunks roughly the same size as the potatoes.

2) Peel and core the apple, then slice into small chunks

3) Toss the apple and vegetables in olive oil, salt, black pepper, freshly chopped parsley and basil, then roast for an hour in a covered dish at 200 degrees. I toss the dish half way through, then again at the end of the hour, causing the softened apple to coat the vegetables like a sauce.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Mulled wine cake


Ingredients

250g butter, 250g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 250g icing sugar, 4 eggs, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1 3/4 cups red wine, 1/4 cup stem ginger, 2 tsp allspice, 2 tsp ground ginger, 3 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 150g marscapone, juice and zest of 1 orange

Serves: 10 Preparation: 1 hour

The lovely and fabulous @tiger_tea and I were recently discussing alternatives to Christmas fruit cake this week. Quite frankly, I love a nice slice of fruit cake at Christmas, especially with a slice of cheddar on the top (oh come on, you know by now that for me, cheese goes with everything!) but as not everyone likes it, I present this magnificent alternative. After all, what is more Christmassy than mulled wine? Booze, spice, citrus, warmth. OH MY LORD! GET IN MY BELLY! This cake is rich and dark with a layer of creamy orange marscapone in the centre.

1) Sift together the dry ingredients and chop the crystallised ginger.

2) Cream the butter and sugar together, and then whisk in the eggs, wine and orange zest.

3) Beat in the dry ingredients and the ginger bit by bit.

4) Pour into two cake tins and bake for 40 minutes at 175 degrees, until a skewer comes out clean. Set aside to cool. Your house will smell incredible. You're welcome.

5) Whip together the orange juice and marscapone and sweeten to taste with a little sugar. Leave to firm in the fridge at the cake cools, then use to sandwich the two halves together.

6) Dust the surface of the cake with a little cinnamon, cocoa powder and icing sugar mixture.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Apple, Fennel & Mozzarella salad


Ingredients


1 Apple, mozzarella, 1 fennel bulb, pork loin, bread, balsamic vinegar, cucumber 
 

Serves: 2 preparation: 10 minutes

First things first - do not even attempt this recipe if you have chilled mozzarella. I know that I say this every time, but mozzarella needs to be at room temperature - chilled mozzarella is rubbery and flavour impaired - room temperature mozzarella is yielding, 
meltingly perfect and tastes wonderful. This salad works really well with layers of seared pork medallion but I went for layers of lightly toasted bread being a vegetarian and it worked beautifully. The sweetness of the apple, the fragrance of the fennel... gorgeous. This also works really well with a good sharp goats cheese.

1) Remove the core from the apple and slice finely with a mandoline. Mine allows me to slice straight into matchsticks, but if yours does not - slice the slices into matchsticks! Repeat for the fennel and the cucumber and toss together in a bowl.

2) Layer in a circle mould with the cheese and meat/bread - packing the salad down quite tightly.

3) Serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze

Earl Grey apricot Tartlets


Ingredients


dried apricots, 2 earl grey teabags,
25g sugar, Pastry: 1 tsp sugar, 250g butter, 250g plain flour.

Makes: 6 Preparation: X

I am a huge lover of Earl Grey tea. For me the traditional delicacy of assam and ceylon leaves infused with the richness of bergamot oil can only be beaten with a Provenciale twist of lavender. I keep desperately trying to like Teapigs' twist of using Darjeeling leaves, but the flavour is far too alien for me to convince my brain, unless I sugar it, which goes against my purist principles! Sweetness is the key though, and these exquisite little apricot tartlets are just perfect for the unique flavour of Teapigs Darjeeling Earl Grey.

1) Put the apricots into a pyrex jug along with your teabags, and pour over just enough hot water to cover them. Leave to soak (ideally overnight but 5 hours will suffice if you're pressed for time!) until the apricots puff up.

2) To make sweet puff pastry: Add the room temperature butter to the flour and sugar and rub together loosely. Don't mix it too thoroughly - you want to still see the butter. Add about 100ml of COLD water and mix until you have a rough but firm dough. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Roll out from left to right onto a lightly floured surface - you should see marbled butter at this stage. Fold in half and roll out again from left to right. Fold once more, then cover with cling film and chill for another 20 minutes before using.

3) Roll out the pastry and cut out circles of dough.



