Monday, April 30, 2012

Super Delicious Macaroni Cheese with Creme Fraiche

I know you don't really need a recipe for Mac and Cheese but the creme fraiche really does perk it up quite a bit.  I make this for my pickiest eater, she practically inhales it.  Come to think of it, my husband seemed to quite enjoy this too.  I love the panko breadcrumbs for an extra crispy topping.

Heat the oven to 425F

1 packet of elbows pasta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup creme fraiche
1heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
Black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
6-8 oz of grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Put the water on to boil for the pasta.

Combine the milk, Dijon mustard, pepper and nutmeg in a measuring jug and microwave to warm.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and stir well.  Add the milk mixture, little by little, stirring well with each addition.

Continue adding until you have finished all the milk and you have a silky, smooth sauce.  If you have any lumps, whisk furiously with a wire whisk until smooth.

Add the creme fraiche and grated cheese, reserving about 1/4 cup for the topping, and stir until melted.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into the sauce.  Combine well.  Check seasoning.

Pour the mixture into an oven proof dish.

Mix together remaining cheese and panko breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle this over the cheese sauce.

Dot butter over the top and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Posh Nosh! Monkfish in a Tomato, Parsley Sauce

I was surprised by finding myself in possession of a couple of fillets of monkfish.  I haven't cooked it in years but felt that I needed to broaden my horizons from the usual lemon, garlic, olive oil and fish routine.  I went online and started searching monkfish recipes and came across one by Emeril Lagasse.  I've never cooked a Lagasse recipe before and indeed I did change this one considerably.  Nevertheless the basis of the recipe is his - and it's delicious.  As one of my daughter's remarked, "this is a good chunk of monk!"

1 lb fillet of monkfish, cut into chunks
Olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2-4 shallots, depending on size, finely chopped
2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
A good large handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/3 cup very finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup fish stock
salt and pepper
Dash of heavy cream (optional)

In a saute pan heat the butter and the oil.  Add the shallots and gently cook until soft and just turning golden.

Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and parsley, cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring well and allowing the tomatoes to release their liquid.

Turn up the heat, add the white wine and cook for a minute, add the fish stock and turn down to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes or so.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender.  Blitz and return to the pan.  

Add the chunks of monkfish, cover the the pan and cook on low for about 4 minutes or until the fish is fully cooked through.  Don't overcook or the fish will be tough.

Remove from the heat and add a dash of heavy cream if desired.  Serve immediately sprinkled with fresh parsley.



Monday, April 23, 2012

Rhubarb Crumble and Jamie Oliver's Vanilla Flecked Custard

Rhubarb and Custard is almost a British institution.  Done well, it's sensational.  Rhubarb is apparently extremely good for you too - filled with calcium, vitamin K and all sorts of antioxidants.  I can't really promise that about the custard but I can promise it's blissful to eat.  I livened up the crumble topping by adding barley flour which gives it a lovely texture and taste and a scattering of slivered almonds in the the mix.  The topping also freezes well which I find extremely useful in moments of panic about dessert.

The custard is Jamie Oliver's recipe and I swooned as I licked the spoon, then the bowl. Ohh, it's a dream. If you're not a custard fan then go the vanilla ice cream route - but honestly, you don't know what you're missing.

Heat the oven to 350F

For the crumble:

4 - 6 sticks rhubarb, depending on how large they are, washed and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks.
Zest and juice of an orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup barley flour (you can use all purpose if you wish)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar (I used Sucanant)
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/3 cup slivered almond

Place the rhubard, sugar, zest and juice of the orange and cornstarch in a bowl and toss together.  Leave while you assemble the topping.

Mix together the flours, sugar, cinnamon, oatmeal and salt.  Rub in the chunks of butter with your fingertips until you have the consistency of large breadcrumbs. 

Add the slivered almonds and mix in.

Pour the fruit mixture into an ovenproof dish, I used an 11inch pyrex pie dish, top with the crumble topping.  Place the dish on a baking tray (important - you don't want juice dripping on the bottom of your oven and burning) and place in the oven for approx 45 minutes to an hour.

The crumble is ready when the fruit is bubbling around the edges and the topping is golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes or so.

Serve drenched in the most delicious custard ever.

Vanilla Flecked Custard, Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's book "Cook with Jamie"

2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar

Pour the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar into a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. 

Whisk the egg yolks and the 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of a mixer and whisk until the mixture is pale. 

Pour a tablespoon of the milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk.  Add the remaining milk mixture, a little at a time, whisking on low all the time. 

