Thursday, 24 February 2011

Cherry Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Cream

  • This is a great mid-week dessert and fairly quick to make when you use ready made pastry.  Tinned black cherries are a very handy ingredient for the store cupboard, I also use them in chocolate brownies and trifle.


    375g ready-made dessert pastry
    400g dark chocolate, at least 75% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
    2 egg yolks
    250 ml double cream
    1 x 400g tinned black cherries, drained
    3 tbsp cherry brandy

    For the vanilla cream

    250 ml double cream
    1 tsp vanilla paste
    25g sifted icing sugar

    Beat the cream, vanilla and icing sugar together until soft peaks are formed (be careful not to over whip it).  Chill it in the fridge until needed.

    Roll out the pastry to a round large enough to line an 8" loose bottom tart tin, leave a little extra all round. Place into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

    Pre-heat the oven to 170C

    Prick the base of the chilled pastry all over with a fork and place it on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown then leave to cool on a wire rack.

    Heat the cream over a low gas until very hot but not to boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stir until melted then beat in the egg yolks.  Add the cherry brandy and stir well.

    Put the drained cherries in the bottom of the pastry case and pour the chocolate over them.

    Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes then remove and cool before transferring it to the fridge until needed.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Moroccan Chicken and Chickpea Stew

Chicken thighs are just perfect for this slow-cooked Moroccan stew.  I removed the skin as I find it unpleasant in stews (roasted crisp in the oven, covered with lemon and tarragon, I like) the spice mix (ras-el hanout) comes ready mixed, in small packs, from most supermarkets.  It contains Galangal, rosebuds, black pepper, ginger, nigella, cayenne, cardamom, allspice, lavender, cassia, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, nutmeg and mace.  It smells of roses and packs a punch of spicy flavours.


1 kg chicken thighs, skin removed
1 x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
4 heaped teaspoons ras-el hanout
1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced
1 orange pepper, de-seeded and sliced
2 tsp clear honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A little oil
1 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes

Mix together the flour and spices and add to a large bowl with the chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper and toss thoroughly to coat the chicken.  Keep any left-over flour and spices to one side.

Heat some oil in a heavy casserole over a medium heat, add the chicken and brown both sides, do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot.  When all the chicken is browned remove it from the pot and add a little more oil.  Add the onion and cook gently to soften.  Add any left over flour and spice, stir to combine and add the chicken back into the pot.

Pour over the tomatoes, chickpeas and honey, add the peppers.  Bring to a simmer and place in a pre-heated oven (170C) for 65 minutes until cooked through and the sauce thickened.  Test the seasoning.

Serve with cous-cous or brown rice.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Malted Fruit Loaf

It's probably much easier than you thought to make a fruit malt loaf and it,s so much nicer than shop bought.  This recipe makes 2 loaves so, you can eat one and freeze one.


450g Wholewheat flour
1 tsp salt
25g mixed spice
50g muscovado sugar
25g fresh yeast
15ml malt extract
25g plain flour
300ml warm water
15ml sunflower oil
100g raisins
1 medium egg, lightly beaten


15ml malt extract
15ml apple juice concentrate


Mix together the flour, salt, spice and sugar
Mix the yeast with the malt extract, plain flour and warm water.

Leave to forment in a warm place for 5 minutes or until the surface of the liquid is quite frothy.

Add the ferment and the oil to the dry ingredients
Mix well with a wooden spoon, then knead well for 5-7 minutes

Lightly knead in the raisins and put into a clean bowl to rise for 30 minutes, covered with a damp cloth.
Punch the dough down with your fist, knead again lightly and divide it between 2 buttered, 1lb, loaf tins. Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200C gas mark6. Brush the tops of the loaves with beaten egg and bake them for 30-35 minutes.

While still hot from the oven, brush with the malt extract mixed with the apple juice. You may not need all of it.

When cool, wrap 1 loaf in foil and freeze,store the other in an airtight container.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lamb Casserole with Chorizo, Winter veg and Mint Doughballs

This lamb casserole is a hearty dish and the addition of Chorizo gives it a warm spicy taste.  I have used some trimmed, lamb leg steaks and left them whole.

The doughballs have a hint of mint going through them and they taste great.


1 kg lamb leg steaks, trimmed of excess fat
1 large onion, chopped
2 large leeks, washed, trimmed and cut into thick rounds
1/2 swede, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks
A little oil
3 Chorizo sausages, cut into small chunks
2 x 400g tinned chopped plum tomatoes
A little flour to coat the lamb
Salt to taste

For the doughballs

100g self-raising flour
50g suet
Large pinch of salt
5 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp chopped mint or 2 tsp garden mint sauce

Heat a little oil over a medium heat and soften the onion.  Toss the lamb in a little flour to coat.  Add the lamb and chorizo and cook until the lamb is browned, stirring frequently.

