Easy Chicken Liver Parfait

This parfait* recipe is so simple, so tasty and ideal if you are time poor ( that’s a very fancy way of saying busy ) and that is probably most of us, even if you have stopped with a coffee to browse this posting. The best thing about this recipe is that it does not require the poaching in a water bath or bain-marie that you find in classic pâté and parfait recipes. Actually, make that the second best thing, the most important thing you need to know about this parfait is it is delicious, absolutely delicious. It is easily adapted, and you can fancy it up a little up by substituting duck livers for chicken and adding extra flavours like orange peel, tarragon, and Cointreau.

Pate

You can serve this pate as a simple starter with crisp Melba toast and maybe some tangy, delicious homemade chutney or you can take it in a cold box, on a picnic, to generously spread on crusty French bread. I personally love the taste of chicken livers and have to be stopped picking them from the pan once cooked, but some people find any liver can be a little strong. You can soak your chicken livers in milk overnight in the refrigerator to achieve an even milder finish. Just strain and blot dry with kitchen paper before cooking.

*A parfait is a really, really silky smooth pâté that you can whip up like a mousse.

 

Easy Chicken Liver Parfait        for 6 to 8 medium ramekins

2 x 250g packs of Jersey Butter ( other butters are great too )

1kg Chicken Livers, preferably free-range or organic, trimmed

4 large Banana Shallots, peeled and very finely chopped

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

A small bunch of fresh Thyme leaves picked

50ml good quality Olive Oil

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

A small wineglass of Brandy

to garnish

Thyme, Bay leaves, Pink Peppercorns

Clarified Butter – Place one whole pack of butter in a pan on a low heat or pilot light and let it tick away for 20 to 30 minutes until completely separated. The clear butterfat will separate from the white part in the bottom which is the whey. Skim the clear fat off the top and put in a separate container. This a similar technique to making Ghee the staple of Indian cookery and the base of many of the rich buttery curry sauces. Clarified butter can be used at a much higher temperature because there are no milk solids to burn.

In the oil sauté the shallot, garlic, and thyme for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to colour. Turn up the heat and add a splash more oil, the chicken livers and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for about more than 4 minutes until the livers plump up and they are still very pink in the middle. Add brandy to the pan of livers, and let it flame off. Tip everything straight into a food processor with all the juices scraping out the pan. Blitz until smooth and check seasoning. Dice up your remaining pack of butter, and add it piece by piece, with the food processor still running. Wait for each piece to be combined before adding more. Keep whizzing when it’s all in, and you’ll see it start to shine. Taste again and season again if necessary. Pass through a fine sieve and pour into ramekins, then cool. Decorate with thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns and top with clarified butter. Return to refrigerator and serve once the butter is set.

Allergens in this recipe are;

Milk

Please see the Allergens Page

 

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Cauliflower Veloute with Cauliflower Pakora and Curry Oil

This week I’ve been looking at some of the soup recipes I have put online and while I had several classics such as Gazpacho, French Onion and Chowder I wanted something a little more elegant so today’s recipe is a sophisticated soup ideal for a dinner party and perhaps as the starter for your Christmas Dinner. This rich, silky smooth cauliflower soup is an ideal partner to the spicy flavours of the pakora’s and curry oil. A veloute is a traditional soup made with a stock thickened with a roux, this recipe also contains potato for extra body.

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Cauliflower Veloute

1 kg ( approximately ) 1 large Cauliflower, cut up

1 large Baking Potato, peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 large Onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 ltr  homemade Chicken or Vegetable stock

600ml full-fat Milk

142ml carton double cream

60gr Plain Flour

40gr Butter

4 tbsp Olive Oil

A small sprig of fresh Thyme

Small Bay Leaf

Sea Salt and White Pepper

A few drops of fresh Lemon Juice

A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the cauliflower, potato, and onion. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for about ten minutes without colouring, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and cook out stirring continuously for two further minutes. Add the nutmeg, bay leaf, and thyme and pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then pour in the milk and return gently to a gentle simmer. This prevents scum forming from the milk solids. Simmer, uncovered, for fifteen minutes until the vegetables are soft then, add half the cream.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly then take out the thyme and bay leaf before blending in a food processor. For an extra smooth finish, push the purée through a sieve with the back of a ladle. Reheat gently do not boil, stir in the rest of the cream, the lemon juice, season to taste and serve.

