Category Archives: fruit

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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Spiced apple cake

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This has been a weekend of cooking with seasonal food.  Today’s seasonal ingredient was apple, more specifically Russet apples.  I was very fortunate to be given a huge bag of Russets by a friend when I went to visit her at her family’s farm outside of London and I have been slowly using them up over the course of the last couple of weeks.   Russet apples are good to cook with as they tend to hold their form which is great if you bake them in a cake and have a wonderful tangy flavour.

This afternoon I used some of the apples to make a spiced apple cake.  I used a combination of fresh and dried spices to make this cake, simply because I have fresh ginger in my fridge at the moment however using all dried spices in the recipe would be fine and if you can’t get your hands on Russets, then use any other variety of tangy eating apple to make this cake.

This cake is great for afternoon tea, however I would also say that it would also make a fantastic pudding served with some cream or crème fraiche.  This cake has a lovely warmth from the spices, but the overriding flavour comes from the tanginess of the apples.  This recipe is well worth a try -enjoy!

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Spiced Apple cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 Russet apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1” fresh ginger (peeled and finely grated) (If using dried ginger use 1 tsp)
  • 150g soft margarine
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 170C Fan.
  2. Line the base of a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Spoon the honey into the cake tin and spread around the base of the tin.

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  1. Prepare the apples then place in a bowl with the lime and ginger and mix together gently.
  2. Place the apples carefully in the base of the tin in a decorative fashion.
  3. Prepare the cake batter using the ‘all in one’ method. Place the margarine, sugar, eggs, flour and spices in a bowl.  Using an electric whisk beat the mixture together until you have a smooth thick batter with a consistency of clotted cream (use the milk to loosen the batter as needed).
  4. Pour the batter into the cake tin and level it out gently using the back of a spoon.
  5. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
  6. Once cooked, remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool.
  7. Just before you serve the cake sift over a little icing sugar.

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Thai beef salad

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Last year I bought a couple of new “toys” for my kitchen, namely, a food processor and a slow cooker and they have been invaluable!  I mentioned in my last blog that I have been throwing a number of dinner parties recently and half of the meals that I have been making really would not have been possible if I did not have these two appliances for a mid-week dinner party.

I use my slow cooked to make all manner of things, ranging from pulled pork, rice pudding, tagine, curry and stews.  I suspect you are thinking that these are really winter dishes and to an extent you are right, but there really are some lovely summer dishes that you can make in your slow cooker, for example this Thai Beef Salad.

I use my food processor to make anything from, hummus, cakes, pastry, coleslaw, focaccia to mackerel pate.  Yes I admit it is a pain to wash up but it saves me masses of time in terms of preparation.   If you can afford to get one and have space in your kitchen to it is a worthwhile investment!

I am a huge fan of Vietnamese and Thai food and their fresh and fragrant flavours.  This salad is a flavour explosion and has so many things going on at any one time ranging from sharp, spicy and sweet, to tangy, smoky and cool.

The key to this meal is in the preparation and forward planning, I cook the meat overnight, so that it may cool whilst I am at work during the day. The dressing can be made in advance as it will keep over several days and will just need to be shaken up just before serving. Then it is simply a case of preparing the salads, which if you can use a food processor really takes no time at all.

It may look like a lot of effort to make this salad, however, I cannot recommend it enough.

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Thai beef salad (serves 8-10)

Ingredients:

  • 650 – 750g beef brisket (cut into 1” chunks and any sinew and fat removed)
  • 500-750g thin fresh rice noodles

Beef marinade:

  • 2″ ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 chilli (finely sliced)
  • 150ml light soy sauce
  • 5tbsp honey
  • 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1tbsp hot sauce (or sweet chilli sauce)

Mixed Salad:IMG_3659

  • 4 carrots (peeled and finely sliced)
  • 8 large radishes (finely sliced)
  • 1 cucumber (peeled, halved and de-seeded, then cut into slices)
  • 2 large mangoes (peeled, de-stoned and cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 5/6 spring onions (roughly chopped)
  • 1 large handful sugar snap peas (roughly chopped)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (sliced)
  • 1 handful mint (roughly chopped)
  • 2 handfuls coriander (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small bunch chives (roughly chopped)
  • 2 limes (cut in wedges)

Green Salad

  • 1 Romaine lettuce (roughly sliced)
  • 2 bags mixed salad/stir fry leaves (ideally a combination spinach, kale and pak choi)

Dressing:IMG_3664

  • 5/6 tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 2/3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3 limes (juice)
  • 1″ ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp hot sauce (or sweet chilli if you prefer)
  • 2/3 tbsp olive oil

Serve with:

  • Chilli (finely sliced)
  • Peanuts (roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar)
  • Prawn crackers

Steps:

Stage 1 – Slow cook beef

  1. Place the beef and all the ingredients for the marinade into a slow cooker.
  2. Put the slow cooker on a low setting and cook for around 6-10 hours stirring occasionally. You will know that the beef is ready when it is slightly caramelised and falls apart when you use two forks to shred it.
  3. When you are happy that the beef is cooked, remove from the slow cooker and place in a bowl, drizzle over some more honey and soy sauce (roughly 3tbsp of each) stir thoroughly and leave to cool completely.

