Saturday, 28 December 2019

Spicy prawn cakes with coriander drop scones chilli tomato butter and a poached quails egg

Bursting with vibrant flavours of coriander,green chilli garlic and spice

Tis the season… for cocktail parties, family get-togethers, potluck parties, and any other number of opportunities for you to hone your party-food skills. You want options that can be easily passed around, grabbed with one hand, and finished in a few bites; you also want a recipe that’s so memorably tasty people will demand you make it again and again.
Prawn cakes, made by chopping shrimp in the food processor, are great as a dinner option, but with a twist on their shape they’re one of my favourite dishes to make for parties, too. Not only are they easy to make, they’re incredibly tasty and, frankly, much less expensive than crab. (I love crab cakes! I do! But their price feels like you have to make them for "An Occasion", with capital letters, and if you’re not wearing a tuxedo, you’re just wasting everybody’s time.) The best part about prawn cakes is that you can flavour them any way you like.
My Thai-influenced version of prawn cakes is the one I go to most often. A generous amount of fresh coriander gives them a bright, fresh flavour and a beautiful green colour. If you’re one of those coriander haters: (a) dont accept my party invitation; (b) parsley, basil, or mint (or a combination of all three) would be a fine substitution. I also add garlic, spring onions, and sometimes lime zest to the mix.
To deliver spice, I include jalapeños because they’re available year-round, but you can use any hot pepper you like. Thai birds eye chilis or piri piri are a great addition if you prefer the elevated heat. Its always wise to keep things on the milder side when cooking for parties: One person’s “delightfully spicy” is another’s “are you trying to kill me?” (And you can always add more heat with the sauce.)
I like my prawn cakes to have texture, but I also want them to hold together well during cooking, and to have some spring when you bite into them. To get there, after processing the prawns I add a quantity of breadcrumbs piecemeal, until I achieve a texture that  binds the mixture. This gives moist cakes that won’t fall apart.The perils of disintegrating fritters aren’t restricted to those with less experience.So don’t treat it as a catastrophe;put it down to experience.Experienced cooks also cock them up every now and then, as as I myself know only too well.Add breadcrumbs or a little flour to a mix that’s too wet, or egg yolk if it’s too dry. And with starchy stuff like rice or spuds, a tight squeeze when shaping will help hold things together. In other words, if a fritter falls apart in your hands, it’s unlikely to stay in one piece in the pan, so it pays to get the base right first.There’s no one secret to avoiding collapse but, with time, you’ll get a feel for it.

500g 81lb) green ( raw ) prawns,shelled
1 green chilli,chopped
tbsp fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp white pepper
3 spring onions,finely sliced

grated zest of 1/2 a lime,optional
2 tbsp chopped coriander,roots and leaves
1 cup ( 250ml ) ground nut oil

Place prawns, chilli, fish sauce, garlic, turmeric, pepper and coriander in a food processor and process to a paste.Fold in the spring onions. Slowly add breadcrumbs until you achieve a texture that will hold together in the pan.Shape the prawn mixture with the help of a round pastry cutter, into  mini cakes 6cm (21/4 in) in diameter.Heat the oil in afrying pan until hot.Add the prawn cakes and shallow fry until golden.Remove and drain on paper towels.Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
Coriander drop scones
makes 6 
2 eggs beaten, plus 1 egg yolk
1 level tsp Flor de sal
ground pepper
tsp chilli flakes or powder
Soup spoon finely chopped fresh coriander
2 heaped tbsp self-raising flour

Juice  1/2 lemon

Make a batter with the above ingredients by pouring the beaten egg gradually into the seasoned flour.Beat in the lemon juice.Brush a hot flat griddle pan or non-stick frying pan with a little butter.
Drop tablespoons of the batter onto this,2 or 3 at a time, turning the muffins as soon as they are set, and let them just brown  on the reverse sides they are still somewhat soft.Keep them warm, wrapped in clean tea towel, in a low oven 250F (130C) or on a hotplate.

Chilli Tomato butter
6 oz ( 175g ) butter, softened
3 tsp tomato purée
pinch of dry mustard
tsp of sriracha sauce
2 tsp lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients to a smooth paste.It should be served soft.You can freeze what is left over for use with grilled fish,chicken or chops.

To serve
First make your scones and keep them warm covered in the oven until ready to use.
Fry your prawn cakes and likewise keep them warm in the oven while you boil your quails eggs.
Place a drop scone in the centre of each plate.Place a small dollop of tomato butter on top of the warm scone and sit a prawn cake on top of the butter so the butter melts.finally place a poached quails egg on top of the prawn cake.

and finally
A cheffy trick for poaching any kind of eggs!!!!
If you have a lot of quail eggs to poach, this is the way to do a batch at a time. This recipe is an example with 6 quail eggs, but it is easy to increase by two or 3 times the quantity 
6 quails eggs
60ml white wine vinegar
600ml water
In saucepan, bring 600ml of water to the boil.
Pour the vinegar into a small bowl.
With a small paring knife, cut open the quail eggs and pour their contents into the vinegar. Leave for 5 minutes. This ensures that the egg white stays together.
Pour the vinegar and the eggs into the boiling water in one go, and turn the heat to low.
Poach for 1 minute and 20 seconds, and then remove from the pan with a skimmer.
Use immediately, or chill in ice water for later use.


