Category Archives: starter

Pâtés

Ladies and Gentlemen I am back!  Each Friday going forward I am going to endeavour to post some new recipe ideas for you.  So watch this space!

Today I have whipped up three different pâtés any one of which would make a great little starter if you have friends popping over, or as a light lunch with some salad or other nibbly bits. The first pâté was mackerel pâté which is a personal favourite of mine.  Mackerel pâté takes a matter of minutes to make and is scrummy served on fresh bread, melba toast or even that 70s throw back a vol-au-vent.

Second up is a vegetarian option, roasted red pepper and olive pâté which requires a food processor to blend the cream cheese and red pepper together.  This pâté is wonderfully light (a result of blitzing the cream cheese in the food processor) and the red pepper gives it a slightly piquant but sweet flavour.  If you are tempted to blend all the ingredients together I wish to warn you that the olives will give the pâté somewhat grainy texture.

Last but by no means least duck and orange pâté, it involves a bit more effort to make but is a good contrast to the other two pâtés.  To make this pâté perfectly smooth after putting it through the food processor you will need to pass it through a sieve.  If you do not mind having a slightly course pâté than I would suggest that you skip this part of the recipe…

Enjoy!

 

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Prawns and steamed samphire

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I am back in France at the moment at my parent’s house and it is bliss, not only has the weather been magnificent but a lot of fruit and vegetables are in season at the moment which means every meal has been a delight!  I think lunchtime is my favourite meal as it always starts off with a little melon served with some of our home reared cured ham, followed by a huge salad a cheese board that is to be envied and to finish apricots picked straight from the tree. Food does not get much better than that!

As it is the perfect weather for a BBQ yesterday morning I headed to the market to see what I could find to cook for supper.  I ended up coming back with various bits and bobs but the two things that I was most pleased about were the prawns and samphire which I was going to use to make a very simple starter. For those of you who have not come across samphire before it is a sea vegetable that grows abundantly on shorelines.  It has a crisp texture and a delicate salty yet slightly buttery flavour which means it works beautifully with seafood.

The idea of this starter is to let the prawns and the samphire do all the talking and to keep it very simple.  Provided your BBQ is hot and ready to cook on this starter takes roughly 10 minutes to make and there is really nothing to it all you need is a few skewers and a little tin foil.

BBQ prawns with steamed samphire (serves 3)

Ingredients:

350g raw prawns
150g samphire
a knob of butter
3 wedges of lemon (to serve)

Steps:

(1) Wash the samphire and then place on a sheet of tin foil with the butter, create a parcel out of the tin foil and set to one side until you are ready to place it on the BBQ.

(2) Wash your prawns then place them on to a wooden skewer (2-3 prawns on each skewer).  Note: always soak wooden skewers in water for about an hour to stop them burning when you place them on the BBQ.

(3) Once your BBQ is hot enough to cook on, place your tin foil parcel on the BBQ and let it cook for 5 minutes before you place the prawn skewers on the BBQ, cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink.

(4)  As soon as your prawns are cooked, serve the prawns and samphire with a wedge of lemon.  Enjoy!

Bruschetta snacks

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Jones (my housemate) and I have had a tough week and were feeling somewhat jaded this morning.  There was only one way to make us feel better –food.  Unfortunately for us that meant a joyous trip to the supermarket on a Saturday morning before we could tuck in.

Fancying something a little bit healthy, we settled on the idea of bruschetta, mostly because it can be put together in a matter of minutes and it looks and tastes good!  In the end we made four different types: a classic tomato, a pea and broad bean, goat’s cheese and beetroot and avocado, red pepper and mozzarella.

These bruschetta are perfect for a light lunch, starter or even a canapé.  Don’t be afraid to change the ingredients depending on what you have available and what is in season.  The only thing I would strongly advise is make sure that you season the toppings well and make sure you always taste as you go along.

 

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Avocado, Red Pepper and Mozzarella Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • ½ an avocado
  • 1/3 of a red pepper
  • ½ a mozzarella ball
  • 4-5 green olives
  • 1 tbsp of fresh chopped chives
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Steps:

  1. Dice the avocado, red pepper, mozzarella and olives.
  2. Place in a bowl with the chives and stir.
  3. Season well, add balsamic glaze and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the balsamic glaze and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Classic Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • Handful of mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 4 black olives
  • 1tbsp of finely diced chopped red onion
  • 5/6 basil leaves (chopped finely)
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1.  Finely chop the cherry tomatoes, olives. (If the tomatoes give off a lot of juice then pour away some of the excess)
  2. Place in a bowl along with the red, basil.
  3. Season well , add the lemon juice and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the lemon juice and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your tomato mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Pea and Broad Bean Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 handful of broad beans (frozen are fine)
  • 1 handful of peas (frozen are fine)
  • 5/6 mint leaves
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Place your broad beans in a pan and cook according to the instructions.  Once they are cooked peel the broad beans (it is worth the effort.)
  2. In a separate pan cook your peas, once cooked place in a bowl together with the broad beans and mash using the back of a fork.
  3. Season well, add the mint, lemon juice and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the lemon juice and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cooked and peeled beetroot
  • 2” goat’s cheese log
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Steps:

  1. Dice the beetroot and goat’s cheese.
  2. Place in a bowl and mix together.
  3. Season well, add balsamic glaze and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the balsamic glaze and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.


