Categories
Dinner Lunch Puddings Uncategorized

BLACKBERRY & PLUM JELLIES with CREME ANGLAISE & LITTLE BISCUITS

It has certainly been a wonderful year for blackberries. The best are the cultivated sort – these are the ones you will find growing in peoples gardens and allotments. They tend to be larger, juicier and I think more flavoursome than the wild variety found in practically every mixed hedgerow. I have always loved making a classic blackberry jelly that you keep in a jar and spread on toast but lately I have been revisiting that old nursery favourite and serving it as a pudding. Marry it with some home made custard and serve in a pretty glass or tea light and you will have something that can hold its own in the most sophisticated of company.

Make these jellies with just blackberries or add in some plums. The flavours work marvellously together. Raspberries would be delicious as well and at the end of July, when blackcurrants are in season you can use those. Their extraordinary depth of colour and intense flavour is quite wonderful.

This recipe is very simple. Gelatine leaves are very easy to use and as long as you measure the liquid accurately and use 1 gelatine leaf per 100ml of liquid you will have a perfect set. The jellies last for a good few days in the fridge so are brilliant for a dinner party as you can get them made well in advance. The custard is best made the day before so that it has time to chill and thicken before settling on top of the set jellies. Flavour with lemon verbena, vanilla, cardamon, citrus rind or cinnamon.

Serves Eight

JELLIES

400g blackberries
4 plums, chopped and stoned
400ml water
180g – 200G caster sugar
Dash of cassis or creme de mure (optional)
Gelatine sheets (about six)

Put the fruit in a saucepan and cover with the cold water. Add the sugar (save a couple of tablespoons for later) and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer very gently for about ten minutes until the fruit is very soft. Add the cassis or creme de mure. Taste the liquid and if you like add a little more sugar. Strain into a big jug and let any excess liquid drip through. Do not press the fruit as this will result in a cloudy jelly.

See how much liquid you have and take one sheet of gelatine for every 100 ml of liquid. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes. Squeeze out in your hands and put into the hot strained liquid. Stir with a whisk and then divide between eight glasses or whatever container you are using. Cool and put in the fridge to set.

When ready to serve, top with the cooled custard and serve with crisp little biscuit (recipes below)

CREME ANGLAISE

250ml whole milk
250ml double cream
Vanilla pod, seeds scraped out or big handful of lemon verbena
or use a dash of vanilla essence or vanilla powder
50g caster sugar
5 large egg yolks

Heat the milk and cream together in a saucepan with your vanilla pod or lemon verbena leaves. Leave to infuse for about an hour.

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Re-heat the milk/cream mixture and pour through a sieve onto the yolks, whisking gently as you go. Clean out the saucepan and return the custard mixture to it.

Cook over a VERY gentle heat, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. Do not boil or let it get too hot. You will end up with scrambled custard which will have to go in the bin!! It will take about eight minutes of patient stirring. Always make sure you are able to put your have on the base of the saucepan. Also have a bowl of iced water to hand in case you have to cool the mix down quickly. If it does look as if it is going a bit grainy plunge the base of the pan into iced water and whisk like mad until you have a smooth custard again. Better to do it longer and slower or if in doubt, use a bowl over a pan of simmering water. It takes a while but you will have a smooth result. The custard is ready when it coats the back of a spoon. Then take off the heat and continue stirring for a few minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir every time you walk past until cold enough to put in the fridge. Cover and leave until it is time to serve your jellies. Or put in an ice cream machine and turn into ice cream!

Divide amongst the jelly glasses so there is a good thick layer on top. It is quite nice to have a bit left over so people can help themselves to more if they like.

LITTLE CRISP BISCUITS

90g plain flour
60g unsalted butter
30g golden caster sugar
Pinch of vanilla powder or dash of essence

Heat oven to 180c

Whizz everything together in a food processor until just coming together. Turn out and knead to a dough.

Roll out thinly. I use clingfilm to help me do this otherwise it just sticks in a very unfortunate way to the rolling pin. If the dough is getting too warm, just pop back in the fridge for a few minutes and it will be easier to handle.

Use a small fluted cutter to stamp out rounds of biscuit dough and put onto a flat baking sheet. Bake for about eight minutes until just turning lightly golden. Take out and cool on a rack. Store in an airtight tin until needed.

