This evening’s blog, despite having a rather impressive French name (Salmon en croûte literally meaning ‘crusted Salmon’) is actually very simple to prepare and cook. Quite frankly, anything wrapped in golden, cooked puff pastry looks great, so when you cook this for guests they never need know how easy it is to actually assemble. I use this word, as this recipe is more of an assembly job than actual cooking.
This recipe is for 2 (greedy) people, but if you want to make a bigger one, just double (or triple) up the ingredients. A large salmon en croûte makes for a great centrepiece when you’ve got a few guests round for a dinner party.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
2 (240g) fillets of salmon – skins cut off (ask your fishmonger to do this, else use a small knife and do it slowly and carefully yourself so as not to waste any of the flesh)
250g puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge from frozen is fine)
130g spinach (young leaves, freshly washed)
5 chestnut mushrooms (finely sliced, and then sliced again into very small cubes/morsels)
1/2 large onion – finely chopped
2 tbsp crème fraÎche
Freshly ground pepper
Oil (anything flavourless)
Knob of butter
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a frying pan with the oil (this stops the butter burning), then add the onion and mushroom and leave to fry off for 5 minutes.
Once everything has softened and the onion has become translucent, add the spinach and turn the heat down low. Leave to wilt – this will only take a moment or two if you carefully mix the spinach into the mushrooms and onions with a wooden spoon.
Once wilted, add the juice of half the lemon, a pinch of salt, a couple of turns of pepper and crème fraÎche and mix together for a moment. Then take off the heat and put the mixture in a sieve over a small saucepan (no heat underneath is needed). Leave the liquid to drain off (but do not discard) and the spinach and mushroom mix to cool slightly. The reason this is cooled now is because if the mixture went onto the pastry hot, the butter in the pastry would melt and you could end up with a gooey mess.
Whilst you’re waiting for this to cool, it’s time to prepare the pastry. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to just under ½cm thick. The width should be big enough that it accommodates the salmon filets with a 2cm borden. The length should be enough, so that the pastry can be folded over and encase (or ‘crust’) the salmon. Transfer the pastry to a baking tray.
Season the salmon with a sprinkle of salt and pepper on both sides. Then place the fillets on one half of the pastry. Take the spinach mix and carefully spoon this over the fillets, ensuring it ends up on the salmon rather than falling onto the pastry around it.
Beat the egg in a small bowl. Using your finger, run some of the egg mix around the rim of the pastry – this will help the edges stick together when you fold it over.
Fold over the empty half of the pastry carefully so the sides match up, then use a floured fork (the flour helps it to not stick to the pastry) to imprint the edges and seal your parcel.
Gently score the pastry in diagonals and brush all over with egg white. Trim to neaten the edges and place in the middle of the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the ‘croute’ has puffed up and is golden brown.
When the salmon is ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a moment before slicing and serving. In the meantime reheat the sauce that you reserved from spinach/mushrooms. Add another dollop of crème fraîche and mix together. Serve the salmon with the sauce and some steamed vegetables of your choice.
This weekend I was lucky enough to have a friend round for dinner, so decided to slow cook something i.e. put in the merest effort in the preparation and then happily left the food to its own devices (producing some powerful flavours) whilst we watched a film and caught up.
The recipe here is ideal for lamb shanks, but alas I couldn’t get any, so settled for cutlets. I have cooked it before with shanks and the only difference with the recipe here is that it needs 30minutes overall cooking time.
I’m very partial to a Rioja wine, but this time I used Barefoot’s Merlot, with it’s dark fruit flavours complement the meat very well. The key thing about the red wine is that you need to cook with one you enjoy drinking….after all you only use half a bottle in the recipe – you can’t very well leave the other half, it wouldn’t be proper
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours 45 minutes
4 lamb cutlets – 2 per person
400ml red wine
200ml balsamic vinegar
300ml beef stock
1 bulb of garlic – cut in half horizontally
125g chorizo (cut into chunks)
2 carrots (peeled and chopped into 2cm slices)
1 red onion (cut into wedges)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp of black peppercorns
4 sprigs rosemary
1 tbsp honey
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Season the lamb with a little salt and pepper. Add the oil to a large frying pan, and once hot add the lamb cutlets (or shanks) and brown – turning every couple of minutes to ensure an even colour.
