Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sunday Night Haddock

This is a great dish for a quiet Sunday night when you can't quite face a whole roast dinner. This is easy to put together and feels cosy and nursery like. It's best when eaten with fresh bread. This is also a great dish for one; and if you can, it can be assembled in an oven proof bowl or ramekin and eaten straight out of the oven.

Ingredients (to feed two)
2 fillets of smoked haddock
2 tomatoes
2 handfuls of frozen peas
500ml milk (or enough to just cover the fish, more or less depending on your dish.)
2 eggs
Chopped parsley

Put the fillets into a greased dish and add the milk.
Thaw the peas by pouring some boiled water from the kettle over them.
Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the dish along with the thawed peas.
Crack the eggs into a two relatively clear spots of the dish.
Cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 for between 15 - 20 mins.
Add the parsley and eat with bread and butter.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup is so seasonal and warming that it makes a great lunch or supper during the colder months. It is especially good when eaten with fresh bread and butter.. You can make it plain, although I often add some dried chili flakes or a whole red chili pepper, de-seeded or not depending on my mood. The addition of double cream is also very welcome and highly recommended for an especially cold or windy night.

1 pumpkin or squash (de-seeded and cut into chunks.)
700ml (or there abouts) of chicken or vegetable stock.
2 onions

1 knob of fresh ginger
Tea spoon of dried chili flakes / 1 red chili

To cook:
Fry the onions until translucent and add the pumpkin and turn in the oil for 10 minutes until it starts to soften (add the chili / and or ginger at this point as well.)
Add the stock and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes until the pumpkin is very soft.
Whizz with a hand blender and serve with a good few grinds of black pepper and your fresh bread.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Nigels Lentil Stew for a Wet Day

This is a great dish for a chilly autumn day and is especially great for cheering you up when it's wet outside and the crisp autumn leaves are turning to mulch. This is a good cure for extreme tiredness as the spices and bacon are likely to warm you back to rights.

Ingredients: (to feed 2)
1 roughly chopped onion
1 roughly chopped carrot
2 / 3 rashers of bacon (cut into pieces)
2 spilling handfuls of lentils (any kind, but puy are great.)
500ml of stock
Chopped parsley
1/2 tsp of: smoked paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg

To Cook:
Fry the chopped onion in bacon, add the carrot and put the lid on.
Add the spices, then the lentils and stock and leave to bubble away until the lentils are cooked, which should take about 30mins.
Add some of the parsley towards the end of cooking and sprinkle the rest on top when you serve.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Potato Gratin

Or Pommes dauphinoise (for the sophisticated.)

This is the culinary equivalent of a big cosy cardigan. It's proper cosy comfort food which originated in Lyon near the Alps and was designed for fending off cold nights on snowy mountains.

Feeds four:
4 baking potatoes (peeled and VERY thinly sliced.)
4 anchovies
600ml double cream (or 300ml cream and 300ml milk)
2 bushes sprigs of rosemary
1 clove of garlic (thinly sliced)
salt and pepper

Parboil the potatoes and garlic for 15 minutes in the cream and milk with the rosemary sprigs and anchovies. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer everything (minus the rosemary stalks) to a greased casserole dish and cook uncovered for 45 minutes in a hot oven (220)
Serve with a simply dressed green salad.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Roast Chicken

It's probably one of the best known truths that a roast chicken is comfort, so it really needs little introduction. Everyone loves it and it cures lots of ailments and elevates spirits - it's synonymous with lazy Sundays and feeding someone a roast chicken is one of the greatest acts of affection around.

Of course it's lovely with all the trimmings, but it can be even better when eaten with plainer accompaniments. Roast chicken with mashed potato and gravy is an excellent cure for hangovers, broken hearts and general low spirits. And, roast chicken served with salad and a good loaf of bread to mop up the gravy is an equally as good provider of sustenance for those hungover or melancholy souls.

To Cook
Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.
Rub butter, a small bunch of chopped herbs (parsley and marjoram or thyme, etc) salt and pepper all over the chicken (This will give a golden colour and produce really tasty skin.) At this stage you could also stuff half an onion or lemon into the cavity.

