Catering, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Beetroot & Goat’s Cheese Tartlets

Thursday is normally dinner night here – it’s when I try out new dishes and we sit down to taste them with a glass (or two!) of wine. Due to various work commitments this changed to Tuesday this week and I was all set to try out a cornbread recipe and a few new starter ideas ….until the phone rang at 5pm asking me to cater a breakfast meeting at 7.30 the  following morning.

Thankfully the main course of ‘Rioja-braised lamb shanks with chorizo & garlic’ from Lorraine Pascale’s book ‘Home Cooking Made Easy‘ was underway so I could devote myself to baking scones, muffins etc.

But then I realised we needed a starter so it was time for the store cupboard (my new fridge!)  and some inspiration ……..and that classic combination of beetroot & goat’s cheese! I had a packet of pre-made pastry cases that I wanted to try so it was tartlets for starters and they worked out well! They’re quick and simple so give them a go….

For 2 you need :

Goat's Cheese & Beetroot Tartlets

  • 2 pastry cases (I got mine in Marks & Spencers)
  • 2-3 cooked baby beetroot
  • 1 egg
  • approx 100ml Glenisk Cream
  • 30g St Tola Goat’s Cheese

What I did:

  • Cut beetroot into chunks and placed in pastry case
  • Whisk cream and egg together and pour over the beetroot (you probably won’t need all the mix)
  • ‘Dot’ the tartlet with cheese
  • Bake at 180C/Gas 4 for 10 -12  mins until firm and golden
I served them with green leaves and a drizzle of Highbank Apple Syrup…
The Verdict – ‘we’ll have those again please!’
The Main course was absolutely divine and ideal for the current weather! I just had one little niggle – I could only get Knorr stock cubes and they made the sauce very salty! Note to self – get some other stock ….. 
Lamb Shanks with Rioja
 Thursday’s dinner is now likely to be something like a quick bowl of pasta. Wonder what I’ll try for next week’s tasting……….

Happy Cooking !

PS if you’re looking for the lamb shank recipe here it is http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/rioja-braised_lamb_66249
Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Pancakes – How do you like yours?

I’m sure that like me you’ll remember learning in school that the Catholic Church forbade the consumption of meat, eggs and dairy produce during Lent so on Shrove Tuesday all these ‘luxuries’ had to be eaten and thus the pancake was invented!

Did you also have a box in which to save all the sweets you couldn’t eat during Lent? Remember the excitement of the dispensation for St Patrick’s Day? Our poor parents – imagine the sugar high we must all have been on once Easter Sunday came around!

But did you know that apparently there was a link between Shrove Tuesday and the romantic fortunes of the unmarried. “Traditionally in Ireland, marriage was forbidden to take place during Lent, so in the weeks before Christmas and “Shrovetide,” as it’s sometimes called, matchmakers busily tried to find suitable candidates for marriage before Ash Wednesday arrived. Households left with unmarried daughters on Shrove Tuesday tried to imbue them with better luck for the coming year by allowing them to toss the first cake. Their pancake-making skills, for better or worse, were seen as an indication of their romantic chances for the next year.”

Pass me that frying pan quickly!

My recipe for pancakes comes from the Children’s Section of my Mum’s old Good Housekeeping Cookbook – I used to love looking through this and trying out recipes when I could!  

There are still little bookmarks in the book for recipes I wanted to try – I never did get to make lollipops, glucose and lollipop sticks were far too exotic back then!

Pancakes

The one recipe I do remember using (and still use) is the one for pancakes. I use the imperial measurements for this but have brought it up to date with the metric equivalents!

What you need:

  • 4oz (125g ) flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ pint (300ml) milk

What you do:

  • Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a hollow in the middle of the flour, and break the egg into this. Gently work in the flour, gradually adding the milk to give a smooth creamy batter.
  • Now for the important bit – cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave the batter to rest for at least an hour. I always got impatient at this point!
  • When cooking Good Housekeeping calls for lard or vegetable shortening – I use butter – the real stuff please! I saw somebody on TV  claiming that the secret to cooking pancakes is to use clarified butter – put butter in a bowl in a warm oven and use the clear liquid from the top – I must give it a try and see if it works!
  • Put a little butter into warm pan then pour in some batter (a few tablespoons). Tilt your pan to spread the batter evenly. When batter has set and is brown on one side use a palette knife to turn it and cook on other side – or if you’re feeling brave toss it!

