Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Smoked Trout Mousse

Smoked trout mousse livened up with a little caviar and cucumber - isn't it pretty? I think the colours on the plate are amazing, and its a great quick canape for holiday events.

The past few weeks have already been packed full of parties, family gatherings, end of term parents get-togethers and dinner parties. So full in fact that I am running out of time to do the usual Christmas things like shop for presents and plan Christmas dinner.

In store this weekend is a book group night in, a friend's drinks party and a day out at the movies with the family. The only way to manage hectic days like these is to have a repertoire of very quick, but very beautiful, festive and tasty dishes to turn out of your kitchen. This one has minimum effort and maximum impact on a plate.

Smoked Trout Mousse with caviar

450g smoked trout fillets
250g cream cheese
5tbsp creme fraiche
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper

to serve:
1 cucumber
a small pot of caviar (or some thin strips of roasted red pepper)

Flake the fillets of smoked trout into a food processor making sure none of the skin is attached.
Add the cream cheese, creme fraiche, lemon and cayenne pepper.
Blitz until light and fluffy. If its too thick, add a little more creme fraiche or a dribble of milk to thin the mixture down. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

to serve:
Slice the cucumber into 1/2cm slices, top with a dollop of the mousse and a tiny dot of caviar or a little roast red pepper if you prefer.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Indian Spiced Scones

I've not posted for a few weeks but with good reason I promise. I've been making hundreds of Christmas Cakes for our lovely cafe customers and developing a range of chutneys and relishes inspired by my wonderful big sister and her San Francisco based Chutney Company McQuade's Celtic Chutneys. This is one of the best recipes I've come up with to show off the products. I've been meaning to post this recipe for months but every time I make them, they are wolfed so quickly, I've not managed to stop and take a photograph.... really!

Unlike a regular scone, they are not served with sweet jam and cream but instead with strong gutsy flavours to complement the chilli heat in the dough. Sweet onion chutney takes centre stage inside a warm scone seasoned with chilli, garlic, ginger and Indian spices. This is a gorgeous canape for those upcoming holiday parties, lovely with a full flavoured red wine and cheese or cut slightly larger and served on the side of warming lentil soup.

Indian Spiced Scones

250g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp garam masala
125g butter (straight from the fridge)
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 red chillies,  finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp natural yogurt
2 tbsp mustard seeds

Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. 
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate, baking powder, salt and garam masala into a large bowl. 
Add the cold butter and rub in until it resembles breadcrumbs. 
Stir in the garlic, ginger, chillies, egg and yogurt and bring together into a soft dough. 
Place on a well floured surface and roll to about 2cm thick.
Cut into rounds, either large to serve with soup or small to use as canapes.  
Brush each scone with milk and sprinkle with mustard seeds.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until risen and golden. 
Serve as canapes with cheese and chutney or warm and buttered with soup.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Curried Lentil & Coconut Soup

It is definitely September, on the first day of the month the weather seemed to take a turn for the autumnal. Suddenly, a t-shirt was not enough in the sunshine, jumpers were looked out, boots come to the front of the wardrobe... hats and scarves don't seem too far away, and in the middle of all this wind, rain and cool temperatures, Now despite being later in the month and the nights drawing in, I am planning a camping trip. It seemed like a great idea a few weeks ago, now I'm not too sure. A flask of soup and a flask of rich beef stew will be coming with us just in case the wind blows out the flame of the camping stove.

My round-up of camping food will come next week but this recipe fits more into the planning stage as I am making it before we leave and eating it after we pitch on friday night.

So so so easy, this is the most beautiful smooth, creamy and light flavoured soup,child-friendly in its spiciness though easy to heat up if you add a teaspoon of chilli with the tikka masala paste. No-one has tried it without asking for the recipe and almost no-one believes there are only 4 main ingredients.