You can prepare the soup ahead of time, cool, cover and chill then reheat as required.

Curry Oil

100ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil, warmed in a small pan

2 level teaspoons of Curry Powder

1 tsp crushed Coriander Seeds

1 tsp yellow Mustard Seeds

½ tsp Turmeric

2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 stalk of Lemongrass, peeled and roughly chopped

Grated Zest of 1 fresh Lime

Generous pinch of Sea Salt

 In a small frying pan, toast the curry powder, turmeric, coriander and mustard seeds for a couple of minutes, taking care not to burn the spices, add the garlic, lemongrass, lime zest, salt and warm olive oil. Set aside to cool and infuse in a warm place for at least an hour. Strain the oil through a fine sieve cover and set aside until needed.

Cauliflower Pakoras

 Half a second Cauliflower ( around 500gr trimmed  into 2cm florets )

For the Batter

100gr Gram / Chickpea Flour

175ml ice cold Water

1 tsp ground Coriander

1 tsp ground Turmeric

1 tsp ground Cumin

A couple of generous pinches of Cayenne Pepper

¼ tsp fine Salt

Neutral Vegetable Oil for frying

Sieve all of the dry batter ingredients into a bowl to remove any lumps. Slowly pour in the water whisking together to make a smooth batter. The finished batter should be the consistency of double cream. Add a little extra cold water if required. Add the cauliflower florets to the batter and mix thoroughly to ensure they are all coated in the batter.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, it needs to be around 3 centimeters deep. When you can gently fry a piece of stale bread to golden brown the oil is hot enough. Place three or four spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and cook for two minutes until golden brown on one side then turn over and cook for another couple of minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep cooking in batches until all the mixture is used up.

To serve ladle piping hot soup into bowls and add two or three pakoras, drizzle over curry oil and garnish with a little freshly chopped coriander.

 

Bonfire Night -Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Autumn is one of my favourite culinary times of the year, root vegetables are becoming abundant, it is the season for game, hearty stews and fiery curries and it is when soups really come into their own. As it is Bonfire Night I thought I would pass one of our family favourite recipes. There is nothing as comforting after walking on the beach or kicking up some leaves up in the park with the children and coming home and eating a nice bowl of soup.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

We love creamy chowder, carrot and coriander but in our house, the girls love roasted red pepper and tomato best. This is a really easy, comforting recipe that freezes exceeding well so could be made in advance, it is a fantastic thick, full of sweet, smoky flavours and great served in a mug as you stand to watch the fireworks. Passed through a sieve it can be dressed up as a lovely lunchtime treat or simple supper dish. So, for the perfect fifth of November feast make sure you have some crisp-skinned jacket potatoes freshly baked in the oven, a plate full of toffee apples for the children and a big, big pan of this delicious soup.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup            serves 4 to 6

2 large deep Red Peppers, halved & de-seeded.

1 large Onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled.

2 sticks of Celery, washed and thinly sliced

1 large Carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 x 400 gr tins of chopped Tomatoes

1/2 litre of Vegetable Stock

100 ml quality Olive Oil

50 gr Tomato Purée

1 heaped teaspoon dried Basil

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

Juice of one fresh Lemon

A generous pinch of dried Chilli flakes

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C /  360 F / Gas Mark 4. Place the pepper halves and garlic cloves on to a baking tray and drizzle with a little of the olive oil. Bake at the top of your oven for thirty minutes until the vegetables are roasted and nicely caramelised. In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan, over a medium heat, and sauté the chopped onion, carrot and celery for about ten minutes until soft.

In a second pan heat up the vegetable stock and add the tomato purée and the chilli flakes. Whisk and then add to the onions, celery and carrots. Peel any very dark, burnt spots from the peppers and add them, the garlic and remaining ingredients to the stock and vegetables. Bring the soup to a low boil, turn down the heat and simmer for twenty to twenty-five minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to completely cool then using a hand blender or food processor blitz the until the soup is smooth. You can pass the soup through a sieve if you want a more refined dinner party finish. To serve, reheat and season with salt, pepper and lemon to taste.

