Sunday, 18 December 2011

Spiced Clementine Cake

Clementines are beautiful at this time of the year and for me, synonymous with the Festive period.

This is an impressive cake that is easy to make and just as easy to eat. Your house will be filled with the zesty aroma of this wonderful fruit meaning rumbling tummies for any lucky visitor.

Because there is so much pulp in the cake, it will be incredibly moist and if it lasts that long, will remain so for a good 3-4 days.


3 whole clementines
3 eggs
200g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
200g ground almonds
1tsp mixed spice

1 - Put the clementines into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain then blitz in a food processor to a purée. Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy.
3 - Sieve in the flour, baking powder and spice then fold in along with the purée.
4 - Pour into a greased and lined 8" loose bottomed baking tin and bake on the middle shelf for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
5 - To make an optional icing, put 1tbsp marmalade into a saucepan along with a little water. Heat up and melt. Stir in 6-8 tbsp icing sugar and thoroughly combine then drizzle all over the cooled cake.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Beef and Sweet Potato Curry

The slow cooker has been dusted down and brought back out as a permanent fixture of the kitchen for the winter.

It's that time of the year when slow cooking becomes the norm. Get a few ingredients together in the early hours, off to work then on your return, tea awaits. It almost mocks timely preparation and 'cheffy' techniques. Many memorable meals have been produced from my £7 slow cooker and it has easily been the most cost efficient cookware in my collection.

If you are a curry lover and are looking for inspiration to use your slow cooker that has been sitting in its box since purchase last winter, look no further than the following. Packed with flavour and guaranteed to beat the winter sniffles, it's a must for giving a debut to your new best kitchen friend.

Slow Cooked Beef and Sweet Potato Curry
Feeds 4

1kg braising beef cut into large chunks
2tbsp sunflower oil

For the curry paste:
1 onion
A thumb size of fresh ginger, peeled
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 fresh red chilli, unseeded
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp tomato purée

3 sweet potatoes, or normal white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
Salt and pepper

1 - In a food processor or pestle and mortar, place in the curry paste ingredients and blend to a paste.
2 - In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the beef. Quickly cook and turn until coloured then remove with a slotted spoon and add to the slow cooker.
3 - Add a little more oil if necessary, then add the paste and cook, stirring all if the time, for 5 minutes until coloured and fragrant.
4 - Add the tomatoes and a little water and combine. Add to the slow cooker along with the potatoes, cinnamon stick and cloves.
5 - Cook on its lowest setting for 6-7 hours. If you are at home, check after a few hours to see if it has gone dry which it should not.
6 - Taste for seasoning then serve with rice, breads and fresh coriander.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Sticky Sweet and Sour Peppers

This recipe is one of those I always keep handy in my little head of culinary delights for when a vegetable accompaniment for anything is required and time is against me. As long as you have some peppers, garlic and a few store cupboard ingredients, you can have some delicious sticky sweet and sour peppers in minutes.

These are perfect with a simple piece of fish or chicken, but are an equal delight on a piece of toast for a quick veggie lunch.

Sticky Sweet and Sour Peppers
Serves 2 on toast or as an accompaniment

2 peppers, I use red and yellow, sliced into thin slivers
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tbsp muscovado sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper

1 - In a non-stick frying pan, preferably with a lid, heat up the oil until very hot. Lower in the pepper slices and cook for 5 minutes with the lid on, removing now and again to give it a good stir. You are looking to get them broken down and caramelised as soon as possible. Don't worry if any begin to look slightly charred, this will just benefit the flavour.
2 - Once caramelised, remove the lid and quickly stir in the garlic.
3 - Stir in the sugar, vinegar, chilli and a good grinding of black pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes until it starts to look nice and sticky and reduced. Taste for seasoning, it may need a pinch of salt.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Simnel Cake

With Easter comes much indulgence and on this most holy of days, there is one indulgence I can't do without - Simnel cake.

Simnel cake is one of those traditional British foods that probably change recipe in every town. Eaten since medieval times, it is simply a spiced fruit cake layered with marzipan and topped with 11 little marzipan balls that represent the true disciples of Jesus.

My version is as simple as can be and one that has become an annual tradition for my daughter and I to make. Sticky and soft from a layer of molten marzipan, it is difficult for me to explain in words just how wonderful this cake is. So go ahead and make one for yourself. Easter or not Easter, it is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. 

