Monday, 21 December 2009

As promised, a picture of the finished cake. After a vote from my children we decided on the cake decoration I used when they were small. Thankfully it is very forgiving and covers the bumps and bashes. This is followed by the Christmas countdown collection from previous weeks.

Christmas Countdown Collection

The Cake 03.10.09

Petticoat Tail Shortbread 10.10.09

Little Stilton Pies 10.10.09

Mince Pies 17.10.09

Dundee Cake 25.10.09

Bread sauce 31.10.09

Cranberry sauce 31.10.09

Stuffing 07.11.09

Baked Ham 14.11.09

Christmas Pudding 21.11.09

Christmas vegetables 28.11.09

Christmas Garibaldi biscuits 11.12.09

Rum and raisin truffles 12.12.09

Cranberry Muffins 17.12.09

The Turkey 20.12.09

The Gravy 21.12.09

Countdown to Christmas

The Gravy


Giblets from the turkey
Wing ends from turkey
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 clove
6 black peppercorns
1 small onion, sliced
Pan juices from the roasting tin
1 oz plain flour
1 rounded tbsp redcurrant jelly
Salt and freshly milled pepper


Place the giblets and wing ends in a saucepan. Pour in water to cover the add the bay leaf, thyme, clove, peppercorns and onion.

Bring to the boil and skim off any scum then lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 1 hour.

Strain the stock and measure it, you will need approx 1 1/4 pints to make gravy for 6 people. If necessary return the stock to the pan and boil to reduce further.

Pour off most of the fat from the roasting tin and leave the juices.

Place the tin over a moderate heat and add the flour stirring continuously and scraping any sediment of the bottom of the tin.

Gradually add the stock and keep stirring while the gravy cooks for 2-3 minutes. Taste and season as necessary. Whisk in the redcurrant jelly.

Transfer to a gravy boat and keep warm.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Countdown to Christmas

The Turkey

Turkey requires long slow roasting to ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked. This is particularly important if the body cavity is stuffed. The following times are for cooking at 180C/350F/ gas 4.

2.5 kg 2 1/2 - 3 hours
2.75 kg 3 - 3 1/2 hours
3.5 kg 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 hours
5.5kg - 11.4kg 20 minutes per 450g plus 20 minutes

Set the oven temperature. Trim the turkey and set aside the giblets for making the gravy, wash it inside and out in cold water.

Pat dry with kitchen paper and season inside with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Fill the neck end of the bird with stuffing, then place the remainder in the body along with 2 oz butter.

Rub the skin of the turkey with 2 oz softened butter and place the turkey, breast side down, into a large heavy roasting tin. Turn the bird halfway through cooking and put rashers of streaky bacon over the breast. Remove the bacon towards the end of cooking to brown the skin.

Remove from the oven and push a skewer into the thickest part of the bird, if the juices run clear the turkey is ready. Rest the bird for 30-40 minutes, under foil while you roast your potatoes.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Stuffed Leg of Lamb

For a Sunday roast or entertaining guests, stuffed leg of lamb will become a real favourite. It is quick and easy and if you have your own favourite stuffing recipe you can change the flavour every time you make it by adding seasonal herbs and varying the spices.

At Christmas replace the allspice with 1 1/2 tsp nutmeg and the apricots with 50g chestnuts.


75g dried apricots, chopped
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges plus the juice of 1 orange
75g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1tbsp ground allspice
50g fresh breadcrumbs
50g Bulgar wheat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 leg of lamb about 2 kg, boned

For the gravy
175ml white wine
300 mls lamb stock (chicken stock will do)
1tbsp redcurrant jelly

To make the stuffing

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic until softened
Remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients, except the lamb
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4
Pack the majority of the stuffing down the leg, lengthwise, then roll the meat up and tie it with string at intervals of 1 inch
Put the rest of the stuffing in a heatproof dish, add 1tbsp hot water and set aside
To cook the lamb
Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting tin, add some freshly ground pepper
Roast, allowing 55 minutes per kilo
30 minutes before the end of cooking time, place the extra stuffing in the oven
At the end of cooking, rest the lamb under foil for 20 minutes
To make the sauce
Skim the fat from the roasting tin, place the tin over a moderate heat and stir in the wine
Bring to the boil and boil briskly until slightly thickened. Whisk in the redcurrant jelly
Season and serve with the lamb

To accompany the lamb
New potatoes tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with chopped Rosemary and roasted in their skins
Green beans
Parsnip puree. Peel and chop 500g of parsnips, boil in salted water until soft. Drain and puree with 2tbsp double cream and freshly grated nutmeg.

