Holidays….

Scarborough 2 Anna May Everyday

No recipe this week I’m afraid, we are away and I am eating, eating, eating – all in the name of research you understand.

If you need some Easter treats, try my last recipe Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondants, really, who is going to say no to one of those?  Or maybe the Chocolate and Amaretti Spelt Cakes, April 2013 – the healthy spelt completely offsetting the chocolate of course!

Whatever you are doing, enjoy Easter and I will be back soon with masses of ideas for fabulous things to eat.

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondants

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant

I love a good chocolate fondant and wasn’t convinced there was any need to gild the lily but this salted caramel idea just wouldn’t go away and I knew I had to have a go at making it.  Just out of interest you understand…….  So this is the pudding I teased you with around Valentine’s and I thought it would be perfect for Mothering Sunday should you still be without a pudding or as an early Easter treat.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 3

These puddings are sublime, honestly beyond fabulous.  A crisp chocolate outer gives way to a soft chocolate pudding containing molten caramel sauce within.  They are so good.  Surprisingly they also very easy to make and sit happily in the fridge until you want to cook them.  As long as the oven is at 200 and you cook them for exactly 12 minutes they will be perfect.   I am no expert baker but if I can do them then anyone can.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 4

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondants

I am all for quick and easy and although these puds fit that bill you will need to make the caramel ahead of time so it can set firm.  This only takes a few hours but I made it a day ahead so I could forget about it.  You can also make the puddings the day ahead and keep in the fridge.  If you remember put the caramel in the freezer when you start making the puddings just to give them an extra chill – this keeps the sauce together rather than it melting straight into the puddings.  Miss the salt out if you think you or your children would prefer Caramel Chocolate Fondants.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons double cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sea salt

85g butter, plus a little extra for greasing

85g chocolate, I used 50/50 dark and milk

85g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon cocoa

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon coffee

45g plain flour

Pinch of salt

Heat the butter, sugar and cream in a pan and let it simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and a good pinch of salt.  When it is cold enough to taste try it, you may want more salt then put this caramel in a small bowl in the fridge to set.  Grease 4 metal pudding tins with the melted butter then dust each one with cocoa.  Put in the fridge until you need them.   Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale, frothy and at least doubled in volume.  Mix the chocolate mixture into the eggs, add the coffee and then gently fold in the flour along with a pinch of salt.   Half fill each greased tin with the chocolate mixture then add a teaspoonful of the cold caramel, it may sink a bit but don’t worry.  Pour the remaining mix over the caramel to fill the tins.  Put the puddings into the fridge for at least half an hour whilst you preheat the oven to 200.  Cook the puddings for exactly 12 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn out onto plates and serve with cream or ice cream.  This makes  four but it is up to you how many it serves…..

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 2

 

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Mint Chocolate Drops

Mint Chocolate Drops

Chocolate and Mint is a match (Matchstick) made in heaven, a truly great combination.  For as long as I can remember I have loved that marriage of fresh, clean, cool mint and rich, smooth melty chocolate.  From After Eights liberated on the quiet from their box in the dining room to that crazy Ice Breaker of the 70′s – ludicrously sharp little peppermint shards incased in chocolate – remember that one?  I loved the look of Bendicts Bittermints and though I tried them regularly, desperate to enjoy their sophistication, the super bitter dark chocolate proved an effective barrier between the young me and the soft mint patty within.  Fry’s Peppermint Cream, Mintolas and Mint Aero – don’t believe I’ve ever turned my nose up at any of the above.  Continuing the theme, my parents even had a bottle of Royal Mint Chocolate Liquer – very racy.

So I thought I’d make my own and could it be any easier?  Melt some chocolate, add a little peppermint extract, drop spoonfuls on parchment, let it cool.

Can that be called a recipe?  No, honestly it is just too ridiculously simple but that is pretty much it.  My children love making (and eating) these and they are superb as a present when you go to someone’s house for lunch or supper.  Fun to make during the Easter holidays or afterwards if you need something to do with the surfeit of chocolate that often lingers after the children have gone back to school.

Finally, if like me you have given up chocolate for Lent, I suggest you stockpile some of these, then set your alarm early on Easter Day and tuck in.