4) Pour out the tea into the saucepan, add 25g caster sugar and reduce to a sugar syrup.

3) Slice the apricots in half and add to the pan. Allow to simmer in the syrup for 2-3 minutes, then spoon a sticky, syrupy apricot half onto each pastry circle.

4) Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes at 200 degrees until the pastry has just puffed up and the apricot has just begun to caramelise in the sugar. Serve hot or cold

Spinach, Feta & Tomato pastie


Ingredients


100g spinach, 50g feta, 1 tomato, 
Rachel's Organic Greek Yoghurt, Jus-Rol™ or 250g plain flour, 1 tsp salt, 250g butter to make Puff pastry.


Serves: 2 Preparation: 1 hour and a half

I have long been a slave to the Greek perfection of spinach and feta pie - fine layers of crispy filo are all well and good, but sometimes I like to vary this dish by adding the sharp, sweetness of tomato and switching filo pastry for puff pastry instead so that I can make lots of individual pasties instead of one big pie.

1) To make puff pastry: Add the room temperature butter to the flour and salt and rub together loosely. Don't mix it too thoroughly - you want to still see the butter. Add about 100ml of COLD water and mix until you have a rough but firm dough. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Roll out from left to right onto a lightly floured surface - you should see marbled butter at this stage. Fold in half and roll out again from left to right. Fold once more, then cover with cling film and chill for another 20 minutes before using.

2) Roll out the pastry and cut into sections for your pasties. Spread a layer of Greek Yoghurt over half of the pastry and press the spinach into it. 

3) Layer the feta and spinach, pressing down quite firmly to avoid trapped air.

4) Slice the tomato in half and slice out the core and seeds, leaving the flesh. Slice into strips and rest on the top of the spinach and feta.

5) Fold the empty half of the pastry over the toppings, pressing down again to ensure that there isn't any air trapped inside, and tightly fold and crimp the edges to form a seal. Prick a hole for the spinachey steam to rise out, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Cinnamon scotch pancakes

Ingredients

100g Self Raising Flour, 50g
Caster Sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1
egg, splash of milk

Serves: 6 Preparation: 30 minutes

I have recently become obsessed with the combination of cinnamon and black cherries, and this recipe has been the ultimate Saturday morning breakfast for me. Thick, fluffy pancakes, loaded with the warmth of cinnamon and layered with the sticky sweetness of my black jerry jam - what could be better?

1) Crack an egg into a bowl and whisk thoroughly.

2) Sift the flour, sugar and cinnamon into the bowl, adding a splash of milk until the batter is thick, but smooth. Leave to rest for at least 10 minutes, preferably an hour.

3) Stir through and ladle a spoon full of batter into a hot pan. Using a spatula, work round the edges, then when bubbles begin to appear in the surface of the pancake batter, flip over.

4) Each side should cook in about 2 minutes, giving you light, fluffy pancakes. These can be eaten immediately or toasted later.

I served these layered with my black cherry jam.

Lemon & sultana scotch pancakes

Ingredients

100g Self Raising Flour, 50g Caster
Sugar, 1 egg, juice of 1 lemon,
2 tbsp sultanas

Serves: 6 preparation: 30 minutes

Before I learned to make Scotch pancakes in my teens, I remember my father buying lemon and raison ones from the supermarket. The few which were not tragically burned (my father cannot be trusted with a toaster), tasted lovely - but you will never know the true wonder of these fluffy, thick, amazing pancakes unless you make them fresh. I use sultanas, as I love the plump juiciness, and fresh lemon juice instead of the delicate lemon zest that a typical recipe will recommend. Give them a try!

1) Soak the sultanas in the juice of 1 lemon whilst you crack the egg into a bowl and whisk thoroughly.

2) Sift in the flour and sugar along with the lemon juice and sultanas and whisk into a batter. Leave to rest for at least 10 minutes, ideally an hour.

3) Stir through and ladle a spoon full of batter into a hot pan. Using a spatula, work round the edges, then when bubbles begin to appear in the surface of the pancake batter, flip over.

4) Each side should cook in about 2 minutes, giving you light, fluffy pancakes. These can be eaten immediately or toasted later. Best served with butter.

