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BOOZY CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

 

Stuck for a gift idea for your loved one this Valentine’s? These chocolate truffles are a perfect treat. Once made, package in a gift box and store in a cool place.

Makes about 16Chocolate truffle

150ml double cream

15g butter

150g good quality dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa solids)

A small pinch of salt

1tbsp of your favourite liqueur – eg rum, brandy whisky, Malibu, Cointreau/Grand Marnier, Tia Maria, Amaretto, Frangelico

50g grated dark chocolate, or sieved cocoa powder, to coat

 

Place the double cream in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Once the cream is hot, but not quite boiling (small bubbles will appear on the surface) add the butter.

While the cream is heating, break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour over the hot cream and butter and stir well until the chocolate melts into the cream. Add the salt and your chosen liqueur, mixing in well until smooth, and then place the bowl in the fridge for at least 2 hours to completely set.

Once the truffle mixture has set, scoop teaspoons at a time and roll into balls. Make sure your hands are nice and cool. If they get too hot and the chocolate starts to melt, run them under the cold water tap for a short time.

The truffles can now be either rolled in the grated chocolate or sieved cocoa. The easiest way to do this is to put the grated chocolate or cocoa in a sandwich bag, add a couple of truffles at a time and shake gently.

Store in the fridge or somewhere very cool before serving, or place in a gift box.

Photography: www.garethmorgans.com

PIZZA NIGHT

Homemade pizza is a fantastic thing to make in your own kitchen. It’s simple, it never gets boring as you can have a different topping every time you make it. Kids love getting involved (you can guarantee they’ll always want strange ingredients on top). It tastes delicious hot out of the oven or even cold the next day. I love making it for weekend lunches or better still, for a Friday night in whilst watching a film with the kids (with plenty of popcorn and icecream to follow).

So, to turn your kitchen into the best local pizzeria around, do not fear, you don’t any special equipment, like a wood burning stove or need to be a champion dough thrower. All you need is a basic dough and simple tomato sauce recipe and you can go from there. Pizzas can be made any shape, all you need is a baking tray or pizza stone if you have one.

I have suggested a number of toppings to serve in your pizzeria, you can of course try your own (keep hold of the numerous menus that no-doubt come through your letterbox if you ever need any inspiration).

 

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

Don’t let the long method put you off – it really is very simple…

Makes about 4 medium sized pizzas (about 28cm diameter), or 12 small calzone.

FinishedPizza.jpg

500g strong white bread flour

2tsp salt 300ml warm water

1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

1tsp caster sugar

2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

FLAVOURS TO ADD TO THE DOUGH

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

A large handful of finely grated parmesan

2tsp dried or 2tbsp chopped fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, marjoram, rosemary)

1-2tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1-2tbsp finely chopped olives

METHOD

Stage 1: sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, or onto a clean work surface, and make a well in the middle. Mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the warm water and leave for 5 minutes, then pour into the flour well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid until it all comes together. With floured hands, knead on a work surface until you have a smooth, springy dough – 5-10 minutes. Additional flavours (see list above) should be added to the dough when you are kneading. Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and sprinkle the top with more flour. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm place for about 11⁄2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Stage 2: once it has risen, knead the dough on a floured surface, knocking out the air. The dough can now be used straight away or wrapped in clingfilm and stored in the fridge until the next day, or frozen.

Stage 3: divide the dough into servings, keeping it covered with a damp tea towel. Roll one at a time on a floured surface to about 5mm thick and sit on an oiled and flour-dusted baking sheet, then leave for 10-15 minutes, before adding the topping. Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/ gas 7. Evenly spread some tomato sauce on the top of the pizza and then add your toppings. Season and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil, then place in the oven to cook for 10 minutes.

PS…

Raw pizza dough can be wrapped well in cling film at the end of stage 2 and frozen for 1 month, alternatively if you have the space, you can shape it into pizza bases (or dough balls), layer up between pieces of greaseproof paper and freeze until needed. Defrost at room temperature before adding your topping and baking.

 

TOPPING SUGGESTIONS (see below for simple tomato pizza sauce)

Simple tomato and mozzarella is always a winner (scatter torn pieces of half a ball of mozzarella over your tomato sauce), but why not customise each pizza? Here are just a few suggestions to add to a basic tomato and mozzarella pizza:

Parma ham, artichoke, black olives and basil leaves (pictured above). Arrange all the ingredients, except the basil, on top of the pizza and cook. Top with basil.

Cooked prawns, anchovies, capers, olives and chilli flakes. Arrange over the top and scatter with parsley when cooked.

Ham, rocket and parmesan. Scatter rocket over the top of your parmesan and ham-topped pizza just before serving.

Four cheeses. Use a combination of mozzarella, parmesan, dolcelate and gruyere to top the pizza before cooking.

Spinach, egg and pinenut. Top with wilted spinach leaves, pinenuts and thinly sliced red onion, then break an egg into the middle just before baking.

 

SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE

TomatoSauceMix2.jpg

Makes enough for 8 pizzas

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried oregano

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato purée

1 small handful of torn or chopped basil leaves

 

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and gently cook the onion and garlic for about 8 minutes until they are softened but not coloured.