Friday, 20 December 2019

The Truth About Brining Turkey

Does brining a turkey really make a difference ?
I am a huge fan of brining poultry!  For those of you that have never tried brining, you simply must. There is just no better way to add moisture and get perfect seasoning all the way down to the bone. In addition to dramatically improving the flavour, the added moisture gives you an extra margin for error in avoiding the dreaded balsa-wood-like dry white meat.
For me the only turkey is a brined one. Not only does it tenderize and add subtle spiciness, but it makes carving the turkey so much easier. You only have  to try this method to be utterly convinced. And I mean to say: how hard is it to fill a pan or large plastic bin or bucket with water and spices and lower a turkey into it? At this time of year, it’s fine just to leave it in a cold place. I sit mine in the back room of the house with the window open. It means everyone freezes, but who am I going to put first – my turkey or my guests? Out in the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one would also be fine, though the pan must be securely covered: if you´ve got a bucket or bin out in the open, cover it twice with foil and then put something heavy on top to prevent animal scavenging.
And, though you might find it hard to believe sight unseen, a raw turkey covered in brine – with its oranges, cinnamon sticks, and scattering of spices – looks so beautiful as it steeps that I can never help lifting the lid for quick, blissfully reassuring peeks.
    1 gallon water (should cover a medium to large bird)
    1 cup salt (or 1 1/2 cups Kosher or coarse salt)
    3/4 cup sugar
    1 large lime
    1 lemon
    1 orange
    1 onion (cut into thick slices)
    4 cloves garlic (crushed)
    4 bay leaves
    1 tablespoon thyme (dried)
    4 cinnamon sticks

      Tuesday, 17 December 2019

      Deep fried capers,user friendly bar food, addictive garnish or cocktail food with attitude......?

      .....All of the above.
      Put the word ‘fried’ in front of anything these days and it just sounds so passé,yet these little gems of deliciousness popped up on trendsetting Masterchef this year.
      I’m not talking the little, peppercorn-sized nonpareil variety known as capers (sans ‘berries—because these aren’t berries, but the buds of the plant), no, these were big, mature caper berries, the size of grapes, with their stems still attached to provide a convenient handle. 
      So what happens to them when subjected to the fryer and why should we be bothering?.....Because...The frying brings to life the natural oils in the caper berries, warming them and amping up the already delicious, tart flavour that is present in the berries. The crisp, breaded crust encases everything in a nice little package that can then be grasped by the stem and popped in the mouth. Mmmm, please sir can I have some more .
      Deep Fried Caper Berries

      20 or so Large Caper Berries, Stem-On
      2 Eggs, Beaten

      1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
      1/2 Cup home made breadcrumbs (combined with grated parmesan,optional)
      2 Teaspoons flor de sal

      Drain the caper berries, then set aside.  Next, beat the eggs together until they are nicely combined.  
       Put the flour in one bowl, then set the egg mixture next to it, then in the last bowl combine the bread crumbs and garlic salt.  
      First dip in the flour,then the egg mixture.Repeat the first two steps,then dip in the breadcrumb mixture
      When you are finished, you should have a nice, well-coated berry with no gaps in the breading.
      Reserve on the breadcrumb plate and repeat with the rest of the berries. 
      Heat your deep fryer with vegetable oil or peanut oil to 375F...
      ...then fry about half your berries for around three minutes or so, until they are golden brown.  Repeat with the other berries. 
      Drain on paper towel,and allow them to dry and then serve immediately.  They are best when they are hot from the fryer, and their internal oils are still hot. 
      Variation on the theme: You can get some pitted Greek or Kalamata olives and treat them the same way;  that is, batter and fry them using this recipe.  They won’t have a little stem-handle, but they will taste out of this world.  Do this and mix some in with the caper berries for an out-of-this-world experience.  

      Saturday, 14 December 2019

      "Oven ready" Lets get breakfast done,.....a little bit of History repeating?

      "It's the darkest hour that comes before the dawn. Be thinking of that, all you who voted against the Conservative Party. We will come back and we are capable of regenerating ourselves," he said. "Now let's go back home and prepare for breakfast."
       Alexander Boris de "Piffle" Johnson,
      on winning the safe conservative seat of Henley- on -Thames, 2001

      It's all just a little bit of history repeating. Eighteen years on and he´s still peddling the same old rather sad joke. I woke up on Friday morning and to dispel my disbelief needed distraction and serious comfort food.Quality time to enjoy "a full english" before the impending armageddon (No more "continental breakfasts so to speak after January 31st)
       Well,que sera sera,whatever will be will be.(The image of Damnatio ad bestias comes to mind). A vision of cowering English men and women injured by their own self infliction being thrown to the lions. A grisly scenario enshrined in popular culture by the 1951 film Quo Vadis.But before poor lambs get led to the slaughter here is what I turn to when I seek comfort (my own history repeating my updated twist on a classic) "Full English"."Oven ready" to go in just 15 minutes.
       Call it what you will, cappucino of baked eggs, total breakfast in a cup, the reality is a twist on oeufs en cocotte, Shirred pleasured you might like to call it. The basics here are a ramekin dish, knob of butter, slivers of bacon, cream, parmesan or cheddar cheese and two free range eggs baked in a hot oven for 15 minutes. The options are endless, with the possible addition of sausage, chouriço,tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach.

