Thursday, 23 October 2014

Leek and Chicken Rarebit

I adore Welsh Rarebit, or posh cheese on toast, that combination of cheese and beer that grills to golden perfection. Looking at the tired leeks at the bottom of my fridge, nestling alongside yesterday's roast chicken scraps, gave me a great idea. An even posher posh cheese on toast! So here you have it. Hot, beer tinged spicy mustardy roast bubbling delight. Hungry yet?

Leek and Chicken Rarebit
Serves 2

2 medium leeks, halved, trimmed and sliced into 1cm chunks
1 tbsp fresh or dried thyme, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
25g butter
25g plain flour
100ml beer
150g strong Cheddar cheese
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp English mustard
A couple of handfuls of leftover roast chicken, shredded
Salt and pepper
4 thick slices of wholemeal bread

1 - Heat up the grill to medium.
2 - Heat up the oil in a pan and gently cook the leeks until soft and beginning to colour. Keep aside.
3 - Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Stir for 1 minute then gradually add the beer until you have a thick beer-like roux.
4 - Stir in the cheese, egg yolk and mustard. Season with a little pepper; it won't need much salt due to the cheese. Stir in the leeks and chicken.
5 - Toast one side of the bread, turn then pile on the mixture. Cook under the hot grill until golden and bubbly. Serve with the leftover ale.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Roast Mushroom and Cobnut Soup with Tarragon and Nut Butter

My favourite season has definitely arrived. I know that Autumn is here as each of my windows are covered in condensation. I also know that it is here when my washing remains damp and cold on the drying line.

Something about this time of the year gets me a bit excited and brings out the food obsessive in me. I start to plan ahead with great enthusiasm. Already I have chutneys made with marrows and damsons. I've lots of jams made with various summer berries. Herbs have been dried and crumbled. Litres of sloe gin and sticky plum vodka are marinating away ready for a winter treat by the fire. I've done battle with the grey squirrels and hoarded a few bags of cob nuts.

The cob nuts excite me the most. Bags of hazelnuts, fresh ones at that, are not cheap. So a few squeaky fresh creamy textured fresh nuts make me more than happy. It is hard to resist just cracking them as I find them and eating them as they are. But if you can resist, you can make all kinds of lovely produce.

Soup is going to be pretty much a daily food in my house now that the roots and mushrooms are here in abundance. This soup combines a magnificent pairing in tarragon and mushroom, the aniseed of the dried tarragon perfectly matching the meatiness of the field mushrooms I use.  A few of my lovely cob nuts, pan roasted and distributed throughout, gives a nice crunchy surprise. There are reasons for seasons.

Roast Mushroom and Cobnut Soup with Tarragon and Nut Butter

Serves 4

1 leek, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
500g wild mushrooms, sliced (I used field mushrooms)
2 tbsp dried or fresh tarragon
2 handfuls of cob nuts or hazelnuts
750ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

For the butter

25g butter
1 tbsp fresh or dried tarragon
1 tbsp cob nuts or hazelnuts

1 - Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the leek, mushrooms and tarragon and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, until golden and well reduced.
2 - Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
3 - Blitz in a blender until smooth then return to the pan. Pan roast the cob nuts in a dry pan until golden, then roughly chop and stir into the soup.
4 - For the butter, pan roast the cobnuts then finely chop. Mash the butter with the herbs and nuts.
5 - Taste the soup for seasoning, then serve in bowls with a spoon of the butter.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Lemon Curd Cake

If you are going to have some form of lemon cake, make it taste like lemon! This one pulls no punched with a triple hit of lemon.

