Category: Recipes


I’ve been working at home today. I got up really early and began and by noon I’d done everything I’d planned to. First thing was very autumnal with mist but, later in the morning, it burned off and we had a warm, sunny September day. What to do with it? Well, at this time of year we usually go foraging for sloes to make Sloe Gin. And, if I say so myself, we’re rather good at it. 

Last year I learned, too late, about a drink called Bramble Whisky. Basically it’s blackberries, sugar and whisky all shook up. I’d looked at a recipe a couple of weeks ago and it advised picking the blackberries on a warm, sunny day. So off I went foraging among the hedges around the fields near home. 

I was out for about a hour and a half. I learned that there weren’t as many blackberries as I thought and they were quite small. I knew that blackberry bushes have nasty thorns but I didn’t realise that they liked to grow mixed up with stinging nettles! I needed 1Kg but when I got home I’d only found about 250g! I then remembered that we had some blackberries in the freezer. We’d picked them last year in Shropshire where the blackberries are bigger and I don’t remember them coming with nettles. So I had enough to start a batch of Bramble Whisky. Here’s the recipe….

Bramble Whisky

1Kg Blackberries.

325g of white sugar.

370ml of whisky.

Put the blackberries in one of those jars that you can seal (see picture).

Add the sugar and shake the jar so the sugar gets distributed among the blackberries.

Pour the whisky over the fruit and seal it up. Give it a good shake. A note on the whisky. Go for a bottle of supermarket own brand. NEVER, EVER use an expensive single malt for this recipe. There’s a particularly nasty place in hell for people who do this. You have been warned.

For the next few weeks give it a shake when you pass it. It’s a good idea to have it in a cool place.

Eventually all the sugar will dissolve into the whisky. You then have to be patient. Very patient. The batch I set up today will be ready by Christmas. And that’s Christmas 2018!

Just before the Christmas season, strain the liquid through some muslin and put into bottles. It would make a cool, homemade present or enjoy it yourself over the festive season.

I’ve heard that you can do something wonderful with the left over fruit and ice cream. But I won’t be worrying about that just yet.

I’ve been talking about my Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup a lot recently. It’s a tasty, healthy soup that’s easy to make and great for suppers on cold, winter days. It’s dead easy to make as well. So seeing as I’ve had it on my mind and I’ve been working from home I decided to make it. If you want to try it, here’s the recipe. I like to use fresh ingredients, vegetable oil and as little salt as possible. 

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Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Ingredients

500g tomatoes

1 red pepper

2 onions 

2-3 cloves of garlic

a glug of vegetable oil

a little salt

ground black pepper

hot cayenne pepper

some mixed dried herbs

some cumin seeds

a stock cube dissolved in 0.5l of hot water

What to do…

Line a roasting tin with foil (helps when it comes to cleaning).

Chop the onions, garlic, red pepper and tomatoes, put into the tin.

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Add the salt, peppers, cumin seeds and mixed herbs. (I used them all but you can mix and match, the cumin gives it a hint of curry, the cayenne gives it a bite but is optional not necessary and be careful with the salt, it’s not good for you and you can always add more if you like but you can’t take it out).

Pour on the glug of oil (your choice) and use your hands to get in there and coat all the vegetables.

Put in the oven (180F) and roast for about 40 mins. Keep an eye on them, a little charring can be tasty but black isn’t good. I keep turning them so they don’t burn.

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When everything is nice and soft, transfer everything to a pan and add about 0.5l of vegetable stock (you could use chicken or beef stock if you like) made with a stock cube. Simmer the soup for about 30 mins until everything is cooked through.

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Once it’s done you should give it a wizz with your stick blender until it’s nice and smooth.

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Serve it with some nice bread.

It seems to taste better the day after you’ve made it as the flavours develop. If it’s a bit thick, add a little water. I served ours with this tomato forcaccia bread I saw in ASDA. it was delicious. You don’t get the bright red, sweet taste of shop bought soups but imagine what’s added to achieve that look and taste. IMHO, this is a much better option. Sometimes, for a bit of texture, I add a tin of butter beans (lima beans in the US) or some other beans just before reheating.

This is a basic soup recipe. It’s fun to try new flavours by changing the pepper and tomatoes for other vegetables. Then just follow the above recipe. 