This recipe should yield 10-12 thin pancakes using an 8” /20 cm frying pan. If you want to cook them in advance stack the pancakes with a piece of parchment paper between each of them. But they’re best hot from the pan!

When it comes to fillings it’s hard to beat the traditional  lemon juice and caster sugar, but nutella comes a close second in my book! What’s your favourite?

Don’t forget you can do savoury fillings as well as sweet – sautéed mushrooms, stir fry veg., creamy chicken…..Just let your imagination take over.  I remember one pancake party where my friend Siobhan served pancakes with a variety of stuffings including one with beansprouts – one of the guests was later heard to say he wasn’t mad about the ones with the straw in them!

Just remember the first pancake is always a disaster- best hide it so it doesn’t adversely affect your romantic prospects!!!! 😉

Happy Cooking!

Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes

‘Crazy Water Pickled Lemons’ Cookbook

Did I mention I love cook-books? I may soon have to build a new room to house my ever-growing collection!

I was delighted to receive a review copy of Diana Henry‘s re- released ‘Crazy Water Pickled Lemons‘ from Octopus Books . This is a beautiful book with such evocative writing that you can almost taste the food. In fact I got so engrossed in reading the book I almost forgot to cook some of the dishes!

The recipes are grouped together by ingredients with lots of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes – all food that I love. Each chapter starts with a description of the ingredients, each is given a personality – cardamon is a ghost that walks through dishes; figs are like hungry kisses; pomegranates are temptation;  honey has a split personality, using saffron is likened to cooking with gold…..

The food styling and photography is excellent BUT there aren’t pictures of all the dishes 😦  Note to Cookery Book Editors please show us what the finished dish should look like!

Valentine’s Day didn’t really happen Chez  Hey Pesto! this year due to work commitments so I decided to reschedule it and try out some recipes from Crazy Water Pickled Lemons at the same time

I picked out the recipes I wanted to try,  then went in search of ingredients which didn’t prove that simple! It appears dried rose petals or  fresh pomegranates and figs are not easily obtained in Tullamore! The pomegranate season is coming to an end but I did manage to find 2 on a trip to Dublin – I’m still searching for dried rose petals for the Jewelled Persian Rice…

For starters we had the Aubergines with Mint – with added feta cheese. Neither of us are big aubergine fans but the verdict was positive. I’d use it in a starter mezze with a few more additions.

The main event was  Breast of Duck with Pomegranate & Walnut Sauce made with the elusive pomegranate. The texture of the sauce was very different and the pomegranate seeds gave an unexpected crunch!

The dish was accompanied by salt baked potatoes (yum!) and fruited couscous – finally a use for the jar of preserved lemons that have been lingering in my cupboard! It’s the first time I steamed couscous (I normally cook it in a curried stock) and it definitely made it fluffier!

I also tried to sneak in roast beetroot because they looked so pretty but he wasn’t having any of it!  The meal was washed down with a very pleasant McGuigan’s Shiraz Viognier.

Dessert was to have been chocolate and rosemary sorbet but we’re not really dessert people so it never happened!

The verdict – I’ll definitely make the duck again and I may try the sauce with chicken or lamb. The couscous will be redone, simply to check if the soaking and steaming is worth it! The potatoes are now on my favourites list – I have to try them with the suggested roast garlic and créme fraiche.

I only realised afterwards that I had prepared all these dishes without using any butter or cream so they have to be good for you!

Crazy Water Pickled Lemons has already earned it’s place on my ‘favourites shelf’ – there are lots more recipes I want to try. Tonight’s dinner is going to Sausages & Lentils with Sweet & Sour Figs – I found the dotiest mini figs to use!