Put the bird in a roasting tin and add a glass of water and a glass of wine (this will later become gravy.) Roast for 15 minutes. Baste the bird then turn down the oven to 190 degrees and return the bird to the oven to cook for 45 minutes.
Check it's cooked by piercing a meaty part of the bird with a knife, if the juices run clear then it's done, if not, return to the oven for longer and check at 5 minute intervals (a larger bird will take longer.)
Let it rest for 10 - 15 minutes and carve however you like - even a slap dash manner will be fine for this.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Lady Grey Cupcakes

These are a variation of a Primrose Bakery recipe which uses Earl Grey tea. The flavour is delicate and so they make an especially elegant treat for female guests / housemates. These were made for a certain birthday celebration a week or two ago.

125 ml milk
4 Lady Grey teabags
110g unsalted butter
225g sugar (caster will work the best)
2 eggs
125g self-raising flour
120g plain flour

To Make:
1. Heat the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat and allow the teabags to steep for 30mins
2. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs - one at a time.
3. Add the flour to this mixture, little by little, then add a little milk and repeat this process until everything is well combined.
4. Put the mixture into cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 25 mins. They will be done when they are springy to touch. Leave in the tin for 10mins then place on a wire rack to cool.

The Icing:
(This is The Humming Bird Bakery frosting recipe - it's really good)
250g icing sugar (seems like a lot, but trust us)
80g unsalted butter
25ml milk
A few drops of food colouring

Beat the icing sugar with the butter in a mixer (this may take a while and the butter:sugar ratio may seem off - but it isn't) Add the milk and continue mixing.
Once it has all been incorporated, it will be smooth - then you can add your food dye and mix it all together.
Smear all over the top of the cupcakes in whichever fashion you wish and maybe add some cake decorations.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Date and Walnut Cake

A little old fashioned, yes. But, really that's what makes this cake so good. It goes down so well with a cup of tea, especially during the autumn months when it's blustery outside and you really want something cosy and nostalgic.

This recipe was passed on to my mum, who bakes this cake a lot, so it really reminds me of home. It's a boiled cake, so unlike most fruit cakes, it's very simple. You will need an 18cm loaf tin (greased.)

60g Margarine
1 packet of slab dates
60g Brown sugar
25ml / 1 cup of water
100g / 1 cup of self raising flour
2 eggs
60g Chopped walnuts
teaspoon bicarbonate soda

To cook:
Put the margarine, dates (broken up,) water, brown sugar and bicarbonate soda into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then reduce the temperature to a gentle simmer and stir occasionally for about 15mins.
Allow to cool and add the rest of the ingredients (save some walnuts for the top of the cake,) mix together with a wooden and put into your greased baking tin.
Cook in a preheated oven at 150 C / 300 F / gas no.2 for 1hr and 30mins.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Humble Baked Potato

The humble baked potato - such a no-brainer, cheap and one of the most comforting foods around. It can be as decadent or as humble as you like. And they seem to go with whatever you want to go with them, leftover chili or sausages are especially good..

These are a semi-decadent, twice baked, version (otherwise known as 'cheese boats.') They're great for feeding hungry house guests on an especially wet, autumn evening.

So, so easy. Rub olive oil and salt flakes over the skin of your (scrubbed) potatoes. Either prick their skins with a fork or thread them through metal skewers (this is one of Nigella's tips) and put in a hot oven for about 1 hour.

For our twice baked version, take them out of the oven after 1 hour and when they're cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the middles and put them to one side in a bowl (keeping the skins in tact may require a little concentration) Roughly mash up the insides with butter, cheese, salt & pepper and a tiny splash of milk (or cream) then refill the skins.
Put back in the oven for around another 30 minutes longer until the tops have started to brown.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Homemade Chilli

This is a fresh and very tasty Chilli con Carne, perfect for these cooler Autumn nights. For extra oomph serve with a handful of grated cheese and some sour cream - but on this occasion I wanted to keep it simple, with a sprinkling of coriander.


2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 green pepper
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 packet of extra lean steak mince
1 tin of red kidney beans
1 cupful of fresh (or dried) vegetable stock
a large bunch of coriander
a dash of cayenne pepper
a (generous) dash of cumin

To Make:

Dice all of your veg; toss the onion, carrots and celery into a pan with a splash of olive oil; stir for ten minutes until softened, before adding the mince. Let this brown before throwing in your chopped tomatoes and stirring again. Add the stock and the chopped green pepper before putting the lid on and letting it simmer for fifteen minutes or until reduced. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne and add about a quarter of your fresh coriander; in the meantime put your rice on (I had basmati) while the chilli reduces - when done, strain the rice and dollop into a bowl before ladling the hot chilli over and garnishing with a couple of handfuls of coriander. Comfort in a bowl.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Fresh Plum Cake

Making this is good fun when there's two of you in the kitchen; one to weigh and mix and one to chop the plums. This cake would go down well during an afternoon with a cup of tea- but as this cake is so light, it would sit just as happily with a glass of white wine on an evening.