Curried Lentil & Coconut Soup
1 onion, finely chopped
1tbsp olive oil
2tbsp tikka masala paste
2 large handfuls of orange lentils
1 tin of low fat coconut milk

Warm the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan.
Saute the onion until transluscent, don't allow it to brown.
Add tikka masala paste, and saute a minute longer to allow the spices to warm up.
Throw in the lentils, coconut milk and a cupful of water.
Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lentils have cooked and broken down.
Blend until smooth.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Green Apple Cafe Rocky Road

My very favourite treat at the Green Apple Cafe (and the one most likely to run out in the space of one hour due to people buying extra to take away!) is our Rocky Road. Some people think of this as more of a chocolate biscuit cake or no-bake cake, and almost everyone has a verision of this in their repertoire but this is my favourite. It is a great treat to make with children (especially if you use the microwave version for safety) and left at room temperature for a few minutes, tastes almost like chocolate fudge.... delicious.

Green Apple Cafe Rocky Road
125g  butter
75g golden syrup
200g dark chocolate,  broken into pieces
1 egg
50g chocolate digestive biscuits
50g walnuts or hazelnuts
50g mini marshmallows
50g cranberries
50g glacé cherries

Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper then set aside.
Melt the butter and syrup together in a small saucepan over a gentle heat until they begin to boil. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan of barely simmering water (or in the microwave) , add to the butter and golden syrup.
Add the egg very slowly to the hot chocolate mixture (it needs to amalgamate well not turn into chocolatey scrambled egg) and stir well.
Break up the biscuits into good sized chunks and add to the chocolate with the marshmallows, nuts, cranberries and the cherries.
Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and leave to set in the fridge overnight (or around 4 hours if you can't bear to wait). Remove from the fridge and cut into slices.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Late Summer Meals in Ten Minutes or Less

This post should be labelled Very Late Recipes for Summer... I've been thinking about it for weeks now... Does your day-to-day cooking need a shake-up? Mine really does, I feel like I have started to rely on a few recipes for my weekday family food and I am getting bored and stuck in a rut. I've spent the last couple of weeks combing my notebooks, scraps of paper with ideas written on, cookbooks with yellow sticky notes popping out the top and have tried to come up with a week of fresh new ideas.

This blog is less formal recipe - more a bit of inspiration and some fresh ideas to bounce around the kitchen. There is a big myth about eating well that it has to take a lot of thought to shop for and ages to prepare... This is my next week's worth of dinners: I'll add some salad and crusty bread and hopefully these will feed a famished family after a day in the late summer sun.
  • Tomato Bread Salad (pictured above) - sprinkle some cubes of day old crusty bread with a few glugs of olive oil and put them in the oven to crisp while you throw a salad together of fresh tomatoes, cucumber, red onions, basil and feta cheese. Top with the croutons and toss with a vinegarette of olive oil, salt and pepper and red wine vinegar. Defininitely substantial enough for a main course. You can also throw everything but the feta in a blender and make a mean gazpacho, top it with the crumbled feta to make it a little more filling.
  • Take a bag of fresh mussels, throw in a big pot with a glass of white wine, two chopped fresh tomatoes and a pinch of chilli flakes. Bring to the boil and steam until the mussels are open. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over spaghetti.
  • Open up some good quality sausage skins (I used spicy pork) with scissors, stir-fry the meat a couple of minutes till cooked through. Add a glug of cream, a tablespoon of mustard and bubble for a minute or two. Serve over a baked potato with a green salad on the side. 
  • Cook up a big pan of scrambled eggs, season with salt and pepper. While they are cooking, chop a salad of  fresh tomato, feta or grated cheddar cheese and fresh chilli. Serve the eggs and salad on a wrap topped with a little sour cream and coriander. 
  • Take some giant Portabello mushrooms, top with blue cheese and a drizzle of cream. Grill for a few minutes until golden and served ontop thick toast to soak up the lovely juices.
  • Open a tin of cannelinni beans, toss with some crushed garlic, the juice of a lemon, a glug of olive oil and some freshly chopped parsley...  then dollop on some crusty bread and top with a little smoked salmon.
  • Cook pasta bows and toss with with good pesto, peas and parmesan... ooh and you can add some cooked prawns for added protein.
  • Mackerel pate - blitz in a blender a pack of cooked peppered mackerel fillets, a 250g tub of cream cheese and the juice of a lemon. Spread the pate on toast and serve with cornichons, pickled onions and a side salad. 
  • In a pan, throw a packet of instant noodles, cook for a few minutes in chicken or vegetable stock then stir in a tablespoon of Tom Yam paste (Thai spicy soup paste) and half a bag of baby spinach leaves then bubble for a minute or two until the leaves have wilted. Toss in a handful of cooked chicken or prawns if you have some lying around.