Mint Chocolate Drops 2

Mint Chocolate Drops

I use a combination of milk and plain chocolate as that is what we prefer either in the ratio of 50/50 which the children like or 70 plain 30 milk if you want something a little darker and more bitter to serve after dinner.  All plain chocolate is too bitter for me but, as ever, it is up to you.

For every 65g of chocolate use 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract

Melt the chocolate with the peppermint.  I do this in a bowl over barely simmering water but I believe a microwave is an even better way to melt chocolate (I don’t have one).  Either way do it very gently so the chocolate doesn’t seize.  Drop teaspoonfuls onto parchment and leave to cool.   Don’t put it in the fridge as this makes the chocolate go a little dull.  This amount of chocolate yields about 10 drops.

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Lemon Posset

Lemon Posset

Out for a walk one morning last week there were signs of Spring everywhere.  Catkins and pussy willow, primroses, tiny wobbly lambs, the first shoots heralding the wild garlic and even some weeny tadpoles.  There is still a nip in the air, the sort that whilst fresh and invigorating to breathe in still makes you wish you’d worn a hat.  Anyway, it was glorious to be out and about and it got me thinking about lemons.  Of course, lemons.

Now I know that however good the Spring weather here we are unlikely to be surrounded by lemon groves anytime soon but there is something about their zesty, fresh sharpness than is perfect for Spring.  Awakening tired tastebuds which have been spoilt with rich stews and hearty puddings and paving the way for the abundance of crisp, green salad leaves that is Summer.

I must confess to always having lemons in the larder, I know we don’t grow them here but they are an essential in my kitchen and barely a day goes by without the squeezing of a lemon.

Lemon Posset 2

This pudding then is the very essence of Spring.  Retaining a little richness to bolster against the cold but with enough zip and zing to put a spring in your step.  Unbelievably easy, simply a combination of three ingredients which, through some culinary alchemy produce this creamy treat.  I like to serve it with some little crisp biscuits, perhaps the vanilla ones in Biscuits du Jour (November 2012).  These possets would make a great pud after last weeks’ Chicken with Peppers and Onions, and what an easy supper that would be.

Lemon Possets

450ml double cream

100g golden caster sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Put the cream, sugar and lemon juice into a pan.  Heat to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil, simmer gently for 3 minutes then pour into 6 x 100ml ramekins or glasses and leave to set.  Serve with crunchy little biscuits.

Lemon Posset 3

 

By the way these are neither too rich nor too sharp for children, my two hovered around whilst I was taking these pictures and happily scoffed one each.

 

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Chicken with Peppers and Onions

Chicken with peppers

I look through cook books and magazines checking out the new recipes or twists on classics and whilst I love some of the ideas and promise myself I will try this or that, what I really want is a simple idea for supper.  What to cook for supper.  How many times do you ask yourself that in a week?  Well presumably 7 but add to that some children’s teas or a supper party for friends and it become a highly repetitive question.  What I would rather not have however, is highly repetitive suppers – you know, chicken on Mondays, sausages on Tuesdays etc.

So we need more supper dishes.  Something stress free that won’t demand too much attention or time at the end of the day, won’t break the bank and is properly lip smacking delicious.

This then, ticks all those boxes.  A few ingredients bunged in a pan and roasted in the oven.  What a testimony to the sum being so much greater than the parts.  Crispy skin on the chicken, soft sweet peppers and onions with a winey sauce that is nothing short of divine.  This cooks itself whilst you pour yourself a glass of wine and get on with something else, or better still, with nothing at all.

Chicken with Peppers and Onions

I serve this with something green, usually wilted spinach or green beans and new or waxy potatoes, roasted in the oven at the same time as the chicken.  It’s a great, easy, weekday supper but also something I would happily serve to friends.  You can up the amount of chilli flakes if you like, I usually leave them out if the children are eating this with us.

2 medium onions, peeled and cut into sixths

1 large pepper, red, orange or yellow, cut into slices

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 desertspoon olive oil

2 chicken legs (or 4 chicken thighs in which case reduce the cooking time a little)

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)

100ml white wine

Fresh parsley or oregano, a small handful chopped

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the onion, pepper and garlic in a baking pan and turn in the olive oil.  Put the chicken legs on top, give it a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and the chilli flakes if using.  Cook in the oven for 30 minutes then pour in the wine and give it a further 15 minutes.  If your chicken legs are large you may need a little more time.  When the chicken is bronzed and cooked and the vegetables soft remove from the oven, sprinkle over the herbs.  Serves 2 but easily double or tripled.