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This is another of Jamie Oliver’s recipes. I like his recipes. They are tasty and straightforward and, with a bit of care, yours do look just like Jamie does on TV. Jamie is a bit of a national treasure. He started as a sous chef in the River Cottage where he was spotted because by a TV talent scout. His way with food, his good looks and ‘cheeky chappie’ personality made him perfect for TV. He’s made it cool for young guys to cook. And he’s used his fame to lobby politicians into changing the menus in the nation’s schools. In the UK we have some of the finest produce anywhere in the world. And we are blessed with some of the best restaurants on the planet. But the state of the food being fed to our children in schools was appalling. Well, as Jamie put it, ‘rubbish in…rubbish out…’ Well fed children with nutritious food in them learn more effectively. He’s also got a mind like a steel trap and a cool head for business. As well as the TV programmes and the book deals, he has a string of hugely popular restaurants across the UK, including a beautiful one in the old Midland Bank building on King Street in Manchester. He is filthy rich with a fortune in excess of £100,000,000. Not bad for cooking a bit of pasta.

This recipe is a soup that would be perfect to use up some of the Christmas vegetables for Boxing Day lunch. It would be great to return home to after a long, frosty Boxing Day walk to a cup,of this. Or you could use it as a first course for Christmas lunch but it might be a bit heavy considering what goes into the main event.

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Rudolph’s Rocket Fuel

Ingredients

6 medium carrots
1 parsnip
1 large potato
1 leek
1 medium onion
1 eating apple
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
sweet paprika

Method

Start by chopping the carrots, parsnip and potato. Trim, wash and chop the leek, peel and chop the onion, and core and chop the apple. Peel and crush the garlic.

Throw the veg and apple into a large pan with the garlic and a good lug of oil and mix it all up. Season to taste (minimally, if cooking for young children).

Cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or till the veg start to soften. Add 2 litres of water to the pan, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, until all the veg are soft.

Blitz with a hand blender until smooth, then sprinkle with sweet paprika. Delicious served with buttered toast.

 

A lot of our Christmas traditions have been with us for a very, very long time. Like decking our homes with holly and mistletoe, which goes back to Ancient British times, hundreds of years before Christianity was introduced to these islands. Other traditions are more recent and came over from Germany when Prince Albert married Queen Victoria. He brought the idea of Christmas trees to us from his homeland. Of course they have their origins in the pagan past of Germany as well.

And the foods we eat at this time of year have arrived from foreign places, by various routes, on our festive tables. A relatively recent one is Stollen. It’s a sweet bread filled with marzipan, dried fruit and nuts, covered in white icingor icing sugar. It comes from Germany. When it arrived in the UK I’m not sure, but older members of the family have no recollection of Stollen being part of their Christmases. I suspect it was brought over by Marks & Spencer’s. All the big supermarkets make and sell it at this time of year and you can get ‘authentic’ Stollen from the Christmas Markets. 

This recipe is Jamie Oliver’s. It’s a bit complicated to make two days before Christmas if you’ve never made it before. But it might be fun to try it out in the new year and perfect it for NEXT Christmas. In the meanwhile, it’s a quick trip to your nearest M&S. 

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Stollen

Ingredients

40 g candied peel
50 g glacé cherries
1 orange
100 g raisins, sultanas and currants
25 g dried cranberries
2 tablespoons brandy or dried rum
3-4 cardamom pods
7 g dried active yeast
25 g sugar
125 ml whole milk , plus a little extra
275 g strong white bread flour , plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon mixed spice
50 g unsalted butter , (at room temperature)
1 medium free-range egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
25 g almonds
25 g shelled pistachios
225 g marzipan
olive oil , or vegetable oil, for greasing
icing sugar , for dusting

Method

Finely chop the candied peel, and quarter the glacé cherries. Finely grate the orange zest.

Place all of the dried fruit into a bowl with the orange zest. Squeeze the orange juice into a pan, add the brandy or rum and heat to just below boiling point, then pour it over the dried fruit. Mix well, then set aside for 1 to 2 hours to allow it to plump up.

Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, then grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar (roughly ¼ of a teaspoon).

Spoon the yeast into the bowl of a free-standing mixer, then add the sugar.

In a pan, heat the milk until just warm, add to the yeast and whisk to combine. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, until the yeast has formed a thick, foamy crust on the milk.

Add the flour, spices and ½ teaspoon of sea salt. Using a dough hook, combine the butter, egg and vanilla, then mix for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and set aside.

Roughly chop the almonds and pistachios.

Pour away about half the liquid from the soaked fruit, then add the fruit and remaining liquid to the dough, along with the nuts. Mix again.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for 1 minute. Shape the dough into an oval shape, about A4 size.

Roll the marzipan into a neat log, about 4cm shorter than the length
of the dough, and place in the middle of the oval.

Brush one long edge of the dough with milk and fold it over, completely encasing the marzipan, and press the edges together to seal.

Carefully lift the dough onto the baking sheet, cover loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4.

