Recipe – Chocolate, Prune & Walnut Mousse

Chocolate and prunes were made for each other. This luscious mousse is adapted from a Patricia Lousada recipe and combines prunes with dark chocolate – and a few toasted walnuts are added for some unexpected crunch.

Another sublime confection that combines all three, are these Chocolate & Prune Truffles, which admittedly involve a few stages of preparation over several days despite requiring no particular skill. They’re impressive, absolutely world-class and are well worth the time.

Soaking the prunes in alcohol for a few days is a must in both cases but this recipe is simpler and makes a lovely dinner party dessert.

This mousse also freezes well but it’s essential to bring it back to room temperature before serving.

Note – it contains gelatin so isn’t suitable for strict vegetarians.

Chocolate, Prune & Walnut Mousse

Chocolate, Prune & Walnut Mousse

CHOCOLATE, PRUNE & WALNUT MOUSSE

(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoon of Cognac, Grand Marnier or Kirsch

8 oz (250g) of pitted, ready-to-eat prunes, chopped finely

1 level tablespoon of gelatin powder

2 tablespoons of cold water

11 fl oz (325ml) of whole milk

1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

3 large eggs, separated

3.5 oz (100g) of vanilla sugar

4 oz (125g) of good quality dark chocolate, chopped or chips

4 fl oz (125ml) of whipping cream

2 oz (50g) of walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped plus some for decoration

A pinch of salt

Action:

Soak the chopped prunes in the alcohol overnight or up to 4 days, if you have time

Put the powdered gelatin in a small cup and pour two tablespoons of water over it. Let it sit for a few minutes until it soaks up the water and becomes spongy. Now place that cup in a bowl of very hot water to allow the gelatin to dissolve and become runny.

Bring the milk and cinnamon to a boil in a heavy pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with with half of the sugar until pale, then carefully pour the hot cinnamon milk over the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Pour everything back into the pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring the whole time. Don’t let it boil.

Once the custard has thickened slightly, take it off the heat and add the chocolate. Give it a good stir and when all the chocolate has melted, stir in the dissolved gelatin.

Pour the lot into a mixing bowl set over a larger bowl of ice and stir from time to time until it starts to thicken. Whip the cream until you have soft peaks. Once the chocolate mixture is cool and has thickened a bit (but before it sets completely), fold in the whipped cream followed by the alcohol-soaked prunes and chopped walnuts.

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until you have stiff peaks then gradually whisk in the remaining sugar.

Using a large metal spoon and with a cutting motion, add 1/4 of the egg white to the chocolate mixture to lighten it then proceed to fold in the remaining egg white in the same way, until everything is incorporated.

Divide the mousse between 6-8 small dishes or wine glasses, then cover and chill for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove from the fridge at least one hour before serving. Decorate with walnut pieces, white or dark chocolate curls, edible gold dust, praline, or whatever you prefer.

 

Posted in Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts | 2 Comments

Recipe – Mincemeat with Brandy

Mincemeat is a wonderful traditional Christmassy confection and one that if you knew how easy it was to make from scratch, you’d never buy it ready-made again. It’s stuffed with lots of dried fruits, candied citrus peel, nuts and brandy (or rum).

Not only that but unless you have access to big city supermarkets in the US, you can only find it in the ‘seasonal’ section from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve – and frankly, many brands of the gluey brown stuff that pose as mincemeat are disappointing with their list of chemical ingredients – and worst of all they contain nowhere nearly enough rum or brandy, if any.

On the other hand, if you can find really good quality ready-made mincemeat, it’s expensive so why not make your own?

There’s no cooking involved until you’re ready to pile it into a tart, a pie, or stuff it into an apple for baking.

Here is a gloriously boozy and festive mincemeat recipe that will make enough to fill three 8-9 ounce (227-255g) glass jars. Be sure to squish it down really well in the jar once you get to that point.