Chicken with peppers 2

For some other fab supper ideas try Claypot Chicken (May 2013 and no, you don’t need a clay pot) which still reigns supreme in top spot.  Nipping at its heels though is Chicken with Harissa (October 2012)…. one of my very early recipes and one still without a photograph I’m afraid but well worth a try.

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Girls’ Night In

Chilli

Some years ago, before marriage and children, a girl’s nights in seemed to be a fairly frequent occurrence and enormous fun.  Different in those days though when, to be frank, a couple of bottles of wine, a packet of cigarettes and a video (remember those) of Take That Live made for a belting evening with the girls.  You know who you are!

These days however, finding a free evening is a different ball game.  Children need ferrying from one after school activity to another and there is a husband to be fed.   The girlfriends from those heady, single gal days are now dotted around the World rather than living just down the road and the Take That video looks like a sad relic next to all the dvds.

So I was particularly pleased when a couple of Dorset friends suggested coming over for wine, movies, popcorn and ice cream.   We are going to kick off with frozen raspberry daiquiris, a grown up slush puppy.  I persuade myself that the lime juice and berries go some way towards off setting the rum and the fabulous bright zingy pink seems a suitably girly start.  Then chilli – perfect fork food to eat in front of a film, spicy and warming.  Rich with tomatoes, earthy cumin and a good blast of heat from the chilli and cayenne.  Alongside I will offer the essential sour cream, grated cheddar, extra chillies and home made tortilla chips.  For pudding I have good vanilla ice cream in the freezer and the wherewithal for either hot chocolate sauce or salted caramel sauce depending on our mood.

All that remains is to decide whether it will be a “no one puts Baby in the corner”, “Goose, you big stud” or “Kevin, I think I broke your shower” evening…..

Chilli and dvds

Chilli

There are probably hundred of recipes for Chilli but this is how I make it.  You can go the cubed beef or mince route – I use mince just because that is what I have always done and a little nostalgia is not a bad thing on a Girls’ night.   For the tortilla chips, I buy regular tortillas and cut them into 6 or 8, brush lightly with oil, sprinkle with a little salt and bake at 200 for about 5 minutes or until crisp.  They are just right with the chilli but you could serve rice too.  You can cook this ahead of time or the day before.

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

1 yellow, red or orange pepper, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

400g beef mince

2 heaped teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 – 1/2 cayenne pepper (I do a 1/4 if serving to children, 1/2+ for adults)

250ml red wine

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Chopped parsley or coriander, whichever you prefer

Preheat the oven to 150.  Heat the oil in a large pan and soften the onions and pepper for about 10 minutes until soft.  Add the garlic followed by the mince and cook, stirring, until brown.   Add the cumin, salt, cayenne and a generous amount of black pepper, then the tomatoes, puree, ketchup and wine.  Give it a good stir, bring to a simmer, put on the lid and cook in the oven for an hour, add the kidney beans and cook for a further hour.  Check for seasoning, sprinkle over the parsley or coriander and serve with whichever accompaniments you choose.  Enough for 4 with rice.

 

 

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Onion Tarte Tatin with Blue Cheese

Onion and blue cheese tart

I was going to give you a fabulous pudding  this week, Chocolate Fondant with Salted Caramel anyone?  However, this being Valentine’s week I thought everyone would be awash with chocolate puddings so I’ve decided to go savoury.   Melty caramelised onions, both sweet and salty with a hint of cider vinegar and thyme topped (or bottomed) with crispy flaky puff pastry, followed by tangy blue cheese, what is not to like.  I’d be delighted to eat this a deux but you could also cut it into four and along with a little dressed rocket or watercress it would be a stella starter.

