Thursday, 16 February 2012

Cozze a la Pomodoro

It's Valentine's Day. Mussels seem like a good start. I wanted to make something lighter than the creamy Moules Marienere. Years ago I had a bowl at an Italian restaurant, simply prepared with tomatoes, onions, garlic, white wine and olive oil. Simple, delicious food is difficult to forget.

Finely chop one medium sized onion
Squash and peel 4 cloves of garlic
Soften both very slowly for 20 - 30 minutes in about 2 tblsp of good olive oil in a large saucepan.
Take a sack of mussels (the net kind that they sell at the fish counter) remove their beards and scrape off any white barnacles. Discard broken ones and tap open shells - if they close then use them - if not then discard.

Take 3 tomatoes, peel the skin and scrape out their seeds. Chop into small chunks.
Take a handful of flat leaf parsley and chop roughly.

Now is the time to put it all together...

Pour a large glass of dry white wine and put it into the pan of onions and garlic - turn up the heat to medium high. Burn off the alcohol and add the tomatoes (if you want a bit of heat - add a chopped chilli)

Gently decant the mussels into the pan and mix with the onions, garlic and tomatoes. Put a lid on and keep stirring every couple minutes. When the mussels have opened it's time to serve.

Serve with some crusty bread and a dry white wine.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Chocolate Caramel Brownies

These are extremely sweet and tasty little squares of chocolate and caramel gooiness. My daughter and I made them and were convinced immediately by the combination of flavours.

You will need:

70g butter
60g dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa solids)
85g plain flour
2 large eggs
200g caster sugar
16 squares of Cadbury's Caramel
A brownie tin greased and floured


Preheat the oven to 180°C

Heat the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan on a super low heat, stir often until the chocolate is just about melted, then remove from the heat.

Pour the smooth chocolate and butter mixture into a large bowl and add the eggs and sugar. Combine until you are left with a gelatinous chocolate and egg blend, doesn't sound so nice but it is a means to a delicious end.

fold in the flour until just combined.

Pour the mix into your greased and lined tin.

Arrange the chocolate caramel squares over the batter, evenly spaced in 4 rows of 4. Gently press down until they are partially covered.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the brownie comes out moist but not wet.

Allow the brownies to cool slightly then cut into portions.

This should makes16 Brownies for a greedy girl.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

St Patrick's Day

As it's St Patrick's day on Thursday I've added a couple of Irish recipes.

Soda bread

170g/6oz self-raising wholemeal flour
170g/6oz plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
290ml/½ pint buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.
2. Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
3. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)
4. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
5. Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
6. Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Irish stew
3 middle necks of lamb (about 1.8kg/4lb), filleted and boned - you need to end up with about 950g/2lb 2oz pure meat
650g floury potatoes , such as King Edward
650g waxy potatoes , such as Desirée or Pentland Javelin
1kg carrots
2 onions
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
chopped fresh chives and parsley, to garnish

For the stock
bones from the lamb
1 large carrot , quartered
1 onion , quartered
½ celery stick, quartered
1 bay leaf
2 large sprigs of thyme
a generous sprig of parsley
6 black peppercorns , lightly crushed
Make the stock. Put the lamb bones in a large heavy-based saucepan with the carrot, onion, celery, herbs, peppercorns and 1 tsp salt. Pour in 3 litres/5 1⁄4 pints water. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 2 hours.

Strain the stock through a fine sieve to remove bones and vegetables, then return to the pan. Boil until reduced to about 1.3 litres/21⁄4 pints. (You can make the stock the day before - keep it in a covered container in the fridge, or freeze it for up to 3 months.)

Make the stew. Cut the lamb into large chunks. Peel the potatoes (keeping both types separate) and cut into pieces of similar size to the meat. Put the two different types in separate bowls of water to keep them white. Peel the carrots and cut into slightly smaller pieces. Slice the onions into thick rings.

Put the lamb in a large, clean saucepan. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, skimming off all the impurities from the surface. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Add the floury potatoes, carrots and onions. Season generously and simmer for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the waxy potatoes and thyme. Simmer until the lamb is tender (15-20 minutes). Take off the heat, cover (don't stir) and leave for 15 minutes. (You can make this up to 2 days ahead and keep in the fridge). Garnish and serve.

Friday, 25 February 2011

John Torode said s**t...

I was shocked, my husband was shocked and really I think Britain was shocked. He swore... on Masterchef ...Game on!

I love the new format. It is fair, as all of the cooks compete fairly against each other at the same time. It is exciting, as practically from the start of the competition, the contestants are cooking for critics. It places the participants out of their comfort zones and more closely reflects the environment within which these lunatics allegedly want to work.

Last night's episode, with John Torode on the pass showed us what he really is, not a host on a souped up game show, but a chef. In addition, Greg Wallace was eating the food, a role that one might expect a former greengrocer and costermonger to excell at.

I was against change, I didn't want change, but now that we have change I can see that we needed change.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Thai-style broth

I have called this broth 'Thai-style' because I am in no way an expert in Thai cooking and this is a very easy recipe that uses Thai flavours.