Add the winter vegetables and cook for a few minutes, still stirring frequently.  Now add the tomatoes and water, stir to combine and bring to a simmer.  Place a lid on and cook for 40 minutes over a low heat.

Place the flour, salt and suet in a bowl, add the water and mint and mix to a loose dough.  Using around 1 dessert spoon form the dough into balls (you may need to flour your hands for this) place the doughballs on top of the casserole and replace the lid.  Cook for 15-20 minutes until the doughballs are risen and spongy to the touch.

Enjoy with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Spicy Thai Snacks

I had quite a few fresh ingredients left over from my little Chinese feast (posted for Chinese new year), so rather than waste them I concocted some tasty Thai snacks for the family.  They were a great success and lasted all of 5 minutes.

For the coconut crab cakes I used a tin of white crab meat which was surprisingly sweet and tasty. 

Coconut crab cakes

1 x 130g tin white crab meat
1.5" fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 stalk lemongrass, bashed and finely chopped
2 green Thai chillies, finely chopped (I left the seeds in but you may not want it quite so spicy)
2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp chopped coriander
Juice of 1 /2 lime
1tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 egg white to bind

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Form small patties using a dessert spoon and coat them in a little flour, shake off the excess.

Heat a little oil in a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat.  Fry the crab cakes for 2-3 minutes each side until they are golden brown and firm to the touch.

Serve with a sweet chilli dip.

Beef and Peanut Rolls

6 Spring roll wrappers
250g lean minced beef
2 green chillies finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2" root ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbsp chopped coriander
2 stalks lemongrass, bashed and finely chopped
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
A little oil for browning
Sesame oil for brushing

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and soften the onion over a medium heat, add the minced beef and stir until browned.  Next add the chilli, garlic, ginger and lemon grass, cook, stirring continuously for around 2 minutes.  Add the soy sauce, honey, and chopped coriander and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated, add the peanut butter and stir to combine.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Place 2 tbsp of the beef mixture into the spring roll wrappers and roll to a large cigar shape.  Lay the rolls on a baking tray and brush all over with sesame oil .  Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve hot cut into diagonal pieces.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Minestrone Soup with Angel-hair Pasta and Pesto Croutons

After a long walk in the park with Jessie, through gale-force winds, my lunch of Minestrone soup was very welcome.  With the soup simmering away on the stove all that was needed was to add some pasta and make the croutons.

I used angel-hair pasta as it was very quick to cook.
For the croutons I cubed a large slice of uncut bread and mixed together 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 tsp basil pesto, seasoned with  pepper then tossed it all together.  After spreading them over a baking tray I baked them in a pre-heated oven 190C for 7 minutes, grated a little Parmesan over the soup and put the croutons on top.

Great lunch!

Jessie had a pig's ear but we won't talk about that.

For the soup

1.5 litres chicken stock
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 courgette, diced
1/4 swede, diced
1 x 4oog tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g green beans, chopped
50g pasta
Parmesan cheese to garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A little olive oil

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat and sweat off the vegetables until they are just beginning to soften.

Place the stock, tinned tomatoes, puree and vegetables in a large pot, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

Pop the pasta into the soup while you are making the croutons.

Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and croutons.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Gung Hay Fat Choy

A Little Chinese Feast
2011 The Year Of The Rabbit

Celebrate the Chinese new year with the family, making all or just some of this not so little Chinese feast.  There's something here for everyone and quite a lot of it can be prepared the day before.

Sticky Ribs
Prawn Sesame Toast
Pork Dumplings
Aromatic Duck with Pancakes
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Egg Fried Rice
Sesame Noodles

Aromatic Duck with Pancakes

1 whole fresh duck
3 tbsp five spice powder
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp oil
Salt and pepper
2 packs x 12 ready made pancakes
1 cucumber, cut to small strips
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and cut to small strips
Hoisin sauce

Preheat the oven to 200C

Mix together the five spice powder, soy sauce, tomato puree, oil, salt and pepper.

Coat the duck inside and out with the mixture. Place in the oven for 30 minutes then turn the temperature down to 150C and cook for a further 45 minutes- 1 hour.until the meat is tender and the skin crisp.

Warm the pancakes in the microwave for 20-25 seconds

Shred the meat from the duck, using 2 forks.

Spread the pancake with a little Hoisin sauce add a few strips of cucumber, spring onions and some shredded duck, roll it up and eat it with your fingers

Sticky Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

A pile of shiny roasted spare ribs looks and tastes delicious and are very easy to make

900g pork spare ribs
1 tbsp clear honey
2 tbsp marmalade
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp sherry
1 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
1 lemon, juice only
Finely chopped spring onion to garnish

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/ gas 4

Place the ribs in a roasting tin
Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl and spoon over the ribs. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

Roast the ribs in the oven for 45 minutes basting occasionally and turning once.

