Saturday, March 24, 2012

Off to England!!

I'm off to England tomorrow at the crack of dawn!!  I just can't wait to smell the English air, go for a long walk in a misty, muddy field and drop into the local pub.  I'm off on my own, leaving the family for a week to fend for themselves.  They're rather put out, they love England too I'm happy to say, but this is my time with my mum!

See you in a week and happy cooking!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Moroccan Roast Chicken

I'm not entirely sure why this is "Moroccan" roast chicken - I suppose because of the spices, they seem to have a North African vibe.  This was a hit with the family and a favorite of mine, it's an easy one pot meal, which can be prepared in advance and requires no special fiddling around - or skill of course!

1, 4-6lb chicken, cut into pieces, skin on, bone in.
4 lemons, quartered
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2, 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained
2 red peppers, cut into thick strips, seeds removed
1/2 bottle of white wine
Fresh parsley

For the spice rub.

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon harissa spice
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoon coriander
Zest of a lemon
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 425F

Make spice rub.  Pour the olive oil into a small bowl.  Add the Harissa Spice, cumin, minced parsley, salt and pepper, lemon zest and coriander.  Rub this liberally over the chicken skin.

If you are organized and have time, marinate this for an hour or so.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan, add the chick peas, onions, red pepper, parsley, olives and lemons.

Pour over the white wine.  Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour and and chicken is beautifully golden.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving platter, squeeze the juice from the roasted lemons over the chicken.  

Cover and let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with more fresh parsley and serve.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Egg Sandwich My Way!

Yes, I ate this for breakfast.  I had to go for a long walk afterwards.  It was glorious.  Of course I really made it for the girls - you know, to give them a good start to the day - get them off on the right foot - they liked it a lot.  I went overboard but why not - don't you need something to get you started on Monday morning? 

Adjust amounts to appetite and mouths;

Baby spinach
Grated cheese

These are actually quick to make, much quicker (and better) than jumping in the car to go to the MacDonald's drive through.  There's no real recipe just;

Put on the bacon,

While that's sizzling, poach the eggs in a pan of water with a splash of white vinegar.  When they're how you like them, remove them with a slotted spoon and leave to drain for a minute or two.

Put your muffin in the toaster.

When the bacon's done, chop it up, then throw in a couple of handfuls of baby spinach and a few slices of tomato into the hot bacon fat (yum) and heat through.

Grate some of your favorite cheese.

Assemble your muffin. 

Serve with some serious coffee and start the week in the right frame of mind. 

Here's where I walked the dog, beautiful isn't it!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Apple Tart for Mothering Sunday

Living on the other side of the Atlantic from your mother can, at times, set you up for disaster.  Mothering Sunday, or Mother's Day as it's known in the US is one such example.  It falls on different days, this year in the UK it's today - in the US it's sometime in May.  I'm afraid I've "forgotten" too many times over the years as it's simply off my radar screen.  This year I was determind not too. 

If I lived down the road from my mum, this is what I'd make her for Mothering Sunday (I'm sure I'd throw in a roast chicken for good measure).  Even though my mum wasn't here to eat it, it didn't go to waste - my husband ate three quarters of it standing up at the counter and my eldest daughter polished off the rest on the way out of the door. 

It's not a difficult tart and the pastry need not be a fiddle!


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
4 oz unsalted COLD butter, cubed
1/2 cup iced water

Apple filling;

Peel, core and slice about 4-6 apples, depending on their size. I used small apples which I cut in half, cored and then sliced.

2 tablespoons brown suger

2 - 3 teaspoons cinnamon

Juice of half a lemon

1-2 tablespoons butter

For the glaze;

1/4 cup apricot preserves and 1 tablespoon water

To make the pastry, place the flour and salt into a food processor and "pulse" 10-15 times.

Add the butter down the funnel and pulse again until you are left with a mixture like large breadcrumbs.

Add the egg yolk and water and process until the mixture just comes together.

Dump the mixture out onto a couple of sheets of plastic wrap, wrap up and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest.

Meanwhile, prepare the apples.

Peel, core and half them, then slice them thinly.  Place in a bowl, toss with the lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll the pastry out and line a 10 inch tart pan.  Arrange the apple slices in a pretty pattern, add as many as you can.  Dot with butter and place in the oven at 425F or 10 minutes.  Then turn down the temperature to 400F for a further 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are cooked through.

Remove from the oven and make the glaze.  Place the apricot preserves and water into a small saucepan and heat until the preserves have melted.  Mix thoroughly, brush the glaze onto the tart with a pastry brush (I found I didn't actually have one and used my one of my daughter's large paint brushes!)

Stand back to avoid the stampede.

Happy Mothering Sunday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sneak Peek Easter Rack of Lamb

I realize I'm jumping the gun a little, but they were on sale you see and when I got them home I just couldn't bear to put them in the freezer.  The crust really crisped up nicely and I can only say these were devoured.  Poor little lamb.  Rack of lamb is the easiest cut to roast, you really can't go wrong with this :)

Rack of Lamb with a Herb Crust.
2 racks of lamb, fat trimmed.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Zest of a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
1 cup of dried breadcrumbs
4-6 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oven to 425F

Trim the fat from the lamb and set aside.

Mix the mustard together with the lemon zest, juice, rosemary, salt and pepper and breadcrumbs.  Add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time, mixing thoroughly to form a paste.

Press the mixture onto the lamb firmly.

Place the racks into a roasting pan and place in the oven for approximately 20 – 30 minutes depending on how well you like your meat cooked.  Please use a reliable meat thermometer.

The internal temperature of the lamb when cooked is as follows:

Very rare - 115 –125 degrees F
Rare – 125- 130F
Medium rare – 130-140F
Medium /well – 140-150F

Remove from the oven and place the lamb on a warm serving platter.  Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cream of Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese for Sunday Supper.