      "The full English" in a coffee cup
      serves 4
      25g unsalted butter
      75g cheddar or parmesan (optional)
      8 eggs
      80g button mushrooms ( or ceps, if you want extravagance)
      roughly chopped and fried in butter or oil
      150g bacon, slightly fried and broken into slivers
      1 handful of parsley(optional)
      salt and pepper
      4 tablespoons double cream
      Pre-heat the oven to 200C /400F/gas mark6
      Butter the inside of four cappucino cups, mugs or large ramekins and sprinkle with the cheese, if using.
      layer the other ingredients as follows: mushroom, bacon, parsley, if using, cream and finally crack two eggs per portion on top. place the cups in a bain marie, cover loosely with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes- they´re done when the egg whites are set.For a slight golden glaze, finish under a hot grill for a moment

      Monday, 9 December 2019

      Godsent sticky toffee upside-down pear cake

       Who said puddings should not be too sweet?
      We dont need the maestro Eddie Izzard to tell us that pears are bastards!!!! " Pears can just fuck off too. 'Cause they're gorgeous little beasts, but they're ripe for half an hour, and you're never there. They're like a rock or they're mush". In the supermarket, people banging in nails. "I'll just put these shelves up, mate, then you can have the pear." … So you think, "I'll take them home and they'll ripen up." But you put them in the bowl at home, and they sit there, going, "No! No! Don't ripen yet, don't ripen yet. Wait til he goes out the room! Ripen! Now now now!"
      Well I have had a bag of baby Rocha pears sitting at the back of my kitchen for over a week now.I have tried every trick in the book to ripen the bastards, but will they ripen? heck no."Add ripe bananas or apples to a brown paper bag to ripen pears in 1-3 days",the not so handy hint on google told me To produce ripe pears in just 1-3 days, place a banana or apple in the paper bag with your pears. The ripe fruits give off ethylene gas, which causes the pears to ripen very quickly.Ethylene gas,my giddy arse, its a myth.There they still are, hard as rocks.On Saturday I had to resort to poaching them before i included them in the cake I was making.Today this recipe popped up and who can honestly say they would not die for a killer sticky toffee pudding.For me it is up there with some of those ultimate Christmas recipes, like brandy soaked Christmas cup cakes.This sticky toffee cake recipe is like the classic pudding but in cake form.Whats more it includes pears.The recipe assured me........
      "It works well with any pear no matter how hard or ripe and bruised it is: all will melt into the sticky cake dough, and will become a delicious companion to the rich and sticky, date-flavoured cake".What a godsend.
      Sticky toffee upside-down pear cake
      Serves 6 
      200g dates, roughly chopped
      350ml oat drink or milk
      1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
      100ml olive oil
      150g unrefined sugar
      220g wholemeal flour
      2 tsp baking powder
      1 pinch nutmeg
      tsp ginger
      tsp cinnamon
      1-3 pears
      , cut in half and cored

      Heat the oven to 200C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Put the dates in a saucepan with the oat drink or milk, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. 
      Off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and stir for 30 seconds, or until the dates begin to dissolve. Leave to cool, then mix in the olive oil, 50g of the sugar, the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.
      Grease and line a medium-sized cake tin. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the base of the tin. If you have only one pear, slice it and lay it out over the base of the tin; if you have two pears, cut them into large chunks; and if you have three or more pears, put the halves cut-side down in the tin.
      Cover with the cake mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until just cooked and springy to the touch. Turn out and serve warm.

      Friday, 6 December 2019

      When the going gets tough,the tough pick up a bacon and cheese bechamel turnover

       Bacon and cheese bechamel turnover,beyond comfort food

      As party season approaches, so does the likelihood of waking up with a hangover –a word or two of advice( O cozinheiro´s cure). If you’ve done your binge drinking on a school night and you have no choice but to report to an office, you need Ibuprofen 600mg, the breakfast sandwich of your choosing, and my condolences.
      If its the weekend then you need the sodium of tomato juice, the sinus-clearing action of horseradish, the shame-erasing magic of vodka (tequila if you want to make it a Bloody Maria).