Minestrone Soup

Anyone of a certain age and living in the British Isles will share my experiences of Minestrone soup and see how far as a nation the British have come in terms of eating freshly made authentic cooking.  My earliest memories are of a tomato ( ? ) soup with a few vegetables and broken spaghetti pieces, quite often made from a dried packet base. Twenty years ago, restaurants seemed to work on some mysterious unseen rota Monday Minestrone ( using the weekends leftover veg ! ), Tuesday Cream of Mushroom for their choice of soup of the day, fortunately for us all today chefs use seasonal produce and their knowledge and skills to bring us soups like Carrot and Coriander and recipes from around the world like Cantonese Crab and Sweetcorn or Patatas Riojanas from Spain.

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At its best, a hearty, Italian classic, Minestrone is more of a stew of root vegetables and beans, sometimes with pasta or rice and with the addition of whatever other seasonal vegetables are available. It is the perfect lunchtime or supper course nourishing, filling and very tasty. Minestrone is like many Italian recipes everyone seems to have an authentic recipe and their own list of special ingredients, there isn’t even a clear picture if it is made with a vegetable or meat stock. Minestrone belongs to the style of cooking in Italy called “cucina povera” (literally “poor kitchen”) meaning dishes that have rustic, rural roots, as opposed to “cucina nobile” or the cooking style of the aristocracy and nobles. I love hearty style dishes and this type of recipe suits me down to the ground.

Minestrone has been served most certainly since Roman times and who am I to challenge a dish with such a pedigree, in fact even the name is a derivative of ‘ minestra ‘ or soup. Derived from the Latin ministrare , meaning “to administer”, the word reflects the fact that minestra was served out from a central bowl or pot by the figure of authority in the household. The major change from the Roman version would have been the addition of tomatoes sometime after their introduction to Europe in the mid-sixteenth century. Interestingly the ancient Romans believed in the health benefits of a sparse vegetarian diet of which soups such as Minestrone would have been a staple. This has given us the modern word ‘ frugal ‘ from the Latin fruges, the common name given to cereals, vegetables, and legumes.

If you want to be authentic then you should finish your Minestrone with small Bacon, Garlic and Parsley Dumplings and a great tip from an Italian friend of mine is to save your Parmesan rinds and add them to the simmering soup to add extra flavour, removing before you serve up the delicious soup. You can further enhance the following recipe stirring in two tablespoons of fresh pesto to make Minestrone alla Genovese.

Minestrone Soup

100 ml good quality Olive Oil

1 large Leek, washed and sliced

2 large Onions, peeled and finely chopped

4 large Carrots, peeled and chopped

2 Courgettes, thinly sliced

300 gr Green Beans, cut into 2 cm pieces

8 stalks Celery, thinly sliced

½ Green Cabbage such as Savoy, washed and ripped into pieces

2 litres good homemade Vegetable Stock

454 gr tin Chopped Tomatoes

1 tablespoon Tomato Purée

2 large cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon chopped fresh Thyme

454 gr tin Flageolet or Cannellini beans, strained

100 gr dried Macaroni or Pasta shapes

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large thick-bottomed saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, carrots, celery and garlic. Gently cook for fifteen minutes without colouring, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent the root vegetables sticking. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, purée and thyme and bring to the boil and simmer gently for thirty minutes.
Add the tinned beans, courgettes and pasta then simmer for an additional five minutes. Add the green beans and cabbage then continue to simmer until pasta is al dente. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving with bacon dumplings, Parmesan and finely chopped parsley.

Bacon dumplings

4 oz smoked back bacon

1 oz finely chopped parsley

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 pinches of black pepper
In a blender pulse ingredients until a rough paste is formed. Oil fingers and form into small roughly shaped balls and place on baking tray. Lightly grill until cooked but not brown.

Real Men eat Quiche

Ok here we go again, I have read some of my early posts and realise that they are peppered with bad puns ( sorry ), some quite obscure references* and that I seem to regularly lambaste and offend without even trying. I really did not wish to do that today but the choice of title was just too easy an option. I eat quiche, in fact, I adore quiche and so questions concerning the nature of whether I am or not ‘ a real man ‘ must be addressed to my long-suffering partner. I do however have a couple of reservations.

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I like proper quiche, the Quiche Lorraine, rustic French cooking, crisp pastry filled with a thick layer of creamy, wobbly egg custard flavoured only with some fried cubes of really good bacon. That is it, nothing more, not a single thing, not even parsley. I am not a fan of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quiche of the salmon, broccoli, blue cheese and anchovy variety.  I am in luck then that I have in my possession a very battered but beautiful French cookery book with just the most perfect recipe. At this point take a bow Annie who scoured a Paris flea market to procure it for me as a gift. Everybody a big hand for my friend, thank you so much.

