Peppercorn sauce for steak

Peppercorn sauce for steak

This was improvised so quantities are approximate. And largely using what I had to hand. In this case I had some red wine left in a bottle but usually I have a wine box of red wine and a wine box of white wine in the fridge for cooking and when we run low we do another trip to France.

Ingredients

  • 80ml red wine
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp red peppercorns
  • juices from cooking mushrooms
  • meat juices from cooking steak

Instructions

  1. place wine in saucepan and boil until reduced by 1/3
  2. let cool slightly and slowly add cream mixing in well (if it starts to separate cool wine some more)
  3. Add cooking juices from mushrooms
  4. Heat slowly for 5 mins
  5. lightly crush peppercorns in pestle and add to the sauce
  6. When you’ve cooked the steaks and removed from pan stir cream sauce into meat juices and heat through well
  7. Pour over steak

Sardines and Rice

Sardines and Rice

Our eldest is getting ready to leave home, he’ll be working for a year before going on to university so I’ve been thinking a bit more about frugal eating as he won’t have a lot of money. We used to make this a lot when we were first married as we had very little money left after the mortgage. It is very tasty and quick to make from store cupboard basics.

Quantities below feed 2-3 depending on appetite.

Ingredients

  • 2 Onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tins (2 x 100g approx) sardines in tomato sauce 
  • 1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes 
  • 250g basmati rice

Instructions

  1. Cook rice according to instructions
  2. Whilst rice is cooking saute onions, add crushed garlic
  3. Add tin tomatoes to onions and bring to a simmer
  4. Season well with black pepper and any herbs to hand
  5. Mash up sardines roughly and add to pan, mix well 
  6. Add rice when cooked and mix well. Warm through and serve
  7. Add chilli sauce to taste (optional)

French Fruit Tart – James Martin Desserts

James Martin Fruit tart

I’ve neglected this blog lately, partly because I’ve been finding it harder to fit in trying new recipes but also busy. I really felt this tart was worth writing up. It’s a rubbish photo but it gives the idea of how nice this tart looks. We’ve started doing a regular neighbours dinner party where different homes contribute different courses and it was my turn to make dessert. It needed to serve 10 people but not with huge portions and I didn’t have very much time to prepare it and my time was going to be 10mins snatched her or there during the day. I love the James Martin Desserts book. It was a present from my cousin Shanaz who also loves to bake and cook. This looked impressive, wasn’t difficult to make (although the chocolate step was a faff see below) tasted lovely and was perfect quantity for 10.

This would make a lovely dessert for a country themed dinner party as it would easily adapt to a variety of flag designs with appropriate fruit.

Ingredients

  • 350 g puff pastry plus plain flour, for rolling out
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 85 g white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 a vanilla pod, seeds only (optional)
  • 200 ml double cream, half whipped
  • 100 ml fresh custard
  • small punnet of medium-sized strawberries, hulled and halved
  • small punnet of blackberries and raspberries
  • 1 large banana, sliced
  • small bunch of seedless green and/or black grapes, halved
  • 4 tablespoons smooth apricot jam (I used my own plum jam and sifted out the fruit pieces)

Instructions

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and cut out a rectangle measuring 36 x 20 cm. Place on a baking tray. Using a table knife, score a 1 cm border around the edge, making sure you don’t cut the pastry all the way through.
  2. Brush the border with egg wash, taking care not to allow any to dribble down the sides because this will prevent the pastry rising evenly. Prick the base of the tart (not the border) with a fork and chill the pastry for 20 minutes.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Slide onto a wire rack to leave to cool. Once cooled, gently press the centre of the pastry down to leave the frame around the edge. [When I did this I had a lot of crumbs and flaky pieces, next time I’ll brush these off]
    James Martin fruit tart pastry
  4. Melt the chocolate and brush over the bottom of the pastry [this step was a bit of a nightmare because of all the flaky pastry crumbs. I used 200g white chocolate and had two attempts and as you can see below it looked a mess. I assume the chocolate is to seal the base so the custard mix doesn’t make it go soggy]. Leave to set.

    James martin fruit tart chocolate

  5. Add the vanilla seeds to the cream and fold in the custard. Spoon and spread the cream mixture over the pastry base.
  6. Draw shallow lines in the cream mixture to create even sections of the fruit, and arrange the fruit on top so that each section is a contrasting colour. [There was something terribly satisfying about arranging the fruit]
    James Martin Fruit tart almost finished
  7. Heat the jam and, using a pastry brush, glaze the fruit. Allow to set before serving.

French Madeleines – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

French Madeleines

The drawback of these delightful little cakes is you need a specialist tin eg. Madeleine Pan, Non-Stick 12 Hole. I put off getting one for ages as it seemed a bit indulgent getting a tin for just one type of little cake but I love the Bon Maman Madeleines so decided to give in and buy a tray. They are soft pillows of slightly lemony sponge with a slight crisp outer shell. I think I’ll try adding the lemon juice next time. Mary says this makes 30, it very much depends on the size of the hollow in your tray, I made 22. If I was making these for a tea party I’d buy a tray for little madeleines like this one Lakeland Silicone 24 Hole Mini Madeleine Cake & Chocolate Mould.

