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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Poached duck egg / black pudding / grlled portobello mushroom / horseradish cream

Image courtesy of
*part of the sizzling-staffordshire menu series*

This is a wonderful dish, and in combination provides great balance of flavour, texture and general yummyness. I suppose it could be easily attributed to being a breakfast dish, but in the same respect it goes well equally as a light lunch or even as a main course starter.

You will need (per serving):

1 duck egg (large or small its up to you)
1 large portobello mushroom, stallk removed.
1 large round slice of black pudding (roughly 1/2 inch in thickness). if you can only get a smaller one, dont worry. We can rework the arrangement.
1/2 tsp creamed horseradish.
35ml white wine or vermouth.
100ml double or whipping cream.
1/2 tsp chopped chives
1.2 tsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp fresh thyme.
sea salt and black pepper.
2 tbsp white vinegar.

The doing bit:

Combine the herbs in a small bowl and mix. Season the mushroom (top side down) with the salt, pepper and a pinch of the herbs. Add a little oil (no more than 1/4 tsp) and then grill on a moderate heat along side the black pudding until the mushroom is soft to touch, and the black pudding has cooked also.

Add some ater to a saucepan and heat until boiling. add the vinegar and some pepper and turn to a simmer. Add the egg and bring up the heat a little until the egg is poached to desired preference. Remove from the liquor, then allow to dry on a piece of kitchen towel.

For the cream: Heat up the white wine and then add the cream to a pan. Add the horseradish and simmer gently for about 3 mintues until the mixture has thickened.

Assemble as follows: black pudding, mushroom on top then poached egg (in the well where the mushroom stalk was). Serve with a small amount of cream on top of the egg and the rest around. Garnish with the remaining herbs and devour.

Butternut squash & Red Pepper Tartlet / Parsley & Chive dressed salad

image courtesy of
*Part of the sizzling-staffordshire menu series*

This dish is similar to a dish I used to do several years ago when working in a small hotel. Granted back then it was as a main course, in this case it will serve extremely well as a starter or a side dish viable for a light lunch.It uses ingredients that available year round, although seasonally it would be better suited from late autumn to early springtime.That said it is mainly all down to viability, and as a result it can be easily and cheaply produced whenever.

You will need (per tartlet):

1/4 butternut squash, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thickness.
1/2 red pepper, de-cored and trimmed, and sliced into 1/4 inch thickness..
1/2 an apple decored and sliced 1/4 inch thickness(any eating apple will do)
6'' x 2.5 inch pliece of rolled out puff pastry
3 tbsp Seasoned soft white breadcrumbs
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Tbsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tbsp roughly chopped chives
Handful of rocket
tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
cracked black pepper

The doing bit:

In a pan add a little butter and moderately heat until the butter melts. Sear the butternut squash slices with the apple until they are coloured and begin to soften. Remove from the pan and layer on the puff pastry sheet, alternating each slice. Repeat the same for the peppers and also lay evenly onto the tartlet.

In a small bowl mix the breadcrumbs and the parmesan and add a little black pepper. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the top of the tart and place on a baking tray in a moderate oven (180C) until the pastry has risen and golden brown, and the breadcrumbs are of similar colour. Remove from the oven and serve with the salad.

For the salad: In a bowl combine the rocket, chives, and parlsey and dress with the olive oil and lemon juice. season with pepper if necessary.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Wild mushroom / puff pastry / smoked cheese gateaux

image courtesy of frenchforfoodies

Although a bit loose on the definition i suppose in respect this pays homage to both the definition of a geatux and a mille fuille - providing multi"tonal" layers in the form of a gateaux and remaining true to the millefuille aspect with the pastry. If you wish you can substitute melba toast for the pastry in each layer.

It's pretty simple as a dish, suitable for a starter and as a main course or even a halfway measure between the two. The use of a wild mushroom fricasse approach as the filling utilising smoked cheese also gives a wonderful depth of flavour, whilst maintaining armoatic tones from herbs and garlic also. Strictly speaking, in supposition this is definitely a vegetarian dish, but can incorporate meats such as bacon for a base flavour where neccesary.

You will need (per portion):

1 portion mushroom fricasse
1 10cm x 10cm cooked section of puff pastry, cut into 3 layers horizontally (giving you 3 thin slices)
finely chopped parsley and tarragon 1 tsp each.
1tbsp Vinaigrette dressing
1 tsp truffle oil
handful of rocket, for garnish.

The doing bit.