 

Starter: Goat’s cheese tartlets – Main: Mediterranean chicken

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I started my new job just over a week ago and I am finding the early mornings a bit of a shock to the system.  That being said I’m slowly getting back into the routine of things. One thing that I can say however is that I have not missed the London commute during my time off; the tube whilst practical is not a pleasant experience in rush hour.   Consequently I am forcing myself to brave the elements and cycle to work 2-3 times a week…

There was one thing that I had been missing whilst I was living in France and that was cooking/going to dinner parties.  This weekend I had the flat to myself and I seized the opportunity to get friends over and spend the evening eating good food and drinking far too much wine!

We started off the evening with a very simple canapé/starter of goat’s cheese and sun blushed tomato tartlets.  I used filo pastry to make them as it is beautifully light and the resulting tartlets look very pretty.  On this occasion I didn’t serve the tartlets with anything, however, a simple rocket salad work well.

For the main I cooked chicken in a Mediterranean style sauce mixing a combination tomatoes, olives and feta.  The resultant dish was fresh and packed full of flavour.  I would recommend serving the chicken on a bed of mashed potato with steamed vegetables.  It is a simple dish to make and is a great option to make if you are having lots of people over!

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Mediterranean Chicken (Serves 5-6)

Ingredients:

  • 5/6 chicken breasts
  • 800g chopped tomatoesDSC_0551 (3)
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes
  • 100-125g black pitted olives
  • 2 large onions (finely sliced)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ glass of red wine (I used a Rioja)
  • 200g feta cheese (cut into cubes)
  • ½ tsp herbs of Provence
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • Seasoning
  • olive oil for cooking with

Steps:

1.  Preheat an oven to 180C fan.

2.  Place the onions and garlic in a frying pan with a little oil and cook on a medium heat until they are soft.

3.  Pour a little oil into a large roasting tray, add the chicken breasts and make sure they are coated with the oil and season well.

4.  Add the softened onions, olives, chopped tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, wine, lemon zest, bay leaf, herbs and mix together.

5.  Cover the roasting tray with tin foil and cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

6.  Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven.  Scatter over the feta cheese and parsley and then serve with some mashed potato and the vegetables of your choice.

 

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Goat’s cheese and sun blushed tomato tartlets

Ingredients: (makes 24)

  • ½ a packet of filo pastry (cut into 2” squares)DSC_0543 (3)
  • 250g goat’s cheese (cut into small pieces)
  • 100-125g sun blushed tomatoes (cut into small pieces)
  • 2tsp freshly chopped parsley
  • olive oil
  • black pepper

Steps:

1. Preheat an oven to 170C fan.

2.  Lightly grease two mince pie trays, place 2 squares of filo pastry into each of the moulds.

3.  Mix together the goat’s cheese and sun blushed tomatoes in a bowl, then put a little of the mixture into the centre of the pastry.

4.  Drizzle over a little olive oil and season with black pepper.

5.  Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden brown and the cheese has melted.

6.  Remove from the oven and scatter over the chopped parsley just before serving.

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Oysters

My first experience of an oyster was not a good one, I had one in the North of France when I was about 6 years old and I remember thinking that the texture was not very agreeable.  With the beauty of hindsight I have come to realise that oysters are something that you grow into and I now very much enjoy them raw with just a squeeze of lemon or just a little shallot dressing.

The last time we had oysters it turned out that we had mislaid our shucking knife, undoubtedly it is ‘somewhere safe’…   So armed with a flat headed screwdriver and relatively blunt knife the Old Man set to work, as you can see in the pictures below the flat headed screwdriver worked a treat.  Where there is a will there is always a way….

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Oysters

Ingredients:DSC_0308 (3)

  • 12 oysters
  • 1 lemon (cut into wedges)
  • crushed ice (to serve on)

For the shallot and red wine dressing:

  • 1 shallot (finely sliced)
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • seasoning

Steps:

1.  Hold an oyster in a tea towel, then take a shucking knife and insert the blade between the top and bottom shell and twist it from side to side until the hinge of the oyster breaks.  Lever the top of the shell open, by running the blade of the knife along the edge of the shell to free the oyster.  Discard the top shell and remove any small fragments of shell that may have broken off as it was opened.

3.  Put the crushed ice on a plate and then arrange the shells containing the oysters on top.

4.  Make the shallot dressing, by mixing together the vinegar, seasoning and shallots then pour the mixture into a small bowl or jug.

5.  Serve the oysters with the wedges of lemon and shallot vinegar on the side.

[Note:  Oysters are best bought when there is an ‘r’ in the month, so from September to April.]

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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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Warm salad with pear and parma ham

After all the rich food that I have been ‘blogging’ about lately I felt it was about time to do something a little healthier…  This recipe is a great starter that looks good and takes about 5-10 minutes to prepare.  The chicory/endive gives the salad slightly sharp taste and a nice crunchy texture, whilst the warmed and slightly caramelised pear counters that sharpness adding sweet undertones.  There is not much else that can be said about this dish other than give it a go…

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Warm Salad with Pear and Parma Ham (Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pears (sliced lengthways roughly 3mm in thickness)DSC_0274 (3)
  • 8 slices of Parma ham
  • 3 spears of chicory/endive (finely sliced)
  • knob of butter
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • pepper (to season)

Steps:

1.  Place the butter and oil in a frying pan and heat.

2.  Once the butter has melted add sugar and stir until it dissolves.

3.  Add the pears to the frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, turning them over after about a minute.

4.  Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a further minute stirring gently being careful not to break up the pears.

5.  Then plate up – place chicory at bottom of each plate, add the pears, drape over two slices of Parma ham and drizzle over the juices from the pan.

6. Finally season with a little pepper and serve.