If you are entertaining guests, prepare the Lamb the day before and remove from the fridge 1 hour before cooking.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Souffles are easy to make as long as a few rules are followed. To produce a hot souffle, egg whites are stiffly whisked and folded into a thick flavoured sauce then cooked in a straight sided dish. The consistency of the sauce is crucial. It must be soft enough so the whisked eggs can be folded into it. If it is too thick the souffle will not rise properly. If it is too thin, it will knock the air out of the whisked egg whites and it will not rise properly. Under or over whisking the egg whites will also result in a poorly risen souffle. Follow the instructions below for a delicious cheese souffle.

Cheese Souffle

225ml whole milk
1 slice onion
1 small carrot
1/2 celery stick sliced
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns
25g salted butter
1tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
25g plain flour
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 eggs separated + 2 extra egg whites
115 cheddar cheese, grated, salt and black pepper.

Put the milk, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and pepper corns in a small saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Remove from the heat , cover and set aside to infuse for around 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the milk.
Brush a 1.4 litre souffle dish all over with melted butter, taking it right up to the top, and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the base and sides of the dish.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C 350F gas mark 4. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook gently for a minute or two, stirring continuously. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the milk.
Return the pan to the heat and bring slowly to the boil, stirring continuously. Continue to cook the sauce for 5 minutes, until it thickens, then lower the heat, stir briefly and simmer the sauce gently for around 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Beat the eggs, mustard, egg yolks, cheddar cheese and the seasoning into the sauce, reserving a tablespoon of the cheese.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold 2 tablespoons of the whisked egg whites into the cheese sauce, then carefully fold in the remaining whisked egg whites, using a cutting and folding action. Be careful not to over mix, but make sure there are no visible flecks of egg white.
Gently pour the souffle mixture into the prepared dish. Using a table or palette knife, pierce the surface of the souffle 1in in from the edge of the dish and carefully move the knife in a circle around the edge of the mixture to release any trapped air bubbles and ensure that the souffle rises evenly.
Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top of the souffle and bake for around 30 minutes until well risen, golden brown and firm to the touch.

Do not open the oven door to check on the souffle for at least 25 minutes. Serve immediately.


Add 1-2 tbsp of chopped fresh mixed herbs with the cheese or use Stilton instead of the Cheddar.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Chocolate Chip Peanut Cookies


125g butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
220g soft brown sugar
1 egg
130g crunchy peanut butter
225g plain flour
105g roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
190g chocolate chips

Beat the butter, vanilla extract, sugar, egg and peanut butter in a small bowl, with an electric mixer, until smooth.

Stir in the flour, peanuts and chocolate chips.

Roll rounded tablespoons of the mixture into balls, place on oven trays and flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake for 15 minutes until browned and cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Swahili chicken


3 tbsp Ground nut oil
1.5kg chicken thigh fillets, chopped
40g butter
800g onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander sees
6 cardamom pods, pounded
3 cinnamon sticks, halved
4 cloves garlic, crushed
400g basmati rice, washed
5ooml water (extra)
500ml chicken stock
2 red chillies, chopped

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, brown the chicken in batches. Add the butter and melt. Soften the onion and remove half.

Add the 2 tbsp water to the pan and cook stirring until the onion is caramelised, remove from the pan and set aside.

Grind the spices and return to the pan with the first batch of reserved onions. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes, Add the rice and garlic and stir well.

Return the chicken to the pan with the extra water and the stock. Simmer , with a lid for 30 minutes without stirring until the rice is tender.

Add all but 1 tbsp of the reserved onion to the pan, stir to combine.

Serve the chicken sprinkled with the remaining onion and chilli.