It takes a couple of weeks to mature by which time it will have developed a deep, rich color and the smell will have you drooling, so get cracking and you’re guaranteed to receive lots of ‘oohs and aahs’ over the holiday season.

I use Atora vegetable suet*. You can buy it here or from Amazon. Vegetable-based suet fat is every bit as good in cooking as the original meat-based suet, so there’s no need to lie about the contents of your desserts and to be honest, nothing else will do here, so you can forget about using lard or butter.

I buy suet in bulk and keep it in my freezer and if you’ve never used it before, you should know that it makes the lightest, fluffiest dumplings, pastries and sponge puddings…a Great British tradition!

Mincemeat with Brandy

Mincemeat with Brandy

 Ingredients:

4 oz (114g) of currants

4 oz (114g) of seedless raisins

4 oz (114g) of sultanas / golden raisins

2 oz (57g) dried tart cherries

2 oz (57g) of candied citrus peel (make your own here)

4 oz (114g) of firm, tart apple, peeled and cored

2 oz (57g) of blanched almonds (or walnuts if you prefer)

4 oz (114g) of shredded *suet

8 oz (228g) of soft dark brown sugar

1 level teaspoon of ground allspice

Brandy or rum – enough to moisten the mixture (don’t worry about overdoing it as the alcohol evaporates during cooking and acts as a preservative up to that point)

Action:

mincemeat-day-1Finely chop the dried fruit, candied peel, nuts and apple.  Put it in a large bowl and add the suet, sugar, allspice and as much brandy as necessary to create a nice moist mixture.

Stir everything together well, cover with cling film and let it rest at room temperature for 2 days, after which time is will smell even more heavenly.

Spoon it into sterile, screw-top glass jars, packing down well and let it mature for a minimum of 2 weeks before you use it.

Once opened, store it in the fridge and use within a month. It may also freeze but I haven’t tried that yet. If you do, don’t stuff the jars to the brim.

If you make it now, you’ll be rocking out the most delicious little Yuletide mince pies!

Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts, Made in Under 30 mins, Sauces, Preserves, Condiments, Vegan, Vegetables / Vegetarian | 2 Comments

Recipe – Chicken & Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Milk

A soothing, fragrant dish that’s really simple to make and is perfect served over jasmine or basmati rice.

I recommend using bone-in, skinless chicken thighs for the juiciest result but if you use chicken off the bone, you’ll reduce the cooking time by about 15 minutes, so this really is a quick and delicious supper.

Note – if you remove the skin yourself, you might want to save it for this incredible ‘Chicken Skin Popcorn’ recipe, courtesy of Nigel Slater.

Chicken & Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Milk

Chicken & Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Milk

CHICKEN & SWEET POTATOES IN COCONUT MILK

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs on the bone, skin removed

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1lb (about half a kilo) of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch (5cm) chunks

1 can of coconut milk

3 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce (nam pla)

The juice of one or two limes, to taste

A good handful of chopped cilantro (coriander)

Action:

Heat the oil in a deep, wide saute pan (with a lid) and when moderately hot, add the chicken pieces and cook on one side for about 5 minutes until they’re nicely browned. Add the sliced onion, stir things around and continue to cook until the onion has softened.

Add the sweet potato, coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce. Stir well to combine and bring it to a boil then turn the heat down low, put the lid on and let it simmer for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

Remove the lid and add the remaining tablespoon of fish sauce. If there’s too much liquid, crank up the heat to reduce it a bit. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro and serve immediately over rice in warm bowls.

Posted in Poultry | 2 Comments

Recipe – Florentines

These delicate cookies are deliciously crisp, chewy and really easy to make in two stages.

Because they’re a bit posh, they also make a wonderful gift. The combination of almonds, tangy citrus zest and dark chocolate is mouthwatering. You don’t have to make your own candied citrus peel but if you do, you’ll elevate this classic little cookie to world-class proportions.

If you can resist eating them all, they’ll keep a week in an airtight container and they freeze well.