Gently warm the mushroom fricasse in a pan, adding the smoked cheese in the last few minute. We dont want the cheese to melt entirly only to heavily soften and become malleable. In a low heated oven (about 160C ) warm through the pastry layers gently. Brush the pastry with a little butter or milk if requiring further gloss or colouring.

Upon service layer as follows: fricasse / cheese mix, pastry and repeat. Dress the rocket with the vinaigrette and truffle oil and place on top of the stack. Garnish the plate with the fresh herbs and serve.


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mussels in white wine with garlic & shallots / french bread

image courtesy of
*Part of the sizzling staffordshire menu series*

I suppose in retrospect this recipe isnt too dissimilar from the classic "moules marinieres", a french dish comprising mussels steamed in their shell with white wine, garlic and shallots. This recipe uses the sweet elements of vermouth to allow balance with the potential saltiness of the mussels.

You wlll need (serves 4):
3lbs of live mussels, de-bearded and cleaned of barnacles
4 large shallots finely diced
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
tbsp unsalted butter
100ml sweet vermouth, or even sweet cider
tsp fresh thyme finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh sage finely chopped
3 tbsp whipping or double cream
1 large french baguette

The doing bit:

In a large pan saute the onions, and garlic in a little oil until soft, on a moderate heat. add the mussels, butter and herbs, then put a lid on the pan and steam until the shells begin to open. Add the wine and put the lid back on until the mussels have fully opened. Finish with cream and cook without the lid for 30 seconds more.

Discard any mussels that do not open.

Tear a chink of bread, serve mussels into large bowls and devour.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Herb butter (for fish, white meats, sauces and vegetable dishes)

image courtesy of

Another one of the good larder ingredients, this butter provides a wonderful herb element whilst giving a moderate sweetness with the shallot presence. Perfect accompaniment and finishing tool for a variety of sauces, meats, fish, and vegetable dishes.

You will need:

250g salted butter softened
3 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
1 tbsp sage finely chopped
1 tbsp rosemary finely chopped
1 tsp tarragon finely chopped
1 crushed clove of garlic,
1 shallot very finely chopped

The doing bit:

In a saucepan add a small amount of oil then add the shallots and garlic and cook gently until soft. Allow to cool.

Combine all ingredients and mix into uniform paste. Wrap in cling film and form into a sausage shape. Chill until required.

Bara Brith

image courtesy of

Another of my welsh favourites - Barabrith I suppose is more of a cake than a bread, or at least thats what it will lead you to believe when you eat it. This recipe gives rise to both elements and can be presented well as a bread or as something a little sweeter - ideal for elevenses and afternoon tea.

You will need..

12g of Dried yeast (2 tsp)
210ml of lukewarm milk
450g of Bread flour white
75g of Unsalted butter
5g of mixed spice 1 teaspoon heaped
Pinch of salt
50g of Light brown sugar
1 egg beaten
115g of Raisins
115g of Currants
Runney honey to glaze

The doing bit

Activate the yeast by heating the milk  to lukewarm and dissolving the yeast

Rub together the flour and butter

Add mixed spice, salt and light brown sugar

Mix these together

Add the yeast mix and the beaten egg

Make into smooth dough

Add the dried fruit and work the fruit into the dough

Line a bread tin with parchment; place the dough into the tin

Glaze with honey and allow proving for an hour in a warm place. I usually cover the tin with clingfilm to aid the proving.

Bake at 160 for 40 minutes or until knife test comes clean.

Best eaten warm, but if necessary allow to cool and serve appropriately.

Cider & Apple Bread

Image courtesy of

This bread is perfect for the festive season, and provides that fruity sweetness that can be called for in a bread over the festive period. You'll find a number of uses for it, including a great accompaniment to hearty broths and stews, as well as great on its own of for a different twist on sandwiches. The one thins is it brilliant for is toast - and can give added dimension and pleasure with this comforting loaf.

15ml of sunflower oil
2 apples finely chopped
450g of strong white flour
Pinch of salt
tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
20g of easy blend yeast
80g of grated cheese
150ml of dry cider
150ml of warm water

Heat up the oil and sauté off the diced apples

Mix together the flour and salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

Stir in the yeast

Add the water and cider with half the cheese and the apples into the mix

Mix to a smooth dough

Knead for 5 minutes, make into two loaves, slash the tops and cover with the remaining cheese let the dough double in proving.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the hollow sound is given when tapping the bottom.

Soda bread

Image provided courtesy of bbc food

I love soda bread - it provides a means of making bread without yeast, whilst maintaining a buttery flavour by using buttermilk. I suppose soda bread is similar to alot of sourdough breads, which have been in use for over a thousand years. This recipe is simple and enjoyable, and can be prepared quickly. Best of all it is also quite cheap to produce :).