Put a large ovenproof pan (with a lid) over a high heat and add the wine and balsamic vinegar and leave to boil for 5 minutes. Then add the browned lamb shanks, garlic, bay leaves, stock, paprika, peppercorns and 2 of the sprigs of rosemary.
Leave the pan to come to the boil again (with the lid on). As soon as it reaches a boil, move to the oven and leave for 1hour 30 minutes. Set a timer and forget about it, whilst you enjoy the remaining wine…and perhaps another bottle.
After the timer is up, take the pan out the oven. There may be an initial waft of balsamic vinegar as it escapes, but if you try the liquid now, you’ll notice the vinegar flavour has already mellowed a lot and there will be no trace of alcohol flavours. Add the chorizo, carrots, red onion and the remaining rosemary and return to the oven for another hour – again set a timer to be sure.
After the hour is up, you’ll find the meat is almost falling off the bone. Using a slotted spoon remove the lamb, chorizo and vegetables – I put this on a platter and cover with tin foil to keep warm. Then put the remaining sauce over a high hob heat and boil for 10 minutes to further reduce and intensify the flavours.
Serve up the meat, veg and a good slosh of the sauce with mash potato if you’re in the mood for it and presto – an impressive, warming and flavourful dinner.
Quince is an old English fruit that is best described as a cross between an apple and a pear. It is not as fashionable as it once was and so is harder to come by, but is currently in season, so it’s worth asking at your local large supermarket or greengrocer. The fruit itself is hard and not particularly tasty raw, but once cooked it transforms from a green to a soft, sweeter pink flesh.
This fruit is typically used to make a jelly to be served with cheese or cold meats, but I wanted to be slightly more adventurous and create something with pastry and this recipe seemed to suit. In simply terms, a Tarte Tatin (which is traditionally made with apples) is a French upside-down tart – it’s cooked with the pastry on top and inverted to serve.
This dish is usually baked in a Tatin dish (a round, deep-sided and sloping sided metal dish), but if you don’t have one a skillet pan will work fine (as I have used).
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
6 – 8 quince
1 tsp cinnamon
1 litre boiling water
sweet shortcrust pastry (shop bought is fine) – defrosted and chilled in the fridge
In a medium pan add the water, half the sugar, the zest of a lemon and half the juice of a lemon.
Peel, core and quarter the quince (I find a small knife easier for peeling quince than an actual peeler, but use whichever implement is easiest for you) and add the pan of water.
Turn heat up high and bring to the boil. As soon as the pan is bubbling, clamp on a lid, turn the heat down low and leave to simmer for 8 minutes. The drain the pan and set the quince aside. The idea is to par-cook them – you don’t want them too soft yet otherwise they’ll lose their shape later.
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
In the Tatin (or skillet) pan, add the remaining sugar and melt over a medium heat. You must not stir with a spoon yet, but can swill round. Just as the sugar has melted and is starting to go golden add the butter – now you can stir. Then take off the heat.
Add the quince to the pan with the flatter faces down in a circular pattern around the Tatin tin. Drizzle over the remaining lemon juice and cinnamon.
On a floured surface, roll out the sweet shortcrust pastry to about half a cm thick and cut to a circle that is just bigger than the Tatin dish and then place over the fruit.
Push the edges down the side of the pan and then bake in the over for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling up the sides.
Once out of the oven, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen around the edges with a palette knife. Place a large plate over the dish and invert. A thump on the pan or a short but vigorous shake should completely release the pie onto the plate, showing all the fruit facing up. Don’t worry if one of 2 pieces are left in the pan – just remove them from the pan and squidge gently into the place in the pie.
Before I even start this blog entry, I’m going to apologise to any Spanish people reading this. This recipe is not a traditional paella and even more heinous is the fact it contains…chorizo – one of my favourite foods – but something that no Spanish person would ever consider adding to a traditional paella! So please excuse a Brit for combining some of has favourite Spanish flavours into one dish. The recipe title may be better described as a spanish inspired surf-and-turf risotto….but then I probably risk insulting the Italian’s risotto, so let’s just crack on.
