Baking, Something fruity, Something sweet

The way to a man’s heart pavlova

This is a luscious Valentine’s dessert. A chocolate pavlova, at the same time crisp and gooey, topped with whipped cream, fruit and chocolate. It’s based on a recipe of Nigella Lawson’s and makes a rather large indulgent dessert for two, which I’m sure she’d approve of.

Start by pre-heating your oven to 175 degrees C / 350 F. To make the meringue separate two free-range eggs and put the whites in a large clean mixing bowl. Beat them until they are glossy and form peaks. Then beat in 100g of caster sugar 1 tbsp at a time until the sugar is all incorporated into the egg whites. Next sprinkle over 1 tbsp cocoa powder and 1/3 tsp balsamic vinegar and fold these in. Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment. Spoon the meringue mixture onto the centre of the baking sheet in a rough heart shape and then with a spoon form into a heart shape and make an indent in the centre with the edges higher than the middle so you can put in your fillings when it’s cooked. Put it on a low shelf in your oven and turn the oven down to 150 degrees C / 175 F and cook for an hour. Then turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven while it cools.

When your meringue is completely cool and you are ready to assemble it beat about 150ml of whipping cream until it’s nice and fluffy. Spoon this into the centre of your meringue heart and spread it out. Then add fruit of your lover’s choice. Nigella uses raspberries, but I used mango, lightly cooked strawberries (as my Valentine prefers them) some sliced banana and a little passion fruit plump. Finally,I sprinkled over some grated plain chocolate. As they say “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!”

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Soups

Black bean soup

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Another recipe to celebrate the UN Year of Pulses, it’s king of a lighter version of a veggie chilli, but still makes a good hearty meal. This will serve 4.

So what do you need?

  • 250g dried black beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2- 3 large chillies
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper corns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 40g / 3 or 4 chunks of plain chocolate (optional)
  • coriander leaves
  • plain yoghurt / sour cream / olive oil

So what do you do?

Start by soaking the beans overnight and then rinse them and put them in a medium-sized thick-bottomed saucepan and cover with fresh water and bring to the boil, you can add a couple of bay leaves to the water and simmer covered for about an hour until the beans begin to soften. (You could use a couple of cans of ready cooked beans if you prefer).

While the beans are cooking but the vegetables up into small pieces, reserve a bit of the onion and pepper / chillies to use to garnish the soup. Dry roast the cumin seeds in a pan and grind them with the peppercorns. Take out the bay leaves and add the vegetables, spices and salt and simmer for about 30 mins until everything is well cooked. The with a potato masher mask the beans up a bit, you want some to break down and thicken the soup and some to remain whole. Add the chocolate (optional) which gives the soup a richer flavor and  simmer for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yoghurt / sour cream or a swirl of olive oil and sprinkle on the remaining onion and pepper / chilli and a few coriander leaves. I served it with warm pitta bread.

If you have any leftover then you can reduce it and use it like refried beans.

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Baking, The Basics

Pitta bread

To make 6 pittas sift 225g flour into a bowl I used 200g of white bread flour and 25g wholemeal flour. Then add 1/2 tsp salt, a tbsp of olive oil, 2 tsp yeast powder and 140ml of warm water mix everything together to form a dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface an knead for about 5 mins. The put it in a bowl and cover with a teatowl or plastic bag and leave for an 0hour. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 200 degrees C / 400 F, if you have a pizza stone put it in the coven to heat up. Then knock it back on the floured surface and divide into six balls. Roll them out so they are about 1/2 cm thick. Put them on a floured baking sheet and cover them with a tea towel and put in a warm place to rise for about 20 – 30 mins to rise then either put them in the oven on the baking tray or transfer to the pizza stone. Cook for about 5 mins until they puff up. Put them on a wire rack cover with a tea towel to cool. Serve while still warm.

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Something fruity, Something sweet

Pancake cake

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This is the perfect cake for Shrove Tuesday. It’s made of layers of pancakes sandwiched together with whipped cream and lemon curd with a drizzle of strawberry and passion fruit compote between each layer. This will make 12 – 16 portions.

I started by making a triple batch of my basic pancake recipe. I put this to one side and made a compote with about 600g strawberries and a pulp of about 10 passion fruit and about 100g sugar. Once this was boiled down and quite thick I left it to cool. Next I started making my pancakes in a 25cm diameter non-stick frying pan see instructions in my pancake recipe. As I made them I piled them up on a plate. The mixture made 14 large pancakes. I left these to cool too.