Perfect for a celebratory evening of drinks and cake. Perhaps in aid of the return to University, back to work or just the coming of Autumn.. a reason to celebrate is never far..

150g butter
150g caster sugar
10-14 plums (quartered with stones removed)
3 eggs
75g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
100g ground almonds
50g chopped nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 180 and line and grease a cake tin (about 20cm in diameter / width)
3. Use an electric whisk to firstly beat the butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time
4. Fold in the flour and baking powder with a metal spoon, rather than the mixer.
5. Add the ground almonds and nuts and mix them in, then spoon it all into your greased dish.
6. Squish in the plum quarters so they fit into the nooks and crannies.
7. Cook for 40 - 45 mins and test if it's done with a skewer (stick it in and if it comes out clean, it's done.)
8. Leave to cool for 15 mins before turning out and becoming a marvel.

(Credit is owed for the very most part to Mr Nigel Slater for this recipe.)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

(Very) Quick Chorizo and Bean Stew

This is a great hangover meal, though it's only recommended for later on in the afternoon, when you can actually stomach the thought of eating. This works well because you get lots of fibre from the beans, nutrients from the tomatoes and chorizo is a fantastic hangover cure (something to do with the mild spice and meatiness.) It's speedy to put together - 10minutes is all.

(A word of warning - if you have a crippling hangover don't eat anything, apart from maybe toast. Particularly advisable if you've had a colourful combination of drinks the night before.. trust us.)

A good few chunky slices of chorizo sausage
1 finely chopped onion
1 (or 2) garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tin of beans (whatever takes your fancy, although not baked beans) - or chickpeas
A spilling handful of parsley

To cook:
Fry your onion over a medium heat for a few minutes.
Add the garlic and chorizo to fry for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and beans (or chickpeas) simmer until thoroughly heated through.
Add your parsley at the last minute and don't wolf down too quickly. Eat with a good slice of toasted ciabatta.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Foodie-Movie of the Week: The Kids Are Alright

I really like this film; it's kind of wholesome and pleasant to watch. For one thing I love the house that they live in - but mainly I enjoy watching Mark Ruffalo potter around his little organic farm! It's so pretty, and the restaurant that his character owns looks like my idea of culinary heaven. I couldn't find any really good food pics but recommend the film for a rainy day - it's all California sunshine and outdoor eating.. a welcome diversion from work and grey mornings here!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Autumnal Pasta

This Nigel Slater recipe is perfect for welcoming Autumn. It's very simple to make and the earthiness makes it perfect for a gloomy evening when the temperatures start to drop a little. A glass of red wine would also be a great accompaniment - an excellent antidote to low spirits.

Ingredients to serve 3 very greedy people, or 4 bird-like eaters: (Nigel gives exact measurements - but ball park estimates work fine..)

A generous couple of handfuls of chestnut mushrooms - very thinly sliced
A generous knob of butter (about 25g)
A slick of olive oil
Lots of parsley - chopped finely
Lots of grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves of garlic - thinly sliced
400g pasta (Fusilli has been used here because it was all there was in the cupboard, it was very nice, tagliatelle would have been very good.)

The make:
Melt the butter and olive oil and cook the mushrooms very slowly over a low heat for about 15mins.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil - and cook your pasta for about 12mins, or whatever the packet tells you.
Meanwhile, continue cooking your mushrooms and season them as well as adding the garlic to cook at the same time as the pasta.
When the pasta has cooked, drain it, and add it to the mushrooms, butter and garlic. Add the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Let it sit on the stove for a couple of minutes longer then serve into big bowls.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Homemade Chicken Pie

Making a pie from left over chicken can be a lovely way to spend a hungover evening, (recommended for milder hangovers only.)
Creating a chicken pie is surprisingly easy with ready cooked chicken and ready-made pastry, and it is fun when there are two of you in the kitchen. It is especially good on darker evenings as the weather is turning, when you can spend time in a warm kitchen and listen the radio.

