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Mushroom and ale risotto served in a roasted red pepper with rare steak strips (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1 hr)

I would describe the recipe below as quite manly as the ingredients that are used are hearty and somewhat earthy.   However I don’t think risotto is often associated as being a masculine meal but I hope that the chaps trying this recipe will be pleasantly surprised by this little number.  If you are looking for a recipe for date night then I would recommend giving this recipe a go.

For those of you that have not made a risotto before the most important thing to remember is not to rush.  A risotto works best when you cook it on a low heat adding the stock a little at a time allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more.  It is important that whilst doing this you stir it regularly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Provided that you take your time you will end up with a beautifully creamy risotto – so make sure when you are cooking a risotto that you give yourself at least 20-30 minutes to make it!

The other thing I would say for those of you that are put off by this recipe because there are too many elements don’t be as there really are only 6 steps.  Here is the breakdown of what you need to do:

  1. Wash and put the red peppers in the oven – no need to remove the core and seeds at this point.
  2. Whilst the peppers are cooking prepare your risotto.  Once it is cooked – cover and leave to one side whilst you cook the steak and green vegetables.
  3. Boil or steam green vegetables.
  4. Heat frying pan and cook the steak.
  5. Whilst the steak is resting and the vegetables are draining the vegetables – core and seed the peppers.
  6. Cut the steak into strip and plate up.

It really is that straightforward I promise.  The only downside to this recipe is that there is a lot of washing up – sorry about that…

My final comment is that I tend to find the more charred the peppers the better the flavour, so don’t worry if the skin on the peppers is black – that is what you are aiming for.  Enjoy!

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Savoury croissants (Serves: 6 – Preparation time: 20 minutes)

One of my great friends is visiting from Jordan at the moment and it is such a treat to be able to catch up with her over brunch!  Whilst Jordan has delicious food, two things that are relatively hard to get out there are blue cheese and ham.  So with that in mind that I thought it would be nice to whip up a quick brunch containing both of these things.

This recipe is really very quick and easy and can be easily adapted according to your own tastes.  There is no need to pre-cook any of the ingredients, so it is really a case of putting the filling on the croissant dough and folding them up into a little parcel before putting them into the oven to bake.

Now, if you really want to go the whole hog you can make your own croissant pastry, but in my view life is too short so I tend to stick with pre-made dough.  One word of advice in relation to making this recipe is make sure that you seal the edges of the pastry as best as you can by pinching the dough together as this will help prevent the cheese oozing out of the croissant whilst it cooks! Enjoy!

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Chilli beef

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Is it wrong that I wish the weather at the moment was a little colder?  With the clocks having gone back almost a month ago I feel somewhat cheated that the weather hasn’t turned and started to get cooler.  London is decidedly grey at the moment giving the sense that winter is on its way but yet it is still warm outside which is mildly disconcerting.  I can’t wait until we start getting the frosty mornings with the brilliant clear blue skies that justify you making comfort food.

Perhaps it was wishful thinking when I got the stewing beef out of the freezer at the weekend with the view to making something both hearty and warming.  Well the balmy weather has certainly not deterred my plans for the stewing beef and last night I made Chilli Beef.  I suppose in reality Chilli Beef is really a play on Chilli Con Carne but in a stew format.  The combination of the spices and the tomatoes in this recipe create a wonderfully rich sauce.  For me though it is the smoked paprika in this recipe that makes this Chilli Beef something special as it adds a real depth of flavour that makes you want to go back for seconds.

This recipe can be made in advance and reheated when you need it which makes it a good option for when you have friends coming around for supper during the week.  I would recommend serving the Chilli Beef with something simple like boiled rice and a green vegetable of your choice.  Bon appétit!

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Chilli Beef

Ingredients:

400 g stewing beef
salt and pepper
2 onions sliced finely
3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 beef stock cube
Water to deglaze the pan
½ a fresh chilli chopped finely
1 tin of tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 to 2 tbsp of honey to sweeten
1 tin of kidney beans (400g)

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (Fan)
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, add the beef to the mixture and stir until the beef is well coated.
  1. Heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pan on a high heat. Add the beef and any remaining dry mix to the pan stirring from time to time until the beef has browned off.
  1. Turn the heat down and add the onions and garlic to the pan. Continue to cook until the onions have softened stirring as required.
  2. Whilst the onions are cooking, dissolve the beef stock cube in a little boiling water and use the liquid to deglaze the pan. It is best to use a wooden spoon to do this so that you do not scratch the bottom of your pan.
  1. Next add the tomatoes, fresh chilli, tomato purée and honey to the pan and stir well.
  1. Cover the pan with the lid and place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes before adding the kidney beans. Return the pan to the oven and cook for a further 1hr 20mins.

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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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Fish curry served in a pumpkin

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Today has been a great day I have been cooking up a storm in the kitchen with a good friend of mine.  The original plan was to make cheese which we duly did whipping up paneer within a couple of hours, but then it developed in to a fully blown cooking session where we made a fish curry from scratch, hummus, saag paneer and flat breads – it was an EPIC morning of cooking!

Squash and pumpkin are in season at the moment and are at their best, so make sure you use them in your cooking whether it be in a soup or roasted with your Sunday lunch.  The pumpkin in this recipe replaces the need for rice and acts as a bowl for the curry making it a fun meal to eat.  Don’t worry if you can only get a hold of a large pumpkin just use it as a serving bowl for the centre of the table instead.