       Back in the day when I commuted to an office, my strict no drinking on a school night rule did not always work, sometimes getting widdly was unavoidable.So often following a boozy one in London with colleagues and clients, I found myself feeling a little peaky as I stepped out of the tube station the next day. After a hard weeks graft, that project of the last 6 months had come to fruition,it was Friday night and we were all in the mood to celebrate our job well done. I didn’t drink that much in all honesty (2 pints of beer and always avoided the ‘bottle of wine in a glass’ variant ) but it’s a sad fact that I used to get terrible hangovers, hence the rule.
      "when the going gets tough the tough go to Greggs"
      On my way to the office the next morning at the station, salvation came in pastry form.My salvation came in the form of Greggs. Like a homing pigeon (though in reality perhaps more like a zombie) within 60 seconds of leaving the staion a huge selection of sweet and savoury pastrie was on offer before me. I like to think it was cosmic intervention — karma offering me a helping hand, but alas, it was probably the scent of those covered with bacon that drew me there.Recently,not having access to a Greggs and and being subjected to expat hangover cravings I have resorted to the Portuguese version, Folhada mista,and it is the perfect cure for going down nostalgia lane.
      Folhado misto,tudo bem!!!!
      I inhaled the blessed béchamel and ham sensation I’d chosen and in no time at all,soon began to feel more human again.
       So what is it about naughty foods that does that? Old-school wisdom preaches reaching for cold cheesy pizza or a greasy bacon and tomato sandwich to "soak up" the alcohol.The importance of getting some morning-after food in your stomach cannot be overstated. And while the bacon-egg-and-cheese is a nearly perfect food item, but getting one also requires leaving home, and that's just not going to happen when the struggle is real,or your hangover falls on a weekend.
       And while I can’t say this is the hangover cure the world has been waiting for (maybe I should have ordered two...), it is seriously delicious and worth every calorific bite. I decided to replicate the go to Greggs cure in the privacy of my own kitchen.
      My version is very easy to make — especially on account of using ready rolled puff pastry (life’s too short to make your own, I feel). I made a very simple béchamel using butter, milk and flour, mixed with a little strong Dijon mustard and a carefree handful of strong vintage cheddar cheese, spooned it over puff pastry squares and topped it with a couple of slices of pancetta (though smoked streaky bacon would work perfectly too) folding it over on itself and baking until puffed up and golden. 
      Now, lets get down to the clever stuff. While assembling these pastries is easy, they may still prove too traumatic to contemplate making while suffering after that tell tale good night out.Instead, make a batch ahead, once cooled they’ll keep in an airtight tin for a few days (or indeed the freezer) and will be the perfect go-to cure when you’re feeling delicate. Simply pop them into the oven to warm through for 10 minutes, which if your hangovers were anything like mine, may be  about the limit of your capabilities. Taste test proved the room temperature version was tastier than the fresh out of the oven one.
      For four pastries
      1 roll ready rolled puff pastry (I use Lidl´s, which is excellent)
      1pt whole milk
      120g vintage cheddar, grated
      1 heaped tbsp unsalted butter
      5 or 6 tbsp flour
      1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
      Sea salt and black pepper
      12 rashers pancetta / thin cut smoked streaky bacon

      Remove the pastry in its packet from the fridge 1hr before you need it, it needs to come to room temperature.
      Preheat your oven to 190°C.
      Put the milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat off.
      In another (large) saucepan place the butter and melt on a high heat, then add the flour— enough until you have a firmish ball a little like the consistency of mashed potato — then turn the heat down to low.
      A ladle at a time add the milk to the roux you’ve made and whisk in, continuing to whisk for a couple of minutes after all the milk is in, to make sure the mix is smooth.
      Add a generous scrunch of sea salt and black pepper, mustard and and stir until melted, then turn the heat off.
      Cut the pastry sheet (the lidl one makes 4 squares exactly) into large squares.
      Spoon the béchamel out onto the centre of the pastries until you’ve used it all up, then lay 2 slices of pancetta over each diagonally.Divide the grated cheese between the four turnovers

      Bring the opposite corners up and brush a little of the beaten egg over one corner, folding the other corner over the top attaching it to it. Repeat with all of the pastries and then brush all the exposed pastry with the beaten egg.
      Place into the oven for 20 minutes, and if you feel inclined 10 minutes in remove from the oven and grate a little Parmesan over the fold of each pastry

      Tuesday, 3 December 2019

      "Seaside" Wines for an Algarvian Christmas

      Whether you're passing the Brussels, bacalhau , side salad  or bûche de Noël you need to think seriously about wine pairings at Christmas.Ripe brambly fruit, orange peel, Christmas spice, and potpourri are just a few of the notes I would be looking for in a, full-bodied red.One wants spicy and savoury with hints of plum rasberry,violets and rosemary,it need to knock the new cashmere socks off both New and Old world drinkers.
       In contrast my choice of white should offer clean fresh citrusy, perhaps unoaked and crisp notes.They may strike you as sharp, even acidic, but it is an acidity that dissipates in contact with a raw oyster or a bowl of clams and ham. Clean as a whistle, crisp – a word freely bandied about by wine writers, someone I am not,and never will be, but when I read the word crisp in association with wine I am mystified.
       “Crisp” to me is for freshly starched bed linen or cos lettuce, not is perhaps slightly more illuminating than “mineral” which implies slatey or the adjective  petrolly which conjures up carbon monoxide fumes.

      When I think of Christmas fare, I imagine rich round roasted items like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, whipped potatoes, butter, butter and more butter.
       With the whole family gathered for the holidays, it’s essential to have  affordable, versatile, and most important of all, crowd-pleasing wines. 
      First of all lets not forget fashionable albariño from Spain’s Atlantic coast (and its Portuguese cousin, alvarinho) The Iberian Peninsula’s greatest white grape variety is taking hold around the world
      Then there is the other part of the variety’s original home, across the border from Galicia into northern Portugal, where alvarinho is widely used as a blending component in the improving, zesty, often-gently spritzy, light whites of Vinho Verde, but is also increasingly made as a single-varietal,in such  graceful, vital, subtly flora strains as Allo (above) from the house of Soalheiro.Average Price (ex-tax) €5.20 Casa Rosada would be happy to put this on its Christmas table.
      Wines that are good with seafood are often actually made near the sea. I have become a great fan of these "seaside" wines, in particular the fast growing varieties of  the Algarve.Our new favourite this year is So blanc from Rui Vrginia´s house, Barranco Longo.So Blanc is "So beach," it conveys memories of that  southern Portuguese heat; enjoying poolside conversations with friends enjoying  hours of sunset. This Algarve sauvignon blanc offers citrus, passion fruit, leaving on ones nose feeling of unbelievable freshness. I always liken Pedro Ximenez to christmas pudding in a glass.So this must be the Algarve summer in a glass.Average Price (ex-tax) €9.95
      For the most demanding of christmas tables I would go for Barranco Longo´s Petit verdot
      ( above right). Deep coloured,with balsamic tones.Smoky black fruits and blackcurrant are all present here with a beautiful peppery finish.Average Price (ex-tax) €15
      BEST BUY
      For a value for money option I would plump for these two wines from the particularly cool microclimate of Villa Alvor, a place where Algarve wines are born and bred.
      A blend made with the best white varieties of the Algarve – crispy and fruity – the embodiment of this terroir that finds its twin in the maritime influenced limestone soils of Provence. An elegant White wine that will remind you of a salty sea-breeze and that will delight your senses in every tropical note including passion fruit.A Portuguese wine perfect to pair with Algarvian cuisine.Arinto, Sauvignon Blanc, Antão Vaz and Verdelho Price (ex-tax) €6.95
       The red has a  gripping structure that is the result of the limestone soils of the property where it is produced.
      Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Aragonês and Trincadeira 
      Price (ex-tax) €6.95