Firstly, you must pick every morsel of meat from the chicken carcass. This task is a love/hate thing. So, if you really can't bring yourself to pick about the carcass like a proper carnivore, then get someone else to do it. But, it can actually be a bizarrely enjoyable task.

To create a chicken and mushroom pie: (in the easiest possible way)
(It may look clumsy but that's the excellence of a home-made pie, it won't look shop bought - but why would you want it to?!)

1. Slice a generous amount of mushrooms and simmer in milk for about 15mins.
2. Meanwhile, roll out your ready made pasty and line a greased pie dish with it.
3. Once the mushrooms are done, remove them from the milk with a slotted spoon and set to one side, you will need the milk for the white sauce.
4. Make a white sauce, a slap dash manner often works - mix a small knob of butter with a spoon of flour over a medium heat, until it forms a paste. Then, add the milk a spoonful at a time and stir in until fully absorbed. The milk should be added a little at a time otherwise you will get lumps.)
5. Once your sauce has reached a smooth and silky consistency (not too thick) season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Add your mushrooms and chicken.
6. Fill the pie and roll out another piece of pastry for the lid and seal with a little water. Make a word out of pastry scraps, if you wish.
7. When you're ready to eat it, which will probably be the next day, brush with milk and cook in a hot oven (180c) for about half an hour.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Easy Pea and Potato Soup

I am a big soup eater - when I was at University (back in the good old days..) I made soup all the time. It may have been because at some point someone bought a hand-held blender and I just wanted to render everything put before me into a paste..

But soups are so comforting - both to eat, and to prepare. This one is so basic and easy that it only takes 15 minutes or so to make;

All it consists of it:

a couple of handfuls of new potatoes, chopped
2 x shallots
1 bunch of fresh parsley, also to chop
2 x leeks, chopped
1 x tub fresh stock - in this case vegetable, but I love to use chicken too/ if you don't have any available use Bouillon stock powder
a couple of cupfuls of peas

Simply dice all of your vegetables - heat some butter in a pan and add the shallots, along with the leeks; in the meantime boil your new potatoes. When they're done, throw them in with the rest of the veg and let it fry gently for about ten minutes until golden. At this point you should be ready to add the stock and peas, and garnish with the parsley; you could blend it or have it as I did, as a sort of broth - accompanied by a cheese toastie! The perfect lunch for a foul Autumnal day.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

For the Ultimate Munchies: Tuna Mayonnaise Sandwiches

I experienced one of those absolutely crushing hangovers this weekend: an almighty headache, accompanied by a nausea that I couldn't shake until about 3pm. It's funny how, in my experience, I go from barely being able to hold a cup of tea down to being ravenously hungry. But when you do get beyond the point of just wanting to curl up in a whimpering ball in bed - and you can actually look forward to the idea of food - then this tuna mayonnaise is just the thing.

I usually make a huge batch with the idea of having it as a sandwich filler for the next few days - but I usually end up gorging on it in front of the telly..


1 x tin tuna (in salt water, preferably)
1 x large tin of sweetcorn
about 5 decent sized tablespoons of yoghurt (or half a tub)
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon, plus zest
1 x large bunch of parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, diced
generous handful of sea salt and pepper

I usually alternate ingredients - a handful of chopped capers goes wonderfully, and likewise using different herbs like mint makes it really tasty. Celery is also a delicious stand-in if you don't have sweetcorn!

Simply combine the ingredients and pile generously onto a good, thick bit of bread - and enjoy with a cup of tea to relieve yourself of hangover hell!

P.S for said hangover hell, I strongly recommend ibuprofen instead of paracetamol - and once you feel like you won't be sick (again) a glass of coke helps. Something about the fizziness and the sugar I think..

Monday, 8 August 2011

An Italian Birthday Feast

Our birthdays both fall around mid-summer and this year we were celebrating 22. So we prepared a small feast for friends with an Italian meal. Such a special occasion always calls for a special meal, but we also kept simplicity in mind. With so much sparkly eye-shadow to apply, time was not on our side, not that we wanted to spend too much time sweating in an unforgiving kitchen anyway!