The recipe here serves two greedy portions, and could easily feed three with a few accompaniments (ciabatta with balsamic and extra virgin olive oil, a few designer rocket leaves etc.)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
2 chicken breasts
100g chorizo cut into chunks – not finely sliced
180g paella rice (Arborio rice – the one used in risottos will also work if you can’t get paella rice)
4 rashers of streaky bacon – cut into small pieces
10 king prawns
1 onion – finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
800ml chicken stock
1 pinch of saffron
1 tsp smoked paprika
200g frozen peas
Cut the chicken breasts up into small pieces and fry in a little olive oil over a medium heat until cooked and starting to get a golden touch.
Take the chicken out the frying pan and set aside. Then add the onion, garlic, chorizo and bacon and fry until the onions have softened. You will not need to add any oil, as the chorizo will start to ooze its oils after a couple of minutes and the bacon has more than enough fat in it. You may need to turn the heat down after a couple of minutes so the chorizo doesn’t crisp too much but the onion is just cooked enough and has absorbed some of those vibrant, orange colours and flavours.
Whilst the onions and pork is cooking, add the saffron to the chicken stock and allow to infuse for a few moments, before adding 3/4 of the liquid to another large shallow pan with paella rice and smoked paprika. It should take about 20 minutes to cook over a low-medium heat.
With 10 minutes left to go, most of the liquid should have been absorbed and the paella rice should be soft with a golden yellow colour. Add the remaining stock with the prawns and frozen peas. Turn up to a medium heat.
In the final 5 minutes, stir in the cooked chicken, chorizo, bacon, onion and garlic and wait for the last of the stock to be incorporated, then it’s ready to serve!
I wanted to make something sweet this weekend, and then conveniently stumbled across this recipe for orange and fig muffins. As a huge fan of fig-based food (except fig rolls – who eats those?) I had to give this recipe a go.
Having cooked dinner for a friend last week including figs with greek yogurt and honey for dessert, I learnt that being a fig fan is more of a minority than a majority (given the amount of left overs). So apologies if you aren’t a massive fig fan; however these muffins are deliciously light, fruity and sweet so please try at least once.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 – 40 minutes
175g butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour
Zest and juice of 1 orange
200g fresh figs, stalks discarded, chopped into 1cm pieces, plus 1 whole fig for decoration
2 tbsp clear honey
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. If you have muffin cases, line 8 holes of a deep muffin tin or 12 holes of normal sized muffin tin. If you don’t have any muffin cases, grease the muffin tin holes well with butter and dust lightly with flour.
Place the softened butter in a large bowl with the sugar and beat together until pale and fluffy.
Add the beaten eggs and sifted flour a bit at a time (I did it in three turns) and fold in. The idea is that the flour doesn’t go everywhere and you’re not beating all the air our the mixture.
Finally fold in the orange zest and chopped figs and ensure evenly distributed.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases – if not using muffin cases fill to near the top of the brim of the muffin tin hole. Place a final slice of fig on the top of each muffin. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until risen and golden brown on top. You can check the muffins are cooked by piercing with a knife and checking it comes out clean.
Whilst the muffins are cooking, heat the honey and orange juice in a small pan over a gently heat until slightly reduced – it takes about 5 minutes.
Once the muffins are out the oven, drizzle over a little of the orange syrup over each muffin (which will seep through the muffin infusing flavour). Leave for about 20 minutes to cool down before turning out and gorging.
I realised that I’ve not been particularly vegetarian-friendly in the blog thus far, and as a fan of some veggie food, I felt the need to correct this. The weather has started to get cooler as Autumn draws in, so I’m craving more warming, hearty meals. So this week, we have my take on a nut roast. Depending on how hungry you are it serves up to 6 people, with a side of steamed veg, roast potatoes (is there a better way to cook potatoes?) and freshly made tomato-based sauce.