      Saturday, 30 November 2019

      Blackberry and apple cheesecake

          Blackberries are the essence of country life and have many uses

      According to archaelogical evidence,the Neolithic Revolution, also referred to as the Agricultural Revolution, saw a shift to agriculture from hunting and gathering that changed humanity forever.Since these times we have been eating blackberries.There are now as many as 2,000 varieties of Rubus fruticosus worldwide, if you count the naturally occurring hybrids and commercial cultivars. Picking blackberries captures the essence of country life, conjuring up romantic images of rustic walks and country lanes. Children love to eat them and a blackberry picking expedition can prove fruitful for all members of the family.Foragers hunt frenetically everywhere – through hayfields, cornfields, and briars, straining across ditches, staining and scratching their hands as they search. They fill  buckets first with the greener, less ripe berries, and then top them off with the ripest ones. They are more highly prized in western Europe than anywhere else in the world, and collected and eaten most enthusiastically of all in Britain, where blackberrying occupies a special cultural niche as a uniquely rewarding leisure activity.Positive foraging experiences like collecting blackberries can be very rewarding. This is especially true with children, as it also helps to set a life-long interest in nature and natural un-processed foods.After all, wild foods are totally organic, requiring no human intervention to thrive and best of all, you don’t need your wallet to cash in on the yields ( unless of course you are counting on purchasing the cultivated variety). Alas the blackberry season is now all but over and this years’ berries are no longer widespread, and prolific throughout the countryside.However their flavour can be enjoyed for weeks and months to come by making jams, chutneys, wine and infusing vinegars. They can also be frozen and used as desired throughout the year. Berries ripen gradually from August, through September to early-winter.
      When they are over however we’re also blessed with the option of the cultivated varieties being available in the supermarkets.
      Blackberry and apple crumbles, pies, cobblers, muffins, fools and ice creams are all delicious. One quick, easy and delicious thing to do with blackberries is to make a blackberry coulis.
      Blackberry coulis
      As the fruits swell and ripen  their sweetness becomes more pronounced and they find themselves frequently combined with  apples for a taste which is the embodiment of the changing seasons. 
       One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother bottling blackberry and apple compote. There were wild blackberry bushes opposite our house, and a couple of old apple trees in the garden, providing her with more than enough to keep her busy each autumn making this wonderful treat to take us through the winter.
      This is a deep garnet coloured sauce that you can serve with desserts and it’s wonderful over ice-cream or yoghurt.

      250g fresh blackberries       25g organic sugar      25ml lemon juice


      Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. 
      Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it doesn’t dry out (the moisture from the berries should prevent this). 
      Transfer to a food processor or blender and purée. 
      Pass through a sieve to remove seeds. 
      Use immediately or put in jar and refrigerate.

      Blackberry and apple cheese cake with blackberry coulis
      20cm / 8" loose bottomed cake tin

      250g/9oz finely digestive biscuits
      125g/4½oz unsalted butter,
      melted, plus extra for greasing
      3 tbsp honey

      100g/3½oz caster sugar
      250g/9oz ricotta
      250g/9oz mascarpone
      4 medium eggs
      125g/4oz fresh blackberries

      FOR THE COULIS 250g fresh blackberries       
      25g icing sugar      
      25ml lemon juice

      Tuesday, 26 November 2019

      A penne for your thoughts? Sunday lunch gone by

      “If you want my gravy, pepper my ragu.Spice it up for Mama....she’ll get hot for you.”                                        — Matron Mama Morton: Chicago, Kander and Ebb