Spanish-style potatoes

Ingredients

5 small potatoes (I used Exquisa),
1 tbsp paprika, 
butter, 1 bell
pepper, 2 tomatoes

Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour


Potatas bravas, with that base of paprika and tomato, is the ultimate taste of Spain for me. Since becoming pregnant I have had to reduce my obsession with spicy food in order to avoid the dreaded heartburn, but I was surprised that taking away the heat of the chilli really didn't detract from the warmth and comfort of this wonderful dish. I served my leftovers the next night stirred through with kale and a dollop of Rachel's organic Greek yoghurt, and it was absolutely marvellous.

1) Slice the potatoes to 1/2 centimetre thickness, skins and all, then sautee in a little butter for 5 minutes.

2) Slice the top and core from the bell pepper, then cut into slivers. Slice the tomato into quarters, remove the seeds and core, leaving just the flesh and cut into slivers.

3) Stir the paprika, peppers and tomatoes in with the potatoes, season with a little salt, then transfer to a casserole dish with a lid. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 180 degrees, then serve.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Roast peppers with lavender goats cheese


Ingredients

1 Bell pepper, lavender goats
cheese, lavender vinaigrette,
spinach, rocket, watercress

Serves: 2 preparation: 30 minutes

This recipe uses two of my recent lavender recipes - lavender goats cheese and lavender vinaigrette. It might sound like a whole lot of lavender... but you can never have too much. This is absolutely delicious, and such a lovely twist of the classic roast pepper and goats cheese combination.

1) Slice the tops from your bell peppers, remove the core and seeds, then slice between the membranes to leave 3 or 4 slices of pepper flesh. Discard the core, seeds and membranes. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees.

2) Top a slice of bread with the roast pepper, and add the lavender goats cheese balls. Roast in the oven for a further 5 minutes, then dress with the salad and eat hot.

Lavender goats cheese


Ingredients

1 tbsp lavender, 1 litre goats milk,
7 drops vegetarian rennet,  
Preparation: 20 minutes, plus overnight.

If you have never made your own cheese... why not? It's super easy to make goats cheese and it's SO YUMMY. I love fresh goats cheese rolled in lavender to flavour it for cooking, but the flavour is so much better if you actually incorporate the lavender into the cheese. 


1) You need blood temperature goats milk (37 degrees) for cheese. If you have access to fresh goats milk 1 - I hate you 2 - this stage is not necessary.
I warmed my milk and lavender in a pan very slowly using a meat thermometer, but rule of thumb is if you put your thumb in and can't feel any change in temperature, it's OK. 

2) Stir through the vegetarian rennet, then leave in the pan for about 15 minutes to allow the curds and whey to separate.

3) Cut up the curd into small chunks, then transfer to a sieve lined with muslin. Tie the ends of the muslin together with a bit of string so that the curd is enclosed, then set the sieve over a bowl and leave overnight.

The whey will drain away, leaving soft goats cheese in the bundle of muslin. I roll mine into little balls, but you can keep this in a block in the fridge like any other cheese.

Avocado egg mayonnaise


Ingredients


1 avocado, 2 eggs.
Serving suggestion:
bacon, spinach, read   
 

Serves: 2 Preparation: 10 minutes

Being all pregnant and stuff, I cannot make my own mayonnaise as I'm not allowed unpasteurised, raw egg things. I know that I can buy pregnancy-friendly mayonnaise but it makes my soul die just a little bit. My solution was to puree some gorgeous creamy avocado instead. Oh so silky, oh so yummy and much better for you than mayonnaise as avocado is a Good Fat!
My darling hubby enjoyed this as part of his bacon sandwich.


1) Boil the eggs for 8 minutes, then remove the shells and cut into chunks

2) Halve the avocados and scoop the fruit from the shell, discarding the stone. Pulse in the blender until smooth, then season with salt and black pepper to taste.

3) Stir the eggs into the avocado and you're done!

Pancetta, leek & gruyere risotto


Ingredients


1 cup risotto rice, 1 cup cider, 1
white onion, 1 pint ham stock, 1
leek, 100g pancetta, 100g gruyere

Serves: 2 Preparation: 30 minutes

Piggy bits, leek and some sort of cheese have been combined many times in this blog. There is a good reason for this - it's delicious comfort food for people who eat meat, and what is more comforting than a risotto?! All risottos (no matter what the ingredients) can be made in 3 simple stages. The first is called tostatura - coating the rice in fat, the second involves cooking off some alcohol and the third involves releasing the starch from the rice one ladle of stock at a time.

