Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Asparagus Tempura with Soy, Tomato and Ginger dipping sauce

Asparagus is at it's best when in season so now is the time to buy it. It is probably best avoided out of season as it travels from far corners of the world and is often lagging a bit before it arrives here.

There is also white Asparagus from the continent which are force grown in sandbanks and dug out before their heads see the light of day. White Asparagus is more bitter than locally grown, so add a little sugar when cooking.

Wild Asparagus is perhaps the best but not as easy to find. It's apparently very common in Russia, where the cows eat it.


Select medium to small sized spears. The bottom of each stem should snap off cleanly. You can probably tell if they are not fresh, they look dry and tired.

The best way to prepare Asparagus is to cook it immediately after peeling and refresh it in iced water to retain it's colour.

Don't overcook.   It has a very distinctive flavour and should still be slightly crunchy.

For the tempura

25g plain flour
35g cornflour
Large pinch salt
250g asparagus, peeled and woody base removed
Chilled sparkling water

Gently mix the dry ingredients with enough water to make a thick but still runny batter, be careful not to over mix it , lumps are ok on this occasion.

Heat the oil over a medium heat until a cube of bread turns golden in under a minute.

Shake some flour over the asparagus and remove any excess.

Dip the asparagus into the batter to coat and fry in the oil for 1-2 minutes until golden,  drain on kitchen paper and serve with the dip.

For the dip

4 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
Small knob of  fresh ginger, finely grated

Mix all the ingredients together and serve in a small bowl.

Did you know

Asparagus is very low in calories with less than 4 kcal per spear. Asparagus is also very low in cholesterol and contains no fat or sodium so can help to maintain heart and blood pressure levels. It is also good for kidney function.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Bank Holiday Breakfast

Eggs Benedict
With Easy Hollandaise sauce

A real Sunday morning treat and a bit quicker to make with the easy Hollandaise sauce recipe. If you don't have Parma ham try ordinary baked, or boiled ham and grill it for a few minutes to crisp it.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce

2 lightly beaten egg yolks
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
125 g cold butter, cubed
Large pinch Cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients in a pan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until the butter has melted and the sauce has slightly thickened.

6 Large eggs
6 tbsp Hollandaise sauce
12 slices Parma ham
3 breakfast muffins
Parsley or chives for garnish

Grill the Pancetta for a few minutes until crisp, set aside and keep warm.

Poach the eggs, in simmering water until the white of the egg is just set and the yolk soft.

Split the muffins and toast them both sides.

Lay 2 slices of Pancetta on each muffin half, top with a poached egg and finish off with 1 tbsp Hollandaise sauce over each egg.

Place under a hot grill for 15-20 seconds until the top is golden.

Serve straight away with a glass of fresh orange juice and steaming hot coffee.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Three Fruit Crumble with Vanilla Custard

I hate waste, so when the fruit in the bowl looks a bit tired I try to cook with it before it reaches the compost stage.

This fruit crumble has conference pears, chinese pears and braeburn apples topped with a few fresh raspberries but any soft fruits will  make a delicious dessert.

For the fruit

2 pears
2 apples
1 chinese pear
A few raspberries or strawberries
50g sugar

Peel and core the apples and pears then cut into chunks.

Cook the pears and apples gently with the sugar until tender.

Place the cooked fruit in ramekins and top with a few raspberries.

For the crumble
50g plain flour
25g butter
1tbsp porridge oats
1tbsp sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Rub the butter into the flour.  Add the sugar and oats and mix well.

Spoon the crumble mix on top of the fruit in the ramekins and put them in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown.

For the custard

200ml milk
200ml double cream
1 vanilla pod,  split, seeds scraped out
75g caster sugar
2 large egg yolks

Place the milk, cream and the vanilla pod and seeds into a saucepan. Bring gently to the boil, then remove from the heat and remove the vanilla pod.

Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together in a large bowl until pale and frothy. Pour the egg mixture over the milk and cream and whisk together. Pour the mixture into a clean saucepan and whisk over a low heat until a thick custard is formed.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Spicy coconut mussels

1 pint fresh mussels
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
200ml tinned coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil


Clean and de-beard the mussels, discard any open ones if they don't close when you tap them on a hard surface.

Heat the oil in a wok, over a moderate heat.

Add the shallots and chilli, cook gently for 5 minutes.

Add the curry paste and cook for a further minute.

Pour in the coconut milk and bring to the boil, add the mussels to the pan and cover with a lid, cook for 4-5 minutes  until  the shells have opened, shaking the pan occasionally.

Discard any mussels still closed after cooking.

Serve with a wedge of lime and hot Nann bread strips.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Turkey and Bacon Pies

These tasty little pies are made using wholemeal pastry with cheese and can be eaten hot or cold, making them ideal picnic food.  I baked them in a non-stick muffin tin.