      If you’re trying to use up a whole mess of leftover pulled pork from something else, you’re in the right place! and if you've never thought of putting pulled pork and pasta together, prepare yourself for a hearty, heavenly plate of  left over perfection.Pulled pork ragu is one of those deliciously comforting, slow-cooked hearty meals that warms you up from the inside out. It makes all the dreary wearies go away,and brings back memories of sunday lunches gone by. The only drawback? It takes like forever to cook. At least 4 hours. But by using leftover pulled pork, you can pull together a fast and comforting meal in just about 45 minutes, making it perfectly doable when you need a bit of savoury comfort for a weeknight supper.Obviously if you have the time a longer slower cook will bring more tenderness.
      Those with Nonnas will know the aroma well, recipes vary from family to family, but the tradition is the same.The choice of pasta is yours.There is no more perfect union in all gastronomy than the marriage of Bolognese ragù with home made tagliatelle and for me
      ragù is irreproacable with such boxed,dry pastas as rigatoni,conghiglie or fusilli.Take heed,meat sauce in Bologna is never served over spaghetti.Spaghetti bolognese is entirely the invention of Britain and the countries that constitute the commonwealth.
      To make this recipe you’ll need a casserole or other heavy bottomed pan. You’ll start by sautéing some onions in your fat of choice, and then adding in a little garlic. Add a few glugs of dry white wine for complexity, and then add the leftover pulled pork along with some crushed tomatoes, tomato purée herbs, and some soya sauce. Simmer, simmer, simmer…’bout 45 minutes should do it. 
      Pulled pork ragù
      tbsp olive oil
      25g butter
      1 onion chopped
      I large carrot
      1 stick celery
      2 cloves garlic ,minced
      125ml dry white wine
      500g San marzano/Roma tomatoes,skinned,deseeded,chopped
      2 tbsp tomato passata
      2 cups cooked, shredded pulled pork,from shoulder tenderloin or ribs
      2 sprigs fresh thyme
      2 bay leaves
      1 tbsp torn basil
      2 tbsp soya sauce
      Put the oil,butter and chopped onion in the casserole,turn the heat to medium and sautée the onion until it becomes translucent.Add the garlic,carrot and celery and a large pinch of salt.Cook for about 2 minutes,stirring the vegetables to coat them well.Add the wine,let it simmer gently,stirring frequently,until it has evaporated,then add the tomatoes,passata,herbs and shredded pork.Stir thoroughly to coat all the ingredients well.When the mixture starts to bubble,turn the heat right down so the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers,with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface Cook uncovered for at least 45 minutes ,then check the consistency.If you have the time the longer you cook it down the more intensity of flavour. While the sauce is cooking,you are likely to find that it begins to dry out.To keep it from sticking,continue the cooking adding a little water when necessary.At the end you are looking for a thick consistency with no water at all left.stir through the soya sauce,taste and correct for salt.
      to serve toss with the cooked pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan on the side.

      Saturday, 23 November 2019

      What's not to comprehend? ..... Amarena cherry chocolate cup cakes

      Some things are just meant to be together: butter and toast, cheese and crackers, ketchup and chips, and chocolate and cherry. There is no denying that this sweet and tart couple is always a recipe for success.
      This is another of those corporate recipes.I found it on the Lindt chocolate site.My last foray into the corporate world of baking,as you well know, ended in tears and was using a recipe from German supermarket chain Aldi.If you remember I ended up binning two batches and getting no comfort from Aldi´s Customer service department.The ingredient list of this latest one started "2 each eggs." I was a little bewildered and ready for something to go wrong further down the line.After the batter list ended,the ingredients for the icing began "serve the any leftover with the cupcakes".Now I was really confused.This was not a google translation much as it appeared to be.Was this just English as she is spoke? The ingredient list ended "For example words or names made from tempered chocolate".What on earth was meant by that? 
       Moving on,the batter turned out to be the perfect dropping consistency that I expected it to be, but the cooking time was wrong. 12-15 minutes did not conjure up a cooked muffin.After 15 minutes I opened the oven to a muffin pan of chocolate soup. Ottolenghi cooks his for 20-25 minutes.I put them back in the oven for a further 15 minutes,30 minutes in total then let them cool in their case completely before I attempted to ice them.The recipe made 16 but I lost two in the process of removing them from their moulds.They were exceptionally delicious but very crumbly, but I guess that is how a cup cake should be. Here´s the recipe see how you fare? Something for the weekend?
      Amarena cherry chocolate cup cakes
      2 each Eggs
      60g Butter, unsalted
      100g Caster sugar
      200g Chocolate Sauce (from below)
      80g Plain flour
      60g Almond meal
      20g Cocoa powder
      2tsp Baking powder
      Pinch Sea salt

      180g Lindt Dessert chocolate 70%
      140ml Milk
      65ml Vegetable oil
      2 Tbsp Amarena syrup
      Serve the any leftover with the cupcakes. 
      170g Butter, unsalted and soft
      340g Pure icing sugar, sifted
      Little Flor de sal
      2 Tbsp Amarena syrup 
      8-10 Amarena cherries, halved

      Little red food colour
      Top with a cherry
      Chocolate decorations

      Preheat the oven to 180°C
      Combine the milk and oil and warm to just under boiling point.
      Mix in the chopped chocolate and amarena syrup.Mix to a smooth sauce using a stick blender.
      Set aside to cool.
      Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
      Sift together the plain flour, almond meal, cocoa and baking powder.
      Fold into the batter to incorporate.
      Mix In the chocolate sauce and salt.
      Divide Into paper cup lined cupcake tray.
      Bake For 12-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
      Put aside to cool fully. 
      For the icing
      Place soft butter into the bowl of your electric mixer and with a whisk attachment whisk for about 6-7 minutes, until light.Scrape down sides a couple of times. Sift icing sugar and add little by little on medium speed. Add pinch of salt, vanilla, Amarena syrup, chopped cherries and colour if using.
      Use at room temperature.
      Top each cupcake generously with icing and decorate with chocolate and top with a cherry.  