Next I whipped up about 300ml of whipping cream until it was quite thick and then I whipped in a pot of lemon curd. Then I assembles the cake by putting a pancake on a large plate and then I smeared the cream mixture over it and drizzled on some of the compote. I kept doing this until all the pancakes were used up. I stored it in the fridge until I was ready to serve it and dusted it with icing sugar and decorated it with fresh strawberries.

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Brunch

MLT sandwich

 

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I felt like having a veggie burger for lunch but couldn’t be bothered to make any so decided to have a hearty sandwich instead. I made this MLT (mushroom, lettuce and tomato) sandwich in a few minutes and it hit the spot, a nice substantial sandwich! Grilled king oyster mushrooms are great as if you do them right you will have both crispy and juicy bits.

I sliced two large king oyster mushrooms lengthways and put them on a hot griddle with a little olive oil salt and pepper. They need to be pretty well cooked so a couple of minutes or so on each side. While they were cooking a sliced a couple of pieces of fresh bread and went into the garden and picked some lettuce and tomatoes. I put some Mayo on the bread and some mustard then lay a few lettuce leaves on the bottom slice, then I put on some sliced tomatoes and when the mushrooms were done I lay them on top, I had two layers going in opposite direction which see,ed to help hold the sandwich together. Then I put the other piece of bread on top. So easy and so good!

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Snacks, Thai Food

Crispy wontons

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These make a great snack / appetiser and you can fill them with differnt things depending on your mood. Either more Asian fillings e.g. The spiced pumpkin I used for my Halloween wonton dish or more Western flavours as like these which are filled with mushrooms, spinach and cheese leftover from my savoury pancakes. You don’t need a lot of selling as each wonton needs less than a teaspoon of filling.

I used about a cup or about a quarter of my savoury pancake filling. Take a wonton wrapper and with a pastry brush wet two sides from one corner the put just under a tsp of filling mixture in the triangular area between   The two sides you have wet then fold the wrapper over into a triangle and seal the edges. Next put your finger in the middle and wrap the longer sides round and seal the ends together. Put it on a floured tray and keep going you will be able to make about 30 wontons. Fry them in a wok in hot oil in a couple of batches until crisp and golden brown. Serve them hot with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

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Salads

Pasta salad with roasted veggies

This makes a substantial salad full of goodness. I basically made this with what I had in the fridge, cupboard and garden. So adapt the recipe to use the things you like / have. It makes a perfect (packed) lunch that will keep well for a few days in the fridge.

So what do you need?

  • 250-300g pumpkin flesh (cubed)
  • 250-300g courgettes (cubed)
  • 250-300g mushrooms (chucked)
  • 250-300g cherry tomatoes
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Sprig of rosemary (or a tsp dried mixed herbs)
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 300g pasta bows
  • 150 g green beans (chopped)
  • A can of kidney beans
  • 4 spring onions (chopped)
  • 80g black olives
  • Fresh herbs to garnish (parsley , basil or corriander)
  • Tsp whole grain mustard (optional)
  • Tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)

So what do you do?

Start by preheating your oven to 200 degrees C / 400 F and meanwhile chop up the vegetables. Put the pumpkin, courgette, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in a large roasting pan drizzle a couple of slugs of olive oil. Crush the garlic with a couple of pinches of salt and add this, the rosemary, torn into pieces, and a good grinding of black pepper and put it in the oven. After about 30 mins turn the veg, ther will be quite a bit of liquid from the vegetables cook for another 20 mins, turn again and add most of the spring onions saving some of the green tops to garnish the sale with. Cook for another 5-10 mins until the veg has started to brown a little.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in salted water a few minutes before it’s done add the green bean and when it’s done drain it. Prepare a large mixing bowl  pour in 2-3 slugs of olive oil and mix in the mustard (if you are using it, you could add a tbsp of pesto if you prefer) then tip in the pasta and beans as soon as you’ve drained them and toss them in the oil, this will stop the pasta sticking together.  Add the kidney beans and olives, cut into halves, and mix them in. When the roasted veggies are done mix the in too. Taste it and season as necessary with extra salt or pepper. Allow to cool then put it in a serving bowl or individual bowls and drizzle with the pomegranate molasses (this is sweet and sour so you could use some balsamic vinegar instead) and garnish with the rest of the spring onions and some chopped herbs.

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