So, this is what we planned: something special and something light. Perfect for a midsummer pair of birthday celebrations for a handful of friends..

Cocktails to start:
Strawberry Bellini's -Inspired by Jamie Oliver, mostly.
Push a punnet of strawberries through a sieve.
Spoon into the bottom of glasses and pour over Prosecco (Cava will also do fine.)

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad -
Inspired by Grace's recent holiday to Sorrento.
This couldn't be simpler or more delicious.
Cut a generous amount of tomatoes into nice wedges and place in your serving bowl.
Tear two balls of mozzarella into rough chunks.
Dress with olive oil, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of dried herbs.

Roasted Pepper bruschetta -
Inspired by Carllucio.
De-seed and roughly chop your peppers and place under a hot grill until the skins char. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove their skins and slice into small pieces.
Cut some good bread (sourdough was used here) into slices and toast under the grill. Chop a tomato. Once the bread has toasted, assemble the pepper and scraps of tomato over the bread and season with salt, pepper, olive oil and dried herbs if you wish.

Rustic Pesto Pasta -
Inspired by Grace's mother.
Easier than blending and better than from a jar, this rustic pesto is incredibly fresh.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil and simmer some garlic in there so that it flavours the oil, in the meantime, tear lots of basil leaves into shreds (the more the better,) and place into a bowl. Add some (ready toasted) pine nuts to the basil and grate lots of Parmesan cheese. When the oil is sufficiently garlic-y, discard the garlic bulbs and combine everything together. Season with salt and pepper and leave to happily sit until you are ready.

Cook the pasta as the packet tells you and once drained, add the rustic pesto sauce. Serve with a few too many glasses of wine than necessary.

Lunchtime Lentil Salad

A fairy virtuous Monday lunch - perfect after a weekend of good fun which has resulted in exhaustion. This is a nice bolstering salad which is good for days in the summer.

1 spilling handful of lentils (puy are recommended.)
Olive oil (preferably chili oil)
Glugof red wine
Salt and pepper
Serrano or parma ham (or both) torn into pieces
More or less a handful of goats cheese, cut into generous chunks, (on this occasion honeyed goats cheese has been used, which is highly recommended as it is heavenly.)
Lots of chopped parsley

To cook and prepare
1.) Cook the lentils according to the packet instructions, they usually take about 20 mins of simmering.
2.) Drain the lentils and dress them with the olive oil, red wine, salt & pepper and leave on the heat to warm through for a couple on minutes.
3. ) Add the torn ham, chunks of goats cheese and parsley.
4.) Mix the whole salad together and enjoy with a glass of sparkling water.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Easy and delicious Spanish omelette

This omelette is perfect for a no-brainer, light dinner, when you can't spend very much money (or can't be bothered to hit the supermarkets). It's a nice beginning-of-the week dish, perfect after a boozy and tiring weekend; it's also absurdly easy to prepare, and looks pretty!

Ingredients (serves two, generously):

4 eggs (the fresher the better, and always free range)
About ten new potatoes, depending on size
Two or three red chillies, de-seeded (my preference)
Whatever herbs you have growing or in your fridge! In this case I used chives and parsley
Salt and pepper to season
1 white onion

To prepare, simply whisk your eggs in a bowl with a fork, add the salt, pepper and parsley. In the meantime boil your potatoes and fry your onion and red chillies (which you must remember to de-seed!). When the potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork, chuck them into the frying pan with the onion and leave to golden for about five minutes; now add the whisked egg, and keep on a medium heat.

I usually put the pan under a grill to cook the top of the omelette, once the base has hardened.
When it's cooked, sprinkle the rest of your chopped parsley and chives over the top, and serve with a crusty sourdough loaf, some ripe tomatoes and good cheese.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Lemon, Asparagus and Parmesan Pasta

This is another great summery dish. This is a light pasta dish which is full of lots of good things. Perfect if you are feeling a little heavy after a weekend/week of excess or too much stress. Asparagus is full of great things, like folic acid, fibre and potassium. It's only around for a few weeks of the year, so make sure you get it while you can!

