Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Truffled carrot & pumpkin soup


1 can pumpkin puree, 1 cup pearl barley, 5 carrots, 1 tbsp truffle oil, 1/2 pint vegetable stock, 1 tsp sage.

Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour 30 minutes

There is very little more comforting than pumpkin soup. Whether sweet or spicy, it has such a lovely thick, creamy texture. I like to add pearl barley or beans to thick soups and I think this works So well.

1) Peel and roughly chop the carrots, then add to a roasting dish with the truffle oil. Toss to ensure the carrots are evenly coated, then roast for 45 minutes at gas mark 7.

2) Add the pearl barley to the veg stock and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

3) Puree the carrots in a food processor and add to the veg stock along with the pumpkin puree. Simmer on a low heat for a further 20 minutes and serve hot, drizzled with truffle oil.

Spinach & mushroom soup


1/2 pint ham stock, 1 medium potato, 400g spinach, 250g chestnut mushrooms, 50ml sherry (I use amontillado for cooking), 1 tbsp butter.
Serves: 2 Preparation: 30 minutes

Despite being allergic to mushrooms, I do dearly love chopping them up. My husband loves eating them so I get the opportunity to lay into them with my big bad chef's knife on a regular basis. The challenge with cooking mushrooms though, is that obviously I cannot taste them because DEATH, so I rely on my sense of smell. This soup smells nothing short of INCREDIBLE. There is nothing like the combined scent of mushroom and sherry - it's so rich and fragrant and yet earthy all at the same time. This soup was very silky in texture and my husband assured me, absolutely delicious. Let me know what you think!

1) Slice the mushrooms and peel and dice the potato. Melt the butter in the pan and stir in the mushrooms. After 5 minutes, stir in the spinach. It may seem like it won't all fit in the pan but once it begins to wilt the volume will decrease don't worry!

2) Once the spinach has wilted, add the potatoes and stir through, allowing the combined juices from the mushrooms and spinach to begin to soften the potatoes. Add the sherry and stir through - try not to begin frothing at the mouth with lust at the rich, raisiny smell.

3) Add the ham stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Blitz through in a food processor or using a stick blender until a smooth consistency is reached and serve hot.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Spinach & nutmeg en cocotte


Per two eggs: 100g spinach, 50g manchego, 1 clove garlic, nutmeg, black pepper, bread.

Serves: 1 person per egg Preparation: 15 minutes

Eggs en cocotte are essentially baked eggs with STUFF, which let's be honest is a scrumptious concept. When topping food with a poached egg, the yolk is the best part - a luscious creamy puddle of sauce - and the white is merely a boring flavourless shell so I like to take the opportunity to sex up the white of an egg, then put it back together again as above. Spinach, nutmeg, cheese, garlic... what is not to love?

1) Chop the spinach (or blitz it in a food processor) and sautee it in a pan along with the crushed garlic. Give it a good squeeze to make sure there is no excess spinachy juice, then grate in the manchego and season with black pepper and nutmeg.

2) Separate the egg white from the yolk and whisk the white lightly into the spinach mixture until just combined. Decant into ramekins and then add one yolk per ramekin.

3) Sit the ramekins in a baking tray filled with boiling water and bake in the oven at gas mark 5 for 8-10 minutes (until the white barely wobbles).

Serve with dippy bread and revel in the lusciousness!

Harissa rice with grapes


Grapes, rice, bell pepper, Smoked chillis, garlic salt, paprika, mint, rose petals, cumin, caraway seeds, olive oil.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Harissa is one of those ingredients that I just can't live without. Stir it into yoghurt for an instant dip of GLORY, spread it on sandwiches, thin with a little oil for a fabulous marinade... it is just altogether yummy. The sweet refreshing pockets of juicy grape in this otherwise spicy dish are absolute perfection.

To Make Harissa:

Remove the core and seeds from the bell pepper, then grill until the skin is almost completely blackened. Allow it to cool, then peel off the charred skin carefully.

2) Blitz the dried, smoked chilli in a blender, then add to a mortar and pestle and grind into a relatively fine dry paste. The ratio of spices is relatively simple for my recipe, though of course you can adjust for taste. Add 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp caraway seeds and grind into the chilli. Add a teaspoon of oil.

3) Add the bell pepper, 2 or 3 mint leaves and the rose petals (about half the petals from a single red rose) into a blender and pulse, then combine the rose, mint and pepper mixture into the spice and oil paste.