Lemon Curd Cake

200g caster sugar
200g butter or margarine
3 large eggs
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 large tablespoons curd
200g self raising flour (I used Dove's gluten free flour)
For the drizzle:
3 tbsp caster sugar
Juice of one lemon

Icing sugar to decorate

1 - Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4. Grease a large loaf tin.
2 - In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter with a whisk, electric whisk or wooden spoon until light and fluffy.
3 - Beat in the eggs one by one followed by the zest and juice of the lemon and the lemon curd.
4 - Sieve in the flour and gently fold until well combined.
5 - Pour into the loaf tin then place on the middle shelf and bake for 35-40 minutes.
6 - Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
7 - Heat up the lemon juice and sugar in a pan until combined. Whilst the cake is cooling, prick the cake with a knitting needle or something similar and gently drizzle on the lemon and sugar.
8 - Once cooled, remove from the tin and drizzle over icing sugar for decoration.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Ratatouille with Mussels and Lemon Balm

In a little twist to the usual ratatouille - vegetables in a tomato sauce - this has a few handfuls of fresh and plump Northumbrian mussels and a good dose of lemon balm rather than basil. Lemon balm is a herb that is rarely used in modern day cookery but grows so well in any domestic garden. But with its surprising citrus fragrance and earthy taste, it is a natural herb to accompany shellfish. It is also brilliant in a lemon ice cream. Enjoy.

Ratatouille with Mussels and Lemon Balm
Feeds 4

1 aubergine, cut into small chunks
2 courgettes, halved and sliced into chunks
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tins of plum tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
6 handfuls of live mussels, cleaned
A handful of lemon balm or basil leaves, finely sliced

1 - Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the aubergine and cook, tossing regularly, until beginning to turn golden. Remove and set aside.
2 - Heat up the remaining tbsp olive oil and add the peppers and courgette. Cook, tossing regularly until beginning to soften and turn golden. Remove and set aside.
3 - Heat up the olive oil in a separate pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes then tip in the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, stir in the vinegar and cook for 10 minutes until beginning to reduce and deepen in colour.
4 - Tap any open mussels onto a hard surface. If they do not close, throw away. Put the mussels into the tomato sauce, put on the lid and cook for 5 minutes. If the mussels have not opened properly, throw away.
5 - Stir in the vegetables and heat through. Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle on the lemon balm and serve with rice or crusty bread.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Wild Nettle Pakora

I've grown to respect the nettle recently. Touch one and it has the power to numb a finger or two for several hours. But that isn't the reason for new-found respect; it is simply because I like eating them.

Nettles are packed full of iron and minerals and treat carefully, they are a welcome replacement for spinach in a curry or to be made into a soup.

My favourite way with nettles is to make Indian pakoras, all spicy, crispy, mysterious and green. They are a doddle to make and amazing to eat, even my 6 year old loves them. So next time you are tutting at the nettles in your garden, just don the gloves and pick off all of the tops of the nettles and use them in your recipes. Delicious.

Wild Nettle Pakora
Makes lots

1 large colander full of young nettle leaves
300g chickpea flour (I sometimes used rice flour, it's a little more dense)
1 tsp garam masala
Half tsp ground tumeric
Half tsp ground chilli powder
Salt and pepper
Vegetable or sunflower oil

1 - With gloves on, carefully pick through the nettles discarding any tough or bruised leaves. Wash thoroughly in a sink full of water.
2 - Pick the leaves up and put them straight into a deep pan. Turn up the heat and cook until wilted. Allow to cool, squeeze out excess water then roughly chop.
3 - In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, spices and seasoning. Add the wilted chopped nettles. Stir in enough water to make a thick batter.
4 - Heat up the oil in a deep pan. Test by dropping in a little batter. Add teaspoons of the batter mixture and cook in batches until golden and crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
5 - Serve either as a snack with mango chutney or as an accompaniment to a curry.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Hot and Sour Sirloin Steak, Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

Hot, sour and sweet; the Thai nation seem to marry these three amazing tastes to perfection and it is such incredible food. Thai food appears simple and complex at the same time, combining a myriad of flavours that play tricks with your taste buds. I've been cooking from David Thompson's comprehensive Thai Food book for some years now, and although Thai food isn't on our menu half as much as I would like it to be, it is always a real treat when it is.

