Thursday, 28 October 2010

Grilled Duck Breast with Stuffed Peppers

      For the stuffed peppers
      4-6 Red or orange peppers, de-seeded and lids removed
     Chopped celery, onion and garlic
     1/4 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and diced
     Fresh thyme and parsley
     1 red chilli, finely chopped
     1 green chilli, finely chopped
     Salt and freshly ground black pepper
     50g grated parmesan
     200g cooked rice
     Olive oil for frying

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based frying pan and add the onion and celery.  Cook over a medium heat until the onion is translucent, add the garlic and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes.
Add the butternut squash, herbs and rice, cook for a further 5 minutes.   Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the parmesan.  Pre-heat the oven to 190C

Fill the peppers with the stuffing replace the lids and bake in the oven  for 35 minutes until the peppers are tender.                                                   
For the duck breasts

2 large duck breasts (feeds 4 people)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Score the skin of the duck breast with a sharp knife, try not to cut the flesh, and season with salt and pepper.  Pre-heat the grill to high
Grill the duck breast skin side up for around 4 minutes, turn the breast to the flesh side and grill for 4 minutes.  Turn the grill heat to medium and cook for a further 2 minutes either side.  Turn off the grill and let the meat rest for 5 minutes.
Slice the duck breasts and serve with the stuffed peppers.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Baked Monkfish

Baked Monkfish with leeks in a lemon sauce, herby mushrooms (whatever herbs you have available)  all served with a little long grain rice, a fairly quick and tasty supper.  Also great served with pasta, or potato gratin.
Serves 4
1kg monkfish tail
1 clove garlic
Olive oil
700g leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Fresh herbs
1 X 400g tin chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 220C
Peel the garlic and cut into thin slices.  Cut small slits in the monkfish and push in the slivers of garlic.  Brush with olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.  Wrap the monkfish in tin foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to rest.
For the Lemon Sauce
250ml  Milk
90ml  Fish or Vegetable Stock
40g  Butter
25g  Plain Flour
1-2 tbsp Lemon Juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat.
Stir in the flour and cook gently for 2-3 minutes.
Add the milk lemon zest and stock, bring to the boil, stirring continuously, until thickened.
Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice. 

Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan or wok, add the leeks and stir fry over a medium heat until tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add to the lemon sauce.
For the mushrooms

Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil.  Add the fresh herbs (I used Tarragon and Parsley) stir in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve with long grain rice.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Soup and Pudding Dinner

Chicken Noodle Soup 
Toffee Bread and Butter Pudding

A warming dinner for the cold evenings, very quick and easy to put together (providing you make your stock earlier if you are using fresh).

Serves 4

For the chicken noodle soup

2 litres chicken stock.  (I made my stock with the carcass of a chicken roasted with lemon and Tarragon, so there was plenty of flavour.)
Cover the chicken carcass with water, add 1 carrot, 2 sticks celery and a bay leaf, bring to the boil then simmer, covered, for around 2 hours.  Strain through a seive and leave to cool then skim any fat from the top.  If necessary add water to make 2 litres.

You can also use stock cubes or ready made, shop bought stock.

200g noodles or long spaghetti, broken into 1 1/2" pieces, I used wholemeal spaghetti.
1 large onion, finely chopped
A little chopped parsley to garnish
A few drops of toasted sesame oil to garnish (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the stock, spaghetti or noodles and onion in a large pot and bring to the boil, simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in warm bowls with crusty bread and garnish with Parsley and a few drops of toasted sesame oil.

Toffee Bread and Butter Pudding

150ml milk
150ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split then the seeds scraped out
Butter + a little for greasing the dish
6 slices good quality white bread
2 bananas. peeled and sliced
3 eggs
55g caster sugar

For the caramel
100g caster sugar

Butter the bread then cut each slice into 4 triangles.  Layer an oven-proof dish with the bread and slices of banana.

Pre-heat the oven to 190C

Mix together the eggs, seeds from the vanilla pod, milk and cream and stir in the sugar.  Pour the mixture over the bread and banana and let it stand for 5 minutes then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Melt the sugar in a pan over a low heat until the sugar melts and turns golden.

