Category Archives: fruit

Marmalade (Makes: 3/4 jars – Preparation time: +4hrs)

Seville oranges are in season right now so it is time to roll up your sleeves and make Marmalade!  I learnt a couple of things last week, firstly that Seville oranges have a short season from the end of December to mid-February, and secondly that there is a high concentration of pectin (natural gelling agent) in the pith and seeds of citrus fruits.  What this means is that to make marmalade you only need 3 ingredients and decent amount of time on your hands.

Now I confess before I embarked on making Marmalade last weekend I gave Mummy Mortimer a ring to see if she had any top tips. Her advice was to cut the oranges in half and to cook them first in a shallow pan with a little water to soften the rind.  It was a great shout and meant that I could make the marmalade in two stages and the rind was incredibly easy to cut into slivers.

My tip is to put at least 4 side plates in the freezer for testing when the jam has reached setting point.  When you think the jam is ready to test – spoon a small amount onto one of the plates and place back in the freezer for 1 minute and then push the marmalade gently with your fingers to see if the jam wrinkles.  If it does then you will know that it is ready, if not keep boiling.

The beauty of making your own marmalade is that you can adjust the balance of sugar in the recipe to suit your own palate.  I personally prefer a sharp marmalade so I work on the following ratio 750g sugar to 1 litre of liquid and then add more sugar as needed.

The process of making marmalade whilst lengthy is very easy and I recommend you giving it a go if you can get it your hands on some Seville oranges.  At the end of the process you’ll have at least 3 jars which you and either keep and enjoy over the next few months or give to friends and family as gifts.  Enjoy!

“A wise bear always keeps a marmalade sandwich in his hat in case of an emergency”
~ A Bear Called Paddington ~

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Pork belly with cranberry glaze (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 2-2.5hrs)

I am going through a phase of trying to use up leftovers and empty my freezer which is no mean feat.  As a family we are notorious for hunting down a bargain and raiding the reduced aisle for tasty goodies. In fact there have been several occasions of late where certain members of the family have  bragged about stocking up their freezer with organic meat that has been reduced to quite frankly a silly price.

So why pork belly and cranberry I hear you ask, well quite simply a month or so ago I picked up a decent piece of belly pork that had been reduced and it has been sitting in the freezer waiting to be used along with half a bag of frozen cranberries that I bought for Christmas.  In the interests of trying to be somewhat more frugal this month I decided to knock to together Sunday lunch using up these ‘scraps’ and I have to say that I was very pleased with the outcome!  A beautifully tender piece of pork, crackling, topped with a sticky sharp cranberry sauce – YUM!

Now, whilst I made my cranberry sauce, if you are looking to cheat then just use shop bought cranberry sauce.  In all seriousness there isn’t much to this recipe so do give it try, if you don’t make the cranberry sauce then there are really only two steps – how much more simple can you get?! Enjoy.

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Baked apples (Serves: 3 – Preparation time: 45 mins)

Happy New Year!

I have decided to share a recipe that helps to use up one ingredient that has a tendency to be leftover after Christmas – mincemeat. The recipe below is super easy and can be eaten either hot for pudding with a little cream, or is great served cold as a topping for porridge in the morning for breakfast.

The inspiration for this dish came after a visit to East Sussex to see some of my friends who swear by a bowl porridge for breakfast, topped with fresh apple, yogurt, seeds, nuts and honey before a days hunting, shooting or fishing.  Not being one for porridge normally, I am well and truly converted and the recipe below is my take on their porridge toppings.

The simplicity of this recipe makes it an absolute gem, it takes a matter of minutes to prepare, the key really to this recipe is about how well you core the apple as you want to create a cavity that is large enough to pack all of the mincemeat in.  As the apple cooks it becomes beautifully soft and infuses with the spices and flavours of the mincemeat.

This is definitely a recipe to try and is absolutely fantastic on these chilly winter days.  Enjoy!

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Mince pies using sweet shortcrust pastry (Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

I was chatting to my housemate about making pastry the other day and she was telling me of a Hawksmoor pie recipe that used both eggs and suet in the recipe and it dawned on me that this would be a great way to make sweet shortcrust.  By making the pastry with suet it made the pastry beautifully light and more flaky than crumbly.

