My life and passion for food.

I'd like to welcome you to my blog. If you love food & cooking then you've come to the right place.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Muffaletta/Pan Bagnat

                                                                              Muffaletta/Pan Bagnat

Muffaletta is an Italian loaf/ Pan Bagna is French..  you make your mind up which you prefer..the bread in the centre of the loaf is removed ( you could use this for breadcrumbs so as not to waste it)'s perfect picnic fodder....really easy to make once all the ingredients are assembled.  You can fill the loaf with whatever you like. When assembled the crust lid is placed back on.  The loaf is wrapped tightly in aluminium foil then weighted down overnight. 

Here's the ingredients I used


The Ingredients I used

1 fresh 10-12" crusty loaf
2 courgettes/zucchini cut lengthwise and griddled
1 large red & yellow pepper cut into quarters griddled
2 red onions sauteed in a little olive oil till tender
3 large tomatoes sliced
5 eggs quartered
4oz of sliced ham
2oz Italian Salami
4 cheese slices
4oz  Buffalo Mozzarella 
few Kalamata Olives
3 tbsps Pesto...(I used sun-dried tomato but use what you have in stock)
a little mayonnaise

                           Remove the crust lengthwise and start to pack the ingredients in

Nearly full

                                                              Full to bursting

Cut the lid off the bread, lengthwise
Scoop out the middle of the loaf..leaving the crusts around about 1" or so thick
Fill the loaf in layers as you want,  you may not need to use all of every ingredient just make sure the loaf is really full to busting
Replace the lid & wrap the loaf carefully & tightly in aluminium foil.
Place the loaf in the fridge, put a board or dish large enough to cover the entire loaf on top of it .
Weight it down .....I used baked bean tins
Leave overnight.

Leave it wrapped until you're ready to serve it......don't forget to take a bread board & knife if you've packed it for a picnic. 

Cut into thick slices and serve 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Homemade Tomato Soup with a hint of Basil served with Parmesan Crisps

Homemade Tomato Soup with a hint of Basil served with Parmesan Crisps

The flavour of this soup takes me back to my childhood.  If I felt unwell the only thing I ever wanted to eat was a bowl of tomato soup....usually Heinz Cream of Tomato.  This soup is thick and warming but it only has the tiniest amount of fat in it. No butter, no cream...the parmesan crisps are optional but I love them....they will happily accompany so many other soups, salads and risottos...and are a complete doddle to make.

To serve 6

2½lbs really ripe tomatoes
2 carrots chopped
2 sticks of celery chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 large onion diced
1 tsp dried oregano
few basil leaves
around 1pt of good chicken or vegetable stock
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp freshly milled black pepper
seasoning to taste 
1 Dessertspoon of Rapeseed or Olive
Parmesan Crisps:-

for the parmesan crisps allow 1heaped tbsp of grated parmesan per crisp
line an oven tray with parchment paper and place the heaped tbsps of the cheese in piles leaving plenty of space between each pile
You can either bake them in a hot oven for just  2 or 3 minutes...keep your eye on them  
as soon as they start to bubble and turn colour take them out and leave to cool
I actually put mine under a hot grill....but don't leave them for them like a hawk they'll be done in a minute or 2...same applies leave them to cool and they will crisp up.
Then remove them from the paper

The Soup:-

In a large covered pan sweat the carrots, onions, celery & garlic in the oil
When almost tender add all the tomatoes continue to cook until they soften down
Add the oregano, pepper, the stock & Balsamic Vinegar
Simmer for around 15 minutes
Check the seasoning and blitz everything together until smooth adding a little chopped basil towards the end

Serve hot with the parmesan crisps and a garnish of basil leaves


Friday, 22 August 2014

Fig & Goat's Cheese Dessert Tart

                                         Goat's Cheese & Fig Dessert Tart

I served this wonderful tart recently at a dinner was an absolute triumph. I've had so many figs this year probably because of the very mild & wet winter we had...usually the immature fruits perish in the cold but not this year, the crop has been bountiful and my tree is still producing fruit ...I feel blessed.

Thank you so much Yotam Ottolenghi for the inspirational recipe for this truly delicious dessert.  It is a complete revelation to me. I always have associated Goat's Cheese Tart as being savoury. The pastry is yeasted and made well in advance....the filling is incredible....a very unusual mixture of ground almonds, creamy Goat's Cheese, sugar & orange zest....sounds strange I know but wow...what a result when topped with the figs and baked...just marvellous served with some thick Greek Yoghurt with honey.