Onion and blue cheese tart 2

Onion Tarte Tatin with Blue Cheese

3 onions (roughly tennis ball size), peeled and quartered

2 teaspoons butter

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

Salt and Pepper

Puff pastry, I used ready rolled cut to the size of my pan, about 1/3 of a packet

50g of blue cheese, St Agur, Dorset Blue Vinney or similar

Preheat the oven to 200.  You will need a frying pan that can go on the hob and in the oven, I used a 20cm le Creuset.  Cut out your circle of pastry just smaller that the circumference of the pan.  Melt the oil and butter in the pan and add the onions.  Cook for 15-20 minutes until the onions are softening and getting a little bronzed.  Add the sugar, thyme and vinegar along with some salt and pepper and turn the onions carefully.  Ideally you want them to remain in their quarters but some will fall apart, it doesn’t matter.   Take off the heat and lay the pastry circle over the top of the onions, tucking the edges in.  Put in the oven for 30 minutes but check after about 20 and if the pastry is getting too dark cover with foil.  When the time is up, very carefully put a plate over the tart (still in its pan) and then invert the whole thing.  As soon as it is out of the oven crumble the blue cheese over it so that it starts to melt.  Serves 2 or 4 and is perfect with a dressed green salad.

Onion and blue cheese tart 3

 

 

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Blood Orange, Beetroot and Feta Salad

Blood orange and beetroot salad

We are blessed with a fabulous farm shop just down the road and I find myself there often.  This point was proved, rather tellingly, the other day when my husband went in to collect “an order for Anna” to be told “oh yes I know her, she is in here all the time….”..

I do shop there a lot.  Since foxy got our chickens, the next best thing is to see those at Washingpool strutting, pecking and buy their spanking fresh eggs.  When I can’t be bothered to make bread, theirs is marvellous and when I want tip top, super-fresh fruit and veg that haven’t clocked up air miles I go there.  The problem is that I usually come out with more than I went in for.  Faced with amazing produce I am helpless and unable to resist.  So it was this week when I chanced upon fat globes of beetroot still with their frilly green and pink leaves (perfect in a stir fry) and one of my absolute seasonal favourites, blood oranges.

Once home I decided I wanted to combine the sharp juiciness of the oranges with the sweet earthiness of the beetroot.  I added a little spring onion and rocket for peppery bite and some soft salty feta.  It was a delicious lunch.

Blood Orange, Beetroot and Feta Salad

This is how I made the salad you see, it was enough for one but can easily be doubled or tripled.

1 cooked beetroot, peeled and cut into 8

1 blood orange, peeled and segmented

A handful of rocket

1 spring onion, finely chopped

About 25g feta

2 teaspoons rapeseed oil

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Mix the oil and vinegar in a small bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.  Put the beetroot, blood orange, spring onion and rocket on a plate, drizzle over the dressing then add the feta at the last minute so it doesn’t all turn Barbie pink.

Blood Orange and Iced Tea Granita 3

For an unbelievable refreshing light pudding after this seasons hearty, cosy stews try my Blood Orange Granita (February 2013) show here in front of another crisp, cleansing number, Iced Tea Granita (July 2013).

Blood oranges

A final point, why have supermarkets started calling Blood Oranges Blush Oranges….?

 

 

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Golden Syrup Sponge Puddings

Golden Syrup Sponge

I have avoided making steam puddings because despite finding them irresistible, the whole steaming for hours thing makes me nervous.  Recipes that implore me to keep the water in the pan at a certain level throughout or the pudding may explode make me want to turn the page.  Anything, other than a small child, that requires such focused and constant attention is not for me.  As such I have felt a whole range of  rib sticking treats out of reach unless I want to consider immediate redecoration due to wallpaper peeling from walls because of the steam (no I don’t have wallpaper in my kitchen but it is an image I am unable to shake from my mind) or the afore mentioned explosion and subsequent plastering of sticky dough to the ceiling and walls.

Somewhere along the line though I had heard or read of steaming puddings in the oven and had been meaning to try this for ages.   I regularly tear recipes from magazines and have stacks of these torn out pages waiting to be tried.  Of course, when I tried to find the bit of paper I wanted it was nowhere to be found (nor the beetroot, chocolate and yogurt cake which had been on my to do list for some months but more of that another time) so I had to experiment.

