Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Mini Raspberry and Almond Puddings

A beautiful, delicate sponge cake, perfect for making in advance for your family treat or a dinner party. You can of course bung the whole mixture into a spring form cake tin and make a full on cake for slicing and serving with tea.

Serve with double cream, Greek yoghurt or good old custard.

Mini Raspberry and Almond Puddings
Makes 6 mini puddings, or 1 whole cake (in a 22cm spring form cake tin)

150g butter or margarine
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
50g ground almonds
100g self raising flour
Finely grated zest of one orange
A splash of milk
A small punnet of fresh raspberries

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. Grease 6 mini ramekins and dust with ground almonds. If you are making a full cake, grease and line.
2 - In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Stir in the eggs one by one until thoroughly mixed.
3 - Tip in the ground almonds and flour and fold together.
4 - Finally, fold in the zest of orange, a splash of milk and the raspberries.
5 - Using a tablespoon, fill each ramekin about three quarters full until evenly shared. Tap each ramekin until the air is out and they are flat on the top. Place on the middle shelf and cook for 30-35 minutes or until slightly browned and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
6 - Allow to cool slightly before serving. Dust with icing sugar.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Fajita Seasoning

As a family, we love Mexican fajitas: easy to make, delicious and healthy, they are a popular and tasty quick tea option up and down the country.

The only problem that I find is that the commercial fajita seasonings aren't too good. They are either too salty, too hot, too smokey and too expensive. So here's probably the quickest and most simple recipe I've ever produced on here and one that you must try. It will save you money and also make for a more authentic and tasty seasoning for your chicken.

Experiment with heat and smokiness; if you like it hot, add a splash of chilli sauce whilst mixing together. If you like it smokey, use smoked paprika instead. If you like it smokey and hot, add both!

Fajita seasoning
Enough for an average family of 4 (4 chicken breasts)

1 - In a bowl, mix together 1 tsp each of ground cumin, paprika, ground coriander and dried oregano. Mix in quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a crushed garlic clove and season with a little salt and pepper.
2 - Squeeze in the juice of a lime and a tbsp of groundnut or olive oil. Add a few splashes of your favourite chilli sauce at this stage if you like it hot.
3 - Pour over thinly sliced chicken and leave to marinade for an hour or two.
4 - Cook as normal in a hot, non-stick drying pan with sliced peppers and onion.

NOTE - You can make a lot of this seasoning and put into an airtight container to save you mixing every time. When you need to use, simply stir two tablespoons of it together with the wet ingredients. Easy!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Tomatoless Beef and Squash Curry

I've a friend who has certain food allergies with one of them oddly being the tomato. He has to be the only person I know that can't eat this fruit which is evident in everything from soups to casseroles.

I've a great recipe which uses yoghurt as the main base for the sauce, a twist on a Rogan Josh, but even that uses tomato paste to colour and flavour. Thinking along the same lines, the curry I ended up with uses a rich paste of onion, garlic, chilli and ginger, lots of Indian spice and tamarind pulp, a sweet and sour fruit available in good Asian stores and one heavily used in Keralan food in south India.

The verdict? For something so simple and easy to make, it was delicious; hot, pungent, spicy and slightly sweet, the tomato wasn't missed one bit and it completely took me by surprise, becoming one of the best curries I've ever made. Try it this weekend; it will put smiles on faces, even ones with certain food allergies.

Tomatoless Beef and Squash Curry

Feeds 4

2 onions, peeled
1 thumb size of ginger, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red chilli, deseeded
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
2 bay leaves
600g stewing beef cut into large chunks
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
200ml tamarind water (use concentrated tamarind paste)
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3. Put the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli into a blender. Blend to a paste.
2 - Heat up the oil in a flame-proof casserole dish. Add the paste and cook for 5-10 minutes until it begins to colour. Stir in the spices and cook for a further minute.
3 - Stir in the beef and thoroughly combine with the spiced paste. Cook for 5 minutes until the beef browns.
4 - Add the tamarind water and a little more water to just cover. Bring to the boil then place into the oven and cook for 2 hours. Check on the hour to ensure it isn't cooking dry; you may need to add a drop or two of water. Add the squash at this point too. The finished product should have a light gravy rather than be watery. Continue to cook if it is too watery.
4 - Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning. Serve with plain boiled basmati rice, chutney, fresh mint and/or coriander and Indian breads.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Spiced Pickled Beetroot

Beetroot are an acquired taste. Boiled to submission, they can retain all of the character of a Saturday night singing contest. However, roasted slowly to tease out the sugars makes for a unique vegetable that sits perfectly alongside your Sunday roast or simply diced and tossed into a cold pasta or rice salad.