1) Dice the leek and sautee in a little butter until soft. Add the risotto rice and stir until the rice becomes transparent, revealing a white dot in the centre and pour in the cider.

2) Once the alcohol cooks off, add the first ladle of stock and stir through.

3) Continue adding the stock to the risotto, one ladle at a time, adding the pancetta with the second to last ladle of stock.

4) Stir through the grated gruyere and serve.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Lavender vinaigrette


Ingredients

1 tsp grainy mustard, 1 tbsp
olive oil, 1/2 lemon, 1 tsp
lavender, 1 tsp honey (or agave syrup) 
 
Serves: 4 Preparation: 5 minutes

It's no secret that I love lavender, or that this Proven├žal glory features heavily in my cooking. The vinaigrette is one of the best loved French influences and adding lavender and lemon in place of herbs and vinegar gives this a really wonderful twist. Perfect with peppery salad leaves like rocket and watercress.

1) Add the honey into the lemon juice and whisk together - the fruit acid should help even crystallised honey break down and integrate well.

2) Grind the dried lavender in a mortar and pestle and add to the honey and lemon along with the olive oil and whisk thoroughly.

3) Toss your salad leaves in the dressing and serve.

Bacon croutons


Ingredients


Bacon
 

Preparation: 20 minutes

Bacon has achieved cult status. Not only are people cooking with bacon in innovative ways (People I follow on Twitter have made bacon and maple cupcakes, whiskey bacon jam and bacon vodka), but sites like IWOOT are flogging Christmas products GALORE from bacon lip balm, bacon soap, bacon mints, bacon toothpaste and even bacon underwear.
I'm not a faddy or gimmicky person, I'd rather cook something because the flavours genuinely work. In this case, I think bacon croutons are a good nod to the bacon trend without actually selling out!!

1) Trim the fat from your bacon and roll it up tightly. 

2) Slice into 1.5cm rolls and skewer them tightly together onto a cocktail stick.

3) Bake in the oven for 18 minutes at 200 degrees until the bacon is crispy.

4) Serve hot or cold on top of your soup.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Pork & roast pepper risotto


Ingredients


400g sausage meat, bell peppers, ham stock, cayenne pepper, butter, 1 cup risotto rice, paprika, lime, oregano, 1 glass white wine, 1 white onion. 
Serves: 2 Preparation: X

All risottos (no matter what the ingredients) can be made in 3 simple stages. The first is called tostatura - coating the rice in fat, the second involves cooking off some alcohol and the third involves releasing the starch from the rice one ladle of stock at a time. For this dish, I took my inspiration from Cajun flavours to create the perfect comfort food.

1) To make the meatballs, put a tsp paprika, a tsp oregano, a squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper in a blender along with the pork mince, and pulse until combined. Form small meatballs by rolling in your hands and seal them in a hot pan with a little butter. Set aside.

2) Remove the core and seeds from your bell peppers and slice between the membranes. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes at 200 degrees and set aside.

3) Dice the white onion and sautee in a little butter until soft. Add the risotto rice and stir until the rice becomes transparent, revealing a white dot in the centre and pour in the white wine.

4) Once the wine cooks off, add the first ladle of stock and stir through.

5) Continue adding the stock to the risotto, one ladle at a time, adding the meatballs and roast pepper with the second to last ladle of stock.

6) Serve, seasoned with paprika.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Stuffed Pumpkin: Saffron & orange cous-cous


Ingredients

Pinch saffron, zest & juice of 1 orange, paprika, chilli powder, giant/Israeli cous-cous 


Preparation: 45 minutes

Halloween is a comin' and I'm filled with festive ideas for serving food. These TEENY PUMPKINS are adorable but there's not a lot of good eating in them, so they're merely a receptacle for this exotic mixture of meltingly soft giant cous-cous and tangy spices.

1) Slice the top from your munchkin pumpkin and carve out the flesh and seeds.

2) Roast in the oven for 25 minutes and set aside.

