Monday, 29 November 2010

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Soup

I love a roasted soup. Very easy to make and very little fuss. Garlic is especially good after roasting as it takes on a beautifully sweet and mild flavour.

Roughly chop about 8-10 tomatoes, 4 sticks of celery and a small red onion. Place in a roasting tin with 2 whole bulbs of garlic (remove the skins but leave the cloves whole). Season with salt and pepper. Stir in a little olive oil and sprinkle with some fresh thyme. Roast at 180 degrees for 45mins to an hour, stirring occasionally.

When cooked place in a blender with 350ml of chicken or vegetable stock and a handful of fresh basil leaves. Blend until you have a very smooth consistency. Season to taste and eat straight away.

Birthday Bake

Making a few cakes for my friend Emma's birthday party last weekend I got a little carried away....

I absolutely love making and icing little cup cakes! The recipe for the cup cakes is so simple and works every time... I'm not sure when it arrived in my possession but it really never fails: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp fine salt, 1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla 2/3 cup whole milk. Blend all the ingredients together and cook at 180 degrees until cooked. About 10-15 mins. Check if they are done by spiking with a skewer. If it comes out clean then they are cooked.

Dark chocolate cupcake with Italian butter cream icing and edible glitter 

 Little coconut fancies with Italian butter cream icing and below with Belgian chocolate icing. The recipe is one I learnt while working for Rosie at her deli cafe. Get the recipe from her book; i even get a little mention ...!

It's all about the edible glitter!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

16 Guests, 7 Courses, 1 Baroness

At the beginning of this year I cooked a birthday meal for Baroness Pitkeathley and her guests. I had such a fun time planning and cooking this meal and although unfortunately I don't have any food photos I would like to share the menu and some of the recipes with you. 

Along with some grand help from my trusty Sous-chef, Harriet and two professional waiters, Jack and George here is the menu the guests enjoyed:


Smoked Salmon Roulades
Pear, Beetroot and Goats Cheese Rounds
Chicken Liver Pate with Loganberry Jelly
Red and Green Pesto Palmiers

The Meal

A Salad of Yellow Nectarines with Mozzarella Di Buffala, Parma Ham and a Sweet Rosemary Vinaigrette
Salmon Fillets Wrapped in Serrano Ham with Saute Spinach and a Lemon & Caper Sauce
Basil Sorbet
Roast Haunch of Venison with Green Bean parcels, Miniature Yorkshire Puddings and a Red Wine Reduction
Served with Garlic Roasted New Potatoes
Vanilla Panna Cotta & Poached Pears
Coffee & Homemade Macaroons Filled with a Dark Chocolate Fondant

This was an important event for me and I took great pains to ensure everything came together perfectly, and as far as the guests were concerned, effortlessly. Working out the exact timings was the most crucial element. The Salmon needed to be pink in the middle, as did the venison, and both had to rest properly before going to the table. I had done my preparations well and everything ran extremely smoothly.

The Basil sorbet was absolutely my favorite flavour of the evening and well worth a try if you have the inclination.

Fab relaxing after a busy service

The first time I tried this delicious sorbet was when a friend and I went for dinner at Fabrice Morrell's restaurant in the south of France. The whole meal was outstanding: At one point Fabrice nipped out of the kitchen especially to see if we had enjoyed our amuse bouche. Could we guess what was in it? 
        'Pigs Trotters and Snails!' he told us gleefully, hoping we would be slightly appalled by these ingredients. We weren't as it had been extremely tasty; little chunks of meat in an indescribably delicious and complex sauce topped with lightly toasted bread crumbs. 
Here are a few photos of the meal we enjoyed:

By the end of the meal what we really wanted to know was what produced the flavour in the sorbet he had served with his trio of desserts; a sorbet of the palest green nestling in the finest brandy snap basket I have ever eaten.

We spent a long discussion over coffee and petit fours trying to decide what it could be.