Thanks again to the lovely people at Octopus Books for sending me the book – but you’re not getting it back!!!

Here’s the recipe for the duck if you’d like to try it ………

Breast of Duck with Pomegranate & Walnut Sauce

What you need: 

  • 4 duck breasts (I got mine from Pat Whelan)
  • 150g shelled walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (I used rapeseed oil)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (I knew I’d find a use for it!)
  • seeds of 2 pomegranates
  • 400ml chicken or duck stock
  • Seasoning
  • Chopped mint

What you do:

  • Toast the walnuts in a dry pan, then grind in food processor but not too finely – you want some chunkiness for the sauce.
  • Sauté the onion in the oil until soft and starting to colour. Add the cinnamon and stir for about a minute. Then add in walnuts, molasses, pomegranate seeds and stock. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for 15 minutes until sauce has thickened.
  • Season the duck breasts and seal on both sides in a very hot pan, then transfer to preheated oven (200C/Gas 6) for 7 minutes.
  • Stir in the fresh mint into the sauce and serve alongside the duck breast.

Diana Henry suggests serving the duck with ‘simple side dishes such as rice and sautéed spinach’ – I hope she doesn’t mind me adding a few more bits!

The above recipe serves 4. I halved everything but had more than enough sauce for 2.

Happy Cooking!

PS Valentine, I’m still waiting for the flowers……

Catering, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food

To resolute or not!

New Year’s Day always seems to be a day for reflection and for making great plans for the forthcoming year. Though I remembering reading somewhere that new year resolutions would be much more successful if made any time other than on January 1!  So maybe I should wait until February 1 before trying to improve my life!

One thing I am determined to do is blog more – thankfully  December was very busy month for Hey Pesto! so I’m afraid lots of things were neglected. I am going to get back on track with working through my cookbook collection (which surprise, surprise is still growing!)

I want to give more cookery classes, starting with ‘Easy Entertaining’ this month ( I love this poster designed by Ken of Any Given Food)

I want to update my own skills by attending a few classes myself – all suggestions welcome!

I can’t believe this is Hey Pesto! ‘s 8th year in business so here’s to 2012 being a good one! I’m doing a ‘Grow Your Business’ course at the moment and I need to do lots of homework before my next mentoring session next week!

But most importantly I want to enjoy life, eat lots of good food and spend time with friends and family.

So have you made any resolutions?

Happy New Year!

Yvonne x

Chef, Christmas, Cookbooks, Cooking, Recipes

Looks aren’t everything when it comes to Christmas Trees, especially the chocolate variety!

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.

A Simply Delicious Christmas

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:

  1. 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…….
  2. 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
The upper 'branches'

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!!

The best part - licking the bowl... and the spoon!
Snow Mountain

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!!

It's a tree honestly!

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………..

Happy Cooking!

Catering, Christmas, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes

An alternative to Turkey?

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
  • 25-50g butter
  • 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.

Madeira Sauce

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!

Catering, Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Christmas Canapés

I make a lot of canapés – both for business and home entertaining. This year I’ve been asked for easy canapé ideas at my cookery demos so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites. I hope you like them!

Mini Tartlets

I used to make my tartlets from filo pastry – a rather long process but I came across the idea for these on holiday last year and they have made my life much easier!

To make the tartlets you need….

You need a mini-muffin tray, a packet of wonton wrappers, some sunflower oil and a pastry brush – brush each wonton sheet with oil and mould it into the muffin tin to make a small case. (This is much easier to demonstrate than explain!)

When you’ve filled the mini muffin tray sprinkle the cases with a little salt and bake at 200 C for 4 mins. Allow to cool on a wire rack and then use or store in airtight container for up to 4 days.