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Categories
Dinner Fish and Seafood Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Uncategorized

SEARED FILLET OF SALMON with a TOMATO SAUCE VIERGE and COURGETTI

Quite often, an awful lot of time and effort needs to be spent in the kitchen to create something rather beautiful, extremely delicious and very elegant. For those of you who simply do not have the time, inclination or energy to spare then look no further than this gorgeous recipe. I am using a fillet of salmon here but any fish will work well. The sauce is a simple warm dressing that originates in France – perfectly diced tomato concasse combine with the best olive oil and piquant shallots that bring the fish and vegetables to life and looks so pretty against the green courgette and pale pink salmon. If you can find fresh chervil then that is lovely here, either on its own or with the basil but it isn’t that easily available.

I often finish this with a little spoonful of fresh pesto but it looks lovely unadorned. For those with heartier appetites, some crushed new potatoes under the courgetti will make it more substantial but for a summer lunch or supper I find this carb free version is enough.

Serves Four

4 fillets of salmon (approx 160 – 180g) skinless
4 small firm courgette
2 handfuls swiss chard
2 shallots (approx 50g)
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Four medium tomatoes, very good quality
1 large clove garlic
100ml good extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons
2 tablespoons of shredded fresh basil/chervil
Rapeseed/light olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper
Fresh pesto (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200c

First finely shred the chard, leaves only and either use a spiralizer to create your courgetti or finely shred them with a julienne peeler. Set aside.

Make the sauce vierge. Finely chop the shallots and garlic. Skin and deseed the tomatoes. Finely chop the flesh into small dice. Heat the extra virgin oil in a small saucepan and add the shallot, thyme and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes over a gentle heat and then remove and keep to one side. Stir in the tomato and season well with salt and pepper.

Heat a medium sized saucepan and also a frying pan for your salmon. Season the salmon. Pour a little rapeseed or olive oil into each and once hot put the salmon, presentation side down into the frying pan and the chard into the saucepan. Cook both for a couple of minutes, then flip the salmon over (it should be a pale golden colour) and put the pan into the oven for a further three minutes (maybe four if it is very thick). Add the courgetti to the chard, season and stir over a high heat for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon. Check the seasoning. Remove the salmon from the oven and leave to rest for a minute or two. The tip of a sharp knife should feel warm when pushed right into the centre. Squeeze a little lemon over each piece.

Have ready four warm plates. Divide the courgette and chard between the plates sit the salmon on top. Add juice of a lemon and the basil to the sauce vierge and warm it through gently. Check and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the sauce around the fish and courgette. If you like and have some fresh pesto to hand, a little teaspoonful on top looks pretty and goes well. Alternatively you could stir a little through the sauce.

Serve as soon as you can, although it is not a dish to be served piping hot and therefore quite useful if your guests are slow in coming through to the table!

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Categories
Dinner Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Starters and Salads Uncategorized

GRIDDLED COURGETTE, POMEGRANATE, FETA and MINT with SUMAC

If you are after a quick lunch or easy starter that delivers on flavour, is big on nutrition and looks beautiful into the bargain then look no further than this easy and delicious courgette salad. It is also very useful as a side dish – try with some simple chicken or lamb and it will turn the mundane into something special. Pomegranates combine brilliantly with the salty feta and the ruby jewel seeds bring this simple salad alive. To remove the seeds simply slice the fruit in half and bash hard with a rolling pin over a bowl. The seeds will just fall out (up to a point!). Try and pick the firmest courgette you can – the bigger they are the more water they contain and you will lose both texture and flavour.

There are lots of different feta cheeses to buy out there. My favourite is the Greek barrel aged feta made from ewe’s and goat’s milk and stored in brine. It is worth paying that little bit extra as it will make all the difference to your finished dish.

Sumac is a dried and ground berry from a bush grown mainly in the Middle East and is an essential ingredient in many recipes from that region. Slightly acidic and reminiscent of lemon, it not only adds a lovely flavour but looks very pretty as well with its deep red colour.

If you want a truly healthy salad then just make courgette ‘carpaccio’ but slicing very fresh and firm courgette with a potato peeler into ribbons. Leave to sit in the lemon & oil for a few minutes before eating.

Serves Four

Four small or two medium courgette
200g good quality feta
Large handful of washed fresh mint leaves
One lemon
Rapeseed or light olive oil for griddling
One pomegranate or a handy pack of ready done seeds
Sea salt & black pepper
Sumac
Extra virgin olive oil

For this recipe you will ideally have a ridged grill pan, nice and shallow.

Cut the courgettes on the diagonal into long pieces about 2mm thick.

Heat a little oil in your grill pan and once hot lay on the courgette slices, a few at a time. Sear on each side so that they have pretty brown marks and remove to a plate lined with kitchen towel while you cook the rest. Finely chop the mint, crumble the feta and remove the seeds from the pomegranate.