Fresh Tomato Soup
with Basil Puree


300g ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 small carrot
Half a leek
1 clove garlic
1 1/4 litres chicken stock
1 sprig Thyme
1 Bay leaf
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp olive oil

For the Basil paste
1 small handful Basil, pounded to a paste with 1 tsp olive oil


Skin the tomatoes, cut them in half and squeeze out the seeds.

Peel the carrot, leek, shallot and garlic, and chop them coarsely.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and brown the vegetables lightly, add the Thyme and bay leaf. Cover with the tomatoes and the tomato puree. Add the chicken stock and cook gently, uncovered for 20 minutes.

Remove the Thyme and Bay leaf, blend the mixture and pass it through a strainer into the saucepan and reheat gently.

Serve in warmed bowls and add the Basil paste at the last minute.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Rum and RaisinTruffles


16 digestive biscuits
1 large tin condensed milk
2 tbsp chopped almonds
50g raisins
6 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
Chocolate Vermicelli
2 tbsp dark rum


Soak the raisins in the rum for 2 hours.

Crush the biscuits to crumbs and mix with the cocoa and chopped nuts. Add the milk and soaked raisins, mix to combine and chill the mixture in the fridge for 1 hour.

Form heaped teaspoons of the mixture into small balls and coat with chocolate Vermicelli. Store in an airtight container and serve in small paper cases.

Can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Can also be coated in chopped nuts, melted chocolate or coconut

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Truffle Oil


700g Jerulalem artichokes
Large knob butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 potato, diced
750ml vegetable stock
100ml double cream
2 tbsp truffle oil
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the artichokes in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter and add the onion and diced potato, cover and sweat gently until soft.

Peel and mash artichokes, stir into the soup add stock and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup then pass it through a sieve.

Serve in warmed bowls and drizzle with truffle oil, garnish with chopped chives.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Smoked Salmon Cup with Avocado Mousse

Serves 6

You will need 6 small moulds.


200g sliced smoked salmon
A little oil

For the Avocado Mousse

250g Avocado
1 1/2 gelatine leaves
50g lemon juice
50g unsalted butter
150g double cream, lightly whipped
Good pinch of Cayenne


Lightly oil some small moulds and line with smoked salmon leaving an overlap to cover the top of the mould. Refrigerate until needed.

Puree the Avocado. Soak the gelatine in cold water to soften.

In a pan, heat 1/4 of the avocado puree, add the butter and heat until the butter has melted.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the gelatine, (not the water it was soaked in) stir to combine. Add the rest of the avocado and the lemon juice, season well and fold in the whipped cream.

Spoon the mixture into the lined moulds and fold the salmon over to form a lid.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve turn the moulds out onto small plates garnish with lemon wedges and thin triangles of buttered brown bread.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Quick and easy

Tuna and Corn Fish Cakes

These economical tasty little tuna fish cakes are quick to make and contain no fat, just the thing for the run up to Christmas and all it's excesses. They can also be made with tinned salmon, sardines or smoked Mackerel. Add spices or any fresh herbs. Replace the sweetcorn with peas and eat with fresh vegetables or salad.

Serves 4


300g cooked mashed potato
200g can tuna, drained
115g canned or frozen sweetcorn
2tbsp chopped fresh Parsley
50g fresh brown bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the mashed potato in a bowl and stir in the tuna, sweetcorn and chopped Parsley.

Season with salt and pepper, then shape into 8 patty shapes.

Coat the patties with breadcrumbs and place on a baking tray.

Cook the fish cakes under a moderately hot grill until crisp and golden, turning once.

Serve with lemon wedges and fresh vegetables.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Ham and Lentil Soup
with Ham and Cheese Toastie Triangles


1 Ham Hock (smoked)
5 small handfuls red lentils
2 litres water
250g carrots, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and halved
1 large onion, finely chopped
125g swede, peeled and diced
2 tbsp Parsley, chopped
Seasoning to taste

For the toast

6 slices granary bread
150g mature cheddar cheese
Ham from the hock
English mustard

Begin by placing the washed ham hock in the water in a large pan.

Bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer. Simmer with the lid on for 1 hour, add the lentils and onions and simmer for 30 minutes, add the carrot dice, carrot halves and diced swede and cook for a further 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Remove the ham hock and carrot halves and mash or blend the carrots to a puree. Return them to the pan.

Strip the ham from the hock and set aside for the toasted sandwiches.

Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper depending on how salty the ham is. If the soup is too thick add some water.

Make the toasties by spreading each slice of bread with just a little mustard, add some grated cheese some ham and a little more cheese top with another slice of bread , press together. repeat with the rest of the bread and toast in a sandwich maker or under the grill.

Cut diagonally into triangles and serve with the hot lentil soup garnished with chopped Parsley.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Chocolate Tart with Whisky Ice Cream

For the pastry

210g plain flour
120g cold unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tbsp cold water

For the filling

300g butter
200g dark chocolate
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar

For the ice cream

550ml milk
7 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
75ml whisky
150ml double cream

1. Put the flour into a food processor and add the cold butter. Mix until it resembles breadcrumbs and then add the sugar. Pulse and then add the egg-yolk and water.

2. Remove the mixture. Bring it together into a smooth pastry, being careful not to overwork it. Wrap it in cling-film and refrigerate for an hour.

3. Next take a 25cm flan ring, roll out the pastry quite finely and carefully line the ring, trimming off the edges. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

4. Prick the base of the pastry all over, then line with tin-foil and fill with beans or rice and cook for 15 minutes, then remove the beans/rice and cook for a further 5 minutes. The pastry should be light golden brown in colour.

5. To Make the Filling, melt the butter and chocolate in a bain-marie. Whisk the egg-yolks, whole egg and the sugar. Now fold the chocolate mix into the egg mixture and place into the pastry case.

6. Cook in the oven for approximately 20 minutes. Check the tart as it may need a little longer. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes.

7. To Make the Ice-cream: Whisk the sugar and eggs in a bowl. In a saucepan add the milk and bring to the boil. Pour the milk over the egg mixture.

8. Now place the mixture into a clean saucepan and heat to make a custard. Remove and allow to cool. Add the whisky and cream. It is now ready to put into an ice-cream machine.

9. Serve the hot chocolate tart with the whisky ice-cream and a sprig of mint.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Weekend Treat

Prawn Korma with Coconut Rice

Throw away the takeaway menu this weekend and try this quick recipe for Prawn Korma.

Korma is quite a mild curry and doesn't need a lot of accompaniments, but it is nice with either Nann bread or Chapati.


12 large raw tiger prawns, peeled
1tsp ground Turmeric
2tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2tsp grated Ginger
2tbsp ground Almonds
1tsp sugar
150ml plain yoghurt
150ml Chicken or fish stock
1tsp ground Cumin
1tsp ground Chilli
1tbsp ground Coriander
3 Cardamom pods, crushed


De vein the prawns, rub them with Turmeric and leave aside for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, or a wok and fry the onions and Ginger for 2 minutes until soft. Add the rest of the spices and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the prawns and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes until the prawns turn pink.
To serve

Sprinkle with toasted Almonds and serve with coconut rice.

Coconut Rice

250g Basmati rice
150ml can coconut milk
4 Cloves, slightly crushed
2 Cardamom pods, crushed
1/2 Cinnamon stick
1tsp salt

Wash the rice thoroughly, in a sieve, under cold running water
Put rice in a saucepan with 6fl oz water, coconut milk, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamom and salt
Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes
Place a lid on the saucepan and leave it for a further 5 minutes
By this time all the water should be absorbed
Fluff up the rice
Serve immediately with curry

If you don't like, or cannot eat prawns, make it with diced chicken. It may need, depending on the size of the dice, another 5-7 minutes more cooking time and the chicken should be added just after the spices.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Fresh Tomato Souffle

Serves 4


1 litre fresh tomato sauce (see previous recipe)
2 egg yolks
6 egg whites
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Bring the tomato sauce together with the tarragon, to the boil and reduce it by 2/3 of its volume. Allow to cool slightly and beat in the egg yolks, cool completely.

Whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks. Add 2 tbsp of the egg white to the tomato mixture to slacken it slightly, gently fold in the rest of the egg white.