I started the pastry the night before and it needs a long prove in the fridge


For the Pastry  ( this can be substituted for a pack of pre-rolled all butter puff pastry, but it's so worth the effort to make this yeasted pastry) 

1 tsp easy blend dried yeast
265 gms/9oz plain flour , you will need extra for rolling out
 large pinch of salt
50 gms /1½ oz caster sugar
2 medium sized beaten eggs 
75 gms/2½oz butter at room temp, cut into small cubes
the Zest of half a grated lemon
60 ml/2fl oz water
a little oil for greasing

For the filling:-

Just over a pound/ 600 gms of  firm but ripe figs
1tbsp chopped fresh thyme and a few leaves for decoration 
5 oz/150gms of soft Goat's Cheese, you may need more if using the kind with the rind as this will need to be removed)
1 tbsp    Icing (confectioners) sugar for the filling 
75g/2½ oz   "         "                        "           "       "    glaze 
2 medium eggs beaten
100gms/3½oz Ground Almonds
1 tbsp caster sugar
1½ tbsp lemon juice for the glaze


Make the pastry first

Place the flour, yeast, sugar and lemon zest into your mixer,  attach the dough hook and blend together.
Add the water & beaten eggs slowly at first, then knead for a few minutes until a dough is formed
Add the salt, then on a slow speed add the butter a cube or so at a time until it is combined into the dough.
Now knead on a low speed for 10 minutes, you may need to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times during this process.
Place in a greased bowl, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours....even better overnight.

Oil a large oven tray & line it with baking parchment 
Bring out the dough from the fridge and set aside 

To make the filling:-   

Beat the Goat's cheese
Add the tbsp of icing sugar and most of beaten eggs ( reserve a little to glaze the edge of the tart) and whisk well together along with the orange zest & thyme.
Mix the ground almonds in well..the filling is now ready

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to approx 24cms square (10inches)
Neaten the edges roll it over your rolling pin and transfer carefully to the lined baking tray
Spread the filling to within 1½ cms/ 3/4 of an inch of the edge
Overlap the halved figs equally over the filling
Brush the edge of the tart with the remaining egg wash
Sprinkle over the tbsp of caster sugar
Cover over with a clean tea towel or foil and leave to prove for around 20 minutes or so 

 set the oven to 180C/325f/gas mark 4 whilst it's proving

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the figs nicely caramelised.

Mix together the remaining icing sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze then trickle it with a spoon over the tart .



Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Raspberry & White Chocolate Fairy Cakes

Raspberry & White Chocolate Fairy Cakes

Raspberries and White Chocolate are such a great combination. These little fairy cakes are so simple to make, hardly any mixing just add the dry & wet ingredients together and baking for around 20 minutes. A quick decoration with some melted chocolate and they're ready to serve.
This recipe will make approximately 10 fairy cakes. Just double or triple the ingredients if you need to make lots
You'll need pretty fairy cake cases and a 12 hole bun tin
Heat the oven to 170c/325f/gas 3
ingredients for the cakes
150gms/5oz fresh raspberries.
150g/5oz plain flour
½tsp Baking Powder
75gms/3oz caster (superfine) sugar
75gms/3oz unsalted butter
125g/5oz white chocolate chopped and split.  2/3rds will be melted and one third left to add to the cake batter
2 eggs beaten
½tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Ingredients for the decoration
3oz/75gms white chocolate 
add the butter & sugar into a  saucepan and gently melt it, then add 3/4s of the white chocolate and stir until it disolves, remove from the heat
Meanwhile sieve together the flour & baking powder into a large bowl, add the rest of the chopped chocolate
Add the eggs and the vanilla into the slightly cooled butter & chocolate 
Reserve 10 whole raspberries for decoration and chop the rest in half, add to the flour etc
Now pour in all the wet ingredients to the flour bowl , mix lightly until combined
Spoon equally into the paper cases in the bun tray
Bake in the centre of the oven for around 15-20 minutes. They should be firm to the touch and a light golden colour.
Cool on a wire rack.
When completely cold you are ready to decorate 
Melt the chocolate for the decoration in a bowl over a simmering pan of water, keep a keen eye on it or it will thicken & separate if over heated.
When melted leave to cool slightly then using a teaspoon drizzle the chocolate over the buns.
Top with a whole raspberry and your ready to serve
I had a little extra chocolate so I actually covered a few buns completely and smoothed the chocolate out with a palette knife then added the raspberry
if you're lucky enough not to eat them all in one sitting these should last a couple of days in an airtight box in the fridge.
Hope you enjoy them as much as we did

Honey & Mustard Sausages

Honey & Mustard Sausages

These are the business. So easy and perfect for any drinks party.
48 cocktail sausages or chipolatas
2 tbsp honey
1 heaped tablespoon grainy Dijon Mustard
heat the oven to 220c/425f. gas 7
Place the sausages on a lightly oiled baking tin
Bake for around 10 mins or until they're about half cooked through
Drizzle over the honey and stir in the mustard till all is coated
Pop back in the oven for around another 7 minutes or until they are glazed, golden and cooked through.
pierce with cocktail sticks
pile up and serve immediately
they can be frozen and reheated for a few minutes in a hot oven.