This recipe is from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. If you like to bake and don’t already have this book I’d urge you to buy it and work your way through it. Her instructions are always precise and easy to follow, the results are always delicious.

Ingredients

  • 150g (5oz) butter
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 150g (5oz) caster sugar
  • 150g (5oz) self-raisng flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • grated rind of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. Melt butter in a small pan and allow to cool slightly
  3. Brush the madeleine tray with melted butter then shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.
  4. Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy (you will need an electric whisk for this).
  5. Fold in the remaining ingredients, (your mixture should resemble batter).
    Madeleine batter
  6. Spoon into Madeleine tray and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture has risen a little in the middle and is fully cooked through.
  7. Grease and flour tray and repeat until all the mixture is used up (this mixture is fine to stand for a while)
  8. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly. These are best eaten on the same day.

Cream of Onion Soup – The Dairy book of Family Cookery

Cream of Onion Soup

I remember making this soup recipe many years ago from The Dairy Book of Home Cookery and enjoying it but then forgot all about it until I decided to make onion soup today. I’d been thinking of making a French onion soup until I came across this recipe, the French onion soup will have to be for another day. This is a creamy onion soup, comfort food for cold days. I suggest you cut the onions in half before thinly slicing as rings of onion make the soup harder to eat, it also makes it easier to cut the last few slices.

Ingredients

  • 25g/1 oz butter
  • 450g/1 lb onions (approx 4 medium onions), skinned cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 550ml/1 pt milk
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp (20ml) cornflour
  • 45ml/3 tbsps single cream (optional)
  • sprig of parsley (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter in a saucepan, add the onions, cover and cook gently until softened, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent browning. (This is known as sweating).
    Onions for Cream of Onion Soup
  2. Add the milk, 300ml (1/2 pt) water and seasoning and bring to the boil stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for about 5minutes until the onion is tender
  3. Blend the cornflower with 45ml (3 tbsps) water, stir into the soup and bring to the boil. Cook gently for a few minutes until slightly thickened, stirring.
  4. Add the fresh cream, check seasoning and reheat without boiling.

Spinach cooked with Onions (Mughlai saag) – Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery

Spinach cooked with onions

If you want to learn how to cook curry’s Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery is the only cookbook you actually need.  Whilst I used to use this book quite a lot a few years ago I’ve tended to use curry pastes a lot the last few years as they are just so easy. This recipe is my favourite way to eat spinach and would work well as a side dish for plain grilled meat as well as with a curry. I used a tsp from a jar of minced ginger for this dish which reduced preparation time. We never used to add extra water when we cooked this in the past and having added water this time I won’t be next time.

According to Madhur Jaffrey quantities below serve 4, I halved the quantities and it served 4 as a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 1kg/2 lb spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 4 tbsp ghee/vegetable oil or butter
  • 1/2 – 1 fresh, hot green chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp very finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • about 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 125ml/1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala

Instructions

  1. If large spinach leaves cut crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips, if small leaves you can use whole.
  2. Chop the onion finely.
  3. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over over a medium-high flame. When hot, put in the onions. Stir fry for 3 minutes.
  4. Now put in the chopped spinach, green chili, ginger, salt and sugar. Stir and cook the spinach for 5 minutes (I needed to add in three lots to get it all in the pa).
  5. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly, turn heat to low and cook for about 5 – 10 extra minutes.
  6. Uncover and boil away some of the extra liquid. Sprinkle garam masala over the top and mix.

Carrot Cake – The Great British Book of Baking

Carrot Cake -Great British Book of Baking

I didn’t manage to take a photo quick enough to get an uncut cake. This is only the second carrot cake I’ve ever made and to my mind this is superior to the Avoca carrot cake. It is from one of the Great British Bake-off (GBBO) tv series spin off baking books The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pasties which is a lovely selection of truly British tea time treats. The aim of the book is to celebrate Britain’s baking heritage rather than feature recipes from contestants and as such if you only have one or two books on baking it would be a splendid choice.

This recipe contains walnuts and as you can see in the photo it is very definitely specked through with orange strands of carrot. It is a very soft cake and hard to cut tidily, since it is so soft I decided it would be too messy to go into school lunch boxes. It doesn’t taste too sweet the way some (especially commercial) carrot cakes do. One of my teens loves this cake, the other is not so sure but he will eat it.

