Tag Archive | entertaining

Tear & Share Bread

You know the feeling when friends drop in unexpectedly and you hear yourself saying ‘you must stay for lunch/dinner’ all the while doing a frantic mental search of your fridge and thinking ‘what on earth can I serve’ ?

Well worry no more – with a few staples in your fridge and pantry you can rustle up this quick savoury bread in about 20 minutes. Throw a salad together while it’s cooking and Voilá! your friends will think you are a true Domestic God/Goddess
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Rosemary Shrager’s ‘Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family and Friends’

A few years ago my friend Siobhan and I headed to Swinton Park in Yorkshire for a residential cookery course with Rosemary Shrager.  the location is beautiful and Rosemary herself gives the course and while she can be a tad scary she was great fun. We had an absolute ball and learned lots.

I use the recipes from the course regularly and also have a few of her booksthat are well-thumbed so I was delighted to receive a copy of her new book ‘ Absolutely Foolproof Food for Family & Friends’ from Octopus Books.

When I saw the title I assumed the book would be full of quick and easy recipes for everyday meals which is not like the Rosemary I love. My assumption was wrong – this is a book for dinner party dishes that you can impress with such as  Venison Carpaccio of Sea Bass with a Pickled Carrot Salad and Roast Crown of Pheasant , dishes for larger celebrations such as Salmon en Croute and even detailed instructions on curing pork and salmon.

There  is a lovely introductory section detailing all the kitchen equipment you may need (the only thing I’m missing is a potato ricer!), what knives to use and how to use them.  The recipe sections are divided by main ingredient such as vegetables, poultry, game and pasta. Each section begins with a very detailed technique complete with step by step pictures and complete with tips and ideas and possible variations on the main recipe.

My pet peeve as you know is cookbooks without finished photos of each dish – this book unfortunately falls into this category. This surprises me as I learned so much about presentation when I was at the Cookery School but the detailed technique pictures are good. The other thing that I found strange is that there is no dessert section in the book.

So what did I cook? Well for a change I gave my main taster  the book and asked him what would he like for dinner. The choice : Scallops en Papilotte with Curried Coconut Milk and Pak Choi and Roast Venison with Chocolate Sauce and Braised Chicory. 

I was unable to find either pak choi or chicory so I decided that as a starter the pak choi could be omitted and I picked up some curly kale to use with the venison. Rosemary uses loin of venison in her recipe but as I had two venison steaks (farmed I will admit)  in the freezer I used those.  I spent a very pleasant afternoon prepping the dishes – the recipes are well laid out and easy to follow.  The sauce for both dishes can be made ahead of time making them ideal for entertaining.

I julienned the vegetables for the scallop dish so when it came to dinner I just had to cook the scallops, assemble the parcels and put them in the oven for 10 minutes.

There was a lot going on this dish flavour wise but it all worked and the pak choi wasn’t even missed!

I decided to try the recipe for Fondant Potatoes and this was the only one I had any problem with – and I think it was my own fault for not adding enough stock. However I finished them in the oven and they were so tasty – they may even replace roast potatoes as my favourite!

The chocolate sauce took  time – and a lot of ingredients – but it was so worth the effort and it complimented the venison perfectly.

I would have preferred to serve the dish with chicory but he loved the kale (I stir-fried it with orange zest and juice).

Was it good? Well the Chief Taster certainly thought so …

This book has already earned a place on the ‘favourites’ shelf and if anyone can tell me where I can get partridge then Roast Partridge with Cabbage, Bacon and Apple is the next recipe I want to try  and Stuffed Yellow and Red Pepper Rolls has also been requested……

My verdict – if you want to impress your family and friends with your cooking then you need this book.

Pssst – if you want to try the Chocolate Sauce here’s the recipe:

What you need: 

  • 100g butter ( I don’t think I used quite this much!)
  • 150g leeks, finely chopped ( I used 2 leeks)
  • 1 rasher smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 250ml red wine
  • 2 tsp redcurrant jelly
  • 300ml game or venison stock  (I had to resort to beef stock)
  • 120 ml port
  • 15g 70% chocolate, finely chopped

What you do:

  • Melt 30g butter in pan, add the leeks and bacon and cook gently for 15 minutes.
  • Add the wine and the redcurrant jelly and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency.
  • Add the stock and simmer until reduced by half.
  • Finally add the port and simmer to coating consistency.
  • Season then strain through a sieve into a clean pan (I prepared ahead to this point)
  • Reheat gently and stir in the chocolate until it melts
  • Cut remaining butter into cubes and whisk into the sauce a few at a time.
  • Check for seasoning and serve.

Happy Cooking !

There’s no chocolate in it honestly!

As you may have noticed  I  have a ‘slight’ addiction to cookbooks. I also have a tendency to collect recipes from magazines, newspapers etc  – I have a box of pages and clippings from various publications that I have garnered from numerous sources ………..

Some look tantalising when I’m in the hairdressers or in a waiting room but once assigned to the ‘box’ they never leave, others make it straight to the kitchen for testing and some even go on to become firm favourites.

One such find was a recipe for an Espresso Tart – I think it came from a Food & Travel magazine and my apologies for not acknowleding the original owner of this recipe but your details aren’t on my valued clipping.

I’m not really a dessert person but I do like this (must be the caffeine).  Almost everyone who tastes it is convinced there’s chocolate in it but as you’ll see there’s none.

This  tart is divine on it’s own but can be raised to another level if you serve it with a mascarpone sorbet. I often make it into individual tartlets to serve at dinner parties and it’s always well received

Individual Espresso Tart with Sorbet

I brought one of these tarts to Inishfood in May and I’ve been asked to share the recipe – so this is especially for Donal, Imen and Bríd.

Espresso Tart

Oven Setting: 180ºC/ Gas 4

What you need:

  • Sweet Shortcrust Pastry *
  • 125g butter
  • 250g muscavado sugar
  • 2 tsp espresso coffee (finely ground – I use Illy)
  • 6 tbsp Kahlua or Tia Maria
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g self raising flour, sieved

What you do:

  • Line a 24cm loose bottomed tin with your pastry and leave to chill
  • For the filling, heat butter and sugar until sugar dissolves, then ad the coffee, liqueur and eggs.
  • Gently fold in the sieved flour and pour the mixture into the pastry case.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 mins – you want a ‘squidgy, fudgy’ texture- be careful not to overcook!
  •  Leave to cool before serving.
* I use 1lb flour, 8oz butter, 1-2 egg yolks, 1 tbsp caster sugar and a little water to make my pastry – this should give you    enough for 2 tarts. You don’t need to blind bake the pastry for this recipe.
Espresso Tartlets
As I said this tart can be served as an excellent dinner party dessert with ice cream or créme fraiche but best of all with mascarpone sorbet which is not as complicated as it sounds – please try it as the taste combination is divine!

Mascarpone Sorbet

What you need: 

  • 250g tub mascarpone
  • 250ml  milk (the proper full fat type please!)
  • 150g caster sugar

What you do: 

  • Whisk the  mascarpone with the milk until thick, smooth and lumpfree. Then stir in the sugar.
  • If you have an ice cream maker, pour in mix and leave to stir until thick and creamy, then freeze until needed.
  • If you don’t have an ice cream maker then pour mix into tupperware box and freeze for an hour. Then whisk in frozen edges back into centre of mix to break up any ice crystals. Freeze for another hour then beat again. Repeat until sorbet is thick, creamy and frozen.

Now all you have to do is sit back and enjoy – and now you know there’s no chocolate in it, honestly!

Happy Cooking !