The concept of using two types of fat to make the pastry is not a new one, growing up the Delia Smith recipe that I used to follow for mince pies used equal amounts of butter and to make the recipe.  However I have found the in using suet you get a far better distribution of fat throughout the pastry which gives it a marbled look when rolled out and it helps to turn the pies a beautiful golden brown colour during cooking.

Now to the mincemeat aspect of this pie – there is absolutely nothing wrong with using shop bought mincemeat!  This is exactly what I do however I like to ‘pimp’ it up a bit by adding chopped walnuts, cranberries, glace cherries, plump sultanas and brandy.  So if you have some dried fruit or nuts in you cupboard that you would work chuck it in, not only will it add to the flavour it will add to the texture of your pies.  Enjoy!

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Apple breakfast pancakes (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 30 minutes)

If you are having friends over for brunch, or if you are looking for something simple to cook with your kids for breakfast that is simple and tasty then this is a great little recipe!  Cooking pancakes should be straightforward and fun – if a little messy…

These pancakes are very similar to drop scones, they should be relatively small, about 10 cm in diameter making them very quick to cook.  I would highly recommend using a non-stick frying pan that has been lightly oiled when making this recipe.  If you use too much oil the pancakes will simply absorb the oil as they cook.  My tip for oiling the pan is to pour a little vegetable oil onto a piece of kitchen towel and then grease the pan all over, rather than pouring the oil directly into the pan.  Also it is always worth doing a small tester pancake to make sure that you pan is hot enough before starting to cooking the pancakes in batches.

The ‘filling’ of the pancakes is a classic combination of apple and cinnamon.  As they cook your kitchen will be filled with the a lovely fragrance that I always associate with autumn and crumbles.  The syrup adds a sweet and sharp element to the dish that makes the pancakes particularly moreish as they soak up the juices.  These pancakes are best served straight from the pan – if left too long they will start to dry out.

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Banana and date cupcakes (sugar-free and dairy-free). Preparation time: 30/40 minutes

My sister-in-law set me a challenge to develop a cake that is suitable for my nephew, Leo.  Leo is 8 months old and a truly happy baby who I am pleased to say seems to love his food!  My brother and sister-in-law are in the process of weaning Leo at the moment and are following the ‘baby led weaning‘ method.  Baby led weaning is a fairly new concept to me, but strikes me as a sensible way of introducing a baby to food.  Put simply baby led weaning is the where you give food to a baby and they feed themselves.  So far as I can tell one of the major advantages is that they eat what you eat (within reason) and subject to a couple of basic principles to ensure that your baby’s diet has a very limited amount of salt and sugar.

Now then back to the challenge, to develop a cake suitable for baby led weaning.  My sister-in-law asked me to create a cake that did not contain refined sugar.  My first thought was what about using honey, however after a bit of research it became clear that this would not be a suitable substitute on this occasion as the general consensus is not to introduce honey to a baby’s diet until they are a year old.  Not being a fan of sweeteners I set my mind to what I could use as an alternative.  My solution – dates and banana pureed in a little boiling water.  Using that as a sugar substitute I tired a couple of different recipes.  The first attempt resulted in a dense but very moist sponge more like a muffin.  The second attempt is the one I am going to share here as it produced a much lighter fluffier sponge that rose beautifully.  What I should point out it that I made cupcakes instead of a cake as it was a better portion size for a baby.  The other benefit of cooking them this is it means that you can freeze them individually and use them gradually rather than worry about them going stale.

I suspect that you are wondering what it tasted like – unsurprisingly it is nowhere near as sweet as a typical cake but as mentioned it has a lovely light texture.  I asked my family for their thoughts on the cupcake and the comments were as follows “Where’s the jam?” and “Any chance of some cream with this?”  I think these responses boil down partly to the fact that instinctively they expected something much sweeter and secondly that it is unlike me to serve a cake without icing.  So if you are making this for both adults and babies perhaps treat it a little like a scone for the adults and serve with a little jam and cream on the side so those of your family with a sweeter tooth can satisfy their cravings.  Enjoy!

Tip:  if you have bananas that are going black and you are thinking about throwing them away don’t!  Peel and freeze them as they will be perfect for this recipe as it works best with ripe bananas.

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Moroccan spiced shoulder of lamb with apricots (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

One-pot cooking is incredibly convenient for washing up purposes but also in terms of ease.  The idea with this style of cooking is that you can throw everything into a casserole dish, cover and leave to bubble away in the oven without needing to think about it until it is time to serve.    The added bonus with this particular dish is longer you leave it the more succulent and tender the lamb becomes.