 

Add the bay leaf, oregano, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree, and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes until you have a rich thick sauce.

 

Add the basil, season with salt and pepper and then remove the bay leaf.

 

PS…

The finished sauce can be used straight away or left to cool and stored, covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It can also be divided into smaller portions and kept in the freezer.

 

Photography: Gareth Morgans

HEARTY MINESTRONE SOUP

HEARTY MINESTRONE SOUP

 

article-1131711-033BAEF3000005DC-819_468x286This is a perfect soup for midweek when you are in need of something comforting, satisfying and full of goodness. The recipe makes plenty, so stick the leftovers in the freezer, divided into individual portions, then defrost on the day you know you’ll need an instant meal.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6-8

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

200g/7oz smoked bacon, cut into thin strips

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

1 courgette, finely diced

Quarter of a savoy cabbage, finely sliced

400g/14oz tin borlotti, cannellini or mixed beans, drained

400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 litre/35floz/4 ¾ cups chicken stock

100g/3½oz small pasta shapes

6 tbsp good quality green pesto

Parmesan shavings to serve

 

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion, bacon, garlic, carrot and celery for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not coloured.

 

Add the courgette, cabbage, tinned beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, chicken stock and pasta.  Bring to the simmer. Cook for 15 minutes and then season with salt and pepper.
Serve into bowls and finish by adding a spoonful of pesto in the centre of each one, and shave over some parmesan cheese and serve.

 

PS…

For a vegetarian version of this soup – the smoked bacon can be left out all together and vegetable stock used instead of chicken stock. You could add a pinch of smoked paprika when cooking the soup to give the smokiness the bacon was providing.

photography: Gareth Morgans 

super shepherds pie

Super Shepherds PieSHEPHERDSPIE

 

The addition of lots of tasty vegetables and some tinned beans gives a stack of hidden goodness and a super delicious twist to this classic one-pot supper.

 

Serves 4-6

 

Ingredients

 

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 large leek, diced

2 carrots, grated

4-500g minced lamb

2 tablespoons tomato puree

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

500ml beef stock

400g tin haricot or cannellini beans, drained

200g broccoli, cut into small pieces

900g mixed weight of peeled potatoes, parsnip and sweet potatoes (the quantity of each is up to you)

50g butter

up to 3 tablespoons milk 

 

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the leeks and carrot for a few minutes. Increase the heat and add the lamb. Cook until browned, tipping out any excess fat. Stir in the tomato puree, Worcester sauce, bay leaf, stock, and beans. Stir well and bring to a simmer.

 

Cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the broccoli and then cook with the lid off for a further 20-25 minutes until the sauce has thickened.

 

Meanwhile, cut the root vegetables into chunks, removing the tough core from the parsnip, and cutting the potatoes slightly smaller than the other vegetables (they usually take a little longer to cook than the others). Place in a pan of boiling water and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until tender. Drain, and mash with the butter and milk.

 

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan ovens/gas 4.

 

Place the shepherds pie filling in an ovenproof dish, top with the mash and bake for 20-25 minutes, if cooking straight away. If chilling in the fridge, add a further 10 minutes to the cooking time.

 

ROAST SQUASH AND GARLIC SOUP WITH CRUSHED CHILLI, NIGELLA AND FENNEL SEEDS

ROAST SQUASH AND GARLIC SOUP WITH CRUSHED CHILLI, NIGELLA AND FENNEL SEEDS

I’ve literally just made this very tasty soup and wanted to share the recipe with you. Today is one of those frantic ones where I am working from home during the day, so pretty calm, but the second I collect the kids from school it all goes mad with one thing and another leaving no time at all to prepare any food for dinner. So – I have just made this really easy soup. I roasted the veg while clearing up the breakfast pots. When I stopped work for a coffee, I whizzed up the soup and at lunchtime heated some up and tucked into a small bowl while clearing up. The kids can have a bowlful with in minutes of getting home, scattered with cheese and crushed breadsticks (a new favourite of theirs), and it will do a great job as a light evening meal, with some warm seeded bread and the remains of the cheeseboard from the weekend for my other half and I when we finally get a chance to sit down!

INGREDIENTS

1 medium-large butternut squash, peeled

8 garlic cloves, unpeeled

2 carrots, peeled

2 onions, peeled

olive oil, for drizzling

approx. 1.3 litres vegetable stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp crushed dried chilli

1 ½ tsp nigella seeds

1 ½ tsp fennel seeds

METHOD

Heat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/gas 6. Cut the squash, carrots and onion into chunky wedges. Put in a large roasting tray with the garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil. Turn to coat everything in oil and roast in the oven for about 50 minutes, turning a couple of times, until cooked through and just becoming golden.

Once cooked, squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin, into a liquidiser and blend with the rest of the roasted vegetables and stock until smooth. This will need to be done in batches, so tip any blended soup into a large saucepan as you go. Add any extra stock or water until you reach the consistency you prefer.

Gently heat the soup and season with salt to taste.

Crush the chilli, nigella and fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar.

To serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle the seeds over the top, serving any extra separately.

PS…

The soup will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week or freezes really well in individual portions.

If making this for children,  you can sprinkle theirs with parmesan cheese or crushed breadsticks will even go down a treat.

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