They are probably more used to the pickling treatment in this country. This process can demolish the beet's subtle flavours but when you have more beetroot than you can juggle with, sometimes the pickling jars are the only option. I've devised a simple spiced version with a balanced flavour of sweet and sour. Placed in between two doorsteps of bread with a hunk of strong Cheddar cheese, it helps to make arguably one of the best sandwiches in the world.

Spiced Pickled Beetroot
Makes approximately 4 large jars

8 whole beetroot
Olive oil
500ml malt vinegar
200g caster sugar
4 whole chillies
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
4 large picking jars

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. Clean the beetroot and place into a square of foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap thoroughly then place onto the middle shelf and bake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
2 - Sterilise your jars by placing into a warm oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
3 - To make the pickling liquor, place the vinegar, sugar, chillies and spices into a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove from the heat.
3 - Peel the skin from the beetroot. Slice thickly then place equally into the jars. Pour over the spiced pickling liquor and share out the chillies and spices. Seal and put into a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks to allow the flavours to develop before eating.

Monday, 30 January 2017

A beautiful, dense cake, sweet and sticky from honey and fresh pears. Just perfect for these cold, damp winter days.

Pear, Honey and Almond Cake

100g sugar
200g butter or margarine
3 eggs
1tsp almond extract
100g honey
100g self raising flour
200g ground almonds
4 very ripe, soft pears, puréed or finely chopped

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 200C/GM4. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake time.

2 - In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.
3 - Break in the eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly for each one.
4 - Stir in the honey and almond extract then tip in the flour and ground almonds. Fold together until thoroughly combined.
5 - Finally, fold in the pear purée and any juice.
6 - Tip into the baking tin, smooth off and place on the middle shelf. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. You may need to put some foil over the top at the half hour mark to stop it from burning.
7 - Serve slightly warm with a good cuppa, perhaps with a splash of creme fraiche or double cream.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Huevos Rancheros (Mexican Ranch Eggs)

I can remember reading about this recipe years back in Rick Stein's Food Heroes; it's pretty much been a staple breakfast or brunch in our house ever since, especially on a lazy Sunday morning, perhaps nursing last night's boozy head.

Stemming from Mexican cuisine, the combination of hot chilli, sweet tomatoes, cheesy mashed beans and crispy eggs served on warm tortillas addresses the most serious of hangovers as well as hungry stomachs. We love it!

I've evolved Rick's recipe with the addition of a pinch of cumin and cocoa powder to the beans, two ingredients that are used extensively in South America and for me, a serious flavour kick that makes them more appealing to suspicious eyes when they spot the brown sludge on their breakfast plate.

Still not convinced? All I can say is, try it and see. It's a serious contender for best breakfast in the world!

Huevos Rancheros
Serves 4

Tomato Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
A good pinch of dried chilli flakes or 1 finely chopped red chilli
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Refried Beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
A good pinch of dried chilli flakes or 1 finely chopped red chilli
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tin of either kidney beans or pinto beans
100g grated Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Soft ready made tortillas, wrapped in foil and warmed in an oven

1 - To make the tomato sauce, heat up the oil in a pan and add the onion, chilli and garlic. Soften for 5 minutes then add the tomatoes and vinegar. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes until reduced. Taste for seasoning.
2 - To make the refried beans, heat up the oil in a pan and add the onion, chilli and garlic. Soften for 5 minutes then stir in the cumin and cocoa. Tip in the beans still in their water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then, with a fork, crush the beans. Stir in the cheese then taste for seasoning.
3 - Fry the eggs to your liking but I like mine crispy at the bottom and still soft in the middle.
4 - To serve, fold 1 or 2 tortillas onto a plate. Add 1 or 2 tbsp of tomato sauce then 1 or 2 tbsp of refried beans. Place 1 or 2 crisp fried eggs on the top. Serve with good coffee.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Courgette Pakora

If you are like me and adore Indian food, you might understand the one issue that I have with it.

When entering an Indian restaurant I'm usually hungry on the verge of cannibalism. I scan the starters and mentally choose everything on there, before settling for one with a mound of popadoms and a pickle tray. I then proceed to eat it too fast that the next thing I know, I'm picking over the main course.

The point I'm trying to make is that I love Indian starters: samosa, pakora, bhaji, aloo chaat, Seekh kebab. You name them, I devour them. So much so that I would actually prefer to just have a table full of them and nothing else.

So this week I turned my hand to transforming a few courgettes into pakora, that little bundle of Indian spiced batter and vegetable that crisps to perfection and pops perfectly into a hungry gob. They could not be easier to make and the best thing about it is you can make a table full of them with ease using a variety of vegetables. Everything from onion, courgette, aubergine and carrot works. Just remember to get out as much water as you can before frying to ensure crispiness.

