Friday, February 3, 2012

Chocolate pots with homemade cinder toffee - recipe

This is the pud I made for Marc's birthday dinner on Wednesday.  It's really two recipes and you definitely don't need to make both together (although it is a good combination!).

I remember buying cinder toffee from Darwen market with my Grandpa when I was little - the stuff there was chocolate coated, which you could do with this homemade version too.  To stop the cinder toffee melting, the easiest way to do this is by drizzling melted chocolate over the set toffee.

Both the cinder toffee, also known as honeycomb or hokey pokey apparently, and the chocolate pots are very quick and easy to make and can be made in advance.  I had a hard time not scoffing all the cinder toffee before the big day though - be warned!

Chocolate pots
Ingredients: (makes enough for 6 small espresso cups)
1 x 100g bar good quality dark chocolate
300ml tub double cream
Couple of drops vanilla extract

Break up the chocolate in a glass bowl.

Gently bring the double cream to the boil in a saucepan.

Pour over the chocolate and stir to mix well.  Add the vanilla extract.

Pour into individual espresso cups cover and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours to set.  The chocolate pots will keep well for a couple of days.

Cinder toffee (Nigella's recipe)
100g caster sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup
1 and 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

Grease a baking tray and put aside.

Put caster sugar and golden syrup into a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Roughly mix.  Turn heat on to medium and let the caster sugar and syrup melt.  You can gently swirl if necessary but you mustn't stir once on the heat.

Once the mixture has melted, cook for a further 3-4 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.

Take off the heat and immediately add the bicarb of soda.  Whisk together.  The mixture should fluff up into a golden cloud.  Pour into your pre-prepared baking tray and leave to set.  Break into pieces once set.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vegetarian cottage pie with cheesy parsnip and sweet potato topping - recipe

So, happy (very belated) New Year!  I hope you're all having a good start to 2012.

After a really excellent festive period, split between Wiltshire with my parents and Portugal with Marc's it was back to earth with a bump for me, as I faced a mountain of Uni work.  Three weeks later and I've emerged blinking into the daylight and am making a return to social media.  Miss me?!

January's such a miserable month that it's nice to treat yourself to some hearty comfort food.  This recipe for veggie cottage pie is a real winter-warmer.  It's going to wrap you up in a big warm snuggle and make you forget all about the grey day outside.

The cheesy parsnip and sweet potato mash is also really delicious on its own (try not to scoff it all before you top your pie with it!) and would work well as a side-dish.

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
100g mushrooms, sliced
Good glug of red wine (optional if you're still on a January detox!)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
400g tin green lentils
1 teaspoon each of thyme, oregano and rosemary (or your favourites)

For the topping:

400g sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
2 parsnips (about 250g), peeled and roughly chopped

100g cheddar cheese
Knob of butter


Pre-heat the oven to 180c

Gently fry the onions and carrot in a good glug of oil for 5 minutes, until softened.

Add the mushrooms and fry for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the lentils, tinned tomatoes and dried herbs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Gently simmer for 20-30 minutes.

In the meantime, boil the sweet potato and parsnip for 10-15 minutes, until thoroughly soft.  Take off the heat and mash, with butter and cheese.  Season to taste.

Place the sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof lasagne dish.  Top with the sweet potato mash.  If you feel like you need an extra treat, you might want to grate a little more cheese over the top.

Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until nicely browned and slightly crispy on top.

Serve with green veg and a dollop of ketchup.  Classy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Easy smoked mackerel pate - recipe

Merry Christmas all.  Hope Father Christmas brought you everything you wanted and you enjoyed some quality time with friends, family and several boxes of mince pies.

With the festive season not quite over yet (phew!), lots of people this year seem to be planning to celebrate New Year's Eve with a party at home.  So, for those of you who need some ideas for nibbles or a buffet, I thought I'd share my smoked mackerel pate recipe.

This couldn't be easier; it's ready in about two minutes and tastes delicious.  Ideal served with crusty bread for a starter, on mini crackers as a canape, or with crudites for a buffet.

1 packet smoked mackerel fillets
1 tablespoon soured cream**
1 tablespoon double cream
1 dessert spoon creamed horseradish (from a jar)
Juice of half a lemon
Black pepper to season

Remove the skins from the smoked mackerel fillets.  These peel off really easily.

Put mackerel, soured cream, double cream and horseradish into a blender.  Blitz for 30 seconds to a minute - the consistency is up to you but I prefer mine with a little bit of texture, not completely smooth.

Taste and add lemon juice and pepper as required.

The pate will keep for a couple of days covered in the fridge, so you make well in advance of your party.

*If you have any spring onions or parsley that need using up, you can add them when you blend the ingredients.

**This recipe is fairly foolproof and you don't need to be exact with ingredients.  If you prefer you could use Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oysters with Japanese dressing - recipe

They might not be very traditional but I think oysters make the perfect starter over Christmas.  When you're eating so much rich food, oysters provide a welcome change.  Not only that but they're surprisingly affordable (around 70p per oyster) and most fishmongers will even open them for you - so very little effort is required.

You can serve them au natural with just a squeeze of lemon, or with a simple shallot and red wine vinegar dressing, or if you fancy, you can add a few more flavours.

One of my favourites is a Japanese twist.  I made these yesterday for Marc with a dressing made of soy sauce, sushi vinegar and grated ginger.  I also topped them with a touch of very finely chopped cucumber and spring onion and a little dot of wasabi.  Perfection.

A couple of months ago, we went to an oyster tasting event at Wrights Bros, Soho.  Have a look here for some more oyster inspiration.

Oysters with Japanese dressing