(Makes 1 loaf)

350G plain flour
1 level tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda
Heavy pinch of sea salt
300ml buttermilk

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and fold in the sea salt

Pour in the buttermilk and mix into a smooth dough

Mould into a large round, place on a silicone mat

Score the top into four

Bake at about 180C until golden brown and sounds hollow



Image courtesy of wikipedia

Brioche is one of my favourite breads that provide a wonderfully buttery and sweet flavour which gives way for its use in desserts, as well as application for savoury dishes. I love brioche at breakfast time, as its a lovely conforting start to the day.


15g of quick yeast
70ml of warm milk
Pinch of salt
500g of plain flour
6 eggs
350g of butter, softened
30g of sugar

Fold together the yeast flour and sugar with salt
Add egg, (already beaten)
Mix together to stiff dough
Knead for 10 minutes
Add butter little by little until the dough is glossy
Prove for about one hour
Knock back (knead further); prove in fridge for four hours
Bake for 8 minutes for individual rolls or 40 minutes for large loaf


Image provided courtesy of

Blinis are a wonderful bread that are an excellent accompaniment to all kinds of dishes - they provide a hearty and sturdy texture, whilst remaining light enough to have with lots of other dishes. They go very well with small fish and meat dishes and also provide a good vehilve for vegetarian dishes such as mushroom fricasse and stroganoff. They can also be enjoyed on their own with butter much like muffins and cumpets, and whatever else you can put with them :)

Standard batch (makes about 12-15)


250g of plain flour
250g of Brown flour
3 Egg yolks
3 Egg whites
600ml of Milk
30g of Yeast

Mix the two flours together
Add a pinch of salt
Warm milk and the yeast, once active add the egg yolks
Then add to the flour mix
Leave to prove for two hours in a warm place (but not too warm)
Whisk up the egg whites until stiff
Fold into the mix

Cook on a medium heat in a blini pan, turning when one side becomes solid. once cooked allow to cool, and can be reheated for further enjoyment.

Flax Seed "Foccacia"

I found this recipe online whilst on the hunt for a low calorie, low carb, high fibre bread. On my mission for a healthier lifestyle and cutting carbs, I found that one thing I missed was bread. You know when you get that craving for toast, or just bread in general?

This recipe is wonderfully versatile and is a good vehicle for a variety of flavours. Recently I've taken to adding all kinds to it, inclusive of raspberries and fresh cranberries for a hit of antioxidants and vitamins. You can add pretty much whatever you like to it also, be it oats, seeds (sunflower or pumpkin work well), or even other berries. The bread is rustic in feel and appearance, so anything of that nature will add to its appeal. If you just fancy a herby flatbread feel free to add some of those more robust herbs, sage, rosemary, thyme etc. Go wild.

Here is the recipe, I usually add extra whole flax seed and possibly a handful of oats also.

•2 cups flax seed meal
•1 Tablespoon baking powder
•1 teaspoon salt
•1-2 Tablespoons sugar equivalent from artificial sweetener
•5 beaten eggs
•1/2 cup water
•1/3 cup oil


Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare pan (a 10X15 pan with sides works best) with oiled parchment paper or a silicone mat.

 1) Mix dry ingredients well -- a whisk works well.

 2) Add wet to dry, and combine well. Make sure there aren't obvious strings of egg white hanging out in the batter.

 3) Let batter set for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken up some (leave it too long and it gets past the point where it's easy to spread.)

 4) Pour batter onto pan. Because it's going to tend to mound in the middle, you'll get a more even thickness if you spread it away from the center somewhat, in roughly a rectangle an inch or two from the sides of the pan (you can go all the way to the edge, but it will be thinner).

 5) Bake for about 20 minutes, until it springs back when you touch the top and/or is visibly browning even more than flax already is.

 6) Cool and cut into whatever size slices you want. You don't need a sharp knife; I usually just cut it with a spatula.
 Nutritional Information: Each of 12 servings has less than a gram of effective carbohydrate (.7 grams to be exact) plus 5 grams fiber, 6 grams protein, and 185 calories.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Sage Butter

Image courtesy of anu's healthy kitchen

Another one of the good larder ingredients, this butter provides a wonderful herb element whilst giving a moderate sweetness with the shallot presence. Perfect accompaniment and finishing tool for a variety of sauces, meats, fish, and vegetable dishes.