Remove the clingfilm, then bake the stollen for 30 minutes, or until golden, risen and the underside sounds slightly hollow when tapped.

Leave to cool on a wire rack before dredging with icing sugar to serve. 

I’m just listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 about Christmas in Medieval England. We think that Christmas in the 21st century is a bit over the top and that our Christmas is a pale imitation of a Dickensian Victorian Christmas. But you have to go back to Medieval times to see how Christmas was celebrated properly. In those days it was a festival of mid winter feasting that went on for 12 days. It started on Christmas Day and continued until Twelth Night (January 6th) and masses and masses of food was consumed with feasts running to dozens of courses. Christmas now is a two day festival in the UK (we have Boxing Day as well), a bit of a drunken revel on New Year’s Eve and we take our decorations down on Twelth Night. A very tame affair compared with the Medieval festival which the church loathed as it was an excuse for ‘drunkeness, gluttony, harlotry and lechery.’ Someone has obviously got hold of my end of year plans.

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Here’s a Medieval recipe for Chicken stuffed with Minced Pork and Currants. First the original recipe…

Farsure For Chekyns

ORIGINAL RECEIPT:

Take fressh porke, and sethe hit, and hew hit smal, and grinde hit wel; and put therto harde (y)olkes of egges, and medel hom wel togedur, and do therto raisynges of corance, and pouder of canel, and maces, and quibiz, and of clowes al hole; and colour hit with saffron, and do hit into the chekyns; and then parboyle hom, and roste, and endore hom with raw (y)olkes of egges, and flaume hom if hit be nede, and serve hit forthe.

And now a modern version if you fancy a bit of Medieval gluttony to go with your own drunkeness, harlotry and lechery….

1 three- or four-pound chicken
1/2 pound ground pork
3 hard boiled egg yolks
1 C currants
1/4 tsp each cinnamon, black pepper and allspice
1/8 tsp each mace and saffron
6 whole cloves
Salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. In a frying pan, over medium heat, brown the ground pork.

3. In a bowl, combine pork, crumbled egg yolks, currants and spices. Mix them all together thoroughly. Stuff the chicken loosely with this mixture.

4. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, and put it in the oven. Reduce heat to 350°, and roast the chicken for thirty minutes per pound, or until the chicken is cooked through.

5. Remove from oven and place on a serving dish. Remove the stuffing and serve it in a separate bowl. 

 

You will probably be indulging a lot on Christmas Day. It might be wise to pace yourself. This is Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Christmas Morning Muffins, a light way to start the big day.

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Christmas Morning Muffins

Ingredients

250 grams plain flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100 grams caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (or good grating of fresh nutmeg)
2 clementines (or satsumas)
approx. 125 ml full fat milk
75 ml vegetable oil (or melted butter left to cool slightly)
1 large egg
175 grams dried cranberries
3 teaspoons demerara sugar (for the topping)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/400ºF. Line a 12-bun muffin tin with muffin papers or (as I have here) silicone inserts.
Measure the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, caster sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl; grate the zest of the clementine/satsuma over, and combine. If you are doing this in advance, leave the zesting till Christmas morning.
Squeeze the juice of the clementines/satsumas into a measuring jug, and pour in the milk until it comes up to the 200ml mark / halfway between the ¾ cup and 1 cup marks.
Add the oil (or slightly cooled, melted butter) and egg, and lightly beat until just combined.
Pour this liquid mixture into the bowl of dried ingredients and stir until everything is more or less combined, remembering that a well-beaten mixture makes for heavy muffins: in other words a lumpy batter is a good thing here.
Fold in the cranberries, then spoon the batter into the muffin cases and sprinkle the demerara sugar on top. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, by which time the air should be thick with the promise of good things and the good things themselves golden brown and ready to be eaten, either plain or broken up and smeared, as you go, with unsalted butter and marmalade.

 

Another recipe for something you could make as a gift if you get your skates on. Delicious Eggnog flavoured truffles.

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Eggnog Truffles

Ingredients

2 x 180g pkts good-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
80ml (1/3 cup) thickened cream
1 tablespoon brandy
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 x 375g pkt white chocolate melts
Ground nutmeg, extra, to dust
Freshly brewed espresso coffee, to serve

Method

Place the chocolate, cream, brandy and nutmeg in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure bowl doesn’t touch the water) and stir with a metal spoon until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Place in the fridge for 2 hours or until firm enough to roll into balls.

Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Use a teaspoon to scoop out 2 teaspoonfuls of chocolate mixture and use your hands to roll into a ball. Place on prepared tray. Repeat with the remaining chocolate mixture. Place in the fridge for 1 hour or until firm.