Remove the bread and butter pudding from the oven and carefully, (it's very hot) drizzle the toffee over the top, let it stand for 5 minutes to let the caramel harden before serving with cream or ice-cream.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Butternut Squash Gnocci


1 butternut squash, peeled and de-seeded
225 g peeled potatoes
1 egg yolk
125 g plain flour
Salt and pepper to taste
125 g butter
2 tbsp fresh sage leaves
Parmesan shavings to serve

Cut the squash and potato into small cubes and steam gently over simmering water until tender. Once cooked, mash together in a clean pan.

Place over a low heat for a few seconds to 'dry out'. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Beat in the egg yolk, flour, 1/2tsp salt and pepper slowly. Mix together to form a sticky dough.

Spoon the gnocchi mixture into a piping bag  with a large plain nozzle. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. When the water reaches a rolling boil, cook the gnocchi in batches. Pipe about 12 bits of the mixture into the water, cutting them from the end of the nozzle with a sharp knife.

Once the water returns to the boil simmer for around 1 1/2 minutes until the gnocchi start to soften around the edges. Remove and then cook the next batch.

Next melt some butter in a frying pan, add the sage leaves and fry gently until the butter turns golden. Immediately add the gnocchi and stir over a low heat for around 30 seconds making sure all the gnocchi is covered in the sage mixture.

Serve immediately in warm bowls and sprinkle generously with Parmesan shavings.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Apple and Guinness Fritters

Today is national apple day, so why not celebrate this great fruit with Apple and Guinness fritters?  I have been looking for a recipe which was a little different from the usual pies and crumble (not that there is anything wrong with apple pie or crumble, as this blog will testify)

This recipe from Ireland is by Mark Hix from his excellent book, British Regional Food.

150ml stout
110g self raising flour + a little for dusting
1 tbsp caster sugar
Vegetable oil for deep frying
4 or 5 well flavoured eating apples
Caster sugar for dusting
Thick cream to serve

Whisk the stout into the flour to form a thick batter, add the sugar and leave to stand for 1 hour.

Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large heavy based pan or electric deep fat fryer.

Dust the slices of apple in flour and shake off the excess, then dip 4 or 5 slices at a time into the batter, shake off any excess then drop them into the hot fat.  After a minute or so, turn them with a slotted spoon so they cook evenly.

When they are golden all over remove them from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.

Repeat with the rest of the apples.

Dust with caster sugar and serve with thick cream.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Cheesy Cheese Scones

I have been making cheese scones, on and off  for many years, briefly abandoning them as too retro, so yes, I'm bringing back the very cheesy cheese scone and serving them with drinks for friends.

This recipe contains 2 types of cheese and the scone is very light in texture so you can top them with a few rich flavors.  Use no bigger than a 1 1/2" round cutter and try to keep the toppings quite dainty.

Serve with filling in the middle or serve 1/2 scones.


200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mustard powder
Large pinch salt
40g butter
75-100 ml milk
25g Parmesan cheese, grated
25g mature cheddar, grated  + extra for topping

Place the flour, mustard, baking powder and cubed butter in the bowl of a food processor, pulse briefly to mix in the butter.  Add the cheese and pulse to mix.  Gradually add the milk until the mixture forms a dough.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to around 3/4" thick and cut out rounds with a  1 1/2" cutter.

Pre-heat the oven to 210C

Place the cut out scones on a floured baking tray and brush each one with beaten egg then top with a little cheese.  Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.
For the topping, I spread each scone with a little creamy blue cheese then topped with Pimento stuffed olives, Salami rolls with Manchego cheese, thin slices of spring onion with sweet chilli sauce, ham and chutney and halved cherry tomatoes with chopped sun-dried tomato.

You can use any savoury topping and any cheese you like.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Bread and Butter Pudding
with Whisky


6 slices buttered bread
350ml single cream
60ml scotch whisky
1tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
175g raisins50g caster sugar


Butter the bread and cut into small squares
Heat the cream,whisky and vanilla in a saucepan to just below boiling point. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale , then, whisking, gradually add the cream. Strain through a fine sieve.