      Friday, 12 August 2011

      Lemon Linguini with Sea Bass and Chilli Breadcrumbs

      Yes, determinedly sticking to my guns, making summer salads and light healthy food despite the torrential rain coming down outside, despite an inner urge to make soup and despite wanting to get under a blanket, scour the channels for the X-factor and pretend its October. This weather will pass... probably the day the children go back to school, only then will the sun come out and the temperatures rise.

      Either way, I wanted pasta but not a heavy wintery ragu or rich creamy carbonara but something light, (despite the addition of double cream, this feels incredibly light and fresh) fresh-flavoured and substantial enough to feed a crowd without needing salads and side dishes.... I used some sea bass that had been lurking in my freezer but any white fish fillet would be lovely with this zesty lemon sauce and chilli crunch.

      Lemon Linguini with Sea Bass and Chilli Breadcrumbs

      For the breadcrumbs:
      100g fresh breadcrumbs 
      zest of 2 lemons
      2tsp hot chilli powder 
      large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley

      Toss the breadcrumbs with the chilli powder, parsley and lemon zest. 
      Bake in a low oven for 10-15mins until crispy and lightly golden.
      Set aside to sprinkle over the pasta before serving.

      For the linguini
      750g linguine
      4 sea bass fillets
      2 egg yolks
      200ml double cream
      juice of 2 lemons
      30g butter

      Cook the pasta according to pack instructions.
      While the pasta is cooking, grill the sea bass fillets until lightly cooked.
      Whisk together the egg yolks, cream and lemon juice. 
      When the pasta is cooked, toss it in the butter till it melts and then add the egg and cream mixture. 
      Serve a pile of pasta, topped with a few chunks of fish and sprinkled liberally with breadcrumbs.

      Thursday, 21 July 2011

      Spicy Sweet Potato Cakes with Rainbow Chard

      Rainbow chard is now a daily staple in my kitchen, the chard bed in the garden is growing wild and the more I pick, the more sprouts forth. I have been throwing it into every kind of soup, stir frying it, serving the baby leaves as salad, adding handfuls to bolognese sauce and giving it away to passers-by, but it still keeps coming. 

      Fast becoming my favourite vegetable, chard (swiss or rainbow) is super healthy, full of vitamins and minerals and incredibly adaptable but almost impossible to find in the shops, the only way to get some rainbow chard is to grow it yourself. 

      So every day this week I have been looking for a new way to use it. Potato cakes (or tattie scones as they are called in Scotland) are a huge favourite in our house as breakfast, after school snacks and even as canape bases, this spicy sweet potato version would make a gorgeous starter or light lunch. To use as canapes, add a little more flour and aim for a firmer mixture.

      Spicy Sweet Potato Cakes with Rainbow Chard
      1 tbsp olive oil
      3 large handfuls rainbow chard (or spinach), chopped
      1 large clove garlic, crushed
      1 hot red chilli, finely chopped
      3 spring onions, finely chopped 

      1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
      100g plain flour
      1 tsp salt
      3 tbsp olive oil 
      Dipping sauce
      2tbsp soy sauce
      1 hot red chilli, sliced

      Heat the olive oil gently in a frying pan or wok, then add the chard, garlic and chilli and cook for a few minutes until the spices are aromatic and the chard wilted. 
      Remove from the heat and stir in the spring onions.
      Boil the sweet potatoes until tender then drain and cool. 
      Mash together the potatoes with the flour and salt then stir in the chard mixture.
      Using wet hands, form the mixture into patties (around 5cm in diameter).
      Heat olive oil in heavy based non-stick pan and fry the patties for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. 
      Serve with dipping sauce made from soy sauce with a few red chillis floating through it.