The idea of something really sweet in the middle of a meal doesn't appeal to me so basil sorbet as the palate cleanser for my menu was a good choice. It went down very well with the guests and they too had trouble identifying what the flavour was.

Though I am still waiting for Fab to give me his exact recipe here is one that works very well too:

Melt 5 1/2oz of caster sugar in 500ml of water and reduce for 3 minutes. stir in 2oz fresh basil and 2 tbsp lime juice. Blend well and press through a fine sieve. Allow to cool completely before freezing in an ice cream maker.

The starter is also an amazing dish to serve. My mum Anthea, first made this for us in Italy as a large platter for lunch with figs in it too. It looks great, takes very little time to put together and all the flavours, so fresh and delicious work very well together.

The dressing is a very simple vinaigrette of sweet balsamic vinegar (belazu is a good one to use), salt, good olive oil and very finely chopped fresh rosemary. Make a tower with the nectarines (peeled and sliced) followed by the mozzarella and a twist of Parma ham. Top with a sprig of fresh basil, drizzle the dressing around the edge of the salad and scatter with lightly toasted pine nuts. Yum!

Here is the letter I received from Baroness Pitkeathley a few days after the event:

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


A While ago I put up a post about a wedding and promised to follow it up with some recipes. Especially the one for Sucuk.

Sucuk is a middle eastern sausage made with beef and garlic and is traditionally cooked at breakfast time with eggs (in Egypt) or mixed with haricot beans.

I had never tried Sucuk until the bride specifically requested it at her wedding dinner and I really enjoyed it. It is not something you can eat too often of as it does have quite a high fat content but it has wonderfully strong flavours and works so well as part of a meze selection. 

It is quite a spicy and salty sausage so I decided to serve is with some mildly spiced cumin roasted vegetables.
Roughly chop some red and yellow peppers, onion and tomatoes into large shapes. Arrange the vegetables in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle with some olive oil and a teaspoon of ground cumin. Do not season with salt as the Sucuk will provide enough salt later. Bake uncovered in the top of a hot oven while you prepare the sausage.

Slice the sausage in half and remove the thick outer skin. I then sliced each half into large diamond shaped chunks. Heat a heavy griddle pan on the stove and griddle the sausage chunks on each side so you get some nice dark lines across the meat.

Add the sausage to the pan with the vegetables and sprinkle with a handful of sesame seeds. Continue to bake in the oven until the sausage is cooked through (they will swell slightly when done). Sprinkle the dish with some fresh parsley and serve. 

I served the sucuk with rice, salad, homous, tzatziki and falafel. Here is a great recipe for homemade falafel that makes roughly 20 small falafel:

1 Can Chickpeas, mashed
1 medium onion
1tbsp garlic
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp ground corinader
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp plain flour
Blend the onion, parsley, garlic and spices together in a mini blender or chop finely by hand. Mix into the chickpeas with the flour and salt. I like to mash my chickpeas quite coarsely to make a more crispy and rustic finish. Form into small balls and deep fry for 5 minutes or until the outsides are crispy and dark brown. 

Monday, 8 November 2010

Winter Sunday Lunch

I love Sunday lunch, especially in the game season! In our family it is traditionally served closer to dinner time  and preparation can take up the whole day; pottering between the kitchen and the garden, filling the house with delicious smells, slowly creating all the lovely dishes that will make up this rich and rewarding meal.


Venison Stew with Chestnuts, Prunes & Fennel.
Little Parsnip & Potato Roasties, Roasted Butternut Squash, Rainbow Chard
Apple and Blackberry Pie with Almonds and Fresh Cream

I was lucky enough to escape to the country again this weekend and picked up some beautifully fresh and delicious ingredients from the local farm shop.
Stew is a great meal for a Sunday lunch as you can prepare it as early as you like and cook it slowly all day long leaving you free to lounge around or go out for a long walk, or a quick pint...