      Tuesday, 19 November 2019

      Oh for Ottolenghi!!

      Fish kofta in ancho chilli and tomato sauce
      Oh Yotam, where would be without you? Mealtimes changed when you came on the scene.I am sure more than a few people,myself included, have a culinary crush on you.
       Hardly a week goes by when this household does not cook up at least one, if not more, Ottolenghi inspired dishes.You are the man who by default was responsible for "sexing up vegetables."Caveat:you are-gasp!-not vegan.It is no secret that you–are a meat eater, however you credit the publishers restrictions of your original column "the new vegetarian" with aiding your meteoric rise to success. There really was no fabulous vegetarian food before you came along.Perhaps someone can now take a leaf out of your book and make dull new wave populist vegan food fabulous for us too.
      You abandoned the word ‘vegetarian’ and just gave us wonderful food,you just omitted the meat and fish. It’s not about not having something in a dish. It’s not about what you omit or include, it’s just about celebrating vegetables as they are,and this is what you did. Your thinking was, ‘this wonderful dish would go with some pork chops’.It didn´t bother you.You have got a way with vegetables that makes even omnivores want them, and that to me is an even bigger coup.Recently you guaranteed us that we wouldn´t miss the dairy and eggs commonly used in doughnuts.Instead,you gave us a doughnut recipe with olive oil, which made them rich velvety and vegan amenable.And now I have to get onto the subject of your fish koftas.You have three inspired ways with these and they are all genius in their own right.Two with fresh white fish and one with canned fish.
      In the first you have them swimming in a warm tomato chilli gravy,which has a bit of a kick eh boy.The second is spiced, citrusy and aromatic using canned fish, and in the third you serve them simply seared,finished in the oven and served up with a beetroot.What more can I say but I love them all.
      Fish kofta in ancho chilli and tomato sauce 
      Serves 4

      For the kofta
      500g firm white fish (such as cod), boned and skinned
      4 spring onions, finely chopped (60g net weight)
      10g fresh fenel fronds, roughly chopped, plus extra picked leaves to serve
      handful fresh coriander,chopped
      1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
      1½ tsp lemon zest
      1 egg, beaten
      30g panko breadcrumbs
      3 tbsp olive oil

      For the tomato sauce
      15g dried ancho chilli (about 1½ chillies), stem removed
      2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
      1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
      6 garlic cloves, peeled
      1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped (150g)
      60ml olive oil
      1 green chilli, halved lengthways
      1 tbsp tomato paste
      3-4 plum tomatoes (400g), roughly grated and skins discarded (300g net weight)
      300ml chicken or vegetable stock
      2 tsp caster sugar
      25g coriander, roughly chopped
      Salt and black pepper
      First, make the sauce. Put the ancho chilli in a small bowl, cover with plenty of boiling water, and leave to soften for 20 minutes. Drain, discard the liquid, roughly chop the chilli then put in a food processor with two-thirds of the fennel and cumin, all the garlic, onion and two tablespoons of oil, and blitz into a coarse paste.
      Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to a large saute pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the ancho sauce, green chilli and tomato paste and cook for seven minutes, stirring often, until softened and fragrant. Add the grated tomatoes, stock, 200ml water, sugar, half the coriander, one and a quarter teaspoons of salt and a good grind of pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Keep warm on a low heat until needed.
      Meanwhile, make the kofta. Chop the fish by hand into roughly ½-1cm pieces. Put in a large bowl with the spring onion, dill, chilli, lemon zest, egg, panko,coriander, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and mix well to combine. Form into 12 round fish cakes, roughly 6-7cm in diameter and about 55g in size. Make sure you press and compact them well, so they stay together when frying.
      Add one and a half-tablespoons of oil to a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add half the kofta and fry for five minutes, flipping halfway, until deeply golden on both sides. Transfer to a plate, then repeat with the remaining oil and kofta.
      Bring the sauce back to a simmer on a medium-high heat. Add the kofta, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside for about five minutes, top with the extra dill leaves and serve directly from the pan. 

      THE VERDICT:these are very rich but would make a delicious tapas item or sharing plate

      Fish koftas in tomato and cardamom sauce 
      serves 4
      This dish,is inspired by a dish created by Moroccan Jews in Morocco.On first inspection, this dish looks like herb-flecked meatballs in tomato sauce, but the sauce is spiced, tangy and aromatic, and the meatballs are, well, fish balls, made of a combination of mackerel and sardines. Tinned sardines are used here, for ease, but you can obviously substitute with fresh sardines, scaled and boned. You'll also want to pay attention to the total weight or volume of the mackerel: Some types are larger than others. All work here, but you may not need to buy as many fillets. Serve with some couscous or rice and a spoonful of yogurt, if you like.
        For the sauce
        ⅓ cup/75ml olive oil
        8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
        3 green chilli peppers, such as serrano, finely sliced (and seeded if you don’t like heat)
        2 large celery stalks, trimmed and finely chopped
        1 banana shallot (or a large regular shallot), finely chopped
        500g ripe vine tomatoes, blitzed in a food processor for one minute (or use two cups canned tomato puree)
        3 Tbs tomato paste
        2 Tbs granulated or caster sugar
        1½ tsp ground cumin
        1 tsp lime zest, plus 1 Tbs lime juice (from one lime)
        8 cardamom pods, crushed in a mortar and pestle, skins discarded (or use a scant ½ tsp ground cardamom)
        3 cups plus 2 Tbs/200ml dry white wine
        2 Tbs/5g finely chopped cilantro or coriander leaves, for serving
        2 Tbs/5g finely chopped dill, for serving