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, making sure it is on a low heat.  Stir all the time with a wooden spoon.

Very soon the mixture should thicken enough to coat the back of the spoon.  Remove from the heat, continue stirring for a minute or two, pour it into a serving pitcher and serve hot or cold.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin for a Quick Weeknight Supper.

This is a scrumptious treat that can be cooked in next to no time and is bound to please! What more could you ask?? I served this with roasted apples and baby roasted potatoes tossed in olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and they disappeared pretty quickly.  The apple is wonderful smothered over the slices of pork. In my usual disorganized fashion I forgot to marinate the pork ahead of time, so it really only had about 10 minutes before cooking, it was still delicious, but if you can give it 30 minutes to an hour it's even better.  The inspiration for this came from Sophie Wright again, she served hers with roasted pears and parsnips which sounds heavenly.

Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloins, adapted from "Home at 7, Dinner at 8" by Sophie Wright.

1 Pork Tenderloins
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons runny honey
Juice and zest of a lime
1 fat garlic clove, minced
Fresh thyme
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

A bag of small new potatoes
3-4 apples, cored but not peeled
Olive oil
Fresh thyme
A dot of butter for each apple

Heat the oven to 425F

Put all the ingredients from the marinate in a gallon zip lock bag, add the pork and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

In a roasting pan, place the apples, baby potatoes, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Place a dot of butter in the middle of the cored apple and top with a sprig of thyme.

Put in the oven to roast for approximately 45 minutes or until crispy and delicious.  Remove from the oven and give them a good shake once or twice during cooking to make sure they cook evenly.

Place a griddle pan (frying pan if you don't have a griddle pan) on medium to high heat.  Do NOT add any oil.

Remove the tenderloins from the marinate and shake off the excess liquid.  When the pan is really hot, lay the tenderloins on it and sear at least 2-3 minutes on each side until so that you create a nice crust.

If your tenderloins are pretty thick, transfer them to a roasting pan and finish cooking them in the oven, be careful not to overcook, the internal temperature should be 140.  There's nothing worse than dry, stringy pork!

Let the pork rest, covered with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes, slice and serve with the potatoes and apples pipping hot from the oven. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Quick and Easy Oven Roasted Salmon with Tomatoes and Asparagus

This is my favorite way to cook salmon.  It takes about 3 minutes to prepare, it's a one pan dinner and it's delicious.  Sadly, I cannot take any credit for this at all.  It's a recipe I found recently in a lovely British cookbook called "Home at 7, Dinner by 8" by Sophie Wright. I've changed a few things, Sophie's recipe called for very thinly sliced potatoes which I left out and I added some very finely chopped lemons, which I love when roasted.  I suppose you could use other fish, such as halibut and add some different veggies - maybe some artichoke hearts? but this was delicious and a great quick fish dish to have up one's sleeve.

Wild salmon fillets
A couple of slices of prosciutto
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
1 lemon
A handful of grape or cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs of your choice

Heat the oven to 425 F

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the salmon, tomatoes, asparagus and lemon chunks on the tray. 

Sprinkle over olive oil, salt and pepper and torn up pieces of prosciutto. 

Sprinkle over some herbs and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes.


I enjoyed this with a glass (or two) of very chilled Pinot.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coronation Chicken Salad Sandwich in Honor of the Diamond Jubilee!

Sandwiches play a major role in my house and this is our new favorite filling.  The recipe for Coronation Chicken was devised especially by the royal cooks for  Queen Elizabeth II's coronation sixty years ago. I'm getting VERY excited for the upcoming Diamond Jubilee celebrations (to be held in June) and it's in honor of "Her Majesty!" that I am plying my family with British chicken salad.  It's actually delicious. 

I'm sure the royal cooks would understand that if you’re running short on time, use a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket.

Coronation Chicken

2 oz butter
½ onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
4-5 dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons Greek plain yogurt
1 – 1 1/2lb of cold roasted chicken, cut into chunks
Salt and black pepper

Tomato slices
Boston lettuce leaves
2 thick slices of your favorite bread

Melt the butter in a sauté pan and add the onion.

Cook on a low heat for about 6-8 minutes until softened, be careful not to burn.

Add the apricots, tomato paste and stock and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Place the sauce in the fridge to cool.  When it is thoroughly cooled add the mayonnaise, sour cream and yogurt, stir to combine.  Season to taste.