Go on, spoil yourself!

Florentines

Florentines

FLORENTINE COOKIES

(Makes 15-20)

Ingredients:

1.5 oz (40g) of butter

5 tablespoons of heavy (double) cream

2 oz (50g) of fine white sugar (caster)

3.5 oz (100g) of flaked almonds

1.5 oz (40g) of candied orange peel, finely chopped

1 oz (25g) of plain all-purpose flour, sifted

A good pinch of sea salt

5oz (150g) of dark chocolate chips such as Ghirardelli

Action:

Heat the oven to 350F/ 180C.

Grease one or two baking sheets (the cookies spread, so they’ll need plenty of room).

Put the flaked almonds and chopped peel in a large bowl. Gently bring the butter, cream and sugar to a boil then pour over the almonds and peel and stir well. Fold in the flour and a good pinch of salt stirring to combine thoroughly.

Drop heaped teaspoon amounts onto the baking sheet, at least 1.5 inches (40cm) apart and with the back of a wet fork or spoon, flatten each mound a little. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges have turned a golden brown.

Remove them from the oven and allow to cool for about 15-20 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a flat surface to cool completely.

For the chocolate coating – put the chocolate chips in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Don’t allow the bottom of the bowl to come into contact with the water or the chocolate will ‘seize’ (i.e. become hard, grainy and unfit for anything).

Once the chocolate has melted, give it a good stir and take off the heat.

Turn the cookies over, drop a teaspoon of chocolate onto the underside of each and gently spread up to the edges. Before the chocolate has set, take a fork and gently swirl a pattern in the chocolate.

They’ll set more quickly if you put them in the fridge for 15 minutes or so.

 

 

Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts | 2 Comments

Recipe – Mushroom & Barley Soup

This is such a comforting, filling and soothing soup. There are so many versions out there but this is my favorite. In this instance I’ve used organic chicken broth but vegetarians can substitute vegetable or mushroom broth for an equally delicious result.

It also helps if you forage for your own wild edible mushrooms.

Here I’ve included dried porcini mushrooms from a previous year’s haul – but if you aren’t a hunter/forager, dried porcini are widely available in small packets and add an earthy, meaty richness to the overall flavor that’s essential, in my opinion.

Like many soups, this tastes even better the following day and it freezes well.

Mushroom & Barley Soup

Mushroom & Barley Soup

 MUSHROOM & BARLEY SOUP with PORCINI

(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

3 quarts (3.4 liters) of organic stock – chicken, vegetable or mushroom

1 and 1/4 cups (300 ml measure) of pearl barley, rinsed and drained

2-3 tablespoons of hi-temp cooking oil such as avocado or grape-seed – divided

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

A good handful of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in a pint of very hot water for 15 minutes

1lb (1/2 a kilo) of small brown mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced

2 bay leaves

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Action:

In a large heavy pot with a lid, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the onion until soft, then add the carrot, celery and garlic. Continue to cook until the vegetables have softened a bit.

Meanwhile, line a strainer with paper towel and strain the soaked and softened dried mushrooms, capturing all the liquid. Set the liquid aside and rinse the mushrooms under a little running water, then chop them finely and add them  to the vegetables in the pot. Saute for a few minutes then add the barley, bay leaves, mushroom soaking liquid and the stock. Bring it to a boil then turn down to a simmer and put the lid on.

While that’s happening, heat the remaining oil in a wide skillet and saute the mushrooms (probably in 2 batches) over quite a high heat and with a good grind of sea salt, tossing them around until they’ve turned a nice golden brown. Add them to the pot with everything else, bring the soup back to a simmer, put the lid on and cook over a low heat for 1 hour.

After an hour, check to see if the barley is big and soft and the vegetables are tender. Add more stock  and cook for another 30 minutes if needed – the soup should be really thick.

Check the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary and a really good grind of black pepper to taste.

