Poached pears

W is also for…Wine poached pears with honey and thyme

This is a very simple dessert, that looks “posh” i.e. looks like it took a lot more effort than it really did. You could serve this at a dinner party or perhaps even for Valentines day (or any other cosy night in for that matter).

I’ve used a sweet Moscato rosé wine from Barefoot Wines, which is perfect for this kind of fruit dessert. I served mine with vanilla ice-cream, which I think is best with pears, but if you’ve got your own flavour combination (e.g. crème fraîche, chocolate ice cream) don’t let me stand in the way.

The recipe is for 2 people, but can easily be multiplied up for more.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 semi-ripe pears;
  • 2 tbsp honey;
  • 4 sprigs of thyme;
  • 250ml rosé wine;
  • 1 large knob of butter

Poached pears

Recipe:

  1. Peel the pears, then half and core.
  2. Put a frying/skillet pan over a medium heat and melt the butter. Once it starts foaming add the thyme sprigs and the pear halves cut-side down. Fry for about 3-4 minutes until the cut-side has taken a bit of colour.
  3. Remove the pears from the frying pan and put on a plate whilst you make the poaching liquid.
  4. Add the wine and honey to the pan and turn the heat up high, all the while giving a good stir to bring up any crispy bits from the bottom of the pan (as they have the most flavour). Cook down until the liquid  has halved in volume.
  5. Take the ice cream out of the freezer at this point so it has time to soften before serving.
  6. Turn the temperature down to a low-medium heat then add the pears (cut-side up this time) to the pan. Spoon a bit of the liquid over the pears then put a lid over the pan and leave to simmer/poach for 10-12 minutes until the pears have softened. The majority of the liquid would have cooked away/been absorbed.
  7. Serve two pear halves with a drizzle of the poaching juices, a fresh sprig of thyme and vanilla ice cream.

Poached pears

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Roast Duck - serving

D – mid-week roast Duck

It is true, roasting meat does take a long time to do, but I promise this dish takes literally minutes of preparation and then you can leave it to do its thing until it’s ready to eat (if you don’t mind the waiting). I had a couple of friends (“handy volunteers” as they called themselves) round for dinner mid-week. They normally finish work slightly later than me, so this was perfect.

In this recipe for Roast duck with thyme, I use duck legs (including the thigh). This does not compromise on flavour (compared with duck breast) and is cheaper too. You can of course use duck breasts if you wish, just make sure they have the skin on too. You won’t need any extra fat/oil in this meal, as there’s already plenty in the duck, which oozes out, permeating the potatoes and makes everything golden crisp.

Roast Duck - serving

 

 

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 1.5 – 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • duck thighs – one per person
  • baking potatoes – one per person
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salad leaves
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil (for the salad dressing)
  • 1 tbsp Cider vinegar
  • A spritz of lemon juice
  • Salt
  • A few turns of pepper

Roast duck - prepped for the oven

 

Recipe:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Put the duck thighs in a large roast dish – you’ll need one with nigh sides as lots of duck fat will ooze out. If you don’t have a large enough dish, split over two.
  2. Chop the baking potatoes (skins left on, but given a quick wash) into 2cm squares and scatter around the legs, so they’re a snug fit.
  3. Sprinkle over a large pinch of salt and coupe of turns of freshly ground pepper. Top with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and put in the oven and leave to cook.
  4. After an hour of cooking, I usually take it out for a minute and turn the roasting potatoes around to ensure they’re evenly coated in the duck fat and juices. I also put the oven up to 200° C for the last half and hour of cooking to ensure everything is extra crispy. If it needs a little bit longer, leave it in the oven until it’s crisp enough for you.

Roast duck - fresh from the oven

 

I served my duck and potatoes with some shop-bought salad leaves (mid-week time saving). In a small bowl I make a dressing, by whisking together olive oil, cider vinegar, a spritz of lemon and a small pinch of salt.

This could not be easier to make, and I’ve yet to find anyone who can resist duck!

Making the salad dressing

C is for Caribbean Chicken

This Caribbean Jerk Chicken recipe is a great dish to cook when you’ve got a good few mouths to feed. It takes a bit of preparation, but you can do this in advance. The coconut ‘rice n peas’ that I’ve served with it takes about 5 minutes of preparation, 5 minutes of cooking where you need to pay attention and then just leave to cook by itself whilst you chat to your guests.

Caribbean Jerk Chicken

Caribbean Jerk Chicken

Caribbean Jerk Chicken

Preparation time: 15 minutes + minimum 2 hours to marinate (can be prepared up to 24hours in advance).

Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients: 

  • 6 chicken breasts (without skin or bones)
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 ½ thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, chopped up
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 60ml dark rum (and a dash extra for good measure)
  • 60ml lime juice
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 120ml cider vinegar
  • 2 fresh red chiles, whole
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
Caribbean Jerk chicken - preparing the marinade

Caribbean Jerk chicken – preparing the marinade

Recipe:

  1. Put 3-4 small slashes into each chicken breast. This will allow the marinade to flavour to permeate the chicken.
  2. If you have a large food processor, get this out, else if you just have a hand blender find a container which wont have marinade flying out of (something tall).
  3. Put all the spices, garlic, fresh ginger, dark brown sugar, rum, lime juice, soy sauce, cider vinegar, chillies and onion in your container and blend until everything is a fine paste.
  4. Put the chicken breasts in a sealable container and pour the marinade over the top. Leave for 2 – 24hours.
  5. When you’re ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 200°C
  6. In a tin-foil lined dish put the chicken and marinade. Cook for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, prepare the ‘rice n peas’ recipe (below). Then take the chicken out the oven and pour out the majority of the watery marinade, then put back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  8. The chicken should have a marinade crust on it and still be juicy in the middle.
Caribbean Jerk Chicken - marinated and ready for the oven

Caribbean Jerk Chicken – marinated and ready for the oven

Caribbean Jerk Chicken - just out the oven

Caribbean Jerk Chicken – just out the oven

Rice n peas

The peas are actually ‘gungo’ peas (also known as pigeon peas). If you can’t get hold of them, you can use red kidney beans or a mixed beans instead. I’ve also added sweetcorn as I’m a big fan of getting in as many of your 5-a-day as possible.

The stock can be made up using hot water and one vegetable stock cube or you can use pre-made stock, either will work equally well.

'Rice n peas' preparation

‘Rice n peas’ preparation

'Rice n peas' - preparation

‘Rice n peas’ – preparation

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 can gungo peas (pigeon peas) or black-eyed beans if you can’t get hold of them.
  • 200g sweetcorn
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red chile, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 400g long grain rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Large pinch of salt
  • A few turns of freshly ground pepper

Recipe:

  1. In a large pan, add the oil and fry the onion over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes until translucent and starting to get a bit of colour. The add the chopped chilli and garlic and fry for another couple of minutes.
  2. Pour in the rice and slick with all oil, onions, garlic and chilli.
  3. Pour over the vegetable stock, coconut milk, thyme, salt, pepper and gungo peas and bring to the boil. As soon as the rice is boiling, turn the heat down low, put a lid on and simmer for 15 minutes (by which time all the liquid should be absorbed)
  4. 5 minutes before the rice is ready, add the sweetcorn and put the lid back on, then the rice should be sticky and ready to eat.

Serve both together and it should be a pretty good combination.