Assemble the sandwich.
Coronation Chicken

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blueberry, Lemon, Almond Bundt Cake

This cake is deliciously moist and has all the flavors of summer. Although it's wonderful straight from the pan, if you can show restraint it's even better a day later, when the lemony almond flavors seems to permeate the cake.  There's no need to go overboard like I did and add a dollop of cream, but honestly it was a dream.
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup of almond meal
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup buttermilk
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest of lemon
1, 4.4 oz packet of blueberries
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

Heat oven to 350 F
Grease a 10 cup bundt cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugar together until really light and fluffy.
Add the lemon zest and beat a little more.
Add one egg at a time, scraping down the bowl after each one.
Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and almond meal together in a bowl.
Mix the buttermilk and lemon juice in measuring jug.
Add half of the flour mixture and combine gently.  Add the buttermilk and lemon juice and mix until JUST combined.  Add the reminder of the flour and gently mix.
Toss the blueberries in a tablespoon of flour and add to the batter.  Combine gently with a metal spoon.
Pour the batter into the greased Bundt pan.
Bake in the middle of the oven for approx 50 minutes to 1 hour.  When ready the cake will have risen and be golden brown.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Red Snapper in a Lemon, Creme Fraiche, Oregano Sauce with Roasted Tomatoes

Red snapper is a succulent fish and I gather it's plentiful.  I found three beautiful fillets at the fish counter yesterday, fresh and gleaming.  One of the reasons I love to cook fish is that it's the ultimate fast food, it's so quick to prepare yet it's SO good for you.  This could be made with almost any fish so don't get hung up about finding red snapper.  Cod, halibut even talapia would work.  The tomatoes give it a nice added color and flavor and of course fresh herbs make everything special.  As I'm thinking about it now, it might be nice to roast some lemon quarters along with the tomatoes to squeeze over the fish, roasting gives such a lovely intensity to fruits and veggies.

3-4 fillets of red snapper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
3 lemons
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
Fresh oregano (or your favorite fresh herb)

1 packet of grape tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh oregano (or your favorite fresh herb)

Heat the oven to 350F

Halve the tomatoes, toss in olive oil, chopped fresh herbs, salt and pepper, place in a roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes. 

In a large non stick saute pan, heat the olive oil.  Lay the fish in the pan flesh side down and cook on medium heat for two minutes without touching them. 

Add the butter to the pan and let it foam.  Flip the fish so that the flesh side is facing up.  Spoon the foaming butter over the fish for another 2 minutes or so or until the fish is cooked through. Transfer the fish to a warm platter and cover with aluminum foil. (If you have a particularly thick fillet of fish, transfer it to an oiled baking dish and finish cooking it in the oven for about 5 minutes.) 

Add the wine, fresh herbs and lemon juice and bring to the boil, scraping down the bottom of the pan.  Turn down to a simmer and cook for another few minutes.

Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the creme fraiche. Check the seasonings, adding more lemon juice if needed and fresh herbs.

Place the fish on a serving platter, pour over the sauce, spoon over the roasted tomatoes, sprinkle over some more fresh herbs and lemon wedges.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Stunning Week in England!

What a stunning week it was in England! I left my husband and children for 7 days to fend for themselves. No, I didn't feel the least bit guilty and yes, I absolutely took advantage of every single peaceful moment! I spent my time lingering over pub lunches with my mum, followed by long walks and talks in the countryside.  We had a lot to catch up on.  The weather was unheard of for March.  It touched 80 degrees, in fact it was so hot we decided to go to the beach. That week was probably their summer! 

I didn't do a lot of cooking, just a great deal of eating.  I thought it might be fun to share some pictures from West Sussex and show just how magical that part of the world is.

The Red Lion Pub has a lovely garden in the back where time stands still, it's meant for lazy, sun drenched lunches.  

I loved the Rules of the Inn.  I left my cudgel at home!

Being close to the coast, there's always wonderful fresh seafood on the menu.  I loved the prawn cocktail salad.

The village green is surrounded by the prettiest cottages.

The trees weren't quite out yet, but the strolls in the woods where so peaceful.

We came across this adorable little cottage in the middle of nowhere.

There were so many little farms tucked away.

I think this was my favorite cottage.

To cool off we went down to the seaside! I remember many a vacation when I was a child shivering in the car, peaking through a rain streaked windscreen waiting for the sun to come out.  No such worries last week, just glorious sunshine.

I love that the English take their dogs with them to the beach.  There's another enchanting little pub down the road from here that makes the most amazing fish and chips.  A perfect end to a perfect day!

It was a wonderful break and I came home fully recharged to five very happy faces!