Happy New Year! I’m full of good intentions this morning – well who isn’t? 😉
2013 was exciting, if a tad stressful – the best bit being moving house and installing not one but two kitchens – one for me and one for Hey Pesto!
Now I have no excuses so it’s time to start making plans for the year ahead……..
I want to :
concentrate on the ‘cookery school side’ of the business – starting with my lighter cooking course on 14th January. I’ve been blown away by the feedback from my classes so far and I can’t believe how much I love doing them.
continue to grow my catering business. I can’t believe it’s 9 years since I started Hey Pesto!
blog more – I know, I know, I said that last year but there were far too many distractions. I also want to finally get round to creating a website (Stop laughing – yes you!)
cook more for pleasure – now that I have a library for my cookery books I need to use them! (I shall also be looking for ‘guinea pigs’)
enjoy lots of good food in the company of good friends and loved ones.
Another thing that I am very conscious of is the amount of food that is wasted. I tried to cut down last year but bad habits crept back in… So since Christmas I have trying to use up everything – I haven’t been food shopping since Christmas Eve and have managed to produce a number of tasty meals – ok I know we all overstock before the holidays but………
Of course I’m also going to be “super” healthy in 2014….well maybe I should start with healthier…….I even got a birthday present of gym membership (a less than subtle hint perhaps!)
So my first meal of 2014 is going to be a Vegetarian Crumble to use up all the sad vegetables still lurking in the pantry.
Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for approx 5 mins. Meanwhile dry fry the cumin nad coriander seeds and roughly grind in a pestle and mortar (Okay you can use a spice grinder but think of the exercise!)
Add the garlic, spices and ginger to the onions, cook for another minute then add in 2 tbsps of passasta. Cook for another minute then add in the rest of the passata.
Add in the chopped vegetables – I used carrots, celery(not a root veg I know but it was in the basket), sweet potato and parsnips. I also threw in the half packet of chestnuts that were languishing in the fridge since I made turkey & leek pie.
Transfer the mix to a casserole dish and pour in your vegetable stock.
Make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour and oats. Add in the cayenne pepper – both for colour and seasoning. You could use paprika if you prefer.
Top the vegetables with the crumble mix and bake for 30-40 mins. until the top is golden and bubbling.
My dish is ready to go into the oven but as it has stopped raining I may even attempt to go for a walk! Looking forward to dinner later with a nice glass of red wine – well it is still Christmas ….
Happy Cooking and Happy New Year!
PS What are you planning for 2014?!
This is how the Crumble turned out and if I do say so myself it was rather tasty!
When I was in college and living away from home for the first time I decided I would become a vegetarian. I have to to say it was more from economic than altruistic reasons … that and the fact I had a major aversion to handling raw meat!
This ‘phase’ lasted for about 14 years – and ended abruptly 3 days into my time studying in Ballymaloe Cookery School when I decided that if I was going to cook for a living I needed to know what everything tasted like And yes it was a rasher sambo that ‘brought me back’ 😉
During my years as a vegetarian I drove my poor Mum mad every Christmas by refusing point blank to touch turkey or ham and insisting on cooking my own dinner down to the vegetarian gravy!
Over the years this nut roast became a Christmas favourite tradition and even my very carnivorous brother gave it his seal of approval.
So if you’re looking for a veggie option for Christmas Day then your search ends here……….
Best Ever Cashew Nut & Mushroom Roast
No Servings: 6
Oven: 180ºC/ gas 4/350ºF
What you need:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
8 oz/225g cashew nuts, roughly chopped
4 oz/110g breadcrumbs
3 medium parsnips, cooked and mashed
1 tsp each fresh rosemary & thyme
¼ pt/ 150 ml vegetable stock
Good knob of butter
8 oz/ 225g mushrooms, sliced.
What you do:
Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté onion for few mins, Making sure to add a pinch of salt. Add the garlic then cook until soft
In a large bowl mix nuts and breadcrumbs together with the beaten egg.
Add in the mashed parsnips and the herbs, followed by onion and garlic. Make sure you add all the cooking juices in to avoid any dryness in roast
Stir in the stock and season to taste. Set aside
In your pan sauté mushrooms in butter until soft. I always add a little sherry or vermouth at this stage…. it gives a lovely flavour!
Butter and line 2 lb loaf tin. Put a line of your best mushroom pieces down the middle of the base – this will be the top of your roast when you turn it out so make sure they look good!
Then press in half the nut mixture. Cover with a layer of mushrooms and top with rest of nut mixture.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. When cooked remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 mins before turning out.
Serve it hot with all the usual Christmas accompaniments or have it cold with salad and chutney.
