Archive for the ‘winter’ Category

I’ve been tagged

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

I have never done one of these things before, but I feel I need to make the effort to join in with the fun so these are my ten best pictures.

Sweet corn fritters with sweet chilli sauce

Sweet corn fritters with sweet chilli sauce

Christmas spice shortbread

Christmas spiced shortbread

maple and pecan pie

Maple and pecan pie

BBQ chicken

Beautifully succulent BBQ chicken


white peaches and sparkling wine

Ripe peaches and raspberries crushed with cold, crisp sparkling wine

pudding in a glass

Crushed biscuits drizzled with Cointreau, and mascarpone with cream, orange zest and white chocolate mixed with fresh raspberries.

White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

smoked salmon blinis with horseradish and lemon creme fraiche

smoked salmon blinis with horseradish and lemon creme fraiche

pestle and mortar crushing garlic and chillies

Mortar and pestle crushing garlic and chilli

Citrus risotto with garlic chilli prawns

Citrus risotto with garlic chilli prawns.  So there you have it.

Thank you to the Kitchen Goddess for tagging me. I am going to tag


1. Kate 

2. Eoin

3. Kitchen Vixen

4. Donal

5. Rachel

Wonderful, warming vegetable couscous

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Fantastic roast vegetable cous cous

I first had this meal cooked for me when I was in Cumbria and I knew I had to do it again. This is no ordinary couscous recipe, it’s spicy, sweet and full of flavour and texture. The list of ingredients is quite comprehensive but each ingredient adds its own dimension to the rich and full flavour and the spices can of course be used again. The recipe is from the Guardian newspaper’s column “The New Vegetarian” by Yotam Ottolenghi, give it a go.

Soul Food

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Chilli and rice

It’s all very well having your fancy foie gras and duck liver pate but when it comes to food that’s good for the soul, you can’t beat a hot steaming plate of chilli and rice. There is something so wholesome and comforting about tucking into the rich tomato sauce with tender morsels of beef on a cold day (or any day really). We tend to have chilli a lot at the moment, but I’m not complaining, and the recipe we have come to love is from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the naked chef. The recipe will feed four people, or two people then freeze the rest and you have a meal that can be ready in minutes.


  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • olive oil
  • 2 level tsps chilli powder
  • 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin (or cumin seeds freshly ground)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 455g chuck steak
  • 200g sun-dried tomatoes, in oil
  • 2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 2 x 400g tins of red kidney beans, drained

Preheat the oven to 150 deg centigrade. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in large, oven proof casserole over a medium heat. Finely chop the onion and garlic in a food processor and add to the pan, stirring until soft but not golden. Add the chilli powder, cumin, fresh chilli, and seasoning. Cut the chuck steak into large pieces and pulse in the food processor. The steak should be in pieces about the size of small sugar cubes as you need a bit of texture in the dish. Once you have done this add the meat to the pan and stir until browned all over. Blitz the sun dried tomatoes in the food processor with about a tablespoon or two of their oil so it makes a paste. Add this to the pan with the cinnamon stick and tinned tomatoes with a wine glass of water.
Bring the chilli to the boil, then cover with greaseproof or parchment paper and the lid. Transfer the pan to the oven to cook for about 1 1/2 hours, adding the kidney beans half an hour before the cooking time is up. This a really good meal to make a day ahead as the flavour is better and then it’s quick an easy to prepare when you want it. Serve with either guacamole, yoghurt and crusty bread or good old fashioned boiled rice.

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Winter wonderland

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Winter Scene

I’ve been away in Cumbria for Easter week and rather than feeling like spring it has felt more like winter. The day after we arrived we were wading ankle deep in the snow and the lambs in the neighbouring fields were wearing their little plastic macs to ward off the cold.

Lambs in the snow

We stayed in an old barn conversion (The Heights) near Appleby-in-Westmorland, which was beautifully furnished and really cosy with absolutely gorgeous views. It was quite secluded but only about a five minute drive from the village center and only thirty minutes from the larger town of Penrith.