If you’re making this ahead, reheat very gently, stirring from time to time.

Posted in Soups, Vegan, Vegetables / Vegetarian | 5 Comments

Recipe – Salmon & Potato Cake

This is a lovely brunch or lunch dish, perhaps served with something green on the side. I know that in the US in particular,  during the first part of the day people like to serve fruit with this type of thing but for what it’s worth, I don’t. Keep the fruit garnishes for your stack of pancakes.

It’s also a great way to stretch small quantities of smoked salmon and fresh wild salmon between 4-6 people, depending on how hungry they are.

You can prepare the whole thing up to 24 hrs ahead – just cover and refrigerate but bring it to room temperature before putting it in the oven for 30 mins.

You could make this entirely with smoked salmon if you’re feeling luxurious; just quadruple the quantity.

Salmon & Potato Cake

Salmon & Potato Cake

SALMON & POTATO CAKE

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

4 medium-sized baking potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly

1 pint (475ml) of whole milk

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2-3 oz (56-85g) of smoked salmon, cut into thin strips

2 fillets of fresh wild-caught salmon (approx 8 oz / 230g total weight), skinned and cut into 1.5 inch (4cm) chunks

1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill with some extra for a garnish

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Action:

salmon-potato-cake-003Bring the milk to a boil and drop in the sliced potatoes. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the slices are tender, stirring gently from time to time to prevent sticking. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl with a slotted spoon and reserve 1 and 1/4 cups (300ml) of the milk (you can discard the rest or use for something else).

Allow the milk and potatoes to cool to room temperature. Fold all of the salmon into the potatoes, along with the dill, lemon zest and a good grind of black pepper – add sea salt to taste. Transfer everything to a buttered, shallow ovenproof baking dish.

Whisk the eggs into the cooled milk then pour it over the salmon and potato mixture. (It can be made ahead to this point – cover and chill but return to room temp before baking).

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F/200C and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is slightly golden.

Scatter the remaining dill over and serve hot or warm with some lemon wedges on the side.

 

Posted in Fish | 5 Comments

Recipe – A Simple Vegetable and Coconut Curry

This is a lovely way to serve vegetables and one that I’ve adapted from Maya Kaimal’s ‘Savoring The Spice Coast of India’. It’s economical, easy to make and is absolutely delicious served on it’s own over plain or aromatic rice.

Because the vegetables are bathed in a creamy coconut sauce, this would also make an excellent accompaniment to a drier type of meat, prawn or chicken Indian dish.

*Fresh curry leaves are an essential ingredient here. Although you don’t eat them, they add a wonderful, aromatic nutty flavor and you can buy them from any decent Asian supermarket or online – they also freeze well.

A Simple Vegetable & Coconut Curry

A Simple Vegetable & Coconut Curry

A SIMPLE VEGETABLE & COCONUT CURRY

(Serves 6 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

2 medium to large sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes) peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) chunks

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin 2-inch (5cm) matchsticks

1 medium to large onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 or 2 fresh green chilies (Serrano or Thai), sliced lengthwise (adjust quantity to taste)

10 thin slices of peeled root ginger

10-12 *fresh curry leaves

Sea salt to taste

3/4 cup (180ml) of coconut milk (not ‘lite’)

1 and 1/2 cups (354ml) of water

1 cup measure (236ml) of frozen peas, defrosted

Action:

Combine the potatoes, carrot, onion, chilies, ginger and curry leaves in a medium saucepan. Season with sea salt and pour over 1/2 cup of the coconut milk plus 1 and 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a rapid boil then reduce to a simmer, uncovered for approx 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Smash a few of the potato pieces to thicken the sauce, then add the peas and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the remaining coconut milk, check the seasoning and heat through.

This will keep in the fridge for a few days – just reheat very gently, stirring from time to time but don’t let it boil or the coconut milk may curdle.

 

Posted in Indian Cuisine, Made in Under 30 mins, Vegan, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment