Tag Archives: seasonalfood

Mini pork and cranberry pies (Makes: 36 – Preparation time: 1.5-2hrs)

Christmas is well and truly on its way with Christmas parties happening left, right and centre!  Lately I have been making a lot of mince pies and whilst I like them I have to admit I am more of a savoury person, so last weekend I decided to try out a new recipe more in line with an open topped pork pie.

 I have to give credit to Cockburns of Bedale who are the real inspiration for this recipe – for many years when I visited my eldest brother up in Yorkshire we would go to this butchers early on a Saturday morning to buy their open topped pork pies still warm from the oven for lunch (that is if they lasted that long…).  If you are ever on the on the A1 heading through Yorkshire, I highly recommend that you make a little detour via Bedale and visit this butchers to try one of their pies, I promise you will not regret it!

 Whilst the pies have similarities to a pork pie they are not made using hot water crust pastry. Instead this pie recipe uses a shortcrust pastry made with beef suet, the pastry case is then filled with spiced pork meat and topped with homemade cranberry sauce – delicious savoury sweet goodness!  The pies make great canapes at a drinks party as they are surprisingly light but absolutely moreish.

 The recipe below does have a lot of steps, however if time is not on your side and you need a quicker option, then simply follow the cheat options below.

 Cheats option / time saver:

  • Use shop bought pastry.
  • Replace the pork mixture with some festive flavoured sausages instead and simply remove the meat from the skins.
  • Use shop bought cranberry sauce preferably containing whole berries.

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Chicken and mushroom pie (Serves: 4 -Preparation time: +1hr)

I suspect that you will be somewhat surprised to hear that the inspiration for this pie recipe was ‘Beef Wellington’- well to be more specific the mushroom duxelle and the pastry elements of it.  There is nothing complicated about this recipe, it is just simple ingredients cooked well and left to speak for themselves.

“Tender chicken in a silky mushroom sauce topped off with crunchy flaky pastry – comfort food at its best!”

The filling can be made up in advance kept in the fridge for 1-2 days until it is needed which makes it a fantastic option for mid-week entertaining or to have in reserve if life is particularly busy – if you are doing this then cover with the pastry just before putting in the oven otherwise the pastry may dry out in the fridge.

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Smoky roasted butternut squash soup (Serves: 4/6 – Preparation time: +1hr)

Pumpkins and squashes come in all manner of shapes and sizes and in my opinion they are one of the most versatile vegetables that you can cook with.  The good news is right now they are in season and fairly cheap to buy!  For today’s recipe I have decided to keep things simple and turn butternut squash into a wonderfully velvety soup which is perfect served in a mug for bonfire night or as a starter for a dinner party with crusty French bread on the side.

The vibrant orange colour of this soup is hugely inviting and has the effect of making you warmer simply by looking at it. However, it is the paprika in this recipe transforms this soup – turning it from the sweet delicate taste of the squash into a rich smoky flavour that makes you want to keep going back for more.

This is definitely a recipe to try this autumn/winter whilst butternut squash is in season and at its best.  The soup freezes well so can be made up in large quantities and squirrelled away until you need it.  Enjoy!

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Gazpacho (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 15 mins)

I told my Spanish friend Alejandro that I was going to make Gazpacho this week and he quizzed me about what I intended to put in it to ensure that I was making what he deemed to be an authentic Spanish Gazpacho.  When I dropped ‘lemons’ into the list of ingredients that I intended to use, he promptly stopped me and told me in no uncertain terms that lemon is not a Gazpacho ingredient and that the vinegar is all that you need – and I have to say that now having made it without lemons that I agree with him.

For those of you that are less familiar with Gazpacho it is a cold tomato soup made using raw ingredients and there is absolutely no cooking involved.  All you need to make it is a sharp knife and a hand blender – simple.  Whilst summer is drawing to a close this is a great option if you are looking for a refreshing starter or light lunch.  The underlying flavours are both tangy and slightly creamy making you want to go back for more.  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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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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Damson de vie jelly and yogurt panna cotta

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I have just strained off my damson de vie that I made earlier in the year at the same time as my sloe de vie and it tastes delicious.  My favourite way to drink it is with a little lemonade or tonic water.  I decided to try and transform this drink into a pudding and came up with this idea.  The pudding incorporates winter flavours in a deliciously light and fruity pudding.

It is a really beautiful looking pudding because of its two layers.  The jelly compliments the sweetness of the panna cotta and the berries add another texture.  I used flat lemonade to make the jelly because I didn’t want any bubbles running through it.  The processes to make this pudding are very straightforward, however you do need to be patient and wait for the jelly to set before adding the panna cotta which means it is not something you can make in an afternoon.  That being said it really is worth the effort as it tastes superb and is a real show stopper when you bring it out.

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Damson de vie jelly and yogurt panna cotta

Ingredients: (Serves 6-8)

For the jelly:

  • 50-75ml damson de vie (or damson gin)
  • lemonade (preferably flat)
  • 75-100g sugar
  • 2 gelatine leaves (that have been soaked in water for 10 minutes)
  • 2 handfuls of cranberries
  • 2 handfuls of blackberries

For the panna cotta:

  • 200ml cream
  • 250ml natural yogurt
  • 100g sugar
  • 3-4 drops vanilla essence
  • 2 gelatine leaves (that have been soaked in water for 10 minutes)

Steps:

Step 1 – make the jelly

  1. Line a loaf tin with cling film.
  2. Evenly distribute the fruit over the bottom of the tin.
  3. Make the jelly by placing the damson de vie in a measuring jug, add the lemonade until it measures ¾ of a pint, taste and add more damson de vie if needed.
  4. Place the liquid in a saucepan with the sugar.  Heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. Add the gelatine to the saucepan and allow to dissolve into the liquid, stirring occasionally.
  6. Once the gelatine has dissolved pour the jelly into the loaf tin.
  7. Place in the fridge and chill for 2-3 hours until the jelly has set.