3) To make the filling - Pour the cous-cous into a pan of boiling water with a pinch of saffron and stir through for 6-8 minutes before straining in a sieve. Stir in the orange zest, iuice paprika and chilli powder.

4) Spoon the filling into the munchkin pumpkin and bake for a further 15 minutes before serving.

Stuffed pumpkin: Beef & chorizo mole


Ingredients

Chorizo, beef, white onion, dark chocolate, tomato puree, mixed beans, red wine, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, olive oil 


Preparation: 45 minutes

Halloween is a comin' and I'm filled with festive ideas for serving food. These TEENY PUMPKINS are adorable but there's not a lot of good eating in them, so they're merely a receptacle for this amazingly rich, beef and chorizo Mexican Mole. If you're a vegetarian - here's how to make my Quorn mole.

1) Slice the top from your munchkin pumpkin and carve out the flesh and seeds.

2) Roast in the oven for 25 minutes and set aside.

3) To make the filling - melt 4 squares of dark chocolate in a pan and add 1 finely chopped white onion and a glug of olive oil. When the onions have just begin to soften add the beef and chopped chorizo and stir thoroughly until the chocolate has coated the onions and meat. Add in 1 tablespoon of tomato puree, a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper and a teaspoon of chopped coriander. Stir thoroughly and add in a glug of red wine with the mixed beans - red kidney beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans and haricot beans (Tesco sell "taco beans" for convenience) and stir well.

4) Spoon the filling into the munchkin pumpkin and bake for a further 15 minutes before serving.

Stuffed Pumpkin: Leek & cheddar


Ingredients

1 leek, cheddar, munchkin pumpkin, breadcrumbs, butter

Preparation: 45 minutes

Halloween is a comin' and I'm filled with festive ideas for serving food. These TEENY PUMPKINS are adorable but there's not a lot of good eating in them, so they're merely a receptacle for the savoury, sweet ooze of brioche, cheese and leek. Mmmmm.

1) Slice the top from your munchkin pumpkin and carve out the flesh and seeds.

2) Roast in the oven for 25 minutes and set aside.

3) Slice your leek and sautee in butter until completely soft. Grate some cheddar and combine until the cheese is incorporated.

4) Spoon into the munchkin pumpkin, layered with breadcrumbs (I used brioche because I love the contrast of sweet and savoury), then replace the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Potato & halloumi salad

Ingredients

Exquisa potatoes, halloumi, 
 Rachel's Organic Greek Yoghurt  cucumber, mint, spinach, rocket,
Serves: 2 preparation: 30 minutes

Since doing a pregnant, I have had to stop making my own mayonnaise and buy some Hellman's instead and for the most part, I just can't bear the thought of it. As a result, this mint & cucumber yoghurt dressing was born! It's perfect with the salty tang of halloumi and some crisp salad greens.

1) Boil the potatoes in hot salted water for 20 minutes, run under the cold tap for a minute, then slice in half and set aside to cool.

2) As the potatoes are cooking, slice your halloumi and grill for a couple of minutes until one side turns golden and the other remains gorgeously gooey.

3) Peel about an inch and a half of a cucumber and slice the flesh from the juicy seeds in the centre. Discard the seeds and pop the flesh into a blender along with 3 or 4 mint leaves and 3 tablespoons of Greek Yoghurt. Pulse until combined, then stir in the potatoes and halloumi and serve.

Macaroni Peas


Ingredients


1 1/2 cups macaroni, 2 cups garden peas, 150ml milk, cheddar cheese
Serves: 4 preparation: 30 minutes

I can't believe that after almost 500 recipes, I have never shared this with you. Macaroni Cheese is one of those comforting childhood dishes that almost everyone loves (unless of course you've only ever had it out of a packet. Poor thing). Rather than the traditional roux-based sauce (flour + flour? Nonsense poopypants!) I prefer to make mine out of just milk and cheese so that there's less butter involved, though you could use cream if you're feeling super indulgent. The addition of wonderful, sweet, fresh garden peas to this pasta makes it feel far less naughty.

1) Cook the macaroni for 10 - 12 minutes in hot salted water, adding the peas during the last minute (frozen) or the last 4 minutes (freshly podded).

2) As the pasta is cooking, add the milk in a milk pan along with at least 150g grated cheddar (if you prefer your sauce thicker or stronger flavoured, add more) and stir through as the milk warms. Do not allow the milk to boil, but keep it at an even temperature.