Layer the bread and raisins.  Pour in the cream and leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated oven, 180C/350F/gas4, for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.

Serve warm with double cream or ice-cream

Friday, 15 October 2010

Wild Mushroom Risotto


2 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 onion, finely chopped
160g risotto rice
A splash of dry white wine
60ml chicken stock
200g of wild mushrooms, cleaned with a soft brush or damp kitchen roll
1tbsp chopped fresh  thyme
5-10g parmesan cheese, grated
large knob of butter
Fresh thyme to garnish

Heat half the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and lightly sweat the onion, but don’t let it colour.

Add the rice and stir in for a couple of minutes then add a splash of white wine.

Pour in enough of the stock to cover the rice. Keep stirring the risotto.

Gradually add more stock as the liquid is absorbed.

Chop the mushrooms to roughly the same size but not too small.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a separate pan and add the mushrooms. Stir occasionally and cook until soft.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Keep adding the stock and stirring the risotto.  The rice should be al dente but not dry.

Add the fresh Thyme leaves.

Stir the mushrooms and butter  into the risotto and serve with some parmesan and a sprig of thyme.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Chocolate Orange Cake

11-17 October is chocolate week and a time for pure indulgence, the country's top chocolatiers and specialist chocolate shops are holding events all over Britain.  Unfortunately I am unable to make it to any of these events so I shall have my own celebration of chocolate with the following recipe.

Chocolate Orange Cake with Chocolate  Ganache


150g self raising flour
150g golden caster sugar
150g softened unsalted butter
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange + zest for decoration

Seive all the dry ingredients together, add the rest of the ingredients and beat with an electric hand-held mixer, until paler and light in texture.

Pre-heat the oven to 190C

Line the base of 2 x 8" sponge tins with parchment paper.  Divide the mixture between the 2 tins and place near the top of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until risen and spongy to the touch.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

For the filling

200ml double cream
25g icing sugar

Whisk together until thick enough to spread but be careful not to overwhip.

Sandwich the cooled sponges together with the cream.

For the chocolate ganache

200g good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
100ml fresh double cream
1 tbsp orange liqueur

Chop the chocolate and place in a bowl with the cream and liqueur, set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until melted, smooth and shiny.  When almost cool pour over the cake and let it dribble over the edges.

Sprinkle the orange zest over the top.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Peperonata with Bruschetta

This traditional Italian stew of onions and sweet peppers is a very colourful and versatile dish that works as a sauce or relish but also makes a great addition to a selection of antipasti. It's simple to make.


Olive oil
1 onion  peeled sliced
1 red pepper  de-seeded, sliced
1 yellow pepper,  de-seeded, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 tbsp capers

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, red and yellow peppers and garlic, then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until softened.  Add the capers  Keep warm.

For the Bruschetta

Baguette slices rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, toasted on a hot griddle

Monday, 11 October 2010

Carrot Cake Squares
Carrot cake, a real treat for tea time or served with some whipped cream for dessert. I know you will like this particular version of this popular cake. It's light and tasty and you feel you are eating something a bit healthier. Who am I to argue with that.


250g unsalted butter
1tsp salt
375g caster sugar
1tsp mixed spice
grated rind of 2 oranges
450g carrots, finely grated
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g plain flour
125g self raising wholemeal flour
Juice of 1 orange
150g chopped almonds
1tbsp vanilla extract
2tbsp sultanas (optional)

For the icing

225g cream cheese
65g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract


Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4
Grease a 10" square cake tin
Beat the butter, sugar and orange rind until they are light and fluffy.
Slowly add the eggs, beating well between each addition
Fold in the carrot and nuts
Add the vanilla and orange juice
Sift the flours, soda, spice and salt together, then fold into the mixture
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 45-60 minutes

To make the icing

Cream the cheese and butter together until smooth
Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth
Spread over the top of the cooled cake and cut into squares.
Decoration suggestions

Marzipan carrots
Chopped Almonds
Desiccated Coconut
Pecans or Walnuts

Store in an airtight container

Friday, 8 October 2010

Slow roast shoulder of spicy lamb with apricot stuffing


1 large shoulder of lamb
2tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
1tbsp fresh Thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons
1tsp ground cumin

For the stuffing
6 ready to eat apricots, chopped
25g pine nuts
25g bread crumbs
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
50g medium oatmeal, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
Salt and freashly milled pepper
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 160C gas 3

Mix all the stuffing ingredients together and place them down the middle of the lamb.  Roll and tie with string.