16,864 people reached

Pea, Mushroom & Ham Risotto

Pea & Ham Risotto
To serve 4
1 tbsp olive oil
a good knob of butter 
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 stick of celery finely chopped
250 gms or roughly a cup of cooked ham cubed
250 gms chestnut mushrooms sliced
a cupful or so of frozen petit pois
300gms arborio rice
a large glass of dry white wine
around 1 litre of stock,  I used ham stock as that's what I had but chicken or vegetable will do fine
fresh thyme
grated parmesan
seasoning to taste
Put the stock in a pan and heat to boiling, turn down and keep it simmering
Put the oil & butter into a large frying pan over a medium heat and melt.
Add the onion & celery fry until translucent then add the garlic and continue to cook for a minute or so.
Throw in the rice, and continue cooking until most of the oil & butter has been absorbed.
Add around half the mushrooms and the white wine.
Please keep stirring on a regular basis to create a lovely creamy risotto
Cook till all the liquid has been absorbed. Now add the stock a ladle full at a time adding as soon as it's all been absorbed
Add the rest of the mushrooms and the ham, making sure it's thoroughly heated through
Throw in the peas
When the rice is almost tender add some thyme, seasoning as necessary and a good handful of grated parmesan.
Don't cook it out too much there should still be a little liquid present.
I quite often stir in a little cream or mascarpone at this stage if you haven't got either a little more butter will make it really unctious.
Serve with a green salad, some warm ciabatti or garlic bread.
Hope you enjoy it xxx

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Perfect Roast Lamb with Homemade Mint Sauce

all ready to rock & roll

Roasted to perfection

The first rule of perfect roasted lamb is to find the best quality meat, lovingly prepared for the oven from a butcher you can trust. 
If you can obtain locally reared lamb....perfect.   If you use a supermarket just check where it's come from.  There's nothing wrong with New Zealand lamb but the carbon footprint is high....why buy foreign meat when the best you can buy is all around us
Cheap meat is usually means poor quality.   This boned out leg of lamb came from just across the border in North Wales....wonderful sheep rearing country. It's naturally full of mountain grass flavour....I like to help it along making it even more flavoursome by roasting over a bed of vegetables.....these in turn with the meat juices & a little red wine will make a fabulous gravy.
This should serve 6 good portions
I used a large....roughly 4½lbs in weight (before the bone was removed) and securely tied.
I didn't manage to secure the bone....if you can all the better
It weighed approx 3½lb perhaps a little more after boning out 
2 carrots chopped....just wash no need to peel
2 sticks of celery chopped
1 large onion chopped
4 tomatoes quartered
3 or 4 cloves of garlic left whole
few sprigs of fresh rosemary
a few parsley stalks
a glass or so of good red wine
2 cups of water
salt & pepper
For the gravy a few teaspoons of slated cornflour to thicken, a dsp redcurrant jelly
For the mint sauce
a big bunch of mint leaves.....I used spearmint and apple mint ....stalks removed
2 spring onions (scallions) and the green part
caster sugar to taste
red wine vinegar just a glug
boiling hot water
Chop the mint & spring onions finely
pour over a little boiling water
then a tbsp or so of red wine vinegar
add sugar to taste ....I used around 3 or 4 tsps
Leave to infuse for an hour or so
This is a thick sauce....we almost use it like another vegetable
The meat:-  Weigh your needs to roast for 20 minutes per 1lb  ...500gms for well done 
If you like your meat a little pink then reduce the time to around 15 mins per lb after the first 20 minute blast
heat the oven to 220c/400f/gas mark 6
Place all the chopped vegetables in the bottom of a roasting tray if you have the lamb bone add to the tray also
Season the meat all over with sea salt & black pepper
Tuck the rosemary into the  meat strings as I have in the photo
Place the meat on top of the vegetables....the fatty part facing upwards
Add 2 cups of water to the roasting tray
Roast uncovered for 20 mins then turn the oven down to 180c/350f/gas 4 for the remainder of the time
If you're a purist or unsure then check with a should read 80c/170f in the centre when thoroughly cooked 
I like my meat a little pink ..... so I roasted my 3½lb joint initial 20 mins at 200c then around an hour at 180c.  A total of 1½ hours
Remove the meat from the oven....wrap well in tin foil and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes while you make the gravy
The gravy.
there should still be some liquid left in the roasting tray with the vegetables
Add the glass of wine to this and place on a medium heat of the stove top
Scrap around the tray, scooping up all the juices and stuck on meaty bits
Add the redcurrant jelly and a couple of teaspoons initially of the slated cornflour
If the gravy looks to thin add a little more
Strain into a jug through a sieve squeezy and pushing out all the liquid from the vegetables as you do so. Discard the vegetables
Reheat the sieved gravy.....check for seasoning and adjust as necessary
Serve with your favourite vegetables.
We enjoyed ours with new potatoes, broad beans, peas, carrots and broccoli from the garden