The inspiration for this meal came from a restaurant that I used to go to from time to time in Hong Kong which used to serve their Thai red curry in a pumpkin.  It is something that I have wanted to try for a long time so when a friend’s mother gave me a blue pumpkin a few weeks ago I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.

The recipe for the curry paste should be treated as guidance rather than fixed amounts.  The reason for this is that you need to adjust the amounts to reflect your own palette and the intensity of the flavours of the ingredients that you are able to get.  For example, if you use a particularly hot chilli you may only want to add a little at a time until you get the spice level that you are looking for.   This recipe makes enough curry paste for a curry to serve eight people, so make sure that you only use what you need and then freeze the rest of the paste in an ice tray so that you can you the paste for future curries.

With respect to what fish you use it really boils down to what you prefer, I would recommend that you use quite a meaty white fish for example, cod, haddock or monkfish.  One other thing if you can use fresh fish rather than frozen do, the reason for this is that frozen fish has a tendency to break down during the cooking process far more than fresh fish.

DSC_0113 Fish curry served in a pumpkin (serves 2)

Curry Paste

Ingredients:

  • 5/6 garlic clovesDSC_0096 (2)
  • 1 scotch bonnet chilli
  • 2 lemongrass sticks
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander (use both the stalks and leaves)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • 6” ginger (peeled)
  • 3/4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 100g fresh pineapple (peeled)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

Steps:

  1. Place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until you have a paste consistency. (Make sure that you add the ingredients a little at a time and adjusting how much you use of each ingredient according to your own personal taste.)

Note: remember to freeze the curry paste that you don’t need.

For the curry:

Ingredients:

  • 2 small pumpkins
  • 2 cloves of garlic (no need to peel)
  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 heaped tbsp of the curry paste
  • 150g prawns
  • 300g haddock (skinned and cut into inch chunks)
  • ½ a can of coconut oil

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C Fan.
  2. Prepare the pumpkins by levelling the bottom of the pumpkins so that they sit comfortably on a roasting tray and cut of the top of the pumpkins to create a lid.DSC_0085 (2)
  3. Do not de-seed the pumpkins at this point, you do this once it is cooked.
  4. Place a garlic clove in the centre of each of the pumpkins (you made need to cut a slight hole in the pumpkin to do this) and drizzle over a little olive oil then place the ‘lid’ back on top of the
    pumpkin.
  5. Place the pumpkins on a roasting tray that has been lined with tin foil and cook in the oven for 45-60 mins or until the pumpkin is cooked.
  6. Whilst the pumpkin is cooking prepare the curry paste and the fish.
  7. Once your pumpkin is cooked, remove the garlic clove and de-seed the pumpkin being careful to not scrape through the bottom of the pumpkins.DSC_0105 (2)
  8. Place the pumpkins on the plates that you intend to serve them on. You made need to use a little
    of the cooked pumpkin to plug any holes in the bottom of the pumpkin to prevent the curry from leaking out of the bottom.
  9. Once you have finished preparing the pumpkins make your curry.
  10. Place the curry paste in a frying pan and heat. Add in the fish and prawns and stir.
  11. After a couple of minutes pour in the coconut milk and cook for roughly 5 minutes until the fish is cooked.
  12. Spoon the curry into the pumpkins and serve. Enjoy!

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Chocolate brownies

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I’ve had a couple of dinner parties lately mid-week and I’ve found that the best way to stay stress free is to do as much preparation in advance as possible, consequently, last Sunday afternoon, when I returned home from sailing, I made brownies.  They didn’t take long to make and were prepared and cooked in under an hour and made enough to feed 16 people for pudding comfortably.

I have read a lot of recipes that say you must use the very best chocolate when making brownies, however, I have found the cheap and cheerful chocolate from supermarket works really well and as such I’m disinclined to splash out on ridiculously expensive chocolate.  I would recommend trying different types of chocolate to see what works best for you and what you prefer.  My personal preference is anything with 70% or more cocoa.

What makes these brownies stand apart from others that I have made is that they are wonderfully gooey in the middle whilst retaining a slight crust. They are a perfect amount of decadence to finish off a meal.  I tend serve with a mixture of summer berries and either ice cream or soured cream depending on what I have available, but they are also excellent on their own.

Chocolate Brownies (makes 32)

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 50g white chocolate (roughly chopped)
  • 50g walnuts (roughly chopped)
  • 50g cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 85g plain flour (sifted)

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven 180C / 170CFan.
  2. Line a 20cm square cake tin.
  3. Melt butter and dark chocolate in a bowl above a saucepan of barely simmering water.
  4. Whilst the chocolate and butter are melting, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla until trebled in volume.
  5. Pour in the chocolate mixture and continue to whisk until fully combined.
  6. Then gently fold in flour, cocoa, walnuts and white chocolate.
  7. Pour into the pre-prepared tin and bake in oven for 20-25 mins. Remove the brownies from the oven when they have a slight wobble but a firm crust.
  8. Leave to cool completely in the tin, once cool cut into roughly 32 triangles.
  9. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Note:  These brownies keep for over a week if stored in an airtight container in a cool place.

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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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