This is what your end product should look like:

Mini Tartlet

The possiblities are now endless….Some fillings I use are:

  • Avocado & crab topped with some créme fraiche and dill mustard
  • Red onion marmalade and Cooleeney  brie (put in oven for minute or two to soften the cheese)
  • Prawn cocktail
  • Thai beef salad
Crab & avocado tartlets
Red Onion Marmalade & Cooleeney Brie

Sticky Christmas Sausages 

This is another great recipe from my favourite Christmas book ‘Nigella’s Christmas’  and the best thing is that they can be prepared in advance and frozen  – just put mix and sausages in plastic bag and take out of freezer a few hours before your guests are due!

What you need:

  • 2lbs cocktail sausages (approx. 60)
  • 125 ml sweet chilli sauce
  • 60 ml cranberry sauce
  • 60 ml soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. dark muscovado sugar
  • Juice of 1 small orange
  • Juice of 1 lime

 What you do:

  • Mix together all the ingredients except the sausages to make glaze
  • Put sausages in foil tray (much easier than cleaning a roasting tray!)
  • Pour glaze over sausages and mix to coat.
  • Cook for 20 mins then turn and cook for another 10 -20 mins until they’re hot and sticky.
Sticky Christmas Sausages

Smoked Salmon/Trout Wraps

This is another quick and easy idea which doesn’t really need a recipe!

Smoked Trout Wraps

What you need:

  • Tortillla wraps (I find the Discovery ones the easiest to roll!)
  • Some Goatsbridge Smoked Trout  or some Smoked Salmon
  • Cream cheese

What you need:

  • Simply ‘butter’ your tortilla wraps with the cream cheese
  • Place strips of trout or salmon on the cheese
  • Season with a little black pepper and lemon juice then roll into a ‘tube’
  • If you have time wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge to set but otherwise trim the two edges, cut wrap into three then cut each piece into two diagonally (again this is much easier to show!)
  • Other fillings which work are roasted peppers, parma ham, pesto……..

Happy Cooking!

Catering, Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…..and other things festive

I LOVE Christmas and all things Christmassy! I know it’s still November but decorations are already starting to appear in my house – my mantlepiece has been dressed since last weekend as has the stairs thanks to Joanie of Flower Rangers!

My dream house is a large rambling one  decorated with a big tree in the hall  and lots of greenery everywhere, a large dining table dressed in white and gold and lots of festive smells emanating from the kitchen (the beautifully decorated one, that is!)

The reindeer moves in!

But back to reality in my current abode where it’s time to start planning the Christmas menus. Chestnuts are one of my favourite seasonal ingredients and here are some chestnut dishes I’ll definitely be cooking this year.

One of my favourite Christmas cookbook is Nigella’s Christmas and I love watching her do the Christmas thing on tv – I want to try the gingerbread with the tiny fir trees…

Two of my firm favourites from the book are the Chestnut Soup and the cranberry & soy sausages. The soup is worth making in advance and freezing – it’s a real winter warmer on Christmas Day!

Chestnut Soup with Crispy Parma Ham

I’ve changed the quantities as the original one would feed about two armies! I also don’t use the recommended garlic oil as personally I don’t like the taste!

What you need:

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1  leek, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g red lentils
  • 1 ½ litres vegetable stock
  • 200g pack of peeled, cooked chestnuts
  • Good big dash sherry
  • 4 pieces of parma ham

 What to do:

  • Heat the oil in large saucepan and cook the chopped vegetables for about 10 mins, until softened.
  • Stir in the lentils and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for about 30 mins, until the lentils are soft.
  • Add the chestnuts and purée the soup in the food processor, in batches if necessary.  (Can prepare ahead to this point and freeze if requires)
  • Pour in the sherry and season to taste.
  • Crisp the slices of parma ham between two baking sheets in a hot oven for about 10 mins.
  • Crumble the crispy ham over the soup to serve.

************

We have potatoes at least 3 ways with our Christmas dinner. I tried this potato recipe after seeing Gary Rhodes making it a few years ago and it’s become another family favourite!

You can cook the potatoes on Christmas Eve and caramelise the potatoes and chestnuts about 3o mins before you serve dinner. This dish would also be great on Stephen’s Day with left over spuds!