      Wednesday, 13 July 2011

      Bruschetta with Chard, Anchovies, Garlic & Lemon

      At last, I am starting to see the fruits of my labour, (if you can call scattering a packet of seeds from a height very quickly on a wet day, labour) ... the vegetable patch is a late starter this year because of all the rainy weather, but today it has come good and I picked a huge bowlful of rainbow chard. The leaves are small enough to use in a salad but I wanted to make my very favourite chard dish. Super healthy, and super tasty and can easily be made with baby spinach or even spring greens (though aren't the jewel colours of rainbow chard beautiful? Do find some if you can. )

      This is not hard to make, takes only a few minutes to prepare and doesn't have a huge list of ingredients. It is simply one of those Italian-inspired recipes where the freshness of the ingredients shines through - made for eating outside in the sunshine with a glass of red for lunch.

      Bruschetta with Rainbow Chard, Anchovies, Garlic & Lemon

      4 thin slices of baguette or crusty bread
      1 clove of garlic
      2 tbsp olive oil
      2 handfuls of rainbow chard (or other leafy greens: swiss chard, spinach, cavalo nero etc)
      2 cloves garlic, crushed
      4 anchovy fillets, chopped finely
      juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
      1tsp sea salt
                                                            drizzle of olive oil

       Heat a griddle pan (or pre-heat the oven and bake till crisp) and toast the slices of bread until crisp. 
      Rub the clove of garlic across the bread  and set aside.
      Saute the chard in the olive oil and garlic until wilted then add the anchovies, lemon juice and lemon zest and warm through.
      Serve the chard on top of the bread and sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil.
      Quite lovely.

      Monday, 27 June 2011

      Indian Lime Chutney

      I thought I loved curries best during the winter months - with frozen breath floating over icy pavements, the need to rush home for something hot and spicy, rich and filling seemed to provoke a lot of curry cooking. Then spring came and I became quite sure that I loved curries best during the spring months - mild days with cold evenings, lighter nights but still a need for food that warms your bones from the inside out. But now it is summer, and despite a dearth of hot, hazy summer nights, the urge to linger over spicy food on a warm clammy evening is definitely with me.

      Like cooking a Mexican menu, Indian meals in particular benefit from a plethora of side dishes: parathas; nan; scented rice; dhal; raita; poppadoms; and the ubiquitous chutney.

      Lately I have become completely addicted to the hot and sour flavours of Indian Lime pickle. It introduces a sharp note to a mild creamy curry, adds a tangy heat dabbed into a paratha with spiced mackeral or adds balance simply served on the side of barbecued chicken or fish.

      Many versions abound the internet, most taking weeks to age before they can be eaten (I do have one such version sitting maturing in a cupboard but I was too impatient to stop there so needed to find a flavourful but far more speedy version.) This is based on a chutney recipe but has no sugar to sweeten the end result leaving the most perfectly sour and spicy condiment.

      Indian Lime Pickle

      300 g of chillies (green or red or mixed)
      1 kg limes
      200 g grated fresh ginger
      1 large bulb fresh garlic, peeled
      5 or 6 curry leaves, shredded
      900ml white vinegar
      2 tsp turmeric
      1 Tbsp salt
      3 Tbsp mustard seed
      1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
      500ml rapeseed (or veg)  oil
      5 Tbsp rapeseed (or veg) oil

      Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a large frying pan until hot.
      Sauté the limes turning them over and over until their skins are a golden brown.
      Cut the limes into about 6 thick slices and then half the slices.
      Add 2 Tbsp of oil to a blender with the chillis, peeled garlic, grated ginger and curry leaves. Blend to a paste
      Heat the remaining oil in a pan until hot. Add mustard and fenugreek and warm till the seeds are toasted and start to pop.
      Add the chilli paste, stir and cook gently for 15 minutes.
      Add the turmeric, lime and vinegar and stir until thoroughly mixed.
      Cook for a further 10 minutes...  to reduce and thicken
      Put the pickle into sterilised jars then cover with any remaining liquid. Seal and leave for a couple of weeks, if you can bear to - if not open immediately and serve.