Penrith Delicatessen

Penrith is a large town thirty minutes south of the Scottish border, with lots of nice foodie havens like the James and John Graham Ltd delicatessen in a large wonderful old building and The Narrow Bar cafe where I had the most delicious lemon cake I’ve ever tasted. I will make an attempt at replicating the cake but only after a long drawn out detox as I ate and drank enough over the week to sustain a family of four (although I did go running twice, so I can justify the cake, almost!)


We also went to Windermere and Bowness which were absolutely beautiful but heaving with people. We ate in a lovely little place called Francine’s Coffee House where I had crab cakes with smoked salmon and caper berries followed by carrot cake and that was followed by a nice gentle walk round the lake on a gorgeous sunny day. For a nice relaxing Easter break it’s just the ticket.

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Pass the Sprouts

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Brussel sprout soup

Unlike the vast majority, or so it seems to me, I love Brussel Spouts. It’s like declaring that you enjoy wading knee deep in manure, when you get that sour-faced, nose turned up look of disgust when they are mentioned. Infact I don’t know why I don’t have them more often. I think I just tend to forget about them, or maybe I don’t want to own up to my distasteful 20 a day sprout habit and simply pretend that you only have them on Christmas day when your mother tries to force them down your throat and the only thing you can do to stop the ever rising tide of bile is to hold you nose.

Instead of having just sprouts for Christmas day, which don’t get me wrong would make me just as happy, we tend to boil them and then fry them in butter with white breadcrumbs and chopped brazil nuts or we slice them raw and fry them with pine nuts and pancetta.

Just before Christmas I thought it would be nice to try sprout soup. I thought it turned out very nicely. If you don’t like sprouts, I’m not gonna lie to you, you may heave at the very sight of it.

I simply boiled the sprouts in a saucepan filled with weakish vegatable stock, a clove of garlic and a bay leaf. When the sprouts were tender I reserved the cooking liquor, refreshed them in cold water and blended them to a smooth soup with the cooking liquor, a little grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and a little butter. The soup ended up a little thick so I just thinned it out with a little water, but the consistency is, of course, entirely up to you. I then swirled a little creme fraiche into the soup and topped with ciabatta croutons that I cooked in the oven with olive oil, salt, a clove of garlic (which I removed before serving) and a handful of pine nuts.

Brussel sprout soup

Shortbread with Christmas spice

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Christmas spice shortbread

I made some shortbread and chutney for people to have at Christmas this year. I had had a go at making shortbread before, but it didn’t really turn out quite as expected. I found a Jamie Oliver recipe, which he claimed was the best shortbread recipe in the world. Even though I didn’t quite buy his bold statement, I do like his easy to follow recipes and thought that I couldn’t go far wrong. This was a basic shortbread recipe which I tinkered with slightly (I can never leave things alone) to give it more of a festive edge.


  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 125g semolina or cornflour
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • Finely grated zest of two oranges
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod (put the pod into a bag of caster sugar to flavour it after use or use in vanilla ice cream)
  • More caster sugar and flour for dusting
  • 8 inch square tin, greased

Simply cream the butter, sugar and orange zest together until light and fluffy, then sift in the flour and cornflour. Mix together lightly and then bring the mixture together with your hands and pat into a ball. Roll the mixture on a floured surface until it is the right size for the tin and press into the tin. Prick the top all over with a fork and cook at 150 deg centigrade for 50 minutes until slightly golden brown on top.

While the shortbread is cooking mix together a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar with the cinnamon and vanilla seeds. Once the shortbread is cooked sprinkle this over the top (it will give off the most amazing aroma). When the shortbread has cooled a little, cut into squares.

Shortbread and chutney

Quick Christmas trifle

Thursday, December 27th, 2007


I really love trifle but I hate the ones with jelly in them. I’m probably being a bit snobby but I think jelly is a bit tacky and I also don’t really like the texture. This recipe is really quick and easy, which is a must for around Christmas when you have run out of time or can’t face any more slaving over hob.