Note: You can half the recipe and use a 1 lb loaf tin if you want to cook this for 2-3 people
And if you’re looking for a delicious vegetarian gravy …….. all you need to do is put 1 pt/500ml water, 2 tbsp soy sauce and 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the jelly. Blend 2 tbsp cornflour with 2 tbsp orange juice and 1 tbsp sherry. Stir a little of hot liquid into cornflour mix, then add back into saucepan, whisking well to ensure no lumps! Simmer over gentle heat until slightly thickened. Season to taste.
It’s that time of year again. Time to plan the Christmas Feast – turkey, ham and all the trimmings.
I don’t know about you but I’ve always found turkey rather dry despite trying all sorts of methods including cooking it in buttered muslin, breast side down, basting………….Then last year on our Fáilte Ireland food trip to Canada I had my eureka moment when we were treated to a Thanksgiving dinner in the lovely Elmhirst Resort – Brining!
This is so easy to do and you won’t believe the difference this will make to your bird – ask anyone who’s been to one of my Christmas Cookery Classes 🙂
What you need:
¾ cup salt
¾ cup sugar
1 large onion
¼ cup diced celery
2 large sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. black peppercorns
¼ tsp. chilli flakes
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
7 litres of water
What you do:
Bring the salt, sugar and 1 litre of water to the boil, stir until dissolved, turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients and 6 litres of cold water.
Add the turkey to your brine mixture and leave to brine for 24- 72 hours (make sure bird is fully submerged, place a plate on top to help)
Remove the turkey and pat dry
Cover the skin with softened butter
Cook as normal
This brine mix will work for up to a 16 lb. turkey.
I’ve changed the ingredients occasionally to suit what I have to hand. I did two turkey breasts last week using rosemary and pink peppercorns instead of thyme and black pepper and they were gobbled up (sorry I couldn’t resist!)
This year we’re having turkey wellington for Christmas Dinner . I’m going to brine a turkey breast for 48 hours, then remove it from the brine, split it in half (not going quite the way through ) and fill the ‘pocket’ with stuffing.
Then I’ll spread two sheets of puff pastry with cranberry sauce ; place turkey on one sheet and top with the second – sealing the edges together. To finish I’ll brush the pastry with beaten egg and cut a little cross in the top to allow steam to escape. My rule of thumb for cooking this is 20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes.
This is one I prepared earlier !
I’m still deciding on which stuffing to use on the ‘Big Day’ but at the moment hazelnut & apricot is looking good:
What you need:
1 large onion, finely chopped
50 g butter
50 g hazelnuts, chopped
140g dried ready-to-eat apricots, chopped
Handful parsley, chopped
Juice & zest of 1 orange
What you do:
Melt butter in frying pan and sauté onions until soft but not coloured (about 5-10 mins).
Add hazelnuts and fry until golden
Stir in apricots, breadcrumbs, zest, juice and parsley. Remove from heat.
Allow to cool completely before using to stuff your bird.
Happy Cooking and Happy Christmas!
P.S. Here’s a few tips for safe cooking this Christmas
Make sure when you’re brining your bird to keep it in the fridge or somewhere cold.
Take turkey out of fridge an hour or two in advance – it will cook more evenly from room temperature
Cooking time depends on size and type of bird – see link below for cooking chart
Use a meat thermometer if you have one, and test thickest part of breast and leg. You want the temperature to hold at 70 C for at least 2 minutes
If you don’t have a meat thermometer use a skewer in the thickest part leg and breast – make sure juices run clear.
Allow the turkey to rest – will stay warm under foil for up to 2 hours. Use this time to cook vegetables
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas around here – the tree is up, the lights are on and I’m doing up my Christmas menus which will include this Christmas Wreath Cake as an alternative to the traditional fruit cake
I may have mentioned that I’m not really a dessert person – give me savoury any day – but I love making desserts and watching others enjoy them! I came across this wreath cake a few years ago – in a copy of Good Housekeeping I think – and have been using it every Christmas since.
I should warn you that this is a cake for serious chocoholics and not for the fainthearted, but it makes a great centrepiece on Christmas Day!
It’s an easy cake to make and it freezes well (un-iced ) so you can make it in advance and take it out to decorate on Christmas Eve.
The only special piece of equipment you will need is a ‘wreath’ tin i.e. a 23cm spring form cake tin with a but missing in the middle! I use one I bought in Ikea but I know my local shop ‘Kit Your Kitchen‘ now stock similar .
Turn your oven to 180 C or Gas 4 before you start and grease your tin with butter.
What you need:
1 * 400g tin of pears (in natural juice)
50 ml milk
1 tbsp. espresso coffee
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
175g cocoa (I use Green & Black ‘s)
125g plain flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
340g caster sugar
6 egg whites
250g crème fraîche
175g dark chocolate (I use 70% )
What you do:
Drain the tin of pears and whizz in food processor to a purée.