As this dish cooks, the juices from both the apricots and lamb seep into the sweet potato mixture turning it into a stuffing that is infused with all the flavours of the dish.  I would recommend serving this meal with simple accompaniments for example fluffy couscous and steamed green vegetables so that you can relish the taste of the lamb.  This recipe would be a good alternative to a traditional Sunday roast, or would make a great centrepiece for a dinner party. Enjoy!

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Sticky beef (Serves: 2/3 – Preparation time: 20 minutes)

Lately I have been finding that I am pushed for time in the evenings,  as a result I have been resorting to meals that can be prepped and on the table in 20 minutes without too much fuss.  The recipe below fits the bill perfectly as in the time that it takes to steam the rice the rest of the dish can be cooked.

This ‘sticky beef’ recipe uses dates to make sauce, giving it a wonderfully sweet caramelised flavour.  The spice and warmth from the chilli helps cut through the sweetness of the dish, however if you find it too sugary for your palette then add 1 tbsp of light soy sauce to the dish at the end.

By stir-frying the vegetables quickly they will retain a slight crunch which contrasts the smoothness of the sauce and tenderness steak.  Don’t feel that you have to use beef to make this recipe, it would work just as well with pork or chicken thighs cut into thin strips and cooked in a little oil before adding it to the sauce.  Enjoy!


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Griddled nectarine, coppa and gorgonzola salad (Serves: 1 – Preparation time: 10 minutes)

I have many fond childhood memories of summer holidays spent in Italy visiting my Aunt and Uncle. Many hours would be spent searching for the tortoises in my uncle’s vegetable patch between the most delicious al fresco lunches and suppers.  I think it was during these visits that I first encountered the delights of Italian cured meats and of course Gorgonzola.  Every day platters cheese, freshly sliced salami, Parma ham and Coppa  would be piled on a long trestle table along with bowls filled with slices of melon, tomato salads, bread and other delicious bits and bobs and we would eat to our heart’s content.

This salad recipe is a nod to those summer days in Italy.  For those of you that are less familiar with Coppa it is a type of salami made using the part of the loin of pork that is taken near the neck which is cured and marinated in red wine a garlic.  It is traditionally served raw, cut into thin slices though it can also be used as bacon in recipes.  You can find Coppa in most Italian delicatessens, however, if you aren’t able to find it then I would substitute with Serrano Ham.

This recipe is a lovely balance of flavours and textures which for me evokes the tastes of summer and is definitely one to try.  The recipe makes enough for 1 person, so multiply the ingredients as required.  Enjoy!

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Rolled Guinea fowl with Moroccan stuffing

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What a weekend it has been! We (my brothers, their other halves and I) have just celebrated Christmas up in Yorkshire as we are all heading in different directions this year. Over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of discussion over what we are going to eat. I mentioned to my brothers that I fancied trying to recreate a meal I had recently had at a school friend’s wedding breakfast (pheasant with a Moroccan stuffing).

After deliberating about how I was going to approach re-creating this dish for a Christmas feast – the suggestion I put to my brothers was Guinea fowl with a Moroccan style stuffing and dried fruits, wrapped in streaky bacon. The idea was well received until they heard that I was planning on deboning and rolling the bird which was met with much consternation. Their concerns revolved around:

  1. The fact I had never deboned a chicken let alone a Guinea fowl before.
  2. How much meat there would be left on the carcass?
  3. How long this meal would take to prepare as they wanted to eat at some point over the weekend.
  4. How many birds was I intending to do and was I sure that there would be enough to eat!?

I tried to quash their concerns by telling them that I had done a lot of research, watched a lot of YouTube videos and felt confident that I knew what to do.  In relation to timings, well we weren’t going to eat until the evening so even if deboning the Guinea fowl took an hour each we would still be able to eat around 7.30/8pm. And finally yes there would be enough to eat (I had ordered two Guinea fowl and just shy of 1kg of pork stuffing meat) I felt underfeeding was not going to be an issue.

I am pleased to report that in the end the meal was not only a success but that we had leftovers! It may have taken me roughly 45 minutes to debone each bird but it was worth it.  I couldn’t have been happier with you the meal turned and even better today we were able to enjoy some pretty yummy sandwiches for lunch before we all headed home.

