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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Butternut Squash & Red Pepper Soup

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With having half a butternut squash left over it seemed foolish to waste it, so I decided that i was going to make this wonderful soup that provides aromatic tones and sweetness - as well as a hearty small meal ideal for winter lunches or evening starters.

You will need

1 red pepper (cut into 1cm pieces)
1/2 butternut squash (cut into same size as peppers)
250 ml milk
vegetable or chicken stock cube
pinch cinnamon
2 cloves
1 small red onion (top and root cut off and scored)
pinch nutmeg or mace
dash white wine
salt and pepper for seasoning.


In a heavy bottomed pan on low heat, put in the pepper and the squash and the cinnamon. Add a little olive oil if youre worried about it sticking but i like to leave it out. Its up to you. Put the lid on the pan and keep it stirred every few minutes. we're aiming to get the most sweetness out of the squash and pepper so longer is better.

In a seperate pan add the milk, scored onion, nutmeg and cloves and bring to temperature on a low heat while the peppers and squash are fettling nicely.

When the squash has begun to soften (and turning to mush), keep stirring then add the white wine. Cook out for a few minutes, then add the milk infusion (strained) keep the onion though, and add it to the mix. Turn the heat up a little and allow our soup to come to a tempered simmer. add the stock cube (crumbled) and stir in, if the mix is a bit too tight feel free to add water - if it gets too thin it can always reduce and enhance flavour.

Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally, tasting each time. Season with salt and pepper where neccesary and blend.

Serve, and devour.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Grilled Asparagus with Poached Egg & Caesar Dressing

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I absoloutely adore asparagus. Its one vegetable that from a flavour perspective isnt too invasive, and because of its mild nature it goes very well with lots of things successfully. Due to the immense buying power of supermarkets asparagus is available year round nowadays, and although i abhore the idea of using things out of season i cant complain too much about it being available as i'm immensely fond of it.

As a starter or even a breakfast (which is where i normally devour asparagus) it is very good, and nutritionally its almost a superfood. It is very rich in vitamins, fibre and a certain amount of protein. Its also good for your liver and kidneys too. Its the favoured vegetable of many dieters for this reason, and is one of the few things that can be enjoyed on a low carb diet also.

The use of caesar dressing in place of hollondaise traditionally gives a nice edge and a variation for this dish. If you want to make your own caesar dressing you can find one here.


6 Asparagus spears
White wine vinegar
1 egg (you can use a ducks egg if you want an extra treat)
35ml caesar dressing.
Parmesan shavings
Black Pepper
Chopped parsley
Olive oil


In a saucepan bring water, agood helping of black pepper and about 4tbsp white wine vinegar to the boil. Turn down to a simmer once boiling. Well add the egg when were almost ready

Trim the bottom section of the asparagus spears as these aren't easy to eat. You can keep them to one side and freeze them like i do in saving them for some asparagus soup. Its up to you.

Heat up a griddle pan or heavy bottomed frying pan. Add the olive oil and then the asparagus. When coloured on one side, turn them over and allow to colour in a similar fashion. When you've turned them over once turn up the heat on your poaching pan and add the egg. Turn the heat down on the poaching pan to a moderate heat. When your asparagus is coloured the other side, your egg should be ready.If not to preferred level of cooking turn the heat off the asparagus pan and allow to rest and keep warm whilst your egg finishes.

Remove asparagus and plate it. add the egg atop the asparagus and finish with parsley black pepper and chopped parlsey. Bon Apetit!

Wild mushroom fricasse on blini with tarragon & parmesan shavings

This recipe is quite earthy but very hearty and enjoyable. Its just enough for a starter - any more and i think it may be too much. The use of blini provides a hearty base, the mushrooms hearty flavour and the presence of tarragon amidst the parmesan give added punch.

In the absence of blinis you are welcome to use english muffins, potato cakes or even crumpets.


Serves 4

4 Blinis (recipe can be found here)
250g Large Onion, finely chopped
250g of Wild Mushrooms, trimmed
250g of Button Mushrooms
100ml of White Wine
125ml of Double Cream
125ml of Dry Sherry Reduced by 2/3
10g of Chopped Tarragon
Parmesan shavings to taste


Sauté off the onion with the mushrooms till tender, add the wine and cream and reduce till thick add the sherry and reduce till a thick coating consistence

Serve on top of warmed blini, and finish with chopped tarragon and parmesan shavings. further season with black pepper if required.


Dauphine Potatoes (Pommes Dauphine)

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Dauphine are the higher ranking of potato dishes in my view, simply because they taste so delicious. They are easy to make and devilishly indulgent. They can also be cooked in a variety of ways. I favour baking them, but the traditional means is to deep fry them. I guess its all down to preference.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Chicken stock / vegetable stock to cook potatoes (enough to cover them)

1 1/2 pounds of baking potatoes. Maris piper, russet etc will do fine. the general rule is 1 potato per serving (ish).
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 teaspoon salt
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
vegetable oil for deep-frying the potatoes (or for glazing an oven tray)
coarse salt for sprinkling the croquettes if desired

Peel and chop the potatoes into 3/4 in cubes and bring to boil then simmer int he chicken stock until they begin to fall. Strain, keeping the stock, then using a heavy whisk pound them into mash.

In a seperate pan with the left over stock, divide by half, then bring to the boil. Add the butter, then when melted add flour at once whisking vigourously, then add the eggs one by one (as if to make shoux pastry). When the eggs are added turn off the heat but keep whisking. Add the mash and seasoning and using heavy whisk make into uniform paste.

At this point you can add any additions that you thinkw ill complement your dish such as parmesan, almonds, herbs, or even red onion marmalade..

Allow to cool then divide into dumpling sizes. coat in flour / egg then bread crumbs. I prefer to pipe the mix while still warm and bake in this fashion (minus the breadcrumbs). Its entirely up to you.

Deep fry, or sear in a pan then cook in the oven. You'll find them incredibly delightful.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Red Onion Marmalade

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This recipe gives a wonderful accompaniment to so many dishes, and is a wonderful ingredient for so many more. It can be used as a shorctut to red wine sauce and similar, used as a glazing ingredient for roast meats, or just on its own with meats, pates, and cheeses or even on sandwiches.

Ive made a batch of this recently and am going to give it away to lucky people as xmas gifts, which im sure will be well received. Once tried, never forgotten

It does however take some time to make. But don't be put off by that - the wait is very much well worth it. The only downside to this dish is the potential crying session in preparation due to the onions.

You will need:

1.5k of red onions thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced.
Heavy pinch of rock salt
5 bay leaf
Half a handful of rubbed thyme & rosemary
Black pepper
120g of soft brown sugar
80ml of wine vinegar
2 table spoons of dry sherry
400ml of red wine
100ml of port
120g of pitted chopped prunes

Add onions to the pan e to begin with on a low heat, stirring occasionally. They should soften nicely and when they begin to stick slightly, it shows the sugar is releasing from the onions. At this point add the vinegar, sherry salt, and sugar. When the liquid has turned to a syrup, add the herbs, garlic, bay leaves  and prunes and the wine. Simmer stirring occasionally for 2-3 hours.

Allow to cool & store in a kilner jar. Keeps for up to 2 months dry, or longer refrigerated.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Rosemary & Apricot Stuffing

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I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to stuffing, in that if its not inside meat or fish or vegetables then its not really a stuffing. For me its meant to be inside whatever its stuffing so that it can add to and absorb the flavours of the carrier. That said I am amenable enough to appreciate that people serve it on the side as less of a fuss and bother in preparation. I suppose ultimately its all down to preference.

Composed at the request of "jaffacake" this rosemary and apricot stuffing recipe works well for pork and lamb alike, with all sections of the pig / lamb applicable such as leg, shoulder, loin or fillet.

It can also serve as a good filling / padding for meatloaf if you come across some cheap lamb or pork mince, which is good especially during the winter months as its hearty, filling and full of flavour and uses robust winter herbs.


1/2 pint sweet cider or apple juice
2 eggs (beaten)
150 g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 clove crushed garlic
200 g smoked bacon (streaky is best for flavour and cheapest) chopped to roughly the size of your onions and celery)
150 g dried ready-to-eat apricots, roughly chopped
Good handful of fresh rosemary & thyme. Add some sage if youre feeling fruity.
Coarse Grain Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
zest 1 small orange
pinch nutmeg
about 5 slices of brown or wholemeal bread toasted, and food processed into breadcrumbs

Saute bacon,onions, garlic and celery in a pan until soft and a little colour added

Combine all ingredients with breadcrumbs in a bowl, melt the butter and add until unifom mixture is reached.

Wrap mixture tightly in clingfilm into a sausage shape, tying both ends then steam for about an hour until fully cooked (firm to the touch).

slice into pieces and reheat as neccessary. Devour.