3) Strain the pasta and peas, then stir into the cheese sauce. Decant into a casserole dish and top with another layer of grated cheese (I like to add a little parmigiana to).

4) Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 5 minutes, until the cheese is golden bubbly.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Chocolate macarons


Ingredients


100g double cream, 100g dark chocolate, 2g butter, 25g chocolate powder, 2 egg whites, 65g ground almonds, 60g caster sugar, 85g icing sugar, salt 
Serves: 10 Preparation: 1 hour

This recipe is dedicated to the lovely Shanda! See I promised I would make something conventional instead of a crazy lavender concoction... though I promise my lavender macaron recipe is coming... it's too good not to share!

I'm not going to lie to you, macarons are hard to get right and I've heard a million and one different ways to make them - French style, Italian style, even adding powdered eggs of all things but I think macarons are quite quick to make once you get the knack, don't be put off!

1) Whisk the egg whites along with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form, then add in the caster sugar, continuing to whisk until stiff peaks are formed.

2) Sift the icing sugar, chocolate powder and ground almonds together, fold it into the egg whites and then beat the holy crap out of it until it's a good piping texture.

3) Line a baking tray with baking parchment, then pipe the mixture into blobs. This next stage sounds weird, but trust me it's necessary - drop the baking tray a couple of times onto your worktop to flatten the blobs. Leave to rest for half an hour to allow the mixture to dry.

4) Bake for 5 minutes at 180 degrees, then open the door for a few seconds to let out some steam. Bake for a further 5 minutes before opening the door again, then a further 5-7 minutes.

5) The macarons should slide straight off the baking parchment if they're ready - if they stick then give them another minute for good measure.

6) To make the filling, melt your chocolate into your cream and set it aside to cool. Beat in your butter until a stiff ganache has formed, then pipe it onto half of your macarons and sandwich together with the other shells.

Personally I think fresh macarons are underrated - make them a day in advance so that the ganache makes the centre soft and the outside dries a little.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Tinkerbell poppers


Ingredients


Tinkerbell peppers, cream cheese, jalepenos, cheddar.

Preparation: 30 minutes

When I was a teenager, my father worked for a gourmet food company which provided ultra posh frozen foods - people used to buy catering packs of beef wellington when having a dinner party. Their jalepeno poppers were my first experience of this Americanised version of the Mexican classic chile relleno. Any time I have had them since, my lingering impression has been greasy breadcrumbs, cheap cream cheese and jalepenos that have lost all their heat. Very sad. When I saw these adorable little Tinkerbell peppers, I knew that they'd be the perfect ingredient for me to reinvent the popper. Cool, creamy oozing cheese with a fiery bite contrasts wonderfully with these sweet, juicy peppers. Cheeky Tinkerbell would be very proud to be associated with these saucy minxes.

1) Slice the tops from the peppers (but do not discard) and remove the seeds.

2) Dice jalepenos, grate cheddar and stir into cream cheese at a ratio of two parts cheese and jalepeno to two parts cream cheese.

3) Pack tightly into the peppers and replace the lids. The cream cheese works as a sort of mortar and will seal the lid if you smooth a little around the join. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes on a medium heat, then serve hot. Magnificent.

Beetroot, apple & feta tart


Ingredients


2 Beetroots, 100g feta, 1 apple,
1 leek, 3 eggs, 50ml double cream, 
4oz plain flour, 2oz butter.

Serves: 6 Preparation: 1 hour

To describe this tart, oh where do I begin!? Is it the salty, creamy tang of feta and leek, the earthy beetroot or the sweetness of the apple that makes it so utterly delicious? Chances are it's all of them! Just trust me when I say that the combination of crisp, buttery pastry and the silky tang of the filling makes this one fabulous autumn treat.

1) To make the shortcrust pastry measure 4oz of plain flour and 2oz of cold butter. Cut the butter into small cubes and drop along with the flour into a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Drip in 2-3 tablespoons of cold water until the mixture quickly forms a ball. Wrap this in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 15 minutes. Once chilled, roll out and press firmly into a pastry case. Bake blind for 5 minutes and set aside to cool.