        For the fish koftas
        4 mackerel fillets (from two 500g fish), skin and pin bones removed, flesh roughly chopped into 2cm pieces
        150g drained tinned sardines in olive oil, roughly chopped
        1 heaping Tbs/10g pistachios, roughly chopped
        ½ cup/10g loosely packed roughly chopped fresh dill
        1 loosely packed cup/15g roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves (coriander leaves)
        1 Tbs finely grated zest (from two limes); cut the zested limes into wedges or juice them, for serving
        1 green chilli pepper (such as serrano), finely chopped
        1 egg, beaten
        5 Tbs/70g potato flour, divided
        3 Tbs/50ml vegetable oil

        1. Start with the sauce: In a large saute pan with a lid, heat olive oil, garlic, half the sliced chilli pepper and a good pinch of salt over medium-low heat. Gently fry for six minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft and golden. Remove 2 Tbs of the oil (with some of the chilli and garlic) and set aside.
        2. Add celery, shallot and 1½ tsp salt to the same pan and continue to cook for eight minutes, stirring often, until soft and translucent. Increase the heat to medium, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, cumin, lime zest and juice and the cardamom and continue to cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine, 350ml water and ¼ tsp salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, turning the heat down if the sauce bubbles too much, and stirring once in a while.
        3. While the sauce is simmering, make the fish koftas: Add fish, pistachios, herbs, lime zest, chilli and egg to a bowl with 3 Tbs potato flour and ⅛ tsp salt and mix together well. Grease your hands with a little oil and roll the mix into approximately 12 golf-sized balls (about 45g to 50g each), applying pressure to compact them as you go. Add the remaining 2 Tbs flour to a plate and roll each ball in the flour so they are coated.
        4. Heat vegetable oil in a large, non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the fish balls and cook for about five minutes, turning throughout until all sides are golden-brown and crisp. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside if it finishes before you finish the koftas.
        5. After the sauce has been cooking for 20 minutes, transfer the balls into the sauce, drizzling over some of the frying oil (or return the sauce to medium heat). Cover the pan with the lid and cook for four minutes, until hot.
        6. Remove the lid and scatter the herbs and the remaining fresh chilli over the top, then drizzle with the reserved garlic and chilli oil. Serve hot, with lime juice added to taste, or with lime wedges alongside.

          Tuesday, 12 November 2019

          The life of pie

          Britain’s greatest gift to the world - the pub.A Sunday lunch in the pub and there’s not a problem in the world that roast potatoes and gravy do not improve, aside from, perhaps, gout, though by that stage you may as well crack on. Its second greatest gift, the pie.I live abroad and when I get those expat cravings, I need a pie.THE PIE - whatever the filling might be - has only just begun,in our house,making its first outings of the year. It doesn't feel quite like pie time yet, and my body is certainly not yet in the "C" word mode. Seasonally I might find my own personal nirvana in a heavenly sweet potato and chestnut wellington: soft, sweet, nutty and perfectly seasoned, with glorious pastry,but as a rabid carnivore only coming second best to a pork pot pie.
          When you have leftover pork roast, reheats, stir-frys, and sandwiches are fine but pot pie turns a second-hand rose into a culinary masterpiece.
          This pork pot pie can be made with purchased pie dough, puff pastry, or your own favourite home made pie crust.I went for the first option because of its ease to work with and it bakes up beautifuly tender and flaky.I hope you like it.
          Pork Pot pie
            For the Filling:
            4 tablespoons butter (divided)
            1/4 onion/1/4 cup (yellow, cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
            1 rib celery/1/4 cup (cut into 1/4-inch rounds)
            1 carrot/1/4 cup (peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds)
            Pinch dried oregano
            Pinch dried thyme
            1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
            2 cubes  good quality bouillon cubes (
            2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (unbleached)
            Optional: 1 tablespoon dry white wine (or dry vermouth)
            1/2 pound cooked pork (cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
            1/2 cup snap peas (can be frozen, cut in half)
            Salt and black pepper (to taste)

            Heat oven to 375 F.
            Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to melt.
            Add onion, celery, carrot, and herbs; sprinkle lightly with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until vegetables are fragrant. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Scoop veggies into a bowl.
            Heat 1 1/2 cups water in microwave on high for 1 minute. Completely dissolve bouillon cubes in water.
            Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking steadily, for 4 minutes.
            Increase heat to medium and whisk in bouillon. Continue whisking until sauce begins to bubble and is quite thick (juices released from the other ingredients will thin it while cooking). Stir in optional wine and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cooked vegetables, snap peas, and pork.
            Assemble the Dish and Bake
            Roll out pie crust. You'll have to use your own judgment here depending on your baking vessel(s), but the pastry should be just over 1/8-inch thick.
            Line  the bowls /ramekins with pastry.Spoon your filling into your chosen vessel/s.Cover the tops with a lid of pastry, pierce with a knife to vent and bake for about 40 minutes until crust is browned.Remove from oven. Cool slightly and serve.
            As always, when working with pastry, make sure your fats and liquids are cold.