Ingredients (to serve four)
500g of pasta
Generous knob of butter
Dash of olive oil
1 large leek
2 bunches of asparagus
2 crushed cloves of garlic
1 lemon (zest and juice)
Generous handful of chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese, grated.
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method (it's very easy...)
1. Fry the leeks in the butter over a very low heat for about 30mins, slow cooking allows them to go all nice and creamy, but make sure they don't burn!
2. Add the asparagus and garlic and cook for about 5mins
3. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice, parsley, olive oil and season.
4. In the meantime cook your pasta and when it's done, stir it into the leek and asparagus mixture.
5. Serve with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Sunny Sweet Potato and Cumin Soup

The weather has been so unseasonably dull for July in England. This bright, sunny coloured soup will make you feel a little brighter and the spicy kick may even stop you reverting to Autumnal tendencies a few months early.

Plus, sweet potatos are full of good stuff, lots of vitamin C and iron. As with most soups, it's very easy to make.

Ingredients (to create about 4 large portions.)
1 onion (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (finely sliced or crushed)
1 heaped tsp cumin
1 red chilli (a teaspoon of dried chili will also do.)
about 500g sweet potatos (peeled and quartered)
700ml chicken / vegetable stock
Olive oil

To make and cook:
1. sweat the onion in the olive oil for a few minutes over a medium heat
2. Add the garlic, chilli and cumin and fry for just a minute
3. Add the sweet potatos and coat them in the mixture - stirring all the while.
4. Pour over the stock and simmer over a low heat for at least 20mins or until the potatos are cooked through and fall part easily. (I see no problem in leaving this to simmer over a very low heat for up to an hour.)
5. Blend all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a good swirl of natural yogurt or sour cream and a grinding of pepper.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

An Old Fashioned Victoria Sandwich

There always seems to be a lot to celebrate in the summer - exam results, graduations and the end of school. There are lots of home-coming celebrations happening too, whether it be returning from university or school, or coming back from a holiday. When such occasions arise, it's always nice to have a welcoming, incredibly English, Victoria sponge cake waiting...

There are tonnes and tonnes of variations on this recipe online, one to suit every size cake dish and every type of oven. This version makes a neatly sized cake for tins which are about 20cm in diameter. Do shop around if your tins are a different size to avoid tears and burnt cake.

This is a very simple version, but once you have the basics down you can tart up your cake with whatever you want.. within reason!

100g self raising flour
100g sugar
100g butter
2 eggs
Good quality jam for the middle

1. Preheat your oven to 180C
2. GREASE and LINE your baking tins with BUTTER and GREASEPROOF PAPER (it's an easily forgotten step, but a very necessary one!)
3. Cream the butter and sugar together (use an electric whisk for ease.)
4. Beat in the eggs
5. Add the sugar and flour and stir together using a metal spoon until it has all blended nicely together and forms 'a soft dropping consistency.'
6. Spread into your mixture evenly between your tins and smooth over the tops.
7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 - 25mins.
You can check if they're done by inserting a metal skewer in, and if it comes out clean the cake's done. Or, lightly pressing the tops and if they're springy, they're also done.

Fill your cake with your jam (good quality jam really does make all the difference) and whatever takes your fancy.

You could make a simple butter cream by blending butter and icing sugar together - the quantities are easily guessed!)

Monday, 13 June 2011

Cheater's Fish Pie

I feel a little ashamed for even putting this recipe up here - it requires so little cooking/preparation/general culinary skill. But it is delicious and it IS comforting.. so here it is:

Ingredients (Served three but very flexible recipe)

1x packet of ready-made fish pie sauce. Make sure it has good/normal ingredients. The one that I used was from Marks and Spencer and was basically the same as if I made it myself - ie a basic white sauce, made from butter, flour, milk and seasoning.
1x bag of fish fillets. I used a couple of smoked haddock fillets and a couple of non-smoked haddock fillets. Alternatively you could use cod... I would say two small fillets per person is enough.
4x LARGE potatoes for mashing
A couple of tablespoons of clotted or double cream to stir
A dash of dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper
A generous grating of cheese to top

Very simple to prepare - I didn't even have to cook the fish, just broke it up a bit and placed it in the bottom of a dish, before covering with the ready-made sauce, stirring in the cream, mustard and salt and pepper, and finally topping with the mashed potato (made with butter, milk and more salt and pepper) and then a thick layer of cheese. Put it in the over for about 30-40 minutes at 190c and serve when the cheese is brown and bubbling. I had mine with peas but it would be delicious with spinach or tenderstem broccoli; finally sit down, relax and enjoy.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Pasta with Cream and Smoked Salmon

This is a close variation of our trusty original hangover dish - this version is just as bolstering and just as easy; but is a little more fancy. It's perfect after a long week or a hard day, but since the salmon is incredibly rich this is not the most hangover-friendly meal. This is for when you are in need of a vital pick me-up after a day of stress, not a night of too much booze!