      Monday, 13 June 2011

      Maple Syrup Granola

      Ooh home-made breakfast cereal... I feel a little goddess-like, even though I went about it the speedy cheat's way. Granola recipes usually contain such a huge list of ingredients that I am put off even trying them. So, to circumvent a little of the shopping and organisation, I bought a nice high-end muesli to use as a base and then added a big bunch of whatever I had in my cupboards and oh my goodness, it is amazing. We have been eating it by the handful in place of popcorn, over vanilla yogurt as an after school snack and
      covered in milk as, well, breakfast cereal.

      This is a list of what I had in my cupboard but I think you can feel free to throw in any combination of dried fruit, nuts, cereals and seeds without any problems. Be careful with your oven temperature as any fruit mixed into your muesli may burn in the heat so keep it low and check it often. It should keep for a few weeks in an airtight container but in my house, there is no chance of it lasting nearly so long.

      Maple Syrup Granola
      200g rolled oats
      300g luxury museli (I used a tropical mix)
      50g wheatbran
      200g mixed seeds (whatever you have - I used a mix of sesame, linseed, pumpkin, sunflower)
      200g mixed nuts (whatever you have - I used hazelnuts and almonds)
      2tsp ground ginger
      2tsp ground cinnamon
      4tbsp honey
      4tbsp maple syrup
      100g brown sugar
      100g raisins, sultanas or dried cranberries

      Mix everything together except the raisins in a very large mixing bowl. It is easiest to use your hands but you will end up very sticky!
      Scatter across a large baking sheet and bake at around 130C for 20-40 minutes. Keep checking to make sure the fruit does not burn or go crispy and turn the granola over about half way through the cooking time.
      When golden and aromatic, remove from the oven and allow to cool, add the raisins or other soft fruit then decant into an airtight jar or container.

      Wednesday, 8 June 2011

      Blueberry & Apple Crumble Muffins

      You've gotta love America - their ability to take two lovely meals and throw them together willy nilly and create a whole new food opportunity in our day.... I love to eat brunch; the only meal where you are actively encouraged to eat bacon and eggs, cakes and muffins and cocktails and champagne all at one meal.

      This is definitely a breakfast muffin, more than a cake&coffee muffin with its mix of sharp green apples and blueberries. The recipe was adapted from my favourite cookbook ever - Ottolenghi.

      Scanning a table of treats, and piling on a mixture of fresh fruit, spinach & pancetta strata (recipe to follow soon), and grilled tomatoes and (hoorah) finding coffee cake, blueberry muffins and nutty bran breakfast muffins alongside is just the best way to start your day. ideally served with a glass of bucks fizz.

      Blueberry & Apple Crumble Muffins
      540g plain flour
      4tsp baking powder
      1tsp bicarbonate of soda
      1/2 tsp salt
      350g caster sugar
      2 eggs, beaten
      140g melted butter
      380ml milk
      2 apples, peeled & diced
      200g blueberries

      for the crumble topping
      150g plain flour
      50g caster sugar
      100g butter

      Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 3 and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
      In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate, salt and sugar.
      In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter and milk, then stir in the fruit.
      Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and mix lightly together, do not over mix or the batter becomes heavy.
      Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the batter into each paper case until quite full.
      Cover with lots of crumble topping, enough to form a small mound over the cake batter.
      Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

      Saturday, 4 June 2011

      Seafood curry with coconut, lime and curry leaves

      Too long a break from food writing has left me with a backlog of recipes as long as a Nigella Lawson cookbook, all needing photographed and written up. So many of my experiments this year have been influenced by a visit to Thailand earlier this year, and I am loving getting to grips with a vast array of complex curry flavours and spices.

      Another spring curry, chilli-hot and lime-sour, warming against the incredibly changable weather but light and healthy. The spices are freshly ground, and richly aromatic, the sauce is incredibly moreish and the end result tastes authentic and makes your kitchen smell like a Thai street market (in a good way).

      This is based on another Skye Gyngell recipe, and what sounds like a lengthy list of ingredients can actually be found in many corner shops these days, (even our wee local village store) and takes no more time to prepare than an average stir fry. Anyone you feed this to will be bowled over by the flavour: this is probably the most beautiful curry I have ever made.