This recipe ticks all of the Thai food boxes that make their food so appealing to me; fresh and sour from the grapefruit, salty from the Nam Pla, hot from the chilli and English Mustard. Thai/English fusion food - maybe I've started something?

Hot and Sour Sirloin Steak, Pink Grapefruit and Avocado Salad
Feeds 2

2 inch thick quality aged sirloin steaks
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 red birds eye chilli, finely sliced
1 tbsp English mustard
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil

For the salad

1 pink grapefruit, skinned and segmented
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
A handful of fresh coriander leaves
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
2 banana shallots, peeled, halved and sliced thinly

For the dressing
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp Nam Pla, fish sauce
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp Mirin rice wine

1 - Mix together the garlic, chilli, mustard and a little salt and pepper. Rub onto the steaks.
2 - Heat a thick frying pan and add a little vegetable oil. Ensure it is searing hot. Add the steaks and cook to your liking; rare, 3 minutes each side; medium, 5 minutes each side; well done, 7 minutes each side. Leave to rest for 5 minutes and assemble the salad.
3 - Make the dressing by whisking the ingredients together in a bowl.
4 - Toss the salad ingredients together a dress with a little of the dressing.
5 - Pile onto plates. Slice your steaks into strips and arrange on top of the salad. Finally drizzle over some of the dressing and serve with more lime wedges.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Ricotta Dumplings

These little dumplings are so easy to make and a real treat on a hot summer's day as an alternative to pasta.

This is the kind of food that makes Italy great; simple ingredients combined to perfection, no frills and no pretention.

We served ours with a quick tomato sauce. Heat up a little olive oil in a pan, add a clove of sliced garlic and a pinch of dried chilli. Tip in a tin of tomatoes and a tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar. Cook for 5 minutes and taste for seasoning.

Serve with chives, chive flowers and with plenty of Parmesan cheese. Great to make with your children too, give them a go.

Ricotta Dumplings
Feeds 3 as a light lunch

200g Ricotta cheese
3 egg yolks
A grating of nutmeg
30g Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
200g plain flour

1 - In a bowl, mash together the Ricotta cheese and egg yolks then stir in the nutmeg, Parmesan and seasoning.
2 - Pour in the flour then form to a dough using your hands.
3 - On a floured bench, roll out into a sausage shape (you may need to do it in portions). Cut off 1 inch dumplings and set aside.
4 - Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the dumplings. Once they float to the surface, they are ready to drain and eat with the sauce.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Cauliflower and Cheese Soup with Watercress and Pea Purée

Cauliflower cheese has to be a true British classic. Whoever thought of combining this beautiful white specimen with a rich cheese sauce deserves a medal, as it has to be one of the few vegetable dishes you want to eat in its entirety with no accompaniment. It is simply delicious.

This soup is a true joy to eat, and any good strong cheese will suffice. I used a slab of Berwick Edge cheese from the amazing Doddington Dairy in Wooler ( as it is one of our tremendous local cheeses that sings like the best cheddar yet has a silky soft texture.

A simple purée with some peppery watercress, a few frozen peas and a little yoghurt makes this a sophisticated starter for any occasion.

Cauliflower and Cheese Soup with Watercress and Pea Purée

1 Cauliflower, trimmed and chopped roughly
2 shallots or 1 onion, sliced
Olive oil
500ml water
150g Berwick Edge Cheese (or any good strong cheddar), grated
50g butter
50g plain flour
250ml milk
Salt and Pepper

For the purée
2 handfuls of frozen or fresh peas, softened in boiling water for 2 minutes
2 handfuls of watercress
100ml yoghurt

1 - Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the shallot and cauliflower. Cook for 5-10 minutes stirring regularly, until softened but not coloured.
2 - Add the water, bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes until softened completely. Blitz until smooth in a food processor or using a hand processor. Push through a sieve for a smoother consistency but I prefer the texture.
3 - Make a roux by melting the butter and adding the flour, stirring for 1 minute. Add the milk gradually until you have a thick sauce, the consistency of double cream.
4 - Stir in the cheese and thoroughly combine. Then stir into the soup. Taste for seasoning.
5 - Make a simple purée by blitzing the peas and watercress then stirring into the yoghurt.
6 - Serve the soup in bowls with a good spoonful of purée and a few shavings of cheese.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Indian Spiced Lamb 'Burgers'

Is it too early to spark up the old BBQ? Why of course not. Get yourself some minced lamb and try these amazing burgers this weekend.