Quiche Lorraine was originally an open pie, rustic in style, made with bread dough for the crust, in a cast iron pan. Today a rich short-crust or flaky rough puff pastry is used to line a pie dish. Regional variations include adding Gruyère cheese which makes a quiche Vosgienne and onions a quiche Alsacienne. Adding tomato to the recipe creates a quiche Provençal and spinach a quiche Florentine.

 *Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche is the name of a book Bruce Feirstein

Quiche Lorraine                            serves 8 – 10

for the pastry

250 gr strong White Flour

75 gr cold Beef Dripping, cut into small pieces

50 gr cold unsalted Butter, diced

1-2 tablespoons ice cold Water

A generous pinch of Salt

Quiche 2

for the filling

150 gr Bacon Lardons preferably cut from a thick piece of bacon

1 medium sized White Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 free range Eggs

250 ml  Double Cream

25 gr Butter

1 tablespoon quality  Olive Oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped Parsley

2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and pureed

¼ teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg

A generous pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8-inch flan ring ( at least 1 inch deep )

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add both fats and rub together with the fingertips lifting and separating the fat with the flour until you achieve the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the Parmesan and pour in one tablespoon of water and gentle form together as a dough. Use more water as required. Do not knead the dough and treat gently for the best results.

Pastry

Alternatively, blitz ingredients to the crumb stage in a food processor, then add water until you get the same result. Wrap in cling film and chill in the refrigerator to relax for at least half an hour.

Rolling Pastry

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Roll out the chilled pastry on a clean, floured, work surface to a thickness of approximately a quarter of an inch. The pastry will need to be wide enough to line the bottom of the tin, the sides and provide a little overhang that will reduce as the pastry shrinks during cooking.

Lining Tin with Pastry.JPG

Butter a flan dish or pie ring and carefully roll the pastry onto your rolling pin. Roll back over the flan dish and push to the edges trying not to split the pastry. If you do tear the pastry take a little surplus from the edge and gently push over the gap to patch the hole. Trim the edges leaving a half inch overhang over the lip of the pie dish.

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Chill again for half an hour then cover the pastry with a sheet of baking parchment and fill the dish with rice or baking beans.

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Place on a baking tray and put in the oven. After ten minutes turn the oven down to 375°F/fan 190°C/gas mark 5 and bake for fifteen more minutes. Carefully take out from the oven and remove the baking parchment and rice or beans. Beat up one of the eggs with a fork and brush the inside of the pastry case with a soft pastry brush . Bake in the oven for a further ten minutes until light gold in colour, this is to seal the tart. Take out and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. When cool trim off any excess pastry.

In a medium sized heavy bottomed frying pan, melt the butter in the olive oil over a low heat. Cook the onion for ten minutes without colouring then remove. Replace the onion with the bacon lardons and fry until crispy and light brown, add garlic and cook for one more minute then mix together with the onions. In a large bowl beat the remaining eggs with nutmeg, cayenne pepper and season sparingly as the bacon will naturally add salt. Whisk in the double cream and then strain into a jug to remove any strands of thick egg white. Take the pastry case and evenly spread with the cooked onion and bacon. Place baking tray with the pastry case onto the oven shelf, then pour in the custard mix, filling the case right to the top. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until the filling has just set and is slightly wobbly to the touch and the top of the quiche is lovely and golden brown.

 

 

World Apple Day

Black Butter Ham

The history of Apple Day, held on the 21st of October, is relatively new, the first official celebration was in 1990 in Covent Garden, this event has grown and is now a fixture all over the UK. However, there have been fairs across the south-west cider growing regions for a much longer time. Apple Day is now a celebration of all the myriad varieties of apple, their cultivation, cooking with them and, of course, making cider. There is another tradition much older, as old as cider making itself invoking pagan gods in an ancient fertility ritual which is Wassailing, which takes place in the cider orchards on January 17th.

Black butter

Jersey and Guernsey have a proud apple growing tradition going back many centuries and in Jersey around a fifth of the islands, fertile growing land in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was occupied by orchards. Today both islands boast fine cider makers in La Robeline in Jersey and Roquette in Guernsey. But Jersey has another old, traditional product made from sharp, cider apples, ‘ black butter ’ or ‘ Le Nierre Buerre ’. Black butter is now made on Apple Day, with a great many islanders taking part in the production at the Jersey Nation Trust.