      Seafood Curry with Coconut, Lime and Curry Leaves

      1 Tbsp unsalted butter
      2 red onions, peeled and sliced
      2 tsp mustard seeds
      2 tsp fennel seeds
      1 tsp coriander seeds
      large bunch of coriander, stems chopped and leaves reserved
      3 garlic cloves, crushed with a pinch of salt
      2 red chillies, chopped (seeds kept)
      10 fresh curry leaves
      2 kaffir lime leaves
      juice of 2 limes
      2 Tbsp fish sauce
      1 Tbsp palm sugar
      2 x 340g tinned plum tomatoes
      800g large prawns
      400ml tin coconut milk

      In a heavy based saucepan, melt the butter then add the onions.
      Cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes.
      In a separate small frying pan, dry roast the mustard, fennel and coriander seeds gently till they become aromatic. Check to make sure that you do not over roast otherwise this will give the curry a bitter taste. Remove from heat, and while still warm, grind to a rough powder in a mortar and pestle.
      Add the spices to the onions along with most of the chopped coriander, garlic, chillies and curry leaves.
      Tear the kaffir lime leaves into pieces and add to the pan.
      Cook for 10 minutes.
      Add the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar, stir and turn up the heat a little. Add the tomatoes and cook for around 15 minutes.
      Taste the sauce, add more lime, sugar or fish sauce if needed to adjust to taste. To finish, stir in the coconut milk and then add the prawns. Bring to the boil, cook for 3-4 minutes until the prawns are pink. Sprinkle with reserved coriander and serve with flatbreads or over rice. 

      Tuesday, 22 March 2011

      Squash and Tomato Curry with Lime and Coconut

      I first ate this gorgeous curry at a friend's house and for weeks could not get the flavours out of my mind... hot, sour and sweet with depth and layers of flavour. Every curry I ate, I compared unfavourably to this one, too bland, too hot, too uniformly flavoured.

      Based on a recipe from Skye Gyngell's "My Favourite Ingredients" this is a family favourite, full of zing and reasonably easy to prepare with half an hour on your hands. It feels like a spring dish - light and healthy but rich enough to keep out the chill that still hangs in the air.

      Squash and Tomato Curry with Lime and Coconut
      1 medium butternut (or other variety) squash
      1tbsp vegetable oil
      1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
      3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
      2 small hot green chillis, chopped (seeds left in)
      10 curry leaves
      1tsp mustard seeds
      1tsp fennel seeds
      2tbsp caster sugar
      2tbsp fish sauce
      Juice of 2 limes
      15-20 little ripe tomatoes
      340g tin peeled plum tomatoes
      250ml coconut milk
      A handful of fresh spinach leaves

      Peel the squash, scoop out the seeds using a spoon, then slice into 5cm chunks and set aside.
      Place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat.
      Add the oil and the onion.
      Lower the heat and saute for 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, chilli and curry leaves and continue to cook gently.
      Next, warm a frying pan over a low heat, add the mustard and fennel seeds and cook until they begin to pop.
      Remove from the heat and pound to a powder, using a pestle and mortar. Add to the onion, stir to combine and cook gently for a further five minutes.
      Add the squash, stir again and cook for 10 minutes, then add the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice.
      Taste and then once you feel the flavours are right (hot, sweet and sour - add a little more sugar and fish sauce if the flavour is too mild) add the little ripe tomatoes – squishing them slightly between your fingers as you do so, to help them release their flavour.
      Add the tin of plum tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Pour in the coconut milk and cook for a final five minutes.
      Throw in a large handful of spinach leaves just before serving to wilt gently in the sauce.
      Serve with flatbreads.
      This is ready to serve immediately but if allowed to cool down, it reheats beautifully as the sweetness and spices permeate the squash even more after resting.

      Thursday, 24 February 2011

      Maple Syrup & Oatmeal Scones

      The sun is out.... the sky is actually blue, the snowdrops are springing around happily in the wind. I know its premature and I know I shouldn't tempt fate but I think it might be spring. Thank goodness for that too, I have never felt quite so desperate for winter to end as I do this year. I have been cooking every day recently enjoying the spring vegetables that are creeping slowly into the shops but because of school holidays, family visits and a plethora of other excuses I have only been cooking late at night (not a good time to take photographs) so have a huge backlog of recipes to share this month.... Happy Spring.... bring on the sunshine and daffodils.