Indian Spiced Lamb 'Burgers'
Makes 6 large burgers

500g quality minced lamb
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 thumb of fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
A handful each of fresh mint and coriander
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
2 handfuls of stale breadcrumbs

For the raita
Cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

1 - Put the mustard seeds into a dry frying pan and toast until fragrant. Remove.
2 - Put all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl them combine thoroughly with your hands.
3 - Form into your preferred burger size then grill or BBQ to your desired rareness. Or form around BBQ sticks and call them a shish kebab.
4 - To make the raita, simply combine the ingredients and taste for seasoning.
5 - Serve with toasted sesame seed buns, fresh salad and raita.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Potato, Garlic, Cheddar and Chive Soup

A soup that uses the most simple of ingredients to make a flavour packed and filling meal.

Potato, Garlic, Cheddar and Chive Soup
Feeds 4

25g butter or 2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced
6 large, floury potatoes (such as Maris Piper or King Edward), peeled and chopped
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
250g Cheddar cheese, grated
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt or double cream
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat the oil in a large soup pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened but not coloured.
2 - Add the chopped potatoes and stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Stir in the grated Cheddar cheese.
3 - Blend until smooth and reheat. Stir through the Greek yoghurt or cream and taste for seasoning. Serve in bowls with freshly chopped chives and crusty bread.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Chocolate and Orange Hot Cross Buns

Chocolate and Orange Hot Cross Buns
Makes 10-12

1 tbsp dried yeast
1 tbsp honey
200ml warm water
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice
50g sultanas
Zest of one orange, finely grated
Half an Easter egg, roughly chopped, or 100g of plain or milk chocolate
2 tbsp honey
25g melted butter
100ml warm milk
1 egg

1 - Mix together the yeast, honey and water and leave for 5-10 minutes in a warm place until it forms a froth and starts to smell.
2 - Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the salt, spice, sultanas, orange zest and chocolate egg.
3 - Pour in the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Mix the egg in with the milk and pour in along with the melted butter and honey, mixing thoroughly. You may need a little more milk. Mix until it comes together into a dough.
4 - Tip onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until a hand indentation pressed into the surface springs back straight away.
5 - Put back into the bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for an hour or so until it has doubled in size. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C, GM6.
6 - When doubled in size, lightly knead again to get rid of the air. Roll out into a sausage and cut off 10-12 portions. Roll these into balls and place onto a greased and floured baking tray. Cut crosses into the top with a sharp knife then cover again and leave until they double in size again.
7 - Place into a high oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and make a hollow sound when tapped. Mix a little sugar and water together over heat and brush onto the top to make a sugar glaze.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Almond and Lemon Biscuits

Almond and Lemon Biscuits
Makes a dozen (depending on size)

170g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
75g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
Zest of one lemon
A squeeze of the juice
170g softened butter or margarine
A few drops of almond essence
Sliced almonds

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, ground almonds, sugar and salt.
3 - Grate in the zest of the lemon, a squeeze of juice, margarine or butter and almond essence. Combine into a dough with your hands then form into a ball.
4 - Roll out onto a floured surface to approximately 1cm thickness. Cut out using any shaped biscuit cutter according to preference.
5 - Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the biscuits on, scatter with sliced almonds and bake on the middle tray for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
6 - Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Sausage and Puy Lentil Onepot