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
2 beetroot (pre-cooked from a vac-pac on the veg aisle) grated
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
115g chestnut mushrooms – finely sliced
175g cooked brown rice
115g brown breadcrumbs
55g finely chopped almonds
55g finely chopped Brazil nuts
115g grated Cheddar cheese
2 medium eggs
1tbsp fresh oregano
Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a large loaf tin or another deep baking dish.
In a large frying pan, melt a knob of butter of drizzle with a dribble of oil (sunflower will do – nothing fancy) to stop the butter burning. Gently fry the onion, garlic, carrots, beetroot for 5 minutes until everything is softened. Then add the mushrooms and continue to fry on a medium heat for another 10 minutes or so until the mushrooms have reduced in size and softened.
Whilst the veg are frying, boil the brown rice in a large pan until cooked (usually takes about 15 minutes). Drain the rice and then stir in the onion and veg mix to the pan along with the breadcrumbs, ground nuts, cheddar, eggs, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to the greased baking dish and cook for 45 minutes – 1 hour until well cooked on top.
When I was younger, I used to live in Amiens, France – known as one of the best place in France for macaroons (or macarons in French). I’ve never yet made macarons, but have been very eager to try, so M on this blog was the perfect excuse.
The recipe I used was inspired from my favourite patissier, Eric Lanlard. I only made a couple of his varieties, but there are plenty more to be made (pistachio, chocolate, lavender etc.)
Preparation time: 30minutes
Cooking time: 15minutes
100g caster sugar
100g icing sugar
100g ground almonds
3 egg whites (or 95g grams if using liquid egg white)
Food colourings (I used red and yellow)
Food flavourings (I used rose essence for the pink macarons and lemon essence for the yellow macarons)
150g white chocolate
75ml double cream
With an electric whisk, beat the egg whites into soft peaks then gradually add the caster sugar until there are stiffer peaks and the the whites have a sheen to them.
Sift in the icing sugar and ground almonds into the beaten egg whites and fold together with a metal spoon.
Divide the mixture between two bowls. In one add a teaspoon of lemon essence and several drops of yellow food colouring and fold together. In the other bowl add a couple of drops of red food colouring and a teaspoon of rose essence. Add a couple more drops of food colouring if you need to, but each drop goes a long way. Have a little taste and add a couple more drops of lemon/rose essence if required. The mixture should have a hint of flavour and not be too strong.
Line 2 trays with baking parchment. The take a piping bag and fill with one of the mixtures, folding the top of the piping bag back over your hand to avoid getting the macaron mixture all over you.
Snip of the end of the piping bag, and gently squeeze out the mixture into 3cm discs on the baking parchment. Repeat for the other colour mixture. You should have enough mixture to make 56-60 macaron discs in total.
Leave to dry for 5 minutes whilst you pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Then put all the macarons in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
Take out the over and carefully slide each sheet of baking parchment onto wire racks and leave to cool.
Whilst the macarons are cooling, you can make the white chocolate ganache for the filling of the pink ones. Place a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Tip in squares of the white chocolate and pour over the double cream. Leave for a couple of minutes and then take off the heat. Mix together with several drops of red food colouring until the chocolate has melted. Place in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
For the yellow macarons, sandwich a teaspoon of lemon curd between two of the meringues discs. For the red macarons, sandwich a teaspoon of the red coloured white chocolate ganache between the meringues discs.
I picked up this recipe nearly 3 years ago and since then it’s been one of those great go-to recipes that I can tweak to whatever vegetables I have in. It contains at least 2 portions of your 5-a-day, is low in fat and is very tasty!
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
200g yellow lentils (washed)
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp desiccated coconut (optional)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp sesame seeds
2 dried red chilis
12 curry leaves
2 small onions, finely sliced
6 tomatoes (cut into quarters)
1½ tsp ground corriander
1 medium sweet potato – cut into ½inch cubes
a handful of green beans
200g paneer cheese – cut into small pieces
a pinch of salt
Put the lentils in 1litre of water in a large pan and bring to the boil. Spoon away any scum, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Add the turmeric and sweet potato and leave to soften for 20 minutes.
The next stage is to make the tarka. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, 1 tsp of sesame seeds, cloves and dried chillies.