Simnel Cake

150g butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp mixed spice
50g ground almonds
150g self raising flour
300g mixed fruit
Zest and juice of 1 orange
500g ready-made marzipan

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin with a removable base.
2 - In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Quickly beat in the eggs, pour in the almonds and sieve in the flour. Tip in the remaining ingredients (except for the marzipan) then combine thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
3 - Pour half of the mixture into the cake tin. Half the marzipan and roll out on a piece of cling-film (to prevent it sticking to the bench) until roughly the same size as the cake tin. Press the cake tin on top to make a line then roughly cut out. Fit into the cake tin and press down. Pour over the remaining cake mixture.
4 - Bake on the middle shelf for 1 hour 30 minutes. If it begins to brown too quickly, loosely cover with a piece of baking paper.
5 - Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
6 - To finish, roll out the remaining marzipan and do exactly the same as with the middle section, cutting out the left overs to roll into 11 little balls. Top with the marzipan and decorate the edges with the balls. If you have a small blow torch, lightly toast the marzipan in places. Alternatively, flash under a hot grill.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Honey Crème Caramels

There's something a bit 1980s about food at the moment. When once it was considered tired, old hat and completely unacceptable, the likes of prawn cocktails, chicken Kiev and Black Forest Gateau are appearing on menus again and that's completely fine by me.

In this ever-fickle world, it is easy to forget the things that made us what we are. I'm not asking for a nostalgic look at everything that we consumed, wore or listened too 'back in the day', but why get snobbish about things that you once loved? And why always yearn for something new and 'challenging'?

We've been hitting the nostalgia trail today, teaching my daughter one of her new favourite puddings, the long lost crème caramel. We usually buy in those ready-made efforts, all crinkled in their plastic houses with a satisfying puddle of watery caramel at the bottom of every one.

Of course, homemade food - if made correctly - is usually better every time. The key to a successful crème caramel is to keep your oven low, GM1 or 140C, and to keep your little custards in a bath of hot water to ensure slow and gentle cooking to give you that silky smooth set custard. The result is really satisfying as each spoonful gives a resounding 'squelch' sound and the cold smoothness sinks down with ease.

I made an alternative to the caramel as I had a little extra custard left over, so rather than pour in caramel to the remaining mould I put in honey. It was delicious and avoided the risk of the hot caramel curdling the custard or even worse, being stuck in the end. Give them a go and bring back nostalgic grub to your menu.

Honey Crème Caramels
Makes 4-5

4 medium eggs
100g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, deseeded
450ml whole milk
Runny honey

1 - Pre-heat the oven to GM1/140C.
2 - In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla seeds. Pour in the milk, whisk then pour through a sieve into a jug.
3 - Lightly grease 4-5 moulds. At this stage you can make a simple caramel by slowly heating 150g sugar and a little water in a pan without stirring until it turns golden brown. Or go for my version by pouring in a couple of tablespoons of runny honey into each mould.
4 - Gently pour in the custard to fill the moulds. Place into a baking tray with sides and pour in hot water to fill at least halfway up the moulds.
5 - Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the custards have a very slight 'wobble' when shaken.
6 - Remove from the oven, then the water and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge. Serve cold with or without berries.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Thai Steamed Fish

Thai Steamed Fish
Feeds 4

4 pieces of white fish such as cod, haddock or pollack, approx 100g each
1 large or 2 small chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
1 thumb size of ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
6 spring onions, sliced thin
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp Nam Pla (fish sauce)
100ml coconut milk
Fresh coriander
Sesame seeds

1 – Take a large piece of foil, enough to fold over the fish to form a bag with room at the top for air to circulate and the right size to fit into a steamer.
2 – Put the fish fillets onto the foil.
3 – Top each piece of fish evenly in layers starting with ginger, then garlic, chilli, carrots and spring onions.
4 – Drizzle over evenly the lime juice, fish sauce and coconut milk.
5 – Seal the bag firmly them place into a steamer. Steam for 10 minutes.
6 – Slit the bag and pour over hot noodles or Thai jasmine rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with fresh coriander and fresh lime.

Christmas Pavlova

I’ve invented a twist on a traditional Pavlova, a meringue, cream and fruit-based dessert. Made to resemble a Festive wreath, it not only lo...