Ingredients for four: (The measurements are mere suggestions, it's an easy to throw to together pasta with wonderful results, it's very hard to get wrong.)

500g pasta (fusilli or farfalle are recommended)
100 ml double cream (or just enough to coat the pasta, not so it's swimming.)
1 onion
Handful of chopped cherry tomatoes
1 packet of smoked salmon cut into small cubes (scissors are the easist cutting tool for this)
Handful of fresh basil
Oil to fry and pepper to season.

To cook:
Cook the pasta for 12mins in a pan of salty water.
Dice the onion and gently sweat it in the oil while the pasta cooks.
Drain the pasta and return to it's pot along with the onions and any residule olive oil.
Add the cream, chopped cherry tomatoes and salmon. Heat through until hot and season generoulsy with pepper.
Stir the basil through at the last minute and serve.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Foodie-Movie of the Week: 'Waitress'

So this week's 'Foodie-Movie of the Week' has to be small but popular indie film 'Waitress', which tells the story of a small town gal who is stuck in an unhappy marriage and who gets herself through it all by baking. Ah. And it is pies, specifically, that she makes - savory pies, sweet pies, all with weird and/ or personal names (she calls one 'Bad Baby Pie' after discovering that she is pregnant with her horrible husband's babby). It's sort of a comforting film - watching someone bake is, I find, infinitely cheering. This movie is worth a watch, especially if you want to try and replicate the wacky recipes.

Happy Wednesday all!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Blueberry Pudding

(aka: a french 'clafoutis' - or to you and me, a custard-y blueberry delight.)

This pudding is perfect for a warm evenings, it is special enough to be a real treat, yet retains the lightness which warm weather tends to invite to cooking. I realise that blueberries are not the most frugal of fruits and this is heavy on the cream, though, as a once-in-a-while treat I'm sure it won't break the bank or your summer slimming regime. What's more, little more than a blender whizz and a trip to the oven is needed to create this very impressive and delicious pudding..

This recipe serves 4-6 generously, and if you can get your hands on cherries rather than blueberries, they would also work very well!

4 Eggs
85g Caster sugar
250ml cream (single or double)
225ml milk (whole milk is preferable)
300g blueberries
Icing sugar and cream to serve

To cook:
Grease a large, shallow oven proof dish.
Whizz all of the ingredients APART FROM THE BLUEBERRIES in a blender (or hand held whisk.)
Pour it into the dish and add the blueberries.
Cook in a preheated oven at 200c / gas 6 for about 40mins. You can tell it's done when the batter has risen and the custard has set (ie; no longer runny)

Serve with as much cream as you dare and a cold glass of rose wine.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Homemade Pizza!

Pizza is something I usually reserve for the weekends - it takes a little while to prepare so it's best made with plenty of time to hand - but it can be enjoyable to make too. I put the radio or tv on while I knead the dough, grill the peppers and prepare the mozzarella.. This recipe serves four - but I quite like splitting it between three people as it allows each person a very generous slab. Perfect eaten outside on a summery day, with drinks to hand.


1 400g packet of Ciabatta mix: follow instructions on pack
3 mixed peppers (the red, orange and yellow ones if possible)
1 tin of good chopped tomatoes
1 small red onion
a generous hunk of mozzarella - I use two of the smallish packets or one large bag
a handful of olives (as always I use the kalamata variety)
Olive oil - a swig used to grill the peppers and a couple of swigs to line the pizza tray with
Salt, pepper and dried oregano
Fresh basil to garnish

This is so easy to make that it hardly merits explaining. A pack of ciabatta mix works really well and should have basic, easy-to-follow instructions on the back: in this case, I simply add 350ml of warm water to the mix, knead for about ten minutes before leaving to rise in a warm place, with a tea towel lain over the bowl. Put your peppers, halved, onto a tray, rub some oil over them and grill them until the skins are completely charred and can be easily removed.