Ingredients

For the Sponge

  • 225g Self Raising Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (I used ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 225g soft light brown muscovado sugar
  • Grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed orange
  • 100g walnut pieces
  • 3 medium free-range eggs (beaten)
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 250g grated carrots (approx 3 medium carrots)

For the filling and topping

  • 200g full-fat cream cheese
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened (and it really does need to be soft)
  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • Grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed orange
  • 2 teaspoons of orange juice

Instructions

for the cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c
  2. Grease and baseline two 20.5 cm round tins
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl
  4. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the sugar, orange zest and nuts followed by the beaten eggs, sunflower oil and grated carrots.
  5. When combined, divide the mixture between the two cake tins and spread evenly.
  6. Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the icing

  1. Beat together all of the ingredients with a wooden spoon until very smooth and creamy. It should be of a spreadable consistency. (In warm weather you may need to cool the mixture in the fridge before using).
  2. Spread almost half of the mixture onto one of the cakes. Top with the second cake and spread the remainder of the mixture over the top.
  3. Optionally decorate the top of the cake with orange zest, walnuts or if you want to go completely over the top little marzipan carrots. I left mine plain.

Sticky Gingerbread – Nigella Christmas

Nigella Christmas Gingerbread

Before I put the Christmas cookbooks away I thought I’d best try a few recipes. I’d planned to make the sticky gingerbread recipe from Nigella Christmas over Christmas but I couldn’t find any black treacle in the cupboard. This recipe really is very easy to make and delicious. I find Nigella’s recipes to be a bit more hit and miss than anyone else’s but she is consistently good on cakes. My tin was slightly bigger than she recommended so my pieces are flatter than her picture. I dusted my gingerbread with icing sugar before serving (the icing sugar had been absorbed by the left over gingerbread the next day).

Ingredients

  • 250g butter
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 200g black treacle
  • 125g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda, dissolved in 30 mls warm water (2 tbsp of water)
  • 250ml full fat milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300g plain flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas 3 and prepare a 20 x 30cm baking tray by lining it with baking paper.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup, black treacle, cinnamon, cloves and the fresh and ground ginger in a medium sized saucepan and heat gently. When this mixture has melted take it off the heat and add the milk, bicarb of soda with water and the beaten eggs
  3. Sift the flour into a large bowl
  4. Pour the wet ingredients on to the flour and beat until well combined. I ended up with quite a few pockets of flour which I mostly beat out with a whisk.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 – 55 minutes (The mixture will be very runny – don’t worry that’s what it should be like). Don’t overbake.
  6. When ready, remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to cool. This recipe will cut into about 20 squares and will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight tin. You can also freeze it for  up to 3 months.

Greek Lamb with Orzo

Greek lamb and Orzo
I love this dish, it takes a while to cook but doesn’t take that much time to prepare (if your lamb is already cubed). The slow cooking means cheaper cuts of meat can be used. The cinnamon with the lamb makes it distinctly Greek in flavour and it is more of a Greek home cooked meal than anything you will find in a Greek restaurant. I first came across orzo 20 years ago when a Greek friend Maria cooked dinner for us. It is small pieces of oval pasta almost shaped like large grains of rice and it works particularly well in casseroles like this. These days it is available in most large supermarkets in the UK.
Quantities serve 6 generous portions
Ingredients
  • 1kg diced lamb
  • 2 onions
  • 1 tbsp chopped oregano, or 1 tsp dried
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cinnamon sticks , broken in half
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1.2l hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • 400g orzo
  • freshly grated parmesan, to serve

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Cut the lamb into chunks, then spread over the base of a large, wide casserole dish. Slice onions then add them together with oregano, cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon and olive oil, then stir well.
  2. Bake, uncovered, for 45 mins, stirring halfway.
  3. Pour over the chopped tomatoes and stock, cover tightly, then return to the oven for 1½ hrs, until the lamb is very tender. (Dish can be frozen at this point, resume from next step after defrosting).
  4. Remove the cinnamon sticks, then stir in the orzo. Cover again, then cook for a further 20 mins, stirring halfway through. The orzo should be cooked and the sauce thickened.
  5. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

Smoked salmon blini canapés

Smoked Salmon blinis

I made these canapes as a starter for Christmas lunch whilst the turkey was resting. They needed to be made in a hurry so I didn’t zest the lemon and forgot the dill, which is a shame as the garnish does make them look pretty. Generally presentation above is not as good as it could be but they went as quickly as they were made. A quick and easy canape that can make your smoked salmon stretch a bit further.

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 200g smoked salmon
  • 1 small shallot or onion finely chopped
  • Approx 20 ready made blinis
  • 1 small pot sour cream
  • Small bunch fresh dill
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Use a lemon zester to remove thin strips of zest from the lemon. Put the strips to one side, to use to decorate blinis.
  2. Dice the salmon by piling up the slices of smoked salmon into a stack. Using a very sharp knife, cut across the stack to give you thin strips. Turn the stack 90 degrees and cut across the strips again so that end up with fine chopped salmon. Place into a bowl.
  3. Add the juice of half of the lemon, and season with freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Add the finely chopped shallot and mix well.
  5. Spread a layer of soured cream onto each blini. Place a spoonful of the salmon mixture on top of the soured cream and garnish each with a small sprig of dill and a strip of lemon zest.