Cover the lamb in olive oil ,garlic, herbs, cumin, salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper, squeeze over the juice of one of the lemons.

Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting tin. Pour in enough boiling water to come 2-3 cms up the sides of the tin. Cook for between 4 and 5 hours, depending on the size of the lamb shoulder.

To serve:
sprinkle with a little salt, some extra virgin olive oil, a touch of lemon juice and some chopped parsley.

Delicious with creamed parsnips and colcannon.


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Plum and Raspberry Almond Sponge Pudding with Lemon Custard

For the fruit

300g plums, stoned
150g raspberries
50g granulated sugar

Place the fruit and sugar in a saucepan over a moderate heat.  Cook until the plums are soft.  Set aside to cool.

For the sponge

100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
100g soft margarine
2 large eggs
2 tbsp ground almonds
2-3 drops almond essence

Place all the ingredients (except the ground almonds) in a large bowl.  Beat together with a hand-held electric mixer until pale.  Fold in the ground almonds.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Put the fruit in an oven-proof dish and top with the sponge mixture.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the sponge is golden.  Test the sponge is cooked by piercing it with a skewer, there should be no raw mixture on it when you withdraw the skewer.

Lemon custard

I just made a quantity of custard using custard powder.  I added the juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon to the milk when I was heating it,  mixed some custard powder with cold milk to form a paste and added it to the milk a little at a time until the custard was thickened then sweetened with sugar.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Baked Figs with Blue Cheese Toasted Walnuts and Maple Syrup

This recipe works with any blue cheese, I used Costello blue for it's mild and creamy flavour.

If you don't like blue cheese just serve the baked figs with Greek yoghurt and replace the walnuts with toasted pistachio nuts.

Pre heat the oven to 190C

Split the figs and open them up. add a small piece of blue cheese to the centre of each one.  Drizzle with maple syrup and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, toast some halved walnuts in a dry frying pan, shake the pan occasionally to prevent them burning.

Serve the figs in bowls, pour over the hot syrup and juices from the roasting tin and sprinkle the toasted walnuts over.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Blueberry Pancakes

As promised, another recipe made with some of my blueberry crop.  They were a little late this year but well worth waiting for.

These pancakes are great for breakfast or  teatime spread with a little butter.  For a little spice add 1 tsp ground cinnamon to the batter.

For the batter

100g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 egg
Whole milk to mix to a thick batter
50g fresh blueberries

Sieve the flour, spice and salt together, add the sugar, the egg and milk a little at a time until you have a thick, but very soft batter.  Gently stir in the blueberries.

Heat a griddle or frying pan over a moderate heat.  Add the batter in tablespoon measures and cook gently until bubbles appear on the surface, turn and cook for another 30 seconds until golden brown.  Repeat until the mixture is used up.

Serve warm with maple syrup and a little crème fraiche.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Spicy Parsnip Soup

I love this soup, very easy to make and it's a great comfort food when the weather is cool.  The fact that it's completely fat free is a great excuse for second helpings.  It freezes well too.


500g parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp medium curry powder
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 red chilli, finely sliced (seeds or no seeds, you decide how hot you like it)
1 green chilli, finely sliced
2 litres chicken stock ( I used stock cubes)
Small handful coriander, stalks and leaves
2 tbsp fat free Greek yoghurt

Put all the ingredients (except the coriander leaves and yoghurt) in a large pot and bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly.  Blend until smooth, if it is too thick add a little boiling water until you get the right consistency, return to the heat stir in the yoghurt and heat gently.

Serve in warmed bowls and garnish with chopped coriander 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...