Cheap, sustaining, healthy and tasty. This is proper family food which everybody will enjoy. Serve it with plenty of green vegetables and perhaps some buttery, crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Sausage and Puy Lentil Onepot
Feeds 4

1 tbsp olive oil
A dozen good quality sausages (I used Gordon's of East Boldon gluten free chilli sausages, amazing)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 small or 1 large sweet potato, cubed
A handful of mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
A tbsp of fresh of dried thyme leaves, rosemary works too
200g puy lentils
1 tbsp Dijon or Wholegrain mustard
1 litre beef stock
400g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A handful of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper

1 - In a large non-stick deep pan, heat up the oil and add the sausages. Cook for 5 minutes, browning all over, then remove with a slotted spoon or tongs.
2 - Add the onion, carrot, sweet potato and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
3 - Add the sausages, thyme or rosemary, lentils, mustard, stock, chopped and sun dried tomatoes and vinegar. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook on the hob for 30-40 minutes or until the lentils are just cooked and the liquid reduced.
4 - Taste for seasoning and scatter with torn fresh basil or parsley.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Smoked Mackerel and Pea Kedgeree

Smoked Mackerel and Pea Kedgeree
Feeds 4

4 eggs, boiled for 5 minutes then left to cool in cold water
50g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
A pinch of cayenne pepper
200g basmati rice, cooked and drained
100g frozen peas
1 pack of smoked mackerel
Salt and pepper
A handful of fresh dill, parsley or coriander, roughly chopped
2 lemons, halved

1 – Heat a non-stick pan and melt the butter. Add the oil then stir in the onion. Cook for 5 minutes until softened.
2 – Add the spices and combine thoroughly. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
3 – Stir in the cooked rice and peas and heat through for 5 minutes, stirring all of the time until piping hot.
4 – Flake in the fish and stir in the fresh herbs. Taste for seasoning.
5 – Plate up and decorate with the boiled eggs – food faces optional. Serve with a wedge of fresh lemon.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Pistachio, Almond and Orange Syrup Cake

Pistachio, Almond and Orange Syrup Cake

200g soft brown sugar or caster sugar
150g butter or margarine
3 eggs
100g shelled pistachios, blitzed until course in a food processor
50g ground almonds
200g self raising flour (I used Dove's Gluten Free)
100ml orange juice
Zest of one orange

To glaze
100ml orange juice
100g soft brown sugar

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one until thoroughly combined.
3 - Tip in the nuts and flour and fold in followed by the orange juice and zest.
4 - Grease and line a 23cm spring form tin. Tip in the cake mixture and bake on the middle shelf for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
5 - In  small pan, add the orange juice and sugar and bring to the boil. Poke the cake in several places with a skewer and slowly pour over the glaze until it soaks into the sponge. Sprinkle over a few chopped pistachios and allow to cool in the tin.
6 - Serve in its own or with whipped cream or Greek yoghurt.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Best Banana and Walnut Loaf Cake

I'm not sure how something so simple to make can taste so delicious, but it does. Serve it warm with butter on and things get even better...

The Best Banana and Walnut Loaf Cake

4 ripe bananas, mashed
200g soft brown sugar
100g soft butter or margarine
1 egg
A pinch of salt
75g walnuts
180g self raising flour 

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - In a large bowl, tip in the mashed bananas, sugar, butter, egg and salt. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
3 - Fold in the flour and finally the walnuts.
4 - Tip into a greased loaf tin and cook on the middle shelf for 45-50 minutes.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Mackerel and Chive Potato Cake

This one is a bit of an alternative to a traditional fish cake. Rather than peel and boil your potatoes, wait for them to steam and cool, mash then mix with fish, you simply grate, mix and slow fry, a bit like a huge rosti. It all becomes so much easier and just as delicious.

Experiment with the fish, even mix in some leftover meat. Either way, it makes for a lovely side dish or a main course in its own right, served with a green salad. Simple, unfussy and frugal.