Once the mustard seeds have started popping, add the curry leaves and onion and a pinch of salt and leave for a few minutes until the onion has softened.
Then add the tomatoes and ground coriander, give it a stir and leave for another 5minutes until the tomatoes have soften and the flavours are well combined.
Add the tarka to the lentil and sweet potato mix (which should be nicely soft by now). Then add the tamarind paste, coconut if using, green beans and ocra and leave to simmer for a final 5 minutes.
Meanwhile in frying pan you used for the tarka, fry the paneer in a little oil, sprinkling over the remaining sesame seeds. It should take a couple of minutes on each side for this hard cheese to take some colour. Add to the curry and it’s ready to eat.
Over the past couple of weeks, I managed to do my L blog before the K one, so I’ve been holding off publishing it to ensure they go in order.
K this week was always going to be a fruit-based dessert, perhaps a kiwi or kumquat…something, but then it hit me, Key Lime Pie! As a fan of all pies, and with help from my all time favourite chef Eric Lanlard, the blog this week is Key Lime Pie.
Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
Cooking time: 35-40minutes
350g digestive biscuits (crushed into small rubble)
125g unsalted butter – melted
175g caster sugar (125g for syrup & 50g for the filling)
4 large eggs (separated into yolks and whites)
6 limes (2 finely sliced; 4 zested and juiced)
1 tin (397g) of full-fat condensed milk
handful of fresh mint
300ml whipping cream (whipped to peaks)
This recipe starts backwards, as we start making the decoration first. Mix 125g of caster sugar and 125ml of water over a medium heat until it reaches a boil. Add 2 finely sliced limes and poach for 10minutes with a few of the mint leaves. Then take off the heat and leave the lime slices to stoop in the syrup overnight.
To make the pie base, mix the melted butter and crushed digestive biscuits together and press into a buttered loose-bottom pie tin (ideally fluted). Leave to chill in the fridge for an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Bake the biscuit base blind for 10-15mins until it takes on colour. This is done by lining with baking parchment (crumpled) and carefully half-filling with ceramic baking beans.
To make the pie filling, beat the egg yolks together and then stir in the condensed milk (making sure to not waste any from the tin – it’s precious stuff), lime zest and lime juice.
In a separate, clean, dry bowl, using an electric whisk beat the egg whites together, slowly adding the remaining 50g of caster sugar until firm peaks are formed.
Fold together the egg whites and lime mixture together then pour into the biscuit-lined cake case. Bake for 25minutes until the pie mixture is set. It should be lightly golden on top. It will rise a little and then sink back once out of the oven.
Once completely cool, loosen and gently remove from the spring-form tin. Decorate with the whipped cream, fresh mint and the syrup-infused sliced lime.
So I admit that there’s only a small ingredient in this recipe beginning with J (Jerk sauce). However the recipe this week is particularly appealing for several reasons: it’s hearty and warming, requires minimal effort AND there is only one pan for washing up. You can’t ask for better than that. It’s also vegetarian friendly.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Scotch Bonnet chilli
125g yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
2 tsp chopped thyme, plus extra to sprinkle (dried will suffice if thats all you have in).
800ml vegetable stock
1 can (160ml) coconut cream
400g sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 1cm diced pieces
2 tsp Jerk paste
In a large saucepan gently fry the chopped onion for 5 minutes or so to soften. Add a pinch of salt to reduce the chances of it burning. Add the chopped garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
Make a slit in the chilli (to allow some of the heat and flavour to escape) and add to the pan with the split peas, thyme and stock. Be careful to wash your hands after handling the Scotch Bonnet – it’s hot!
Bring the pan to a simmer, cover and cook very gently for 35 minutes or until the peas are very tender (you should be able to mash them against the side of the pan).
Lift out the chilli and discard. Blend the soup using a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth.
Reserve 2 tbsp of the coconut cream and then add the rest to the pan with the sweetcorn, sweet potato and jerk paste. Cook over a low-medium, covered with a lid, for a further 20 minutes until the sweet potato is tender.
To serve, ladle into bowls, drizzle with the reserved coconut and scatter with extra thyme.