I like to marinade the venison over night (though two hours is fine) and use a similar marinade to the recipe I posted a few weeks ago for rabbit: Garlic, red wine, bay, juniper berries and pepper. 
For the stew base I have used large slices of fennel and one large onion (chopped), red wine, coffee, stock, prunes, chestnuts and sage.
Brown the venison in a pan in a little oil and transfer to a large casserole dish. Add a little wine or water to the pan and scrape off any juices or burned bits that may have stuck to the bottom and pour the liqueur over the meat. Sweat the onions and the fennel and add to the meat. Add the marinade juices, 1/3 bottle of red wine, one cup of fresh coffee and a sprinkle of beef stock cube.

Finally add a good handful of pitted prunes. Stir all the ingredients together then cover and place in the middle of a moderate oven and cook for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. If the juices look a little low add more wine or water; the meat always wants to be mostly covered with sauce.

In the final hour season the stew and add the chestnuts and a handful of fresh sage. I used a whole can of chestnuts in water as it saved a lot of time roasting and peeling 20 of them by myself; though with more people in the kitchen it can be a nice job to do and freshly hot roasted chestnuts are irresistible so make sure you buy plenty as quite a few will fail to make it to the pot.

To accompany the stew I roasted small cubes of potato and parsnip (thank you Stevie for your recipe!) in some goose fat (a mix of oil and butter is good too) herbs De Provence, salt and whole cloves of garlic. Heat the fat in a roasting dish in the oven. Pour the raw vegetables into the pan and stir into the oil. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour in the top of the oven stirring in the fat every so often until brown and crispy.

I also roasted some butternut squash on a baking tray with a little oil, thyme and salt. This is a lovely side dish but also makes a very good light meal; serve hot with a crumble of feta, some toasted pine nuts and a mixed green salad. Simply roast in the oven for 35 minutes or until cooked through and crisping on the outside.

Rainbow chard is in season and I can't get enough of it. It has a bitter greens flavour that perfectly compliments the sweet and gamey stew and the beautiful colours it brings to the table are amazing.

 Simply slice and sweat the chard in a pan with some butter just before eating. The stems need slightly longer than the leaves so cook the stems first for a few minutes before adding the leaves.

Apple & Blackberry Pie

First make the pastry. 400g Plain flour, 200g unsalted butter, 1 pinch of salt, Cold water. Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt.

Cube the butter into the flour. Rub the flour and butter roughly together between your fingers and thumb, leaving large chunks of butter still whole in the mixture. Pour in a little cold water and cut the mixture together using a knife. Add more water until the pastry starts to form into a ball but is still quite dry (you can start mixing with your hands at this point). Turn out onto a floured surface and form into a rectangle. Start to roll out the pastry.

Roll in the same direction always away from you. When the pastry is rolled out to about 1 1/2 cm thick fold over itself into thirds,  rotate 90 and roll out again. Continue this process 6-7 times. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

The key to good pastry is to make sure the butter and water are well chilled and that the room you are in is not too hot; work by an open window if the oven is making your kitchen very hot. Don't handle the pastry too much and work lightly with the tips of your fingers only. I have also been told an old wives tale (gentlemen please skip to the end of the paragraph) that at 'that time of the month' women should never attempt a pastry as our body temperature is slightly higher...

The Filling:
I forgot to buy cooking apples so I just stewed down some coxes with a little sugar and lemon juice (non cooking apples are lovely to cook with but lack a certain tartness and adding a little lemon juice works well). When stewed, remove from the heat and mix in 1tbsp of ground almonds, 1tbsp of flaked almonds and the zest of half a lemon. Leave to chill completely before using to fill the pie.

Slice the pastry into two halves (one slightly bigger than the other). Roll the larger piece to a thickness of about 5mm. Use to line a greased pie tin. Fill the pastry with the cooled apple mixture and push fresh blackberries evenly into it. Sprinkle a little caster sugar over the top of the fruit. Roll out the second piece of pastry. Mix one egg yolk with a table spoon of milk and brush around the edge of the pie to help stick the lid on. Lay the top piece of pastry over the pie. Cut off the excess pastry and pinch the two halves together with your fingers or squash down with the tip of a knife.