Black butter is made from cider apples, cider and sugar which is slowly cooked and reduced over a very long time, often all night with volunteers stirring all evening, with a special wooden paddle, to prevent the mix burning due to the high sugar content. The concentrate is then flavoured with a secret blend of spices, lemon, and liquorice. During the evening there is traditional singing, dancing, story-telling and perhaps drinking of a few glasses of cider.

The finished product is a sweet, dark, sticky spread which you can eat with a salty cheese or perhaps as an alternative to jam with a scone but my favourite is as a glaze on baked ham.

Black Butter Ham

Ask your butcher to source a traditionally prepared dry cure ham and to tie it for you. For more information on curing please visit A Cooks Compendium. A dry cure ham will shrink less during cooking and produce a better quality easier to cut joint of meat. Poaching the ham before finishing the joint in the oven also improves the carving quality and produce a flavoursome stock from which you can make traditional pea and ham soup.

A piece of boned and rolled dry cured Ham, around 1.5 kg – 2 kg is a nice joint

( ask your butcher to weigh it this is important for cooking times )

1 or 2 onions, peeled

2 carrots, peeled and halved

2 sticks of celery, washed

2 bay leaves

4 cloves

10 – 12 whole coriander seeds

6 – 8 black peppercorns

100 gr Jersey Black Butter

a large pan sufficient to submerge the ham

Place the ham in the pan and cover with cold water. Place on the cooker and bring to the boil. Carefully take to the sink and pour out the water and wash off any scum from the ham. This initial boiling will help reduce excess salt in the finished ham. Cover again with cold water and add the carrots, celery, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Pierce the bay leaves with the cloves, pin to the onions and add to the pan. Bring back to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cover with lid. Cook for twenty minutes per pound of raw weight. Once the cooking time is finished turn off the heat and leave to go cold in the cooking liquor. This can be done the night before.

Preheat your oven to 400 F /200 C / Gas mark 6. Take out your ham from the cold stock which you can strain and reserve to make an excellent soup. Place on a baking tray and with a sharp knife remove the skin leaving a nice layer of fat. Score through the fat with the tip of your knife to leave small, squares or diamonds. Spread over the Black Butter and cook in the oven for thirty to forty minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.

Meringues

I come from a family of serious meringue fans, the marriage of whisked egg whites and caster sugar, the crispy meringue shells, dried in the oven overnight and sandwiched with thick cream and topped with fresh berries and the show-stopping Pavlova with its chewy, marshmallow-like center. To make them chewy, we add cornflour and vinegar to the whipped-up sugar and egg whites. My mum makes an epic Pavlova and my Aunty Mary ate nearly a whole one for her eightieth birthday.

meringue.jpg

There is an old saying that you need ‘old eggs and a clear day’ to make a good meringue, certainly meringues are best made from older eggs, the runny whites are easier to whisk up, and frozen egg whites work very well so keep them from other recipes such a Sable pastry labelled in the freezer until needed, but allow to thoroughly defrost and reach room temperature before attempting the recipe.

There are several recipes for meringue in a professional kitchen including using super-hot sugar syrup ( Italian or Swiss Meringue ) but you can use one technique and warm your caster sugar on a baking tray in a hot oven, before adding to the egg whites, this helps the sugar dissolve quicker and the finished meringue will shrink less ( ideal for when you are making a Lemon Meringue Pie ). Golden caster sugar will make your finished meringue a darker colour but adds a delicious caramel flavour.

Finally, your meringues don’t have to be picture perfect remember you can just use some more cream to cover up cracks and flaws and if in the worst case just turn them into Eton Mess.

Top Tips

Use scrupulously clean bowls, any grease in the bowl will stop your egg whites properly expanding. Rubbing your bowl with half a cut lemon can help, but make sure you wipe it really dry with kitchen roll afterward.

It is an old habit I have but whenever I am baking I always crack the eggs individually into a small separate bowl. This means if you get a bad egg which happens occasionally you can avoid contaminating the rest of a bake. If a little egg yolk gets into the white, try to remove it with half of the cracked eggshell. If the yolk gets broken and mixed into the white, start again.