4) Stir into boiled rice, adding halved grapes and serve. Beautiful hot and cold!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Greek stuffed tomatoes


200g Lamb mince, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp thyme, 2 cloves garlic, 50g breadcrumbs, 10 beef tomatoes.
Serves: 10 Preparation: 1 hour

These tomatoes are filled with the rich, warm flavour of moussaka and make a wonderful low-maintenance appetiser.

1) Either mix by hand, or add to a food processor the lamb, herbs, spices, mince and crushed garlic. Season with salt and black pepper and combine.

2) Slice the tops from the tomatoes and carefully cut the solid core with a knife. Insert a fork into the core and twist to remove, scoop out the seeds and discard.

3) Pack the mince tightly into the tomatoes, pressing down firmly, then replace the lids.

4) Bake in the oven at gas mark 5 for 45 minutes and serve hot.

Russian rose tea


Tea leaves, 200g black cherries, 100g sugar, dried rose petals.
Preparation: X

"In Russia, we sweeten our tea with cherries" said Mikhail Baryshnikov in Sex And The City and amen to that! Being somewhat of a real tea enthusiast, I am pretty passionate about the culture and history of how tea is enjoyed around the world. From Kyoto to Paris and Morocco to Assam I think I have tried it every which way (always loose. Fnar) but having said that, I can't say that I'm a fan of Lapsang - Russian Caravan tea is too bitter and smoky for my tastes, but when served with my rose and black cherry syrup it is transformed and I could sup it by the gallon!

1) Pit the cherries and add to a milk pan along with the sugar, dried rose petals and 50ml water. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and a syrup forms. Pass through a sieve.

2) Make your pot of tea and add the syrup, to taste.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Irish rarebit


Bread, 200g Irish cheddar, 100ml Guinness, spring onions, butter, 1 tsp mustard, pepper, 50g breadcrumbs, 2 egg yolks.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Once upon a time, I believed that the best rarebit sauce was created with Newcastle Brown Ale and Lancashire cheese. Despite the booze and cheese being English, it was still a Welsh Rarebit in my book and bloody lovely it was too. And then, then I learned of Irish rarebit. Oh glorious Irish rarebit with your cheesey bread sauce and your tangy, stouty flavour. Bread on bread! GENIUS. This recipe is so 100% Irish* that I am considering my nationality - soda bread, Irish cheddar, Irish stout and even Irish butter. LUSCIOUS.

*erm... except for the spring onions and the mustard... shut up.

1) Slice the spring onions and add to the pan along with the stout and mustard. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat.

2) Grate in the cheese and whisk until amalgamated with the stout, then whisk in the two egg yolks and breadcrumbs and season with pepper and if necessary, another teaspoon of mustard.

3) The sauce should be thick, but pourable. Toast the bread on one side, then butter, allowing it to rest for a moment until the butter has melted before adding the cheese sauce. Grill until the top begins to colour and serve hot.

Pancetta pangrattato


Pasta, parsley, lemon, butter, egg yolks, old bread, garlic, pancetta, parmigiano.
Preparation: 15 minutes (5 if using fresh pasta)

Bread is the stuff of life in this house. Rarely a meal goes by that does not include bread, whether by design or because my husband habitually makes everything into a sandwich (even soup!) and I delight in slathering my leftovers on toast. Bowie forbid either one of us ever develops a random gluten intolerancy. It would be intolerable.
Our leftover bread is torn up for panzanella, strata or blitzed into crumbs to coat everything from croquettes to goujons. This week, however, breadcrumbs have been thickening sauces. Once upon a time, when the Italians were poor they would substitute breadcrumbs for parmigiano in pasta, but my pangrattato (translation: grated bread) features parmigiano and bread and parsley and pancetta so it's more of a prosperous man's pasta and packs a real punch of flavour - it's also super quick to prepare.

1) In one pan, bring the pasta to the boil in hot, salted water and leave to simmer for 8-10 minutes. If using fresh pasta, prepare the other ingredients first as the pasta will only take 2-3 minutes to cook.

2) In a second pan, melt a tablespoon of butter and fry off the pancetta, stirring to allow the fat and butter to combine. Take off the heat and crack in an egg yolk per person and whisk briskly for around 30 seconds.

Stir in the breadcrumbs, parmigiano, and freshly chopped parsley and add a squeeze of lemon.

4) Drain the pasta and stir into the sauce until coated. Serve hot.

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