Put the ribs into a serving dish and bubble the pan juices over a high heat until reduced and thickened.

To serve spoon the thick shiny sauce over the ribs and garnish with spring onion.

Tip: To make the day before , just marinate the ribs in the sauce, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and leave at room temperature. The flavour should be more intense and the ribs tender.

Sesame Prawn Toast

6 slices thin cut white bread
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
250g raw prawns
2 chopped spring onions
1tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chopped ginger
Sesame seeds to coat

400ml groundnut oil to deep fry.

Place the prawns, egg, salt, spring onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger in a food processor, blend to a smooth paste put the paste in the fridge while you prepare the bread.

Cut each slice into 4 triangles. Spread each triangle with the prawn paste and coat with sesame seeds.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan, at a moderate heat. Test the temperature by dropping in a cube of bread, if it is golden brown within 20 seconds the oil is ready.
Cook the prawn toasts a few at a time, drain on kitchen paper and eat warm.

Pork Dumplings

18 wonton Wrappers
300g lean pork mince
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sherry
1 tsp brown sugar
Pepper and a little salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Mix together thoroughly the mince and the rest of the filling ingredients.

Lay out the wonton wrappers and brush the edges with water. Place a small ball of the pork mixture in the middle of each wrapper, gather the edges and press together to form a small pouch. Steam or poach for 5-6 minutes and eat warm, dipped in soy sauce.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
1 carrot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated ginger

Sauce ingredients

3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour

Cut the chicken into small chunks and mix with the soy sauce and sesame oil.

In a jug or bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients with 100ml cold water. Line a large plate with kitchen paper.

For the batter

Mix this just as you are about to cook. Sift 85g/3oz plain flour and 1 tbsp cornflour with ½ tsp fine sea salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in 200ml/7fl oz ice-cold sparkling mineral water along with a few ice cubes using a whisk, but don't over beat. It doesn't matter about a few lumps. Use immediately.

Heat the groundnut oil in a deep-fat fryer to about 180C. Then dip a few chunks of chicken at a time into the batter, then place in the hot oil using tongs or a slotted spoon, but don't crowd the pan. Fry until crisp and golden - about 2 mins. You may need to do this in batches, so reheat the oil each time. As the chunks cook, lift out with tongs/spoon to the paper-lined plate to drain.

Heat a wok to hot, add about 3 tbsp oil and stir-fry the vegetables with the garlic and ginger for about 3 mins. Give the sauce a quick final stir and pour into the wok, mixing as it cooks to a light glossy sauce. Bubble for 1 min, then spoon over the chicken and serve with egg fried rice.

Egg fried rice

250g basmati rice
1 egg, whisked
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
Spring onion to garnish

Wash the rice thoroughly and cover with cold water and just a little salt. Bring to the boil and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover with a lid. Let it stand for 7 minutes.

The rice will have absorbed the water, strain off any water that may be left and fluff up the rice with a fork.

Heat the vegetable and sesame oil in a wok, add the beaten egg and stir until it starts to cook. Add the rice to the wok and stir thoroughly into the egg. Add the soy sauce, then give it all a good stir.

Sesame Noodles

300g medium egg noodles
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 spring onion, chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.

Mix together the peanut butter, soy sauce, vegetable oil and sesame oil, mix with the noodles and to finish, sprinkle over the spring onion, chilli and sesame seeds.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Herby Chicken Bacon and Vegetable Kebabs

A healthy dinner (apart from the streaky bacon which keeps the chicken moist but can be omitted).  I used olive oil, garlic, parsley, thyme,bay leaves and lemon juice to brush and coat the kebabs, if you have time you can marinate them in the mixture before you thread them onto the skewers.  Season them when they are cooked.

Serve with a salad of your choice or pitta bread.


Makes 6

500g boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut to large chunks
2 courgettes, cut into chunks
6 slices streaky bacon
12 mushrooms, halved
4 shallots, peeled and halved
7 cloves garlic, crush one and add it to the olive oil and leave the rest whole to thread onto skewers
2 tbsp chopped  fresh herbs
Bay leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Make the marinade by mixing the herbs, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic.
Wrap the chicken chunks in small strips of bacon and thread, with the vegetables onto bamboo skewers (soak them in water first for about 30 minutes) brush them all over with the herb and oil mixture and place under a pre-heated grill at high for 5 minutes then turn and grill for a further 5 minutes until cooked through and starting to crisp at the edges.

Use Prosciutto ham instead of bacon, for a leaner, tastier and crisper wrap for the chicken. 

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...