Mackerel and Chive Potato Cake
Feeds 3-4

3-4 medium potatoes
1 onion
A handful of fresh chopped chives
A couple of fillets of smoked mackerel
1 egg
A tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper
A little grated Cheddar cheese
2 tbsp olive oil

1 - In a large mixing bowl, grate the potatoes and onion. Break up the fish and add to the potato and onion.
2 - Add the chives, egg, flour and seasoning and with your hands, scrunch together until well mixed.
3 - In a large frying pan, add the olive oil and heat up. Spread the mixture around and flatten with your hand to form one large 'cake'. Cook on a low hob for 10 minutes. Pre-heat your grill to a medium setting.
4 - Spread over the grated cheese then place under the grill. Cook for a further 10 minutes, ensuring that it is not catching. You need to cook slowly otherwise the potato will be raw.
5 - Once golden and crispy, cut into wedges and serve.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Chocolate, Whisky and Hazelnut Mousse

The best thing about a mousse is that if you are cooking for loads of people, you can make lots, tip it into some nice glasses and after a few hours chilling, you will be guaranteed a whole load of 'oohs' and 'aahs' from your mates. Great! This one is a bit of an adult mousse, one that I had to hide from my daughter (sorry Cerys). With a punch of whisky, not too much sweetness and a crunch of roast hazelnut, it just takes that already impressive blend of airy chocolate and cream into another dimension. An absolute doddle of a dessert, give it a go choc lovers.

Chocolate, Whisky and Hazelnut Mousse
Makes 4

300ml double cream
200g 70% proof chocolate
50g soft brown sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 tbsp whisky
2 handfuls of hazelnuts, toasted in a dry pan and roughly chopped

1 - Heat up the double cream in a thick bottomed pan along with 1 handful of the hazelnuts. Break up the chocolate and add to the cream along with the sugar. Stir until completely dissolved then pour through a sieve into a separate bowl.
2 - Allow to cool slightly. Stir in the whisky and egg yolks thoroughly.
3 - Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Beat in roughly one third of the egg whites, and then gently fold in the remaining.
4 - Tip into your glass of choice. Cover with foil or shrink-wrap and allow to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours. They will keep for a couple of days.
5 - When ready to serve, sprinkle with a few of the chopped roasted hazelnuts.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Wild Mushroom and Thyme Soup with Black Bream

Wild Mushroom and Thyme Soup with Black Bream
Serves 4

1kg wild mushrooms, either single variety or mixed
4 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 whole clove of garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 litre vegetable stock
150ml single cream or crème fraiche
2 fillets of black bream
Salt and pepper

1 – Roughly chop up the mushrooms. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the mushrooms, onion, garlic clove, thyme and a good grinding of fresh black pepper. Cook off until the water has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to caramelise.
2 – Pour in the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the garlic clove.
3 – Pour into a blender and puree until you have a smooth consistency.
4 – Return to a clean pan and pour in the cream or crème fraiche. Bring to the simmer and stir thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.
5 – Slice the fillets into 2 pieces. Season. Heat up a little olive oil in a pan and add the fish skin side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the skin is golden. Turn and cook for a further minute. Place a piece of fish into the soup and serve.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Ham Hock, Borlotti Bean and Kale Soup

Ham Hock, Borlotti Bean and Kale Soup
Feeds 4

For the ham and stock
1 ham hock
1 carrot
1 onion
A few black peppercorns
2 or 3 bay leaves

3 large floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
A good pinch of saffron
A pinch of cayenne pepper
750ml of ham stock
Ham from your cooked hock
250g of cooked borlotti beans
A few handfuls of sliced kale

1 - To cook your ham and make stock, put all of the ham and stock ingredients into a pot. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-2 and a half hours. The meat will be cooked when it falls from the bone.
2 - Remove the ham and leave to cool. Remove the fat and then peel off the chunks of delicious, gelatinous ham.
3 - Pour the stock through a sieve and reserve. You can freeze what you don't use.
4 - To make the soup, heat up the oil in a pan. Add the onion, celery, carrot and potato and cook for 5 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne and saffron and stir for 1 minute.
5 - Pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the carrot and potato have softened.
6 - Add the beans and kale. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
7 - Finally, stir in the ham and heat through. Taste for seasoning then serve in large bowls with good, crusty bread.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Herbed Chicken with Roasted Roots and Borlotti Beans