Be careful not to over-beat the egg whites. Whisk them until they hold firm peaks when the whisk is removed from the bowl. If you over‑whip them the finished texture will be grainy.

Cooking meringues is a process of trial and error and getting to know your oven. You don’t need a fan just an even heat. I have relatives and friends who have used the warm section of an Aga cooker, a plate warmer and an airing cupboard to dry out their meringues!

Classic Meringue Recipe

The simple ratio to remember is double the weight of sugar to egg whites.

300 gr Caster Sugar ( golden if you prefer a more caramelised flavour and colour )
The whites of 5 free-range Eggs, at room temperature
Half a fresh Lemon

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas Mark 6, and spread the Caster sugar over an oven tray lined with baking paper and heat in the oven for five minutes. Meanwhile, wipe the inside of your mixing bowl with the cut lemon and add the egg whites. Whisk up to a foam, then carefully remove the sugar from the oven and tip a third into the egg whites continuing to mix constantly ( you may need help if you are using a hand mixer ). Add the remaining sugar and continue whisking until the mixture has cooled, and is glossy and will hold its shape.

Turn the oven down to its lowest setting. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper, and spoon the meringue mix on, remember to leave sufficient gaps as they will increase in size as they dry out. Place them into the oven and bake until they are crisp on the outside, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, depending on their size, this could take four to six hours. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in there until it has cooled, then immediately transfer to an air-tight container.

Strawberry Milkshake and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Gosh doesn’t everyone love milkshake, as a child I was so spoilt, with thick shakes made with fresh strawberries, just picked, washed and hulled, scoops of ice cream and a splash or two of full fat, gold top milk? They were so thick you could barely suck them up the straw. Even now I’m quite partial when we are out to a froth, ice cold milkshake, although they are made with syrup or powder. So, when I saw a Strawberry Milkshake cupcake in a magazine, well, I just had to have a try myself.

Strawberry Milkshake Cupcakes.jpg

Cupcakes are a phenomenon, they have become so popular, and are fun and versatile and very easy to make. Next week I will be baking lots of Halloween themed cupcakes topped with sugar pumpkins, ghosts, and witches’ hats. The secret of this recipe to use Nesquik milkshake powder which gives a real milkshake flavour to both the cake and the topping and I added another childhood favourite some white chocolate buttons to give it my own little twist.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Milkshake Cupcakes    makes 18

For the Cupcakes

210 ml Full fat Milk

210 gr Plain Flour

220 gr Caster Sugar

120 gr White Chocolate Buttons

70g soft Unsalted Butter

75 gr Strawberry Milkshake Powder

2 large free-range Eggs

1 scant tablespoon of Baking Powder

A good pinch of Salt

For the Icing

500 gr Icing Sugar

160 gr soft Unsalted Butter

100 gr Strawberry Milkshake Powder

50 ml Full Fat Milk

Red Gel Food Colouring

Cupcake or deep Muffin Tins

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170°C / 330 °F and line the baking trays with large paper cases. Using an electric mixer or food processor mix the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together until they form a sandy, crumb-like texture. In a bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and strawberry milkshake powder together. With the mixer on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until combined and the batter is smooth and thick. Once all the lumps are gone gradually pour in the remaining liquid and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in half of the white chocolate buttons.

Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared cases and bake in the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing them from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter, beat together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. In a jug, mix together the milk and strawberry milkshake powder, then gradually pour the liquid into the icing while mixing on a slow speed. Add a little red food colouring to colour the icing pink. Turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat the icing until light and fluffy. Scoop the whipped-up icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle, ready to ice the completely cool cupcakes. To get the two-tone effect I diluted a little more food colouring with a little water and brushed around the inside of the piping bag before piping the frosting onto the cakes.

Decorate with the remaining white chocolate buttons, some fresh or freeze-dried strawberries and a dust of icing sugar.

My Murgh Makhani – National Curry Week

We are if you are unaware in a celebratory culinary alignment of epic proportions it is National Curry Week, Seafood Week, Chocolate Week and National Porridge Day. “Go on”, I hear you cry, “You’ve had all year have you come up with a recipe combining all of these?”