Feel free to decorate the pie with some shapes made out of the excess pastry and stick them to the top of the pie with the egg. Make some slits into the top of the pie. Cover and return the pie to the fridge until needed. Brush with the egg before baking in the top of a hot oven (190 C) for 50 minutes.
Sprinkle with sugar and serve with some fresh cream.

Star Anise

A few days ago my dad happened to mention he and my mum were having pork with star anise for supper and I have been craving it ever since. Billo would make it for us every so often when we were younger and it is a very good dish to make with left over pork roast.

I don't use star anise very often but it goes really well with pork and duck and is widely used in Chinese and Indian cookery. It is also a good spice to add to poached pears or mulled cider but only use very little in sweet dishes; too much and it will give it a savory flavour (I had meringue with star anise cream for dessert at a restaurant in Camden at the weekend and found it tasted very like a duck pancake; not good!) Here is my version using fresh pork loin:

4 Pork loin steaks, sliced
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup light soy
1/2 cup water
1 clove of garlic
3 Star anise
1 tsp mixed spice

Mix the pork with the above ingredients and set aside for a few minutes. Heat a pan with a little oil and brown the pork. Transfer the pork to an oven proof dish. Add the marinade juices, 2 glasses of cider and 1 cap of cider vinegar to the pan. Heat through and pour over the pork. Fry some strips of red pepper and quartered mushrooms in the same pan and layer over the pork. Cover with tinfoil or a lid and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. 5 minutes before serving scatter over some sliced green beans and cook for the last 5 minutes with the lid off. If you like a thicker sauce mix 2 tsp of ground arrowroot powder with some cold water and stir into the juices; the sauce should thicken almost immediately.
Serve on rice with a sprinkle of fresh spring onions. I also like to eat this with some creme fraiche or sour cream on the side.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Wild Sea Trout

My boyfriend Harry is a keen fly fisherman and we often have trout for supper but this weekend he went river fishing on the Tyne and caught a 4lb wild sea trout.  Sea trout are migratory fish and like salmon spend much of their lives in the ocean before returning to freshwater to spawn. The taste is very like that of salmon but the flavour is softer and milder and the flesh a lighter pink. The taste of wild trout is so much better than the farmed fish (some supermarkets do sell wild sea and rainbow trout) and knowing exactly where, when and how your fish was caught is really great.

With a smaller fish Harry would normally wrap the fish in tin foil with some seasoning and wine and bake in the oven but this little fish was so big it wouldn't fit in the oven and very nearly didn't fit in my fish kettle.

Layer a whole bunch of parsley on the bottom of the kettle, place the fish on top and sprinkle over some crumbled bay leaves, fennel seeds, pepper, lots of salt and a couple of glasses of white wine. Fill the middle of the fish with some slices of lemon and squeeze over a little extra lemon juice. Pour boiled water over the fish up to its middle.

Cover with a lid and half poach, half steam for 20-25 minutes. To test if it is cooked press lightly down on the fish with your finger tips; if you can feel the flesh give and flake a little then it is done. Remove the fish from the kettle but leave it still sitting on the inner tray. Allow to rest for 5-10 mins.

I like to make a lovely hollandaise sauce with tarragon (not quite a bearnaise sauce without the chervil and shallots) to go with the fish. Whisk 2 egg yolks with a table spoon of water and the juice of half a lemon. Place over a pan of boiling water on the hob and whisk in some melted butter (about 1/2 of a packet of butter). If the sauce starts to curdle the egg is cooking too fast so remove from the heat and mix in a little cold water to stop the process. When the sauce is the consistency of runny custard remove from the heat and stir in some chopped tarragon. Pour over the fish in large spoonfuls!

If you don't have a fish kettle simply wrap the fish in a tinfoil parcel and bake on a tray in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Use the same herbs and seasoning but only one glass of water, seal tightly and the fish will steam in the wine and water.