Mix the pear purée with the milk, espresso granules, oil and vanilla extract.
In another bowl mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Whisk the egg whites and the sugar together at high speed until stiff and glossy
Add in the pear purée mix to the eggs and whisk slowly to blend
Finally fold the flour mix into egg and pear mix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in your preheated oven for 30 mins or until firm to touch
Allow cake to cool slightly in tin before turning out onto rack.
As I said, if you’re making this ahead of time , you can freeze it at this point. Just make sure you wrap it carefully!
The icing is very simple : heat the crème fraîche in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Then remove from heat and add in chocolate. Allow to melt and then mix in until smooth.
Place pieces of parchment paper under the cake to protect your cakeboard/plate. Then using a palette knife spread icing over the cake . Remember you want it to look like a wreath so it doesn’t have to be smooth
Then it’s time for your (or your children’s ) imagination to take over…..
You can make chocolate leaves …..
…. use sprinkles ….Santas…..Robins….Snowmen……..
……whatever you like!
But whatever you decide please be warned that this cake is INCREDIBLY rich and a little goes a long way!
PS I have been known to make this into an Easter Cake by covering it with flowers and mini eggs – you see a cake’s not just for Christmas!
When is a recipe a family recipe? Does someone in your family have to develop the recipe from scratch or can it be a recipe that is used a few times and then becomes a family favourite?
I’ve been involved in several conversations on this topic and my maths brain tells me that there has to be a finite (albeit large) number of recipe combinations so there are bound to be duplicates making it harder to credit the original originator of a recipe!
I believe that recipes evolve through sharing and experimentation. I have scraps of paper from family and friends glued into my recipe notebook including a very precious one dictated by my late Grandmother for her famous brown bread – once I figure out how much is in a ‘handful’ I’m sure it will work…..
I have a ‘to try’ box filled with recipes cut from magazines and papers that I want to try …..someday
I have a vast collection of cookbooks that I love to cook from – but more often than not I’ll change something as I’m going along.
Don’t you hate it if you ask somebody for a recipe and they refuse to share it as it’s a ‘family secret’?
I make a lot of Chocolate Roulades – in fact it’s one of my main desserts. I love making a mini version to go on a mixed dessert plate. I was given the recipe by the lady who owned the catering company I used to work for. I changed the quantities slightly to make it work in a bigger tin., and added the brandy! Years later I came across practically the same recipe in one of the Avoca books – so does the recipe belong to the person who first gave me the recipe, to the author or to me ???
I hate to think of myself as possessive so I’m more than willing to share this wonderful recipe, whoever it actually ‘owns’ it. I hope you like it.
What you need:
6 large eggs, separated
6 oz/175g dark chocolate
6 oz/175g caster sugar
3 fl oz/ 75 ml brandy
½ pt /300ml cream, whipped
What you do:
Melt the chocolate with the brandy, either slowly in the microwave or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until you get to the ‘ribbon stage’ – you really need an electric whisk for this unless you have really strong arms!
Fold in the melted chocolate into the egg mix. Then in a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff (the egg whites not your arms!)
Using a metal spoon fold the egg white in stages into the chocolate mix. Then pour into a lined large Swiss roll tin
Bake at 180 C/Gas 4 for 12-15 minutes, until firm to touch.
This is the important bit – cover with a damp towel and leave to cool completely
Dust the top of roulade with icing sugar and invert onto parchment paper.
Spread the cream evenly over the surface (feel free to add fresh berries as well)
Using the parchment paper to help roll it up like a Swiss roll
Decorate the roulade with icing sugar and strawberries or grated chocolate
Serve and watch it disappear!
PS This works really well as a Christmas Log – decorate it with chocolate leaves and a robin!
Anybody else got a favourite recipe they’d like to share ?
I can’t believe it’s 9 years ago since I did the 12 week course in Ballymaloe Cookery School! After the stress of the exams and as a parting gift Darina gave us signed copies of her Christmas cookbook.
In my enthusiasm I decided that straight away I had to make the cover recipe – the Chocolate Christmas Tree.
I have two memories of this experiment:
Why did I try ? – it was incredibly fiddly and I think my language may have deteriorated over the process! At that stage I was still insistent on boiling and peeling almonds and hazelnuts…….
That it was a very expensive tree and my family did not fully appreciate my efforts!
So why 9 years on did I decide to try again? Well I thought I could try a child friendly version so with my junior chef visiting for the weekend I set to………
We melted 300g of chocolate (200g milk and 100g dark) with a packet of mini marshmallows and then the junior chef stirred in masses of rice krispies – no quantities I’m afraid but you need enough to use up the chocolate. At this point I should say the constant question was ‘may I lick the bowl now?’
