Category Archives: nuts

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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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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Lemon posset with lemon and pistachio shortbread

Today’s recipe is for a super easy pudding!  Both parts to this recipe take less than 10 minutes to prepare.  If you are a fan of lemon you are going to enjoy this pudding.  So what is a posset? Well put simply – it is a velvety creamy rich pudding made using just three ingredients and is genuinely something anybody could make!

Shortbread makes the perfect accompaniment to this pudding.  Again for those of you that lack confidence in the kitchen shortbread is very simple to prepare, provided that you have a set of scales, a large bowl and a baking tray.  I find that making it by hand is just as quick as using a food processor just with less washing up!  If you are having friends over for a cup of tea or coffee and want to be able to offer them something to nibble on – this shortbread is a goer as it can be prepared, cooked and on the table in 30 minutes.

If you don’t have pistachios, don’t fret – either leave them out, or, if you have some other nuts or dried fruit available use that instead.  I am a firm believer in making use of what you have!

I hope that you give this recipe a try and enjoy it as much as I did.

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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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Macaroons

Today is a sad day as I am leaving France and heading back to the UK to seek gainful employment once again.  I have had a cracking 15 months or so and here are a few of the things I have learnt along the way…

How to…

1.  … put turkeys to bed – swear at them profusely whilst waving your arms frantically.

2.  … catch a bee swarm – apply the following expression ‘if at first you don’t succeed try, try, again’.

3.  … birth a goat – keep calm and be prepared to get messy.

4.  … cover yourself in paint – paint the ceiling with a roller.

5.  … hang a picture– choose a picture that is big enough to hide all the errors behind particularly on plasterboard.

6.  … pronounce the final ‘t’ in chiot when asking how the puppy is – don’t (as I have learnt the somewhat embarrassing way it is silent).

7.  … construct and de-construct multiple items from Ikea – build the item instinctively and find you have bits left over when you’ve finished, then read the instruction booklet and then repeat the process correctly.

8.  … cut your finger – look away when you are peeling a quince.

9.  … make a chocolate cake that even the dog rejects – try a new recipe without flour and add several courgettes.

10.  … say ‘goodbye’ to a puppy – with difficulty.

As a way of saying thank you to a few people that I have met whilst I have been here I made some macaroons as a little ‘cadeau’.  As I have learnt over the last couple of months macaroons are not something that should be made if you are in a rush – if you don’t whisk the egg whites enough and mix rather than fold the almonds and sugar in, you run the risk of a runny mixture that does not work.

However, done right, macaroons are a real delight, they should have a crisp shell with a gooey middle.  The recipe below is just for plain macaroons, you can fill them as you wish with ganache or butter cream and jam to make them individual.

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Macaroons (makes 50-60)

Ingredients:P1020258

  • 3 egg whites
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 6oz icing sugar
  • 2½oz caster sugar
  • a few drops of food colouring (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to the ‘soft peak stage’.
  3. Continue to whisk the egg whites adding the caster sugar slowly (if you going to use food colouring add it at this point).  Continue whisking until you have a smooth ‘glossy’ mixture.
  4. Place the almonds and icing sugar into a food processor and blitz until you have a finer crumb.
  5. Sieve the almond and sugar mixture into the whisked egg whites (don’t worry if some of the almonds don’t pass through the sieve, put it in a small bowl to be used in a crumble, cake etc.).
  6. Gently fold the almonds into the egg whites.
  7. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, put it in a piping bag with a large circular nozzle.
  8. Pipe the mixture in 1” circles onto baking sheets that have been lined with baking paper.
  9. Once all of the mixture has been used, tap the trays firmly once to release any air bubbles then leave to form a skin for 20-30 minutes.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on wire racks. 

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A couple of pork based pâtés

About a month ago I made a series of pâtés at the same time that I posted a blog about a rabbit and pork terrine.  The pâtés have now been sampled and I thought it was about time I wrote them up…

Locally, pâtés tend to be very simple often consisting just of: pork meat (ground relatively coarsely), pig’s liver, eggs (one to every kilo of meat) and seasoning.  It is incredibly simple and tastes very nice particularly when served with gherkins or good chutney.

On finding out that it was possible to buy good quality pâté meat (by this I mean a combination of coarsely ground pork and liver that had been pre-seasoned) from a local store for the reasonable price of 3€ a kilo, Mumsy and I bought 15kg and spent a day mass producing various types of pâtés .  I decided to ‘free style’ a little and try out a few recipes using slightly different ingredients, for example hazelnuts that we had picked and frozen earlier in the year,  whereas Mumsy followed some tried and tested recipes.  All of the pâtés have come out well and make a nice addition to bread and cheese at lunch time as well as a good starter or pre-supper nibble to go with an ‘apéro’ or two.

Pork meat can be quite fatty,  do not be alarmed if when you follow one of the recipes below it looks as though you have a lot of fat around the inside of the jar, it is normal, just cut the fat off before serving.  The second thing to note is – if you are making a number of different types at the same time, make sure you label them properly before putting them into the pot to cook (we thought we had marked our pots sufficiently with a pen, however, when we removed them after cooking we realised all markings had come off, so it has been a ‘lucky dip’ scenario whenever we get out a new pâté …).

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Fruit and Nut Pork Pâté (makes 5-6 pots)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5kg pre-seasoned pork meat for pâté (alternatively use a combination of pork belly, pork shoulder and pig liver and season well)
  • 2 handfuls of hazelnuts
  • 1 good handful cranberries
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 heaped tsp ground mace
  • 1 tbsp sage
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries (ground in a pestle and mortar)
  • 1tsp peppercorns (ground in a pestle and mortar)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
  • 50ml cognac

Steps:

1.  Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well.