Well no. We had porridge for breakfast, big bowls made with creamy Jersey milk and I can hear all you spurtle welders screaming, yes made with milk.* Chocolate, I have two daughters so I could use Willy Wonka’s chocolate fountain, seafood I will save for the weekend so supper this rather chilly, wet evening was a suitable curry, one of my favourite curries, in fact, Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken. This week I have soaked lentils, pounded garlic, ginger and cinnamon sticks, roasted coriander, mustard, and fennel seeds and even opened a jar of the now infamous, homemade chilli and lime pickle. I love cooking curries and balancing the complex flavours of the spices.

*The spurtle is used to stir proper porridge made with rolled oats, salt, and water only. I worked for a two times winner of the Golden Spurtle but that as they say is another story.

Butter Chicken.jpgButter Chicken does not have a pedigree stretching into the dawn of history, it is believed to have been created in Peshawar and after the British partition, the chef moved to a New Delhi restaurant. A customer wanted a meal late in the evening and marinated chicken, ready for the Tandoor oven, was tossed with tomatoes, butter and spices and the Murgh Makhani ( butter chicken ) was born. While the dish looks similar to a Chicken Tikka Masala, it is more flavoursome with more depth of spicing in the rich tomato-based sauce. The Tikka Masala is Britain’s most popular curry and is believed to have been made originally with Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup and to have originated in the hallowed curry houses of either Birmingham or Glasgow.

The chicken, either on or off the bone, is marinated in yoghurt and spices but the secret of of a true Murgh Makhani is Qasuri Methi or dried fenugreek leaves. The chicken is best cooked in an extremely hot oven, a Tandoor ( if you have one ) or over coals or on a char grill to add an authentic smoky flavour before finishing in the sauce and serving. So, you can fire up the BBQ.  Garnish with green chillies, sliced hard boiled eggs, coriander leaves, raisins and toasted almonds.

Murgh Makhani ( Spiced – Butter Chicken ) serves 4 – 6

for marinated chicken

1.5 kg of Chicken pieces, skin removed or 1 kg chunky diced Chicken

Juice of 2 Limes

150 gr fresh natural Yoghurt

1 medium sized red Chilli, very finely chopped

2 tablespoons Coriander Seeds

2 tablespoons Fennel Seeds

1 tablespoon Cumin Seeds

1 tablespoon Fenugreek Seeds

6 Cloves

8 White Peppercorns

¼ Stick of Cinnamon

2 Bay Leaves

8 Cardamom Pods, crushed and seeds removed

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt

Vegetable Oil

for butter sauce

75 gr Butter in small pieces

3 tablespoons Clarified Butter or Ghee

2 medium Onions, peeled and finely chopped

8 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

3 centimetre piece of Ginger, peeled and crushed to paste

4 tablespoons Tomato Puree

8 fresh Tomatoes, de-seeded and roughly chopped

200 ml Pouring Cream

2 tablespoons Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder

Juice of 1 fresh Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

Coriander leaves to garnish

Toast the spices, excluding the chilli, cardamom and cayenne pepper by heating them in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed frying pan, stirring occasionally, until they colour slightly. Place in a small food processor or coffee grinder with the cayenne and cardamom seeds and reduce to a powder. Mix half of your spice mix with the chilli, lime juice, and yogurt and in a large glass or ceramic bowl stir in the chicken. Cover, refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least two hours. Larger chicken pieces benefit from marinating an extra couple of hours.

Preheat your oven to 425 F / 220 C / Gas mark 7. Drain off any excess yogurt mix from the chicken and set aside. Place the marinated chicken pieces on an oiled baking tray and cook for fifteen minutes for diced chicken or twenty-five minutes for the large chicken pieces. The chicken can brown well, almost char in the oven as this improves the flavour of the finished dish. At the same time as the chicken is cooking heat the clarified butter and a little more oil in a large casserole, add the onions. Sauté the onions for 15 minutes until golden brown in and then add the ginger, garlic, remaining spice mix and the turmeric. Cook for two more minutes, stirring to prevent sticking and burning.

Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, kasuri methi, cream and any remaining yogurt marinade to the pan and mix together. Place in the chicken and simmer for ten to fifteen more minutes till the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Do not boil as the sauce will split. Finish the sauce by correcting the seasoning and immediately before serving stir in the lemon juice and butter pieces. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with Naan bread and rice.