You will need:

250g salted butter (soft)
4 large shallots (chopped very finely)
tsp brown sugar
10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped.

In a small pan sear the shallots then turn the heat down to very low, and stir occasionally. When the shallots begin to froth a little / release their sugar, add the brown sugar and continue to stir until the sugar has melted and the shallots are glazed. Allow to cool.

In a small bowl combine all ingredients with the shallot mix above until uniform. Wrap in cling film and form to a sausage shape, then chill until required.


Image courtesy of forex online

Hollondaise is one of the sauces (despite being my favourite) that is incredibly useful and versatile, as its buttery texture gives rise to many options of the food world. It goes phenomenally well with fish, eggs, meats and vegetables, and can be used as a master sauce also for many other sauce variants.

This mixture makes a batch of about 3/4 portions. But can be chilled if leftovers occur and used as a very luxurious salad dressing.

You will need:

225g unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
juice of half a lemon
tbsp hot water
Pinch cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

The doing bit:

Melt the butter gently in a pan and leave to cool slightly. The butter will have seperated so we only need the oil section, the milk solids aren't required.

In a bain marie, blend the egg yolks to the water and whisk together until the egg yolks mix begins to expand. Remove bain from the heat and add clarified butter in a steady stream whilst whisking, until texture is uniform.

Add lemon juice and seasoning. Serve

Butternut squash & red pepper soup

With having half a butternut squash left over from this dish 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. We once had this on our xmas menu a while back, and never had any complaints or non empty bowls. I guess it went down well (he smiles).

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.

Pink fish poaching liquor / court bouillon substitute

This poaching liquor is ideal for poaching fish such as trout rainbow trout and salmon etc, providing an elegant base flavour and overtones to flavour and complement the fish perfectly. Its very easy to make and can be frozen in batches for later use if not intended for immediate use.

You will need:

1 Litre of water
1 star anise
1 lemon, quartered
1 handful fresh parsley, stalks included
pinch sea salt
5 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves

The doing bit:

Bring the water to the boil then add the ingredients and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain and use as required.

Lemon Butter (as an accompaniment)

There are all kinds of flavoured butters used in cooking to give a different element or dimension in flavour. This infusion uses elements that are versatile for many different applications, inclusive of fish, green vegetables, white meats such as chicken, turkey or even pork. It can also be used as an alternative means for butter sauce derivatives such as hollondaise where necessary. It can even be used as the base of a sauce such as bechamel when making the roux for said sauce. Used in this manner it makes dishes like lemon veloute alot deeper and developed in flavour.

You will need (makes about 8-10 portions depending on usage):

1 lemon, zested and juiced.
6 tarragon leaves.
Pinch of black pepper
250g salted butter (soft)

The doing bit:

Combine all ingredients above until the a uniform paste. Wrap in cling film in a sausage shape and chill until required. Use as a finishing tool for a variety of meat / vegetable dishes or as a sauce medium (mentioned above).

Spring onion and herb broth / pancetta & parmesan dumplings

Image courtesy of bbc good food.

This dish is perfect for springtime and will serve well as a hearty lunch or as a light evening meal. A complete meal in itself, will bring delight to the palate and satisfyingly filling, with herb inspired overtones providing a light yet fragrant dish.

You will need (serves 2):

For the broth

600ml Vegetable stock (boiling)
1 large clove garlic finely chopped
2 shallots, finely diced
1 bunch / 8 spring onions, very finely chopped
handful of mix of fresh parsley, tarragon, sage and basil, finely chopped
Teaspoon of arrowroot powder

For the dumplings:

6 Gyoza wrappers
4 slices pancetta, finely chopped
thumb sized piece of parmesan, finely grated
1/5 of the herb bouqet mentioned in the broth section
Thumbnail sized piece of butter.
1/4 tablespoon black pepper

The doing bit:

Make the dumplings first.

Mix the pepper, pancetta, parmesan, butter and herbs together in a small bowl.
Take a gyoza wrapper and add a teaspoon sized mixture of the above, and then close each wrapper and seal the edges with a little water. Set to one side.

For the broth, sautee in a saucepan the shallots until soft, add the spring onions until they turn bright green, then add the herbs and the stock. Bring to the boil.Wet down the arrowroot with a little cold water and work to a thin paste and add to the broth. Allow to cook for 2 minutes then the broth is ready to use.

In a large frying pan, add a little oil then sear the dumplings until coloured each side. Place lid on pan then turn off the heat, adding a little of the broth to the pan. Allow to stand for 2 minutes then serve in a large bowl with the broth.