Stage 2 – Salads

  1. Prepare the salads if you have a food processor use it to slice all of the vegetables finely.
  2. In a large bowl combine the, carrots, radishes, cucumber, sugar snap peas, mango, sweet red pepper, mint, chives and coriander. Garnish with the lime wedges.
  3. In another bowl mix together the green salad of the Romaine Lettuce and the mixed leaves.

Stage 3 – Dressing

  1. In a large jam jar shake together the dressing ingredients until they are completely combined.
  2. Add more soy sauce, Hoisin sauce or lime juice as required according to your own tastes.

Stage 4 – Noodles

  1. Just before you are ready to serve, shred the beef with two forks.
  2. Heat some oil in a large pan, then flash fry the noodles adding the beef to warm slightly in the last two minutes

Stage 5 – Serving

  1. To serve place some of the green salad on a plate.
  2. Add a spoonful or two of the mixed salad.
  3. Top with some of the beef noodles.
  4. Pour over a little dressing and add the chilli and peanuts according to your own tastes.
  5. Serve with some prawn crackers.

Stilton and fig tart

photo 3I have an abundance of Stilton in my fridge leftover from my brother’s wedding and I have been trying to think up things to make with it. Tonight having seen that figs were on sale in the local supermarket I decided to make a very simple tart. It is a fantastic option for a midweek supper especially if you are having one or two friends over as it takes a matter of minutes to prepare and you can happily chat away whilst it is cooking in the oven.

Whilst I enjoyed it as a main meal with a simple salad, this would make a great starter which you could make into individual portions just by cutting the pastry up into small squares and then following the same steps. This is definitely worth giving a go. A simple and very tasty supper!

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Stilton and fig tart (serves 4)

Ingredients:

– 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
– 100-150g Stilton (cut into small cubes)
– 3 figs (sliced into roughly eighths)
– 1 handful of lardons or bacon bits
– 1-2 tsp honey
– 3-4 sprigs of parsley (chopped)
– 2 tbsp milk
– Olive oil
– Seasoning

Steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

2. On a high heat fry off the lardons for a couple of minutes. Set to one side and allow to cool slightly.

3. Lay the pastry out on a piece of baking paper on a shallow baking tray, fold over roughly 1cm of the pastry all around the edges to create a lip.

4. Taking a pastry brush, brush a little of the milk all over the pastry.

5. Scatter the stilton and lardons over the pastry then place the pieces of fig evenly over it.

6. Season with pepper and drizzle over a little olive oil before placing in the oven a baking for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

7. Remove from the oven, drizzle over some honey and scatter over the chopped parsley.

8. Serve warm with a salad. Enjoy.

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Nectarine and almond tart

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I caught up with some of my old school friends last week at a dinner party, we each got designated a course to bring. I have to say I do not think that I have eaten that well in a long time, we had four courses of scrummy food and the company was excellent.

My offering was a nectarine and almond tart.  With soft fruit coming into season at the moment it seemed a shame not to make a pudding that incorporated it some how.  I haven’t worked with pastry in a while, so I decided to make a dish that incorporated the two. The trick when making this pudding is to use fruit that is not too ripe so that it holds its form and doesn’t produce too much liquid when it is cooking which will cause the frangipane (which is an almond sponge) to become quite dense.

This tart can be eaten both hot or cold and is a great pudding to have in your repertoire for dinner parties or picnics.  Enjoy!

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Nectarine and almond tart (Serves 8-10)

Ingredients:

Pastry:image

  • 8oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter (at room temperature)
  • 1oz caster sugar
  • 1 egg

Frangipane:

  • 3 eggs
  • 5oz sugar
  • 3oz ground almondsimage[1]
  • 3oz plain flour
  • 6oz soft margarine
  • 1/4tsp baking powder

Decoration:

  • 2-3 firm-ish nectarines cut in wedges
  • A few flaked almonds to decorate

Steps:

Pastry:

1.      Grease and flour a 20cm loose bottomed tart tin.

2.      Place butter, sugar and flour in a bowl and crumb together using your fingers. 

3.      Add the egg and bring the pastry together, be careful not to over work it.

4.      On a floured surface roll out the pastry until it is large enough to fit in your tin, place in the tin and gently push the pastry into the edges and using any excess pastry to patch any holes. Dont cut off any excess that goes over the edges yet .  Afterwards lightly prick the pastry with a fork, place in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill. 

5.      Remove from fridge and trim the edges of the tart pressing down slightly as you do so, place a sheet of baking paper over the tart and fill with baking beans.

6.      Blind bake pastry for 15 mins at 190C and then remove beans and bake further 5 mins.

Frangipane:

1.      Whilst your pastry is cooking prepare your frangipane.

2.      Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together with an electric whisk for 2 minutes.

3.      Once your pastry is cooked. Leave to cool for 5 mins, before spooning in the frangipane, decorate the tart with the nectarine wedges and almond slices.

4.      Place the Tart in the oven and bake at 170C for 35-50 mins.

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