Take either one large plate or four smallish. Layer up the courgette, feta, mint and pomegranate, seasoning as you go and sprinkling each layer with lemon juice. Finish with a final flurry of mint and pomegranate and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil. Finally, sprinkle over some sumac and serve with flatbread.

courgette and pomegranate salad

Categories
Dinner Meat Uncategorized

SLOW ROAST FILLET OF BEEF with a RED WINE JUS Serves Four

For years we have been cooking beef fillet to precise timings and nervously standing by the oven waiting for precisely the right moment to take it out of the oven.

This recipe provides a wonderfully relaxed approach to cooking what for many is a special occasion piece of beef and produces a beautifully even, perfectly pink piece of beef that cannot overcook and is almost trouble free.

One fillet of beef, about 800g to 1kg (centre cut if possible)
Two cloves garlic
Fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper

For the jus

One onion
One stick celery
One carrot
One clove garlic
A little oil (olive or sunflower)
One bay leaf
Fresh thyme
500ml red wine
400ml fresh beef stock/consomme
50g unsalted butter
Salt & pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 75C or similar.

Crush the garlic up with the thyme and salt and rub into the beef with the oil. Cover with a good grinding of black pepper and dust over a little more sea salt. Sear in a hot pan to colour all over. Put into a roasting tin (best have it ready warming) and put in the oven for about 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours. Take out of the oven and cover with foil. Leave for about half an hour or so in a warm place. It should be soft and very pink all the way through.

Chop the vegetables and sauté gently in a little oil until beginning to soften and caramelise. Add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the stock, the herbs and seasoning. Simmer for about half an hour or until very well reduced.

When you are ready to serve, strain the liquid into a clean pan. Bring up to a simmer and make sure the jus is well seasoned. Add any juices that have come out of the beef whilst resting. Whisk in cubes of chilled butter and serve with the beef.

Or

Serve with a delicious salsa verde and roast or boiled new potatoes.
beef & salsa verde

Categories
Dinner Fish and Seafood Uncategorized

SCALLOP & PRAWN SKEWERS with SPICED PUY LENTIL, CHARRED BROCCOLI and TAHINI YOGURT SAUCE

Sometimes it’s nice to make something a little bit special when there are just two of you for an evening in and this certainly hits the spot for us. Scallops are, undeniably a bit of a treat ingredient and this is a lovely way of cooking them. They look so pretty with their pink corals still attached but if you prefer not to eat these then just leave them out. Prawns are a natural partner and the whole thing is enhanced with some gentle spicing. Make the lentils and dressing in advance (up to two days ahead but no more) and skewer the seafood in the morning, leaving a not particularly onerous task later of some quick cooking and heating up. Tahini is a favourite ingredient of mine and it is put to good use here to make a speedy sauce that is big on flavour and a lovely enhancement of this recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

SERVES 2
 
8 scallops with roe
12 prawns king raw
teaspoon cumin
teaspoon coriander
rind half lemon
olive oil

50g puy lentils, rinsed
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
250 ml boiling water
1 heaped teaspoon marigold stock powder or similar
bayleaf
Half a small broccoli, the florets sliced.
Two tablespoons natural yoghurt
One tablespoon tahini paste
Lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Freshly chopped coriander
Freshly chopped flatleaf parsley
Half a lemon or lime
Four wooden skewers, soaked in cold water

Stir the tahini and yoghurt together and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and let the whole thing down with some ice cold water until like thick double cream. Add a teaspoon of extra virgin oil. Set aside.

Clean and devein the prawns. Put into a bowl with the scallops (I leave the roe attached) and add the marinade ingredients. Leave for about half an hour while you get on with the lentils.

Finely chop the shallot. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallot. Soften for a minute or two and then add the grated ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander. Cook for a few more minutes and then stir in the lentils. Add the boiling water and stock. Simmer for around twenty to twenty five minutes until the lentils are tender and all the water has been absorbed. If the lentils are cooked and you have too much liquid simply drain any excess away. Add some seasalt and black pepper, a little olive oil and lots of freshly chopped parsley and coriander.

Put the scallops and prawns on the skewers. You will have more prawns than scallops so double up occasionally. Heat a griddle pan until smoking hot. Sear the skewers on all sides until the scallops are cooked through and the prawns pink.

Heat more oil in a frying pan and quickly sauté the broccoli slices with some finely sliced garlic until tender and a bit charred.

Heap the lentils up on a plate. Top with the broccoli and the skewers. Drizzle around the tahini dressing and scatter over more coriander. Serve with a wedge of lemon or lime.

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