I had marked out parchment paper with 8 crosses for the tree branches – 7cm, 9cm, 11cm, 13cm, 14cm, 15cm, 16cm and 17cm. The engineer in me loved this bit and even dug out my scale rule to make sure all measurements were accurate. The junior chef took the opportunity to make a Christmas card for her parents.
I laid the chocolate mix out along the axes and the junior chef decorated each branch with candy snow and stars
Junior Chef at work
Then came the tricky bit – assembling the tree! We let the branches set and then having covered a large plate with tinfoil I melted some more chocolate, put a little on the plate to hold the largest branch in place, Then I added the branches in descending size, making sure that each alternate branch had it’s arms between the arms of the bottom branch (like a real tree!!)
Assembling the tree
We ‘glued’ each branch in place with the melted chocolate – this is where my nerves got a little fraught as some of the branches drooped. Darina suggests supporting the branches with matchboxes until they set – I only have a large box of matches for candles so that wasn’t an option!
I should point out at this stage the junior chef was very busy – licking the bowl!!
We finished off the decorating with melted white chocolate, sparkles and mini snowmen….but at this stage between falling branches and sneaky tastes by the junior chef we decided to rename it a chocolate mountain!!
Nana came to visit for tea as did the Junior Chef’s Daddy who came to collect her and her baby brother aka Taster No 2!
The cake may not have looked like the one on the cover of Darina’s book (as Junior Chef pointed out!) but I’d just like to say that there’s very little of it left!
Maybe, just maybe, I might try another tree before Christmas………..
When I was researching recipes for last Christmas I came across this recipe in an old Christmas magazine (I think it was Good Food) – I didn’t get a chance to try it at the time but I have used it for dinner parties during the year and it’s divine!
Definitely an option for Christmas dinner if you don’t want to go the traditional route of turkey and ham…..
Fillet of Beef with Mushroom Stuffing
This will feed 6 people very comfortably with a bit left over for later! Rule of thumb I use is 8oz beef per person – this allows for any shrinkage in cooking (and demonstrates my ongoing inability to work solely in metric!)
What You need:
1.5 kg Fillet of beef
25g dried porcini
300g wild mushrooms, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
tbsp chopped thyme leaves
What You Do:
First thing to do is make the mushroom stuffing: soak the dried mushrooms in 250ml of boiling water for about 20 mins. Then remove mushrooms from the liquid and finely chop. Strain the soaking liquid and set aside for your sauce
Heat butter and a little olive oil in large frying pan (the oil will prevent the butter burning) and cook shallot and garlic for 3-5 min, then stir in chopped porcini and cook for 2 mins.
Add chopped mushrooms and thyme.I usually add a dash of Madeira at this point too! Cook for 10 mins until lightly browned and any liquid has evaporated. Season to taste. Leave to cool.
Now for the fun part – you need to open out the fillet of beef so you can stuff it : About 1/3 of the way down the thickness of the fllet make an incision from the right almost to the end. Then make a second incision a 1/3 of way from bottom of fillet, this time from the left again not cutting all the way through. This allows you to open the meat out into one flat piece. (I hope my description makes sense!)
Spread the mushroom mix over the surface of the meat then roll it up tightly like a swiss roll. Tie it with string to hold the shape. You can leave in fridge overnight if required.
Heat oven to 200 C/180 Fan/Gas 6.
Sear the rolled fillet in roasting pan with oil and butter.
Then transfer to oven to cook
Rare 20-25 mins
Medium 35 mins
Well Done 45 mins
You can add some shallots to roast around the beef and add some extra whole mushrooms about 10 mins before the end of cooking time.
Make sure to rest meat for about 10-15 mins before carving.
Use up all the yummy bits left in the roasting tray to make a sauce:
Put tray back on hob and stir in 1 tbsp cornflour, and pour in 3 tbsp Madeira (you can use Brandy either but it’s safer not to pour directly from the bottle!).
When madeira is almost boiled away add in the reserved mushroom liquor and 400 ml beef stock.
Cook for about 5 mins, srain and then stir in about 100ml cream and cook for another few minutes. Season and add some chopped parsley.
We served the beef in a steak-sized slice on a bed of celeriac mash with the sauce spooned around the mash and on another occasion with caramelised beetroot and green beans.
Fillet of Beef with Mushroom stuffing with Madeira Sauce, Green Bean Bundle and Caramelised Beetroot & Shallots
This is the only picture I can find of the dish and I apologise for the poor quality of the image but believe me it is an amazing dish and worth the effort!
I wonder if I could persuade my family to change from turkey this year………
PS thanks to @Murpheroo on twitter for reminding me of this great recipe!