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2.  Spoon the mixture into sterilized jars (preferably Le Parfait, Mason or Kilner jars)  making sure you do not overfill the jars; the pâté should stop just below the lid line.  Make sure the tops of the jars are clean before closing up the jars.  [Depending on the type of jar you are using don’t forget to place an intermediary lid (to create a seal) on before screwing on the lid tightly.]

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(Due to the quantity of pâté that we made, we used a large outdoor burner that could hold 20-25 pots at a time.   A large pasta saucepan would be perfect if you are making smaller quantities.)

3.  Place all of the jars in a large saucepan. (When you do this place a couple of tea towels at the bottom of the saucepan to prevent the jars on the bottom cracking and make sure that the pots can’t move about by packing them in with other tea towels or pieces of broken tile.  Finally, weigh them all down with something heavy like a brick as shown in the pictures above.) Cover the jars completely with water, cover with a lid and bring up to a boil and then simmer for 2-3hrs.

4.  Allow to cool in the saucepan and then remove and store in a cool place.

 

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Sweet and Spicy Pork Pâté (makes 5-6 pots)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5kg pre-seasoned pork meat for pâté (alternatively use a combination of pork belly, pork shoulder and pig liver and season well)
  • 1 red onion (diced)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ½tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 dried chilli (finely sliced)
  • Armagnac (to brush the pots with)

Steps:

1.  Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well.

2.  Spoon the mixture into sterilized jars (preferably Le Parfait, Mason or Kilner jars) make sure you do not overfill the jars; the pâté should stop just below the lid line.  Make sure the tops of the jars are clean before closing up the jars.  [Depending on the type of jar you are using don’t forget to place an intermediary lid (to create a seal) on before screwing on the lid tightly.]

3.  Place all of the jars in a large saucepan. (When you do this place a couple of tea towels at the bottom of the saucepan to prevent the jars on the bottom cracking and make sure that the pots can’t move about by packing them in with other tea towels or pieces of broken tile.  Finally, weigh them all down with something heavy like a brick as shown in the pictures above.)  Cover the jars completely with water, cover with a lid and bring up to a boil and then simmer for 2-3hrs.

4.  Allow to cool in the saucepan and then remove and store in a cool place.

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Making biscuits

biscuits

Sometimes you can’t beat a good biscuit, particularly a biscuit that can withstand being ‘dunked’ in a cup of tea.  I don’t often make biscuits, however this week I have made two batches.  Firstly a slightly more ‘grown up’ biscuit involving ground almonds that are great if you are having a coffee morning.  The second batch was my take on a childhood favourite, the bourbon.

Both of the biscuits are very straightforward to make.   It is a bit faster and less messy if you can use a food processor to mix the ingredients due to the golden syrup in the recipes.  However, if you are prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in then it is just as easy to make the biscuits by hand.  For me the test of a good biscuit is if it stays crunchy on the second day, this largely depends on how long you leave them cooking in the oven.  This can be a little tricky as the golden syrup means that the biscuits can catch and burn quite easily due to the high sugar content.  My advice to prevent this is – watch your biscuits like a hawk whilst they are in the oven and turn the oven down if you think they are cooking too quickly.  When the biscuits come out of the oven they will feel a little soft, but they should harden up nicely if they are left to cool completely on a cooling rack before eating.


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Almond Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 6oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 1oz golden syrup (roughly 2 heaped tsp)
  • 1oz ground almonds
  • a pinch of salt

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C fan.

2.  Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and crumb together using your fingers, after a few minutes the ingredients should come together.  Alternatively, place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for a minute, tip crumbs onto the surface and shape into a ball.

3.  Dust a piece of baking paper with sugar and roll out the dough till it is about 2-3mm thick.  Then cut out the biscuits using a cutter or a glass.

4. Continue to roll out scraps of dough until you have used it all.

5.  Place the biscuits on baking trays that have been lined with baking paper.

6.  Bake for 7-10 minutes, make you keep an eye on them as they can burn easily if necessary turn your oven down slightly.

9.  Once cooked, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.  Serve with a cup of tea/coffee.

 

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My Chocolate Bourbons

Ingredients:

For the biscuits:

  • 6oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 1oz golden syrup (roughly 2 heaped tsp)
  • 1oz cocoa powder

For the buttercream:

  • 2oz butter (at room temperature)
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 4-6oz icing sugar
  • 1tbsp milk

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C fan.

2.  Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and crumb together using your fingers, after a few minutes the ingredients should come together.  Alternatively, place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for a minute, tip crumbs onto the surface and shape into a ball.

3.  Dust a piece of baking paper with cocoa powder and roll out the dough till it is about 2-3mm thick.  Then cut out the biscuits using a cutter or a glass.

4. Continue to roll out scraps of dough until you have used it all.

5.  Place the biscuits on baking trays that have been lined with baking paper.

6.  Bake for 7-10 minutes, make you keep an eye on them as they can burn easily if necessary turn your oven down slightly.

9.  Once cooked, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, whilst you prepare the buttercream.

10.  To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft, then gradually add the cocoa powder and icing sugar until you have a smooth consistency adding the milk if needed to loosen the mix slightly.

11.  Spoon a little of the buttercream onto half of the biscuits and then sandwich them together by placing a biscuit on top of each of them.  Enjoy!