Caramelised Potatoes & Chestnuts

What you need:

  • 500g new potatoes, scrubbed
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 16 cooked chestnuts, quartered

What to do:

  • Steam the potatoes for  20-30 mins until tender.
  • Melt the butter in a shallow pan and add sugar. Cook over a low heat for about 2 mins then add potatoes and chestnuts.
  • Cook for 5 mins stirring occasionally so that they caramelise evenly. (May need longer if you are re-heating the potatoes)
  • Season and sprinkle with chopped chives to serve.

*********

I love trying out new recipes and I was asked to test this one during the week – it was my first time making sausage meat stuffing and I have to say I’m a convert! I’m even thinking of adapting the mix into a Christmas canapé! (Thanks Ian)

Sausage Meat & Chestnut Stuffing

What you need:

  • 200g good-quality sausage-meat
  • 100g white breadcrumbs
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 50g chestnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 8 slices streaky bacon
  • 16 little sage leaves

Method

  • Combine the sausage meat, breadcrumbs, apple, herbs, chestnuts and egg in a mixing bowl.
  • Season with black pepper and a little salt  Mix well  (use your hands!). Check your seasoning by frying off a little piece of the stuffing to taste. Correct seasoning if necessary.
  • Put slices of bacon on a chopping board and stretch with back of a knife. Half each slice.
  • Shape the stuffing into 16 mini sausage shapes, put a sage leaf on top and wrap each in a piece of streaky bacon.
  • Place on a baking sheet  and roast at 180°C for about 20 minutes.

********

For all the recipes you can be a purist and roast and peel your own chestnuts – I did the first time I cooked with them. Now I ‘cheat’ and use the vacuum packed pre-cooked ones – so much easier!

Happy Cooking!

Hope the greenery lasts.....
Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Flash Food – Laura Santtini

There was great excitement in Hey Pesto! this week when thanks to  Irish Food Bloggers Association I receieved a review copy of Laura Santtini ‘s new book Flash Cooking  from Quadrille Publishing.

This book is about ‘fast, healthful, easy-to-prepare, nutritious, flavour-packed meals, that look great, taste extraordinary and promote well- being’ ; in fact I would almost describe it as a lifestyle book rather than a cook book!

I loved the introduction and the definition of the concepts involved , for example ‘Flash Cooking (3) – show one’s culinary genius in public’!

What appealed to me most were the flavour tables for seasonings, glazes, rubinades, pastes, finishing bits, dressings etc. – they’ve opened up a whole new world of experimentation for my kitchen. And I’m delighted to say that, with a few exceptions, they’re all store cupboard ingredients.

Laura’s alchemist’s approach was definitely a ‘hook’ for me (once an engineer…) but don’t let this put you off !   The recipes are straightforward and easy to follow and most importantly, in the case of the ones I tried – they work!  Oh and the taste sensations – WOW!

The photography is stunning – my favourites are the antique cutlery shots. But I have to mention my pet peeve – there isn’t a picture of every dish 😦

My verdict – this book is NOT leaving my kitchen and I foresee lots more flavour experimentation in my future! 🙂

My advice – put it on your Christmas list! *****

There are so many recipes I want to try, including:

  • Tea-steamed Sea Bass with Vanilla Star Anise Olive Oil
  • Duck Breasts with Black Magic Elixir
  • The Dog’s Bolognese
  • Curried Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

but this one caught my eye straightaway:

Flash Glazed Cauliflower Cheese Steaks

What you need:

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for frying)
  • Sea salt & black pepper
  • 75g Feta Cheese
  • Pomegranate Vinaigrette to serve

What you do:

  • Preheat oven to 180 C/160 C Fan/ Gas 4
  • Cut 2 thick slices of cauliflower from the centre, from top down through to the stalk, to give two ‘flower steaks’
  • Mix the harissa paste with the olive oil and brush over the ‘steaks’ on both sides
Brush the steak with the harissa paste & oil mix
  • Heat some oil in frying pan and add the steaks – fry until golden on both sides
Fry until golden
  • Then brush the steaks with any remaining glaze and  transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes.
  • Crumble feta cheese over the steaks and return to the oven until cheese becomes golden and starts to melt.