Step 2 – make the panna cotta

  • Once the jelly has set make the panna cotta.
  • Place the cream and sugar in a pan and heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Add the gelatine to the pan, and cook until the gelatine is dissolved.
  • Place the yogurt and vanilla essence in a bowl and stir together.
  • Sieve the cream and sugar mixture into the yogurt (this is to ensure your panna cotta is completely smooth).
  • Stir the mixture together and then carefully pour it over the jelly.
  • Allow to set overnight.
  • Choose the plate you wish to serve the pudding on, place it on top of the loaf tin and then turn it upside down, the pudding should come out easily and remove the cling film.
  • Serve in slices.

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A winter coleslaw with red cabbage

This side dish incorporates seasonal ingredients in a delightfully sharp and crunchy salad.  It’s sharpness and acidity comes from the lemon juice and endive (chicory) but there are elements of sweetness that come through the apple and sultanas.  If you prefer a slightly sweeter salad, simply replace the lemon juice with quince or redcurrant jelly as this will give both sweetness and a slight tanginess that will complement the coleslaw nicely.

I would strongly suggest that you resist the temptation to put the ingredients in a food processor – whilst it may be more convenient, the vegetables can become a little watery and the red cabbage has a tendency to turn things purple. So, my advice would be, take a bit more time and slice the fruit and vegetables by hand.

I served this coleslaw with my classic lasagne but it would be a good accompaniment to my chicken in breadcrumbs or just as side salad for other dishes.  Enjoy!

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Winter Coleslaw

Ingredients:  (Serves 3-4)

  • 400g red cabbage (finely sliced)
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  • 1 apple (finely sliced)
  • 1 endive (finely sliced)
  • Small handful of walnuts
  • Small handful of sultanas (or dried cranberries)
  • 2 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ a lemon (or if you prefer a sweeter coleslaw 2tsp of quince or redcurrant jelly)

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  1. Combine the red cabbage, apple, endive, walnut and sultanas in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl mix together the mayonnaise and the lemon juice stir well, before adding to the other ingredients and stirring in well so that there is an even covering.

Venison and Black Sheep Ale

I made this meal a couple of weeks ago using some of venison that we were given by the local hunt.  When I was last in England I brought back a selection of ciders and ales that I had wanted to try cooking with in various meals and venison cooked slowly in ale was one of the things I had wanted to try.

The venison became beautifully tender and the ale gave the dish a slightly sweet taste.  The one mistake I made when I cooked this dish was that I cut the pieces of potato and Jerusalem artichokes too small, so they broke up during cooking process – in future I will leave the artichokes whole and cut the potatoes into much larger pieces.

 

Venison and Black Sheep Ale

Ingredients:

  • 700g venison (cut into bite sized chunks)
  • 500ml Black Sheep Ale (or equivalent)
  • 3-4 carrots (peeled and cut into chunks)
  • 2 medium potatoes (peeled and cut into large chunks)
  • 8 small Jerusalem artichokes
  • 3-4 baby onions (quartered)
  • 4-5 shallots
  • 6-7 garlic cloves
  • handful of flour
  • beef stock cube
  • sprig of thyme
  • 2oz butter
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2tbsp redcurrant jelly (as needed)

Steps:

1.  Place the sugar, butter, thyme, onions, shallots and garlic in a casserole dish – cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes.

2.  Flour and season the venison, then add to the casserole dish cook for 3-5 minutes on a high heat.

   

3. Add all the other ingredients, except the redcurrant jelly to the casserole dish, stir well and add a little water if necessary to ensure that the meat and vegetables are covered.

4.  Place in the oven and cook at 160C fan for 2-2½hours.

5.  Once cooked remove from the oven, taste and add a little redcurrant jelly as needed.  Enjoy with vegetables of your choice!

Chestnut Cupcakes

A couple of days ago I tried out another idea I had for using fresh chestnuts since we had some sitting in a fruit bowl waiting to be used.  I had been wondering for the last couple of days how they would work in a cake.  So, after preparing my chestnuts, I gave it a go.  The resultant cake was delightfully crumbly and light.  It was much sweeter than I thought it would turn out but was just what I needed after an afternoon spent painting.

The one thing I would say if you do make these cupcakes is make sure there is no husk left on any of the chestnuts before you grind them up as it can make the cupcakes have a slightly gritty texture.  If you can’t find fresh chestnuts then using tinned or vacuum packed chestnuts would be fine.

 

Chestnut Cupcakes

Ingredients: (makes 12)

For the cake:

  • 4oz chestnuts (ground finely – see chestnut preparation)
  • 5oz caster sugar
  • 5oz butter
  • 6oz self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence

For the frosting:

  • 2oz chestnuts (finely ground)
  • 2oz butter
  • ½tsp salt
  • 6-7oz icing sugar

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 170C fan.

2.  Grease and flour a muffin tin or cupcake tin.

3.  Place all of the ingredients for the cake together in a bowl, beat together using an electric whisk for 2-3 minutes.

4.  Spoon the cake batter into the muffin tin.  Place in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes (or until a skewer comes out of the cupcakes cleanly).


    

5.  Run a knife carefully around the sides of the cupcakes then tip them out onto a cooling rack.

6.  Whilst the cupcakes are cooling prepare the frosting.  Combine the butter, chestnuts and salt in a bowl.  Gradually add in the icing sugar stirring continuously until you have a fairly stiff frosting.

7.  Spoon a little of the frosting onto each of the cupcakes and smooth it over using the back of the spoon.  Serve with a cup of tea or coffee.  Enjoy!