The Moroccan flavoured stuffing with the dried fruits kept the guinea fowl meat wonderfully moist.  The spices were subtle and did not overpower the Guinea fowl.  The dried fruits added just enough sweetness and gave the stuffing a slightly tangy flavour and finally the pistachio added a pleasant texture.

If you don’t wish to go to the efforts of deboning a Guinea fowl then just make the meat into stuffing balls instead and cook the Guinea fowl (or chicken if you prefer to choose a slightly cheaper meat) and stuffing separately.

So the big question, would I make it again? Without a doubt! However, I would stress that this is a meal for special occasions given the time it takes to prepare but it is absolutely worth the effort!  Good luck and enjoy!

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Rolled Guinea fowl with Moroccan stuffing (serves 10)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Guinea fowl (c.1.25 kg in weight)
  • 16 slices streaky bacon
  • 900g seasoned pork stuffing meatDSC_0184 (4)
  • 3 red onions (finely diced)
  • 100g apricots (diced)
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 175g pistachios (shelled)
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger

Steps:

1. Place the onions in a sauté pan with a little oil, cover with a lid and sweat on a low heat until soft. (Do not rush this process as you do not want the onions to catch and burn).

2. Place the apricots, cranberries, pistachios, breadcrumbs and spices in a large glass bowl and mix together thoroughly.

3. Once the onions are soft and have cooled slightly add to the mix with the pork meat. Use your hands mix together all of the ingredients making sure that the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the stuffing. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge whilst you prepare the Guinea fowl.

4. Debone your Guinea fowl. (I would strongly encourage you watch a video demonstrating how to do this). The method I used is as follows:

  • Make sure your boning knife is very sharp and if necessary sharpen your knife before starting. Make sure that you have a clean tea towel to hand before starting.
  • Start by removing the Parsons nose.
  • Remove the wishbone, being careful not to snap it off. If you do snap it off by mistake, you’ll need to remember to remove the splinters of bone at the end.
  • Next move on to the wings, if you imagine the wing to be an arm at the ‘elbow joint’ remove the lower section of the wing so that you are left with just the top section of the wing.
  • Turning to the legs, at the knuckle carefully slice through the skin. Then holding the chicken leg in the tea towel pull the knuckle off – the reason you do it this way is so that you remove some of the sinew. If you are not strong enough don’t worry, just cut the knuckle off at the joint.
  • Next place your Guinea fowl breast side down on your chopping board. Cut straight down the centre of the back of the bird from head to tail.
  • Working on one side at a time (my preference is to do the left side first), slowly and carefully starting at the head and working down the bird cut the meat away staying as close to the bone as possible and making sure that you remove as much of the meat as possible.
  • When you get to the wings and legs cut through at the joint to enable you to continue working down the length of the carcass until you get to the bottom.
  • Repeat the process on the other side.
  • When you get to the point that the bird is only attached to the carcass by the backbone, using your finger to avoid tearing the skin run you finger between the backbone and flesh to remove the carcass.
  • Next tunnel bone your wings, pulling the bone out at the end to turn your wing inside out. The reason you do this is so that you have no holes in the skin once you have finished deboning the Guinea fowl.
  • Repeat the same process with the legs. Once the legs are inside out remove as much of the sinew as you can. Once you have completed this you will have a deboned Guinea fowl ready to stuff and roll.

Note:  Remember to use all the bones and trimmings to make stock which will form the base of your gravy.

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5. Once you have deboned both of the birds you can prepare them for cooking.  Split your prepared stuffing in two and shape into cylinders.  Then place the stuffing in the centre of the birds where the carcass would have been. (Don’t worry if you have too much stuffing to go in the middle as you can shape it in to small balls and cook as separate stuffing to serve with it).

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6. Next fold over the skin so that it overlaps slightly and then wrap the rolled guinea fowl with streaky bacon.

7. Next tie your joint with some cooking string to hold it together whilst cooking. The best knots to use are a slip knot followed by an overhand knot (aka a Butchers knot). Don’t worry if you find this too difficult just tie a knot that will hold the meat securely.

8. Place the meat in a lightly oiled roasting tray and cook at 180C Fan/ Gas mark 6 for 1hr 15mins -1hr 45 mins.  To test that your birds are ready insert a meat thermometer into the centre of the joint, if it reads over 65C they will be cooked through.

9. Once cooked remove from the oven, wrap both joints in tin foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

10. Serve with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and don’t forget the gravy.

Enjoy!

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