Herbed Chicken with Roasted Roots and Borlotti Beans
Serves 4

For the chicken

4 chicken breasts, fillets removed
2 egg whites
75g Oat Bran or breadcrumbs
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp chopped fresh or dried thyme
25g Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
Olive oil spray

For the vegetables
2 beetroot, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 turnips, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
4 carrots, peeled and sliced thick
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon
1 tbsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp chopped mint
2 tomatoes, diced
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 200C/GM6. Place all of the chopped vegetables into a baking tray, scatter over the caraway seeds, season with salt and pepper, drizzle over the oil and squeeze on the lemon. Mix it all together and roast on the middle shelf for 30 minutes, checking now and again that it isn’t starting to burn.
2 – Put the chicken breast between a large slice of non-stick baking paper. With a rolling pin, flatten the breasts slightly.
3 – Put the egg whites into a bowl. In another bowl, mix together the Oat Bran or breadcrumbs, lemon zest, thyme, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.
4 – Dip the chicken breasts into the egg white, shaking off any excess, then cover liberally in the oat bran mixture. Put onto a non-stick baking tray, spray lightly with olive oil spray then bake on a high shelf for 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
5 – Take out the roasted vegetables and tip in the tomatoes, beans and mint. Season and mix together.
6 – Serve the chicken breasts sliced on top of a pile of roast vegetables and beans with a side serving of pasta tomato sauce blended until smooth and heated through.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Smokey Sausage and Pepper Pasta

People, it seems, are becoming more and more bogged down with the pressures of everyday work or family activities and tea time is becoming more of a chore. That tends to see people reaching for the convenience food. If you can gain a bit more confidence in the kitchen by adopting a few simple cooking processes and learning how to be creative with what you have, it is amazing what you can do.

I always ensure that the spice and dried herb cabinet is full to the brim. They lift the dullest and most bland of ingredients to another level. This dish is a perfect example of what you can do with just a few fresh ingredients and some non-perishable store cupboard herbs and spices. It is completely non-authentic, but does that matter when it is cheap and delicious, packed full of flavour and filling for the whole family? 

Smokey Sausage and Pepper Pasta
Feeds 4

8 good quality pork sausages (I use Gordon's of East Boldon - always a top quality and award winning banger)
1 onion, sliced
1 pepper, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tins of tomatoes
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsps dried oregano
2 tspn paprika (if you can get it, smoked sweet paprika)
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Tagliatelle or your pasta of choice
Fresh basil

1 - In a large casserole dish, heat the olive oil and then quickly brown the sausages all over. Remove and keep aside.
2 - Add the onions and pepper to the oil and stir for 5 minutes until soft and slightly browned. Add the tomato purée, garlic, herbs and spices and cook for 1 minute.
3 - Return the sausages to the casserole dish with the tomatoes. Bring to the boil and then simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Boil your pasta of choice. Serve with the smokey sausage and pasta sauce, a scattering of basil and a green salad.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Corn Soda Bread

Soda bread is so easy to make: 10 minutes maximum mixing, 25 minutes in the oven and minutes to devour with lots of butter.

This one is perfect for the gluten intolerant, using a good quality gluten free flour along with maize, or ground corn. It gives a lovely crunchy outside and a scone-like inside.

You can experiment with this recipe by adding some Cheddar cheese, perhaps some whole spices such as cumin and chilli. Try it, you won't regret it.