Courgette Pakora

Makes lots

3 courgettes, grated
100g chick pea flour
Half tsp baking powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
Salt and pepper
Fresh coriander, chopped
Vegetable oil

1 - Put the grated courgette into a tea towel and squeeze thoroughly to get as much water out as possible.
2 - In a bowl, tip in the flour, spices and seasoning. Whisk in enough water to form a paste the consistency of double cream and coats the back of a spoon; not too thick, not too thin. Stir in the courgette and fresh coriander.
3 - Heat up a deep frying pan with vegetable oil. Test a pakora out by dropping in a small teaspoon if the batter. If it immediately begins to fry and turns golden in a minute, the oil is hot enough. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Fry heaped teaspoons in batches, draining on kitchen paper. Serve with fresh coriander and an accompaniment of yoghurt, pickles and/or chutney.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Chocolate and Orange Mousse

In my humble repertoire of food entertaining, it seems that nothing pleases guests more than a good old chocolate mousse. And that has to be a major plus for the busy home cook. Simple to make and utterly delicious, a mousse never draws complaint.

The other plus is that it is a pleasant thing to eat for both children and adults and if my daughter is anything to go by, it is also a lot of fun to make. All elements of fun cooking with children are here, from smashing or cracking of eggs, to whipping up so that it sits over your head without giving you an egg white hat, to dripping messily into serving glasses and finally the ubiquitous licking of the bowl.

A couple of hours in the fridge and a dream dessert is ready and your little ones can claim glory. Try experimenting with flavours, adding grated orange or lemon, a spoonful of ground almonds, broken biscuit or toasted hazelnuts. Serve with or without cream.

Chocolate and Orange Mousse

Makes 4-5 glasses

200g 70% proof chocolate
50g butter
4 eggs
25g sugar
Zest of 1 orange

1 – Place the chocolate and butter into an ovenproof bowl and place into a pre-heated medium oven for 5 minutes to melt. Remove and mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool slightly.
2 – Crack the eggs and separate the whites and yolks into mixing bowls. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat with a whisk until frothy and paler.
3 – Whisk the egg whites until it will sit over your head without falling out.
4 – Grate the orange zest into the chocolate and butter mixture then mix in the sugar and egg yolk mixture. Quickly fold in a large spoonful of the egg whites then gently fold in the remaining until thoroughly mixed in.
5 – Drip spoonfuls of the mixture into serving glasses then put into the fridge for 1-2 hours until set.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Chermoula (Moroccan Marinade)

This is a very easy to make but stunning marinade or paste for use with chicken, pork and fish. Used extensively in North Africa in countries such as Morocco or Tunisia, it's a cheeky blend of spices, lemons, chilli, garlic and fresh coriander and adds a punch of flavour to pretty much any grilled or pan-fried meats. You can even try it with hardy roast vegetables such as squash, beetroot and potatoes.

I like to use mine with fresh tuna, seared perfectly on the BBQ or a griddle pan and served with bulgar wheat, cous cous or quinoa. Toss in a few pomegranate seeds and things become even more exciting. Try it.


4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp each of ground cumin and paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Juice and zest of one lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Either 1 fresh deseeded chilli finely chopped or 1 tsp ground chilli
A couple of handfuls of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

1 - Combine all of the ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning.
2 - Add your choice of meat and leave to marinade for a few hours. Cook as normal.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the hole. It's a recipe that most Brits have all eaten but probably have no idea where the name comes from. Don't ask me - I haven't got a clue.

If I had to guess, I would suggest that the image of a sausage poking its head out of crisped batter probably resembles a toad sticking its head out of a hole. After a few beers that is. Like I say, who cares? It is delicious, warming and comforting and that is what's important here.

Toad in the hole is a recipe I want to see in more restaurants at this time of the year, alongside shepherds' pie, steak and kidney pudding and chicken and leek pie. I've no ideas why more chefs are reluctant to put such fabulous food on their menus but it probably comes down to the image. Comforting British food such as these dishes seems so appropriate during the colder months and of course we make the best comfort food in the world, don't we?

This is a simple family favourite that is ace for those cold midweek nights when the soul and tummy need cheering up. Serve with mash, greens and lots of onion gravy.

Toad in the Hole
Feeds 4

250g plain flour
A pinch of salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
500ml milk
3 tbsp sunflower oil
500g quality sausages

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 220C/GM7.
2 - Put the oil into a roasting tin and place into the oven. When the oil is hot, add the sausages and bake for 5 minutes, turning every now and again until beginning to brown.
3 - Put the flour, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Make a well and add the beaten eggs. Begin to whisk in the milk until the batter has the consistency of double cream.
4 - Remove the roasting tin from the oven then pour the batter in and over the sausages. Place back onto a high shelf and bake for 30-40 minutes until the batter is risen, golden and crunchy.