  • 1 box of Trifle sponges
  • 500ml ready made custard (get the best stuff you can or make you own if you like)
  • 250g Mascarpone cheese ( I found a reduced fat one which made me feel less gluttonous)
  • Ground cinnamon
  • 280ml Whipping cream
  • Frozen berries 300g (anything you like)
  • Brandy
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 4 tblsp Golden caster sugar

First cut the trifle sponges in half and use them to line the bottom of the trifle bowl. Put a splosh of brandy (it is really up to you how much you want to add) into a bowl and add half the juice of the orange and the zest. Pour this over the trifle sponge base and leave to soak in. Put the berries into a saucepan with the caster sugar and heat until the berries have melted and the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool and then pour over the trifle sponge base. Take the custard and add the mascarpone cheese and a couple of tsp of cinnamon, whisking together until combined. Pour this over the top of the fruit and let the trifle set in the fridge for a while. Whip the cream until soft peaks and use to decorate the top of the trifle. Serves 6-8

The Finished Christmas cake

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Cristmas cake

I have finally finished the Christmas cake that I have toiled over in class for the last few months. We had yet another buffet lunch at work last week, so I thought I would bring my cake in, partly because I can’t be bothered making anything else and also it means that I won’t eat the entire thing by myself.

It was a little heartbreaking to eat it after spending all that time on it, but the waft of Whiskey from the cake when it sliced into it reminded me why I wanted to try it. It was really moist and went down very well, but I think the department became 10% less productive after lunch as a result of the alcoholic content (certainly not one to hand round at the AA Christmas party).

Butter bean soup with smoked pancetta

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Butter bean soup with smoked bacon

I can never quite decide whether I like soup. If I’m ever in a restaurant and there is soup for starters on the menu, I never order it as I tend to think soup is rather boring. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some really nice soups and I have actually decided to do soup next week for an evening meal so I don’t know why I feel that way about it. It is generally a cheap quick and healthy meal, although I do tend to have a slab of bread with it, so it is ideal for a mid-week meal. Despite my indifference to soup I quite like this one.

I apologise for not giving quantities here as I never bothered to measure the ingredients and employed a slap-dash approach as usual.

Simply soak some butter beans overnight, then rinse and drain them and put into a saucepan with a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, an onion peeled and halved, pepper, a couple of garlic cloves and a potato and cover with water. Boil the beans until tender. Whilst the beans are cooking, cut pancetta into slices and fry until golden. Once the beans are cooked, remove the bay leaves and thyme and blend the rest of the ingredients (with the cooking water), seasoning with salt and a little more pepper if required. If the soup is too thick add a little water and if you want to be more indulgent add a drizzle of cream. Serve the soup in warm bowls topped with the bacon and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and eat with crusty bread.

Steamed pudding, hmmmm!

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Steamed ginger and orange marmalade pudding

I love winter, it’s my favourite time of year. I really enjoy snuggling up when it’s really cold outside and the wonderful colours in the garden, but it’s also an excuse to get cracking with some warming winter puddings. I spotted this steamed orange and stem ginger pudding whilst rummaging through and cataloging my vast collection of food magazines.

Serves 6

100g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

100g caster sugar

3 medium eggs, room temperature

60g stem ginger, finely chopped

1 heaped tblsp plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

3 tblsp freshly squeezed orange juice

125g fine cut marmalade

150g fresh breadcrumbs

1 heaped tsp freshly ground cinnamon (I just used powdered)

For the dark ginger sauce

210g caster sugar

4cm piece of fresh root ginger, finely grated

juice of 1/2 lemon

Grease the pudding basin, which should be about 1 to 1.3 ltr capacity. Mix together the butter and sugar until fluffy and then add them one at a time beating after each addition. Mix the stem ginger with the flour and in a separate bowl mix together the baking powder and the orange juice. Add these both to the butter sugar and egg mixture with a pinch of salt and the remaining ingredients. After mixing well, spoon into the pudding basin and level the surface. Grease a piece of foil and fold a pleat into the middle. Place greased side down over the top of the basin and tie tightly with a piece of string. Put the basin into a deep pan of boiling water that comes two thirds up the side of the bowl. Cover and simmer for 1 and 1/4 hours until the pudding is firm to the touch.

To make the sauce put the sugar and 135ml of water in a wide saucepan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and simmer without stirring until it turns a dark caramel colour. Add 135ml of water slowly and stir to get rid of any lumps, simmer for five minutes, then add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Once the pudding is turned out onto a plate pour the sauce over to soak in before serving with some thick cream, with a dash of alcohol if you like.