Perfect Roast Beef and British Roast Dinner Week

Roast Dinner Week

My waistline will attest that I love food and I adore eating almost anything, apart from desiccated coconut and the dates you get in those little wooden boxes at Christmas. Feed me Chinese cuisine, Italian cooking, sticky-icky smoky barbecue food and I’m a happy chef but the food I think I love most and would be my death row last meal choice, although at this moment in time that is not an option I’m considering, is the classic British roast. Succulent roast chicken with crispy skin; chunks of tender lamb flavoured with garlic, rosemary, and anchovy; melting, fatty pork with salty crackling or medium rare roast beef with rich red wine gravy, it is very difficult to choose which I prefer most.  Which is your favourite? Which is the most popular roast in the country? Well, the roast that everyone worldwide knows is as British as roast beef, well is er….. roast beef.

Roast Beef - Copy.jpeg

So if the king of the British roast is a joint of beef, in my humble opinion it is the equally aristocratically sounding Sirloin* that is the best beef to roast. There are moderately cheaper joints such as a corner cut topside that make for an excellent roast, if you can afford it a rib on the bone is perhaps the most show stopping roast to present at a table, but I prefer is the sirloin. The meat itself is very lean, however, that lovely layer of fat will help keep the meat moist when cooking. The taste is terrific, there is a minimal waste and it is fantastically easy to carve at the table if you feel like impressing your guests.

*You are perhaps aware of the story that an effusive monarch was so taken with his beef dinner he knighted the remains of the joint on the spot. It has been attributed to Henry VIII, Charles II and the host of English kings in between and was so popular it was referenced by Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson, but the origins of the word sirloin are much less regal. The old English word would be originally written as ‘surloyn’ or ‘surloine’, and was derived from French word ‘surlonge’, sur meaning over and longe meaning loin, the sirloin was then quite simply a cut of beef taken from above the loin. Interestingly most of our words describing cuts of meat or the name of the meat are from French origins, the names of animals or livestock are more often of Anglo-Saxon descent.

Now as a family we sit down about one o’clock for a traditional roast on a Sunday, just as I did with my parents and grandparents, this week, however, is National Roast Dinner Week* encouraging you to eat a roast when and where ever and I am all for that. I have posted the recipe for Yorkshire Pudding, the classic accompaniment to roast beef previously, so here is my recipe for the perfect roast beef. A good local butcher will be able to provide you with a great piece of beef from a reputable, quality supplier. If you can find grass fed, mature beef, hung for three weeks it will be simply delicious, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 *I have a theory about space and time and alternative universes that postulates the somewhere in a never-ending series of multiverses it will always be a named something day or week, Free the Herring Day, Shred more Paper Week alternatively this is just the creation of canny marketers to get you to purchase something you neither want or need.

Roast Sirloin of Beef and Rich Red Wine Gravy         serves 6-8

1 ½ to 2 kg center cut Sirloin, rolled and tied

( Ask your local butcher to do this )

250 gr Beef Dripping or Lard

1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves

½ tablespoon English Mustard Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon ground Black Pepper

For the gravy

350ml red wine

200ml beef stock

75ml port

1 small White Onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Carrot, peeled and sliced

1 stick of Celery, washed and sliced

1 clove of Garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil

1 heaped tablespoon Plain Flour

1 Bay leaf

A few sprigs of Thyme

Heat your oven to 400 F / 200C/ Gas Mark 6 and weigh your joint of beef. Put the dripping into a roasting pan and place in the oven. Mix the thyme, mustard, salt and black pepper and rub all over the beef and when the dripping is melted and hot, place in the beef fat side down and return the roasting pan to the oven. Roast the beef for thirty minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the piece of beef over before placing back in the oven.

Turn the heat down to 360 F / 180C / Gas Mark 4. For every 450 gr of raw weight, cook your joint for ten minutes per 450 gr for a rare piece of beef and for fifteen minutes per 450 gr for well done. When the beef is cooked to your particular preference, take it out of the roasting pan, cover with foil and allow to rest somewhere warm for thirty minutes.

To make the red wine gravy, place the roasting tin on a high heat with the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay lea, and thyme. Fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes then add the flour, cook for a couple more minutes stirring continuously. Pour in the port, scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen any debris from the tin and add the red wine. Continue to simmer and reduce by three-quarters before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce by a quarter and season to taste. Pour any juices from resting the meat back into the tin, warm and pour the gravy through a sieve into a warm jug. Carve the meat and serve with the gravy and Yorkshire puddings.