Preheat the oven to 220C/ 425F/ gas 7

Brush the inside of 4 ramekins with melted butter and fill them to the top with the egg and tomato mixture, flatten the top with a palette knife. Push the mixture inwards 1/4" from the edge to help the souffles rise.

Cook for 8-10 minutes and serve immediately.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Home made Pizza

Deliver your own

How do you fancy making your own Pizza from scratch ? Straight from the oven, lovely fresh ingredients, topped with bubbling Mozzarella, on a thin and crispy base what could be nicer ? Its a lot easier than you think, less expensive and the list of toppings is endless.

For a quick pizza you can use, Pitta bread,Naan bread or Focaccia for the base but, if you make your own base, it is not too difficult and much more satisfying.

Pizza dough

1lb 2oz strong white flour + extra to dust
2 x 7g sachets fast action dried yeast
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + extra for greasing
2 tsp salt


Tip the flour into a large bowl
Add the yeast to one side and 2 teaspoons of salt to the other
Make a well in the centre and pour in 10 1/2fl oz of cold water and the olive oil
Mix with one hand until well combined
Transfer the dough to your work surface and knead well for about 5 minutes, until smooth
Seperate the dough into 3 balls
Put them on a floured plate, sprinkle with flour and cover with clingfilm
Leave them to rest for 20 minutes
After resting them, roll each ball to a 10 inch round
Place on a tray lined with greaseproof paper
Cover with the topping of your choice and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes

Tomato for the base

Shop bought Pasatta makes an excellent tomato topping, as does chopped, fresh tomatoes, but, making your own fresh tomato sauce is probably the best for flavour.

Fresh Tomato Sauce


1.25 kg ripe red tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
15 fresh Basil leaves (torn)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp Worcester sauce


Heat the oil in a medium saucepan
Add the onion and garlic, gently cook for 5 minutes
Add the chopped tomatoes and 1/2 the Basil
Add salt and pepper and simmer (stirring now and then), without a lid for 1 1/2 hours until the liquid has almost evaporated
Add the rest of the basil and cool before use

Suggestions for toppings

Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella. Simple but delicious.
Peppers and olives
Chorizo sausage and fresh tomato
Mushrooms and shredded duck
Red onion and Brie
Chicken and chillies
Spiced minced beef
Goats cheese and asparagus
Goats cheese and spinach
Parma ham and Gruyere cheese
Bolognese sauce
Chilli and salsa

Pizza is particularly good with a relish or chutney and a dressed salad

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Meatball Kebabs


675g lean minced beef
1/2" root ginger, peeled
1 onion, chopped
2 green chillies, seeded and chopped
1 tsp mango chutney
2 tbsp fresh Coriander, chopped
1/2 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground Cumin

Mint Yoghurt dip

300ml Greek yoghurt
1/2 cucumber, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch Cayenne pepper


Using a food processor, blend the ginger onion and chillies to a paste.

Add the minced beef, chutney, coriander, poppy seeds and spices and mix together. Form the mixture into approx 28 balls.

Thread the mince balls onto skewers (2 per skewer).

Place under a preheated grill and cook for 12-15 minutes, turning occasionally.

For the mint dip, mix all the ingredients together and chill prior to serving.

Serve with a rice salad or toasted Pitta bread and salad.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Lovely Leftovers

Creamy Chicken Pasta

400g pasta shapes
400g leftover chicken, shredded
300ml Creme Fraiche
2tbsp capers, chopped
200g frozen peas, defrosted
Small handful Basil leaves
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Put the lemon juice into a large pan, top up with water, add the pasta and cook for 7-10 minutes until al dente. Drain the pasta saving 1 ladleful of the liquid.

Put the chicken into the pan along with the reserved liquid and gently cook for 5 minutes until the chicken is piping hot.

Add the creme fraiche, peas, lemon zest and capers, stir.

Return the pasta to the pan and continue to heat until the pasta is coated and the sauce is heated through.

Season well and serve in warmed bowls. Garnish with basil leaves.

Seafood Paella

Paella is the taste of Summer for me.  As soon as the sun is out so is the paella pan. I cooked this one on the hob, using two burners but i...