This is the result and I can’t convey to you how utterly delighted I am with it.  These puddings are a doodle to make, happily transform themselves in the oven and require no attention or subsequent redecoration.  They are unbelievably light and fluffy whilst still delivering that lip smacking golden syrup heavenly hit.    We had these for lunch on Sunday and were all literally a second away from licking the plates.

If there was ever a recipe to cheer up a cold, dreary and rain sodden January this is it.

Golden Syrup Sponge 2

Golden Syrup Sponge Puddings

I used 150ml metal pudding moulds and ramekins and they both worked very well.  Incidentally I reheated the two that were left in a pan of simmering water for five minutes the next day and they were still perfect.   Serve with cold cream or ice cream (or both).

120g soft butter

100g caster sugar

120g self-raising flour

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

2 tablespoons milk

Pinch of salt

6 tablespoons of golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 180 and butter 6 moulds or ramekins then put a tablespoon of golden syrup in the bottom of each one.  You will also need 6 pieces of tin foil big enough to loosely cover the puddings.   Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, add the eggs one at a time with a little flour and mix well followed by the remaining flour and salt.  Add the vanilla and milk and incorporate it.  Divide the mixture between the moulds and then cover with the prepared tin foil, fix it loosely so they have room to rise a little.  Put into a baking tray, pour in boiling water to half way up the ramekins or moulds and bake for 40 minutes.  When done, run a knife around the edge of the puddings and turn out onto a plate being careful not to spill any of the hot runny syrup or burn yourself with it.  Serves 6.

Golden Syrup Sponge 3

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My Favourite Green Salad

Green Salad 1

Happy New Year!  Are you looking for something fresh, green and crunchy? After the Christmas cake which I ate almost entirely myself I know I am.  I love salads all year round and eat them in one form or other several days a week.   However right now my craving knows no bounds.   After what feels like weeks of rain the sun is out and the sky is blue.  Tom and I went for a fabulous walk up beautiful Lewesdon Hill this morning and following a  hose down (Tom, not me) I felt like something healthy, raw (mostly) and fresh to eat.

This is the sort of salad we often have for a weekday lunch, perhaps with the addition of a few chunks of feta, maybe with soup if it is chilly or just good bread.  Whatever the weather we often have this for a weekend lunch alongside a roast chicken, my children invariably picking out the bits they like best.  It makes a lovely change from the usual roast with vegetables and feels a bit lighter – without losing out on the gorgeous golden roast chook.  Perfect with a steak for supper, no need for chips because of the croutons and it is just the thing with any barbecued meat (I know, I know, barely a sign of Spring outside and I am already talking barbecues, I can’t help myself).

Green Salad 4

I suspect you may have spotted the croutons so I must state that this is not diet food per se but it is so delicious, crisp and clean that I would certainly term it healthy.  Whatever, this is the green salad I turn to most often and usually have the ingredients in my fridge. No spring onions or avocado?  No matter, use what you have or what you like best.   This is enough for my lunch just as it is, the croutons, seeds and avocado giving it substance but as ever, it is just a guideline, an idea to share.

My Green Salad

4 slices of baguette or similar, cubed  (a little stale is fine)

1 tablespoon oil

1 small clove garlic, crushed or very finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons oil (I use 2 of good extra virgin olive oil and one of a plain oil)

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pine kernels

1 little gem

A handful of baby spinach

A handful of rocket

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 avocado, peeled and cubed

Small chunk of cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped

Chives, a small handful (parsley, mint or oregano work well or a combination of any)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Turn the cubes of bread in the tablespoon of oil, put in a small tin and bake for 5 minutes until golden, then sprinkle with a little salt.   In a small bowl mix the garlic, sugar, mustard, lemon juice a good pinch of salt and some black pepper.  Slowly add the 3 tablespoons of oil mixing well until emulsified.  In a small frying pan heat the seeds until just turning golden.   Cut up the little gem put it into a large salad bowl with the spinach, rocket and avocado.  Add most of the dressing and toss the salad, you may not need it all but I find this amount just right.  Scatter over the croutons and seeds and trickle over the rest of the dressing if you want.  Snip the chives or other herbs over the top.  Serves 2 for lunch or 2 adults and  2 children as a side dish.

If you are looking for more healthy New Years’ crunch, try my carrot salad which I posted in January 2013.

 

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