Do you recognize the situation - it's 5pm on a Sunday afternoon and everyone's asking what's for dinner?  You really haven't a clue because you've just spent a fascinating afternoon in the basement catching up on the mountains of laundry that have once more materialized from nowhere.  Too late to cook any meat, dinner needs to be easy, a sort of quick "fix it and forget it" affair.  That's where the soup comes in.  The grilled cheese takes about 5 minutes so I can cope with that and it always brings a smile to the girl's faces.  This is such an easy soup, not requiring any blanching of tomatoes, just a can of them and it cooks quickly.  I haven't included the recipe for the grilled cheese as it was just basic - lots of butter and sharp cheddar cheese with hearty white sandwich bread.

The added bonus - leftovers for lunch on Monday!

Cream of Tomato Soup.

Olive oil
4-6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick celery, finely chopped
A generous handful of fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
Dash of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1, 28 can of plum tomatoes
3 cups organic chicken stock
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or more to taste)

To make the soup, heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the shallots and saute on a low heat for five minutes.  Add the carrots, garlic, celery, a handful of fresh basil and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper

Saute for a further 8 minutes or so until the veggies are soft and the shallots are turning golden.

Add the tomato paste and stir, add the tomatoes and stock, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and partially cover.  Cook for a further 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, puree in batches and return to the pan.

Add the cream and combine thoroughly. Taste to check the seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with plenty of grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tuscan White Bean Vegetable Soup with Parsley Pesto

I wasn't sure whether to call this a soup or a stew but you can make it how you want it by adding more stock - or not. This is a warming and filling dish, choc full of nutrition and goodness.  I've never really got my act together enough to soak dry beans the night before and all that, I just use canned as I never know what the next day will bring.

This keeps well and makes a wonderful lunch or supper the next day. I do think fresh rosemary in the soup makes a difference and the pesto just makes it sing.  I generally make the pesto ahead of time as it improves having had time to rest - don't we all!

For the soup

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 leek, washed thoroughly and chopped
3 sticks of celery, washed and chopped
1 small fennel - peeled and finely chopped
2 small or 1 large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
2, 15 oz cans cannelini beans
1, 32 oz carton of organic chicken stock (you may need more)
Zest and a lemon and juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper

For the pesto

1 bunch of fresh parsley (about 1 cup)
1 clove (smallish) of garlic
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
black pepper

To make the pesto, toast the pine nuts.

Combine the parsley, garlic, cheese and pine nuts in a food processor.

Process until very finely chopped.

Add the oil with the motor running until thoroughly combined.

Let rest for 1 hour before using.

To make the soup, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, saute the onions for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, rosemary, carrots, leeks, celery and fennel, salt and pepper. 

Saute for about 8 minutes until soft making sure the vegetables don't burn.

Add the beans and stir well to combine.

Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and partially cover. 

Leave to cook for about 30 minutes.

When cooked, remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice. Stir to combine.  Let the soup sit for a 1/2 hour if possible. Serve with a big bowl of pesto to spoon over.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Springtime New Potato, Asparagus, Mint and Pea Salad.

New potatoes, freshly dug from the earth are a treat.  Growing up in England we had a vegetable garden where potatoes played a staring role.  We would boil them up for dinner with a large sprig of fresh mint from the garden and add a pat or two of butter to melt over the top.  I've taken it a little bit further with the addition of a lemony mint dressing, asparagus and peas which almost makes it a meal in itself.  It's so cheerful and springlike it makes you smile :)

1 lb small new potatoes
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup peas (frozen or fresh)
Fresh mint

For the dressing.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Zest of a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
6-8 tablespoons of olive oil
Fresh mint

Boil the potatoes with a large sprig of fresh mint for about 10 minutes or until tender.

While the potatoes are boiling, make the dressing and cook the asparagus and peas.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper, lemon zest and juice.  Add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time whisking thoroughly after each addition.

To cook the asparagus heat a cup of water in a pan which will fit the asparagus lying flat.  When  the water is just boiling add the asparagus and cook until bright green.  Add the peas and cook for a further minute.  Drain and set aside.

Drain the potatoes.  Pour them back into the hot empty saucepan, pour over the dressing.  Place a tea towel over the top and let them steam for 5 minutes of so.

Pour them into a serving bowl and toss with the asparagus, peas and plenty of fresh mint.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cake.

This is really a cross between a cake and a brownie.  It didn't last long sitting on the the kitchen counter.  First my husband came home and devoured about half of it, then the girls burst through the door and finished the rest of it off.  I never mind when that happens as I consider it a success.  I liked the grated orange zest,it gave it a little more interest and I loved that it was so easy and quick to make.
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Whipped Cream.
8 oz good quality dark chocolate
8 oz unsalted butter
6 large eggs
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
Zest of an orange (optional)

1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon best vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350F

Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
Cut the butter and chocolate into pieces and place in a microwavable bowl.

Microwave until almost melted, be careful not to burn the chocolate.  Microwave for burst of 30 seconds at a time and then stir to thoroughly melt and combine.

Set aside.

Separate the eggs.

Whisk together the egg yolks and the 1 cup of the sugar until the mixture is light in color and thick in texture.  If you are using the orange zest, add this to the mixture.

Add the chocolate mixture to the eggs, combine thoroughly.

Whisk the egg whites and the rest of the sugar until stiff and shiny.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture – gently!

Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake for approx 1 hour. 

The cake will rise and be firm on top but not fully cooked underneath.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool.  The cake will FLOP in the middle! This is supposed to happen, you will be left with a lovely brownie type consistency.  

To serve whip together the cream, confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract and add a dollop on each piece.

chocolate, cake, desserts