I was never a huge fan of spicy food when I was younger but as I have matured and my taste-buds have dulled - I adore chilli flavours. This is hot, so if you have a younger or more subtle palette than me, simply add less chillies.

This is a recipe for a super-simple broth that is perfect for a light lunch or a dinner party starter.

You will need:

1 litre of chicken stock
500g raw prawns (deveined)
a dozen button mushrooms halved or quartered
1 inch of raw ginger root, peeled
2 cloves of garlic
a stalk of lemon grass
3 Thai chillies (a mixture of colours is nice)
2 tblsp dark soy sauce
1 tblsp sesame oil
1 tblsp fish sauce

This couldn't be easier:

Simply pour the chicken stock in a pan and heat to simmering point.

Meanwhile finely chop the ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chillis together and add to the simmering stock.

Next, add the mushrooms and cover the pot, leave for about 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft.

Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and fish sauce, although feel free to omit the latter if it's a bit fishy for you.  I sometimes add it, sometimes don't, it really doesn't make too much difference.

Finally plop in your prawns and cook until they are shell pink throughout.

Serve with some chopped chillis and a few sprigs of coriander if you like.

If you prefer a lighter colour to your soup, strain the stock containing the garlic, lemongrass, ginger and chillies through a piece of muslin and cook the mushrooms separately before adding them to the stock. Also use light soy sauce.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Sage Stuffed Monkfish

I've been on a diet, my whole world has sadly and probably counterproductively, revolved around this and exercise for the last few months. Christmas fortnight did not count, and I put on a few pounds. Altogether, including ups and downs, I have lost about 1.5 stone and would like to lose a further stone. Why, when I clearly love rich food, have I bothered?  Well in April I am 40 and this is a mid life crisis.

Because of this I have been eating a lot of stir fries and curries, very tasty but sometimes we all need a release. Friday nights have become real food night in our house. This recipe is a bit indulgent, but not overtly. I have used a splash of olive oil and white wine as well as a knob of butter and a few slices of Parma ham, apart from these quite minor indulgences the recipe is still low fat (I think).

You will need:

2 large monkfish tail fillets (membrane removed)
12 sage leaves + a few to chop into the sauce at the end
6 slices of Parma ham
tomatoes on the vine
l tblsp olive oil
25 ml white wine
4 cloves of garlic, squashed
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180º C

First, take your monkfish and remove the odd jellyish membrane, it is tricky, I tend to use kitchen scissors and a prayer to do this, if there is a quicker and easier way I would love to know it.

When you have done this, cut your fillets in half and arrange them so that the thicker end of each fillet is over the thinner end, this is so that when your wrap them in the Parma ham they create a uniform parcel. Sandwich these half fillets together with 6 sage leaves and a generous twist of salt and pepper.

On a piece of cling film, place three slices of slightly overlapped Parma ham. On top of this put one of your sandwiched fish fillet portions. Roll the ham over tightly and twist the ends of the film so that the package looks like a Christmas cracker. Repeat with the other fillets.

Place these in a roasting dish with your tomatoes, garlic and white wine then drizzle over the olive oil.

It should look a bit like this:

Place in the oven with the a lid on or, if you're using a roasting tray, put foil over, and cook for 20 minutes + 10 with the lid or foil off.

Remove from the oven and take the fish and tomatoes out of the pan and put onto a warm plate.

Place the pan ,containing the cooking juices, onto the hob over a medium heat. Add the chopped sage and butter and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.

Slice the fish into thick slices and spoon over the sauce.

I hope you enjoy this very simple, but delicious fish supper.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Butternut Squash and Sage Soup

My hand blender blew up. By 'blew up' I refer to a plume of weird blue smoke that stole out of it accompanied by the almost medicinal smell of burning electrics. It is, needless to say, dead.

Soup was off the menu in my house for a while, unless it was chunky chicken soup or some other equally unglamorous, but tasty, pottage. Or so I thought, until I remembered as a child, blending a lovely leak and potato soup with Mum, in a food processor. More washing up, but the same results.

Butternut squash and sage is one of those easy but really classy tasting soups. It's perfect for a dinner party starter, as it can be made the day before and just reheated at the last minute. You can make it with the superbly seasonal pumpkin instead of butternut squash, add a level teaspoon of sugar if you do, just to give it a touch of sweetness against the exceedingly savoury sage.

This recipe also calls for chicken stock, vegetable stock is fine if you are catering for vegetarians, however I urge you to use fresh rather than stock cubes. The difference in taste between the two is quite stark in this recipe.

You will need:

500g butternut squash cubed
a small onion diced finely
half a litre of chicken or vegetable stock
150 ml double cream
50g butter
half a dozen fresh sage leaves, chopped
several whole leaves to garnish

Using a large saucepan, melt the butter on a medium heat and fry the onion until it is soft and sweet, do not let it colour.

Add the butternut squash or pumpkin and warm through. Next add the stock and chopped sage leaves and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for about half an hour, until the squash is really soft and breaks up when you fork it.

Season well and liquidise, add the cream and warm through gently.

Serve with a sage leaf on the top.