Great with a crisp green salad and chutney.

For the pastry

200g wholemeal plain flour
50g  butter
50g white cooking fat
50g cheddar cheese, finely grated
A little cold water to mix

Using your fingertips, rub the fats into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, stir in the grated cheese the add enough cold water to make a firm dough (alternatively you could use a food processor).  Rest the dough in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling

200g turkey breast, cut into small pieces
100g smoked bacon,  chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
A little oil
Small bunch fresh tarragon, chopped
200ml double cream or creme fraiche
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the shallots, try not to brown them.

Add the turkey and bacon and stir fry until the turkey starts to lightly brown, add the tarragon and mix thoroughly. 

Stir in the cream and simmer gently until the sauce has thickened (about 5 minutes)

Season to your taste but remember the bacon may be quite salty.  Leave to cool down.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to around the thicknes of £1 coin then cut out  12 x 4" rounds and 12 x 3" lids.  Line the muffin tin with the large pastry rounds then fill with the turkey mixture.
Dampen the edges of the pastry with water and place the lids on top.  Brush the pies with beaten egg then pierce the lids to help the steam escape.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes before removing the pies from the tin.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Cheese and chive souffle with mustard cream served with rhubarb chutney

This souffle mix is enough for 10 x 7.5cm ramekins or 1 large souffle dish buttered and dusted with finely grated parmesan.  For 1 large souffle bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen and golden brown then serve immediately.

For the small souffles bake in a roasting tin 1/3 full with hot water for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside until needed (I made them the night before and kept them in the fridge).  Carefully remove the souffles from the ramekins and place on individual gratin dishes ready for the sauce.

I have re- posted my recipe for rhubarb chutney which I made 2010 and just gets better and better with age.


A little butter, melted
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
300ml whole milk
1 bay leaf
50 g butter
50 g plain flour
5 large eggs, separated
1 tsp wholegrain Dijon mustard
2.5 tbsp finely chopped chives
100 g Gruyere cheese

For the cream sauce

300ml double cream
2 tsp wholegrain Dijon mustard
Freshly milled pepper
1 tbsp grated Gruyere cheese + a little for topping

Pre-heat the oven to 200C

Butter the ramekins then dust with finely grated Parmesan

Heat the milk and bay leaf until almost boiling, transfer to a jug and set aside.

Add the butter to the pan over a medium heat to melt then add the flour and cook together for two minutes, stirring continuously. 

Add the hot milk a little at a time until you have a thick sauce, turn down the heat and cook it gently for 10 minutes.

Take the pan from the heat, remove the bay leaf and beat in the egg yolks 1 at a time.

Stir in the chives, mustard, cheese and seasoning.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks then with a metal spoon, fold them, gently, 1 tbsp at a time into the mixture (it is important to do this gently to keep as much air in as possible).

Carefully spoon 2 tbsp of the mixture into each ramekin and place them in a large roasting tin, pour boiling water into the tin to about 1/3 of the way up and place in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden brown.

For the sauce:  Gently heat the cream, add the mustard and pepper add 1 tbsp cheese and stir to melt.

Place the pre-cooked souffles on individual gratin dishes then pour sauce over each one top with a little grated cheese and bake for 10 minutes until light brown and sizzling.

Serve immediately with a little rhubarb chutney (recipe below)

Rhubarb Chutney


2 kg rhubarb, cut into chunks
450g onions, finely chopped
1 kg Demerara sugar
450g raisins
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp curry powder
900ml malt vinegar

Put 1/2 of the malt vinegar in a large heavy based pan along with the rest of the ingredients.  Cook gently until the rhubarb softens then add the remaining malt vinegar and cook until the mixture thickens.

Pour into warmed jars, seal and label.  Store in a cool place.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Passion Fruit Pavlova

This is my favourite 'what to do with the egg whites when you have used the yolks for a creme brulee' recipe, I don't know which I was looking forward to most, this is so easy to put together and inevitably becomes the star of the show and there is always tomorrow for the creme brulee, I can.t wait!

3 egg whites from large eggs
175 g golden caster sugar
275 ml double cream
4 ripe passion fruit
Pre-heat the oven to 150C
Whisk they egg whites until they form soft peaks and can no longer slip from the bowl but try not to over whisk as they may collapse.  Add the sugar 25g at a time whisking after each addition.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking tray and draw a 20cm circle.  Using a metal spoon, transfer the mixture to the baking tray keeping within the circle, spred evenly.  Bake for 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and place the parchment paper with the pavlova to a cooling tray.
Whip the cream until it thickens to a dropping consistency (be careful not to overwhip).  Scoop the flesh from the passion fruit.
Cover the meringue base with the whipped cream and drizzle over half the passion fruit put the other half in a small bowl for serving at the table.
I served it with passion fruit sorbet.

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...