Meanwhile, place chocolate melts in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure bowl doesn’t touch the water) and stir with a metal spoon until chocolate melts.

Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Use 2 forks to dip a truffle into the melted chocolate to coat. Remove truffle, tapping the fork handle gently on the edge of the bowl to shake off any excess chocolate. Place on prepared tray. Repeat with remaining truffles and melted chocolate. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to set. Sprinkle truffles with extra nutmeg and serve with coffee.

 

Another nice recipe that you can turn into a gift and you don’t even have to cook this one! Just arrange the ingredients in a jar, wrap it with a Christmas ribbon and, bish, bash, bosh….instant present!

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Apple Pie Cookie Kit

Ingredients

175g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g light brown soft sugar
50g rolled oat
85g raisins or sultanas
50g malted milk biscuits, broken into small chunks
1 shiny, perfect apple
You will need

1 big jam jar or small Kilner jar (about 750ml capacity)
1 long colourful ribbon
1 sticky label for the jar (or tag to tie to the top) and a pen
weighing scales
measuring spoons

Method

Wash the jar, then dry very well.

Mix the flour with the spices and bicarb, then tip into the jar. Use your fingers to remove any lumps from the sugar, then pour into the jar. Add each of the remaining ingredients, one by one, following the list, until you’ve added the biscuit bits.

When all the ingredients are in the jar, put the lid on tightly. Sit the apple on top of the lid and tie to the jar with ribbon. The mixture and apple will keep for 4 days.

Write out the following instructions on a sticky label (or tag) and attach to the jar: Tip everything in the jar into a big mixing bowl and grate in the peeled apple. Melt 50g/2oz butter with 2 tbsp golden syrup and stir into the bowl with 1 egg. Space 10 spoonfuls on greased trays and bake for 15-18 mins at 180C/160C fan/gas 4 until golden and chewy. The cookies will firm up as they cool.

 

 

Making gifts is always fun if you have the time. And people appreciate the thought of a home made gift that will be delicious and won’t clutter their lives. We all have too much stuff and Christmas tends to make this problem worse. I’d be delighted to find these chocolates in my stocking on Christmas morning.

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Ingredients

FOR THE CHOCOLATE SHELL

300g dark chocolate chopped finely

FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING

150g darkchocolate
1tsp chocolate extract
100ml double cream
1tsp chilli powder

Method

STEP 1 Break up half of the chocolate into a bowl over simmering water (make sure that the water is not touching the bottom of the pan)
STEP 2 Bring the temperature up to 42°C/110°F, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Continue to monitor the temperature until it reaches 32°C/90°F.
STEP 3 Carefully spoon the chocolate into the moulds using the back of the teaspoon or a decorating brush to smooth. Tip the mould up to remove any excess chocolate, pouring it back into the bowl.
STEP 4 Chill the moulds for 10-15 minutes, until the chocolate has set.
STEP 5 To make the ganache, place the cream, chocolate and chilli powder (use more or less to taste) in a heatproof bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water.
STEP 6 Remove the ganache from the heat and allow to thicken until it reaches a consistency to fill your chocolates.
STEP 7 Once the chocolates in the moulds have set, fill them with the chocolate chilli ganache.
STEP 8 Chill further in the fridge until the ganache has hardened.
STEP 9 Meanwhile, melt the remaining chocolate as before and carefully spoon over the ganache to seal the chocolate. Chill for 15-20 minutes.
STEP 10 Once completely set turn out the chocolates and wrap ready to gift or decorate your tree.

I love my veggies at any time of year  and especially at Christmas. And I really like carrots, so here’s a good recipe for glazed carrots flavoured with star anise. I once went to a rather nice pub in Lymm, Cheshire, The Church Green. The chef was Aidan Byrne who had opened the pub after leaving the restaurant at the Dorchester Hotel in London where he earned a Michelin star. He’s now the executive chef at The Manchester House restaurant in Tower 11 on Spinningfields where he’s looking for another Michelin star. 

Part of the meal included carrots with a smear of aniseed flavoured sauce. The combination was delicious and I had to be stopped from licking my plate. 

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Glazed Carrots with Star Anise

Ingredients

9 medium carrots, peeled, topped and tailed
250g/9oz butter
150g/5½oz sugar
3 tsp salt
4 star anisE

Method

Use a clean scourer to smooth the carrots and remove any peel marks.

In a pan combine 400ml/14fl oz of water, the butter, sugar, salt and star anise. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and add the carrots. Cook until the carrots are tender (approximately 45 minutes) and the volume of liquid has reduced by half.

Serve the carrots as a side dish with the reduced cooking liquid poured over.