Laura suggests serving this with the Pomegranate vinaigrette and being delighted to find a use for the bottle in my cupboard I was happy to oblige!

  • To make the vinaigrette
  • mix 1 tsp of pomegranate molasses, pinch of freshly ground cumin, juice of half a lemon and lots of fresh mint.

When I tasted the vinaigrette on its own I found it rather sweet but this excess sweetness disappeared once it was mixed with the cauliflower steak and the feta.

The flavour combinations made my mouth zing!

Spot the difference!

This great recipe has already earned its place in my book of favourites! Thanks Laura!

I think the Lemon Halloumi recipe will be the next one to try……………

PS

  1. Delighted to see The Tasty Tart  mentioned in the credits – well done Tara!  
  2. Thanks to Mark from Quadrille Publishing for sending me the book!
Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, Recipes, Uncategorized

Apples, apples everywhere………….

Okay so I finally started a blog and decided on a theme – now my dilemma was which cookbook  got to open the show!

Thanks for all your suggestions and I will get round to them all I promise – even to Hugh (eventually….) !

The problem was solved by the amount of apples in my kitchen demanding to be used (thank you to all my wonderful neighbours). I decided to stew and freeze some of them and then remembered a recipe for a ‘sauce’ cake. Cue  Sophie Grigson’s Country Kitchen

This book was a Christmas present from my sister after my time in Ballymaloe Cookery School  and her inscription  ‘to the petite chef with the big ideas’ still makes me smile!  The splashed pages and the handwritten notes will convince you that this is one of the workers in my collection – I love the Rhubarb & Honey Compote, and her sweet & sour red cabbage is a Christmas must.

In the introduction the book is described as  ‘a record of a year’s cooking in a country kitchen – but with a modern twist’ . This is borne out in recipes such as ‘pot-roast pork with star anise, ginger. tamarind and port’ or ‘cauliflower with sundried tomatoes, garlic and capers’ .

The book is laid out by season with beautiful photographs and informative notes on ingredients. The recipes are well laid out and easy to follow and most importantly they work! My biggest peeve is that it doesn’t have a photograph for every dish – I like to know what I’m aspiring to!

My favourite and most used from this book is Sophie’s recipe for ‘Gooseberry Sauce Cake’ – simple and quick and adaptable for most fruits. I’ve tried it with gooseberries, rhubarb, plums and most recently with apples and the result is a lovely moist cake everytime!

So if like me you’re overrun with apples you should give this a try:

Apple Sauce Cake

What you need:

  • 10oz/280g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 40z/110g caster sugar
  • 40z/110g demerara sugar
  • 4oz/110g butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 pt/300ml stewed apples

All set!

the original recipe includes 1/2 tsp salt which I omitted as I use salted butter
What you do:
  • Firstly stew your fruit – I used a mix of sweet and cooking apples as I like the difference in texture. Peel, core and chop the fruit. Then stew with a little water over a low heat for 20-30 mins. I didn’t use any particular quantities as I froze the rest of the fruit in 1/2 pint portions for future cakes!
  • When fruit is stewed to your liking measure out 1/2 pt for your cake (btw apologies for any confusion and if I appear old fashioned but I tend to bake in imperial and cook in metric!)
  • Mix all your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and sugars together
  • Fold in wet ingredientsFold in the lightly beaten eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract. Finally stir in the stewed apples.
  • Pour into prepared tinPour mixture into a lined 9″/23cm springform tin and sprinkle a little extra demerara sugar over the top.
  • Sophie’s instructions are to bake the cake at 180C/Gas 4 for 45 minutes. Having tried it on several occasions it takes 30-35 minutes in my oven at 170C Fan so I’d advise you to check it after 30 mins!
  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10-15 mins before turning out. Then there’s nothing left to do but serve it with some lightly whipped cream!
The finished product!
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There are lots more recipes in this book that I’ve earmarked to try and as this is the first year my pear tree has produced any fruit next up is Sophie’s  fresh pear relish……….