Chop all of your ingredients accordingly while the dough is rising; generously coat your chosen tray in olive oil. When it has risen, simply spread it out onto and up the sides of the tray (to form a crust); I use a very large tray so that I can spread the dough as thinly as possible. When it cooks it will practically double in size, so allow for some room. Season your dough with pepper, salt and a shake of dried oregano, before adding your chopped tomatoes (I run the tomatoes through a sieve beforehand to get most of the juices out). Throw on your grilled peppers (sliced however you like), mozzarella, olives and onion and put in the oven (pre-heated at about 200c) for fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Toss on some basil leaves and serve with a big crunchy salad and cold beers!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Sausage and Lentil Sunny Day Supper

A very good sunny-day supper of sausages, lentils and tomato sauce.

This is a variant of a Jamie Oliver recipe. According to him, sausages and lentils are the Italian version of sausage and mash. This dish offers the same substantial comfort as the British alternative, but with a lighter edge. It is also perfect for feeding a crowd as the quantities can very easily be adapted to make enough for everyone.
This is perfect served with lots and lots of parsley on a balmy evening with a glass of red wine.

Ingredients (makes enough for two:)

Lentils - allow 2 spilling handfuls per person.
1 Packet of good quality sausages (ie - 3 sausages per person.)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 diced red onion
1 glug of red wine
1 glug of balsamic vinegar
A generous amount of olive oil (or chili oil if, like me, you love it)
2 crushed cloves of garlic
Salt & Pepper
Generous amount of fresh parsley.

I shall discuss each component in turn - each is very straight forward. Prepare it all at the same time and then just bring it all together at the end.

To cook and prepare the Lentils:
I have used simple green lentils, however I have a feeling any type would work well. Cook the lentils according to the packet instructions.
Dress them with a good swig of oil (I use chili oil because I love the stuff,) a dash of red wine, salt + pepper and a generous handful of parsley.
Keep them warm until ready to serve.

To cook and prepare the sauce:
Sweat the onions in olive oil over a medium heat with the garlic. Add half a tin of chopped tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinegar to give it a sweet, syrupy edge. Season to taste with salt and pepper and parsley. Simmer away until ready to serve.

To cook and prepare the sausages:
Cook according to packet instructions, I tend to bake sausages as it is the easiest and leanest method.

Serve each component on a plate sprinkled with lots of parsley.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Incredibly Easy (and Rich!) Chocolate Fondant

This chocolate fondant made many, many hungover University nights a whole lot better; it only has a few ingredients and there is very little physical activity involved in making it. We used to make sure that we had the ingredients on standby in case an intense sugar rush was called for... One thing I should warn y'all about is that it is probably quite (ok, very) calorific. If you are endeavoring to watch your waistline then a small sliver of this shouldn't do too much damage.. as for myself and B, well we pretty much used to split the entire thing between us over a couple of days. Which = more butter consumption than I'm proud of... I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but it actually came out of a copy of Easy Living from way back when.

The last time we made this, we shared it with friends/brothers and watched 'Psycho,' with a dollup of whipped double cream and home-made ruharb compote. If it collapses on the plate, as often happens when we make it, nevermind - it's like a giant chocolate fondant, gooey in the middle. If refrigerated it takes on the qualities of a tart and will be lovely with a spoonful of creme fraiche or some ice cream.. mmmm.

Here's the recipe:

200g Dark chocolate (Green & Blacks recommended here)
200g Icing Sugar
200g Butter
5 Eggs
1 tbsp Self raising Flour

To make, simply melt the chocolate and butter in a large bowl over a pan of boiling water; when done, add the eggs one at a time, before stirring friskily until smooth. Add the flour and icing sugar (I suggest sieving it in), and add the lot to a greased cake (or tart) tin, before putting in in the oven for about 30 mins at 180. Serve and watch it disappear!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Foodie-Movie of the Week: Marie Antoinette

If ever there was a film to make you drool, it would have to be Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst as the cake-eater herself. The film captures the indulgence and excess of 18th Century Versailles - beautiful clothes, shoes, ridiculously over-the-top wigs and, of course, incredible food. One of my favourite parts of the film is when 'Antoinette' has her (18th, is it?) birthday - champagne fountains and general debauchery. If I could feasibly afford it I would totally recreate that party in the future! If you haven't seen it, I advise getting it out on dvd ASAP; it's stunningly shot and aesthetically really inspiring.