Corn Soda Bread
Feeds 4-6

300g bread flour 
200g ground corn/maize
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
500g natural yoghurt

1 - Pre-heat the oven to GM6/200C.
2 - In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients then pour in the yoghurt. Mix together with a wooden spoon then tip onto a floured baking tray. Form it into a dome shape but don't knead or press it too much.
3 - Use a knife and cut a cross into the top. Place onto the middle shelf and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. If you tap the bottom it should make a hollow sound.
4 - Allow to rest for 10 minutes then serve with lots of butter.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Chocolate and Almond Mousse Cake

You may need to burn a few calories after tackling my favourite easy cake,  the chocolate mousse cake. Rich, buttery and intense with high cocoa content, it is a crowd pleaser pretty much all of the time. I love the chestnut version; so seasonal and a brilliant alternative for Christmas pudding for chocolate lovers. But I also love almonds, and with ground almonds surely being a staple cupboard ingredient for everybody, you can whip one of these up in no time.

Chocolate and Almond Mousse Cake
Feeds 8

250g 70-80% chocolate
250g butter
200g ground almonds
50g sliced almonds
5 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and seeded (optional)

1 - Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - Break up the chocolate and put into a heatproof bowl along with the butter. Place over a pan of water and bring to the boil until the chocolate and butter have melted.
3 - Separate the eggs. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla seeds and sugar until pale. Stir in the chocolate and butter and then finally, gently fold in the ground almonds and the sliced almonds.
4 - Whisk the egg whites until they reach 'soft peak' stage, or you can hold the bowl upside down and nothing falls out. Gently fold into the mixture.
5 - Grease and paper a 20cm spring form cake tin. Pour in the cake mixture, then place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is still slightly wobbly and the surface has cracked.
6 - Remove and rest until cool. Decorate with cocoa powder and a handful of sliced almonds.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Beef Rendang

Simply one of the most amazing curries that you will ever taste. Coming from Malaysia, it is the perfect combination of flavours that make South East Asian food so amazing - hot, salty, sweet and sour. Enjoy.

Adapted from Rick Stein's 'Far Eastern Odyssey'

Feeds 6

First of all, you need to get your head around the paste, the key to success for any decent curry. You can make it from scratch using all of the ingredients that I will list. Or, visit your local Asian superstore (loads up Newcastle) who can provide you with a whole host of quality pastes which are really cost effective. Here's how to make 1 quantity of Rendang spice paste. Simple place it all in a food processor and blend until you have a fine paste. Make double the quantity and keep the rest in the freezer.

100g grated coconut
8 red chillies (whole)
2 tbsp coriander seeds (toasted)
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 whole onions
6 cloves garlic
50g fresh ginger

Now the easy bit:

2 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
1kg stewing steak (I like chuck steak) cut into large chunks
Rendang spice paste
2 tins of coconut milk
3 lemongrass stalks (whack them with the side of a knife to bruise them)
10 lime leaves or a nice substitute if you can't find any is to thinly peel a lime and place that in. I peel mine and keep it in a jar to dry.
1 tbsp fish sauce or a tsp salt
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp tamarind paste
Fresh lime juice
Fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3. Heat up the oil in a large pan. Quickly brown the meat all over until golden. Add the paste and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
2 - Pour in the coconut milk, lemongrass, lime leaves or peel, cinnamon sticks, tamarind paste and fish sauce or salt. Bring to the simmer then pour into a casserole dish. Place on the middle shelf and cook for 2 hours, checking halfway through that it has not cooked dry. Add a little water if it is looking dry.
3 - Once cooked, remove the cinnamon sticks, lemongrass and lime peel. Taste for seasoning - you should have a salty, sweet, hot and sour sauce. Add lime juice and fish sauce/salt accordingly.
4 - Serve with plain boiled rice and fresh coriander. In my photo, I've served it with a simple cucumber salad which is deseeded, peeled and chopped cucumber tossed with lime juice, fish sauce, chopped red chilli and fresh coriander.

Meatball Marinara

An unnamed high street food provider has a version of this on their menu. Meatball marinara: hot meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese stuffed ...