      This scone recipe is based on a recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and is one of my favourite breakfast recipes. They are incredibly moreish, make the house smell A- MAZ-ING, and as this makes quite a big batch of scones, the dough will keep really well in the fridge overnight so you can bake fresh batches all weekend.... how fabulous is that.

      Maple Oatmeal Scones
      425g plain flour
      125g whole wheat flour
      125g porridge oats
      2tbsp baking powder
      2 tbsp light brown sugar
      2tsp salt
      450g butter
      225ml yogurt
      25ml milk
      125ml maple syrup
      4 eggs lightly beaten

      160g icing sugar
      75g maple syrup
      1 tsp vanilla extract
      1 tbsp porridge oats

      Pre-heat the oven to 200C. 
      Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt.
      Rub the butter into the dry mixture with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. 
      Reserve a couple of tablespoons of eggs to use as an egg wash at the end.
      Whisk together the yogurt, maple syrup and eggs and add to the flour and butter.
      Stir together until just blended - as with any scone recipe, the scones will be lighter if they are handled as little as possible. 
      The dough will be soft and sticky. 
      Remove from the bowl onto a well floured surface and using a floured rolling pin, roll to 3cm thick.
      Cut into 10cm scones with a round cutter.
      Brush the tops with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes until the scones are golden and risen. Allow to cool on a rack while you prepare the maple syrup glaze. 
      To make the glaze whisk together the syrup, icing sugar and vanilla till thick and glossy. Drizzle over the still warm scones and sprinkly with a few uncooked oats.

      Serve with hot coffee and warm sunshine.

      Monday, 24 January 2011

      Blue Cheese with Pears, Walnuts and Honey

      Is it a starter? Is it dessert? Is it a meal in its own right? I ate this at my lovely friend Sandra's house. One of those recipes that relies on fabulous ingredients treated with respect and love. We had it for dessert and cheese course rolled into one, no need for crackers or bread - the soft cheese smeared on the pears and dragged through the sweet honey was that was needed. Absolutely divine.

      Blue Cheese with Pears, Walnuts and Honey
      250g of good blue cheese (I used Gorgonzola) 
      4 ripe pears
      100g walnuts
      4 tbsp orange blossom honey (or other aromatic variety)

      Take a large platter. In the centre, place a hunk of beautiful pungent blue cheese.
      Slice the drippingly ripe pears and lay around the cheese.
      Scatter the walnuts are scattered over with abandon before drizzling with aromatic orange blossom honeyto give a luscious golden glow to the whole platter.

      Monday, 10 January 2011

      Thai- style Mussels with Lime and Lemongrass

      Sorry I've been offline for a couple of weeks. I have spent New Year on Phuket Island in Thailand. It was tough but someone had to do it! A fabulous holiday, a true foodie getaway, but very limited internet access so I've had to save all the best ideas, recipes and local insider knowledge until I got back. Having a local tour guide at the market was a real boon, daily lessons in how to prepare the most basic of Thai food and explanations of the more unusual fruits and vegetables has sent me home with a whole new palate of flavours to play with. Getting away from all the snow, the cold, the undelivered Christmas presents and the burst pipes was just the icing on the cake!

      These mussels are light, healthy and full of bright, fresh flavours. Good for a January health kick when low calorie, low fat and full flavour are on the menu but good too for a chilli hot blast to banish those winter colds and flus that have been hanging around for the past few weeks.

      Thai- style Mussels with Lime and Lemongrass
      1kg large fresh mussels
      100ml white wine
      Juice of 1 lime
      2 lime leaves, ripped into large pieces
      2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
      1 hot green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
      3 garlic cloves, left whole
      2 sticks lemon grass, outer leaves removed and chopped
      50g galangal or fresh ginger, peeled thinly sliced
      large handful fresh basil

      Clean the mussels and throw out any that are cracked.
      Tap any open mussels and discard those that don't close.
      Place the mussels in a large saucepan, add all the remaining ingredients except the basil. 
      Cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the mussels are open. 
      Discard any that remain closed.
      Remove from the heat, sprinkle over the fresh basil and serve in deep plates with steamed rice or crusty bread to mop up the fragrant juices.