2) To prepare the beetroot, wash it and slice off the stalks and leaves. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Carefully peel the beetroot with the nick of a knife and set aside to cool.

3) Slice the leeks and peel, core and dice the apple. Sautee in a little butter for 5 minutes until soft, then spoon onto the pastry case and spread evenly.

4) Slice the beetroot and feta into even chunks and arrange over the leeks and apples.

5) Whisk the eggs and cream and pour over the other ingredients, then bake for 12 minutes on a medium heat. Serve hot and cold.

Spicy polenta chips


Ingredients


1 cup polenta, vegetable stock, jalepenos, chilli flakes, coriander, butter, cheddar
Serves: 4 preparation: 1 hour 30

Polenta is a marvellous alternative to potato, for those who cannot eat them - or just fancy a change! I have posted a recipe previously for polenta French fries, which I think are absolutely heavenly - but these chunky, spicy chips are  equally gorgeous. Polenta doesn't fluff up exactly like a potato, but it does remain soft in the centre and crispy on the outside which is all one can ask for!

1) Measure out the polenta into a milk pan, and slowly add the vegetable stock until you achieve a porridge like consistency.

2) Finely dice the jalape├▒os and add to the polenta. Grate in a little cheddar, then add chilli flakes and finely chopped coriander. Make it as spicy as you like - personally if my mouth isn't smoking, it's not hot enough for me but you should cook according to your own taste.

3) Spoon the polenta mixture onto a baking tray or into a square baking dish and smooth with a spatula. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.




4) Turn out the solid polenta block and slice into sections to make your chips.

5) Shallow fry in a tablespoon of butter, turning regularly until a golden crust is formed, then serve hot.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Roast carrot & ginger soup with Wensleydale


Ingredients


5 Carrots, 
100ml orange juice, 1/4 medium ginger root, rapeseed oil. 
 

Serves: 2 Preparation: 2 hours

Winter is drawing in and we need to carb up! This soup is fresh and zingy with a gorgeous sticky crumble of Wensleydale to finish. When you boil carrots to soften them for soup, the colour always leaches away and they loose that lustrous orange hue. By roasting the carrots they maintain their natural sweetness and don't lose any of the flavour.

1) Peel the carrots and top and tail them, then peel and dice the ginger. Drizzle with a generous glug of rapeseed oil and roast in the oven at 200 degrees for an hour and a half, until the surface begins to colour and they become "bendy"

2) Pulse the carrots in a blender, adding the orange juice about half way through. Thin out with a little water, though personally I like this soup to be quite thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3) Transfer to a pan to warm through, and serve crumbled with a little fruit Wensleydale.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Olive Scones


Ingredients


250g self raising flour, 50g butter, 75ml buttermilk, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 10 olives 
Makes: 8 Preparation: 30

Savoury scones are something that I have experimented with quite often for this blog. From stilton and walnut to pesto, the humble scone is pretty easy to sex up. The result of my latest experimentation are these buttery, crumbly scones, stuffed with juicy, tangy olives. Oh my!

1) Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2) Pit and halve the olives, then halve again and add to the bowl.
3) Mix the buttermilk in with the dry ingredients until a dough has formed.

4)  Roll out the dough on a floured surface and then fold it in half and roll again. Cut out rounds of pastry with a scalloped cutter and brush with the last drizzles of the milk to help the surface colour.

5) Bake at 200 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Roast tomato & olive soup


Ingredients


2 lbs tomatoes, 1/2 onion, 1 pint vegetable stock, kamalata olives, butter. 
Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour

I love soup. I find all the chopping, stirring and pureeing very soothing, the warm smells that fill the house comforting, and I love ladling out steamy bowls of soup for people to dunk hot crispy bread into, dressing it with ever more creative croutons or swirls of cream and yoghurt. This soup is nothing short of fabulous. The salty tang of the olives brings an extra dimension to the rich, savoury tomatoes - this is definitely not one you'll get bored of!

1) Roast the whole tomatoes and for 20 minutes at 200 degrees, then add to a blender and puree.

2) Peel and finely dice half an onion and sautee in a little butter. Pass the tomato flesh through a sieve, into the pan of onions, then add the vegetable stock.

3) Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally then pass through a sieve a second time to separate the onions.

4) Pit the olives and chop finely. Stir into the soup and serve.

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