Recipe – Nigel’s Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Praline

Nigel Slater that is, my favorite British writer who cooks and who I would never dare refer to as a ‘foodie’. A pet peeve of his.

Anyway, this is a very rich and dark chocolatey pud that hides under a thin, crisp, dark chocolate shell and a chunky scattering of golden, hazelnut praline.

A chocolate lover’s dream that happens to be really easy to make (especially if you make a big batch of praline and keep it in the freezer, as I do).

Nigel's Dark Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Praline

Nigel’s Dark Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Praline

NIGEL SLATER’S DARK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE WITH HAZELNUT PRALINE

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

9 oz (250g) of good dark chocolate

1.5 oz (40g) of butter cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons of espresso

5 eggs, separated

For the topping:

3.5 oz (100g) of dark chocolate, set aside

3-4 heaped tablespoons or more of hazelnut praline (recipe below)

Action:

Break the chocolate into small pieces (or use dark chocolate chips) and put them in a bowl set over barely simmering water – make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t come in to contact with the water, otherwise it will get too hot and the chocolate will ‘seize’ (become hard and gritty).

Once the chocolate has melted, add the butter then the espresso, stirring thoroughly to mix. Take it off the heat and quickly fold in the egg yolks, giving it a really good stir.

Beat the egg whites until billowy then fold them into the mousse using a large metal spoon in a cutting motion, until there are no white bits left to be seen.

Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

Now is the time to make praline if you haven’t already.

Praline:

In a heavy-based pan, combine equal quantities of whole raw hazelnuts (or almonds, pistachios, etc) and white sugar. Melt the sugar over a very low heat. The nuts will start to smell a bit toasty. This takes a while so don’t be tempted to crank up the heat.

Eventually the sugar will become a deep golden color and runny. When it reaches the runny stage with no granules left, quickly pour the entire contents of the pan onto a large greased baking sheet and allow it to cool and harden.

Once it’s hard, break it into pieces and grind it in a food processor until you have a fairly fine powder – or bash it with a rolling pin in a sealed plastic bag until you have random shards and nutty chunks. I keep both types in my freezer in little airtight containers.

When the mousse has set, break up the remaining chocolate and melt it in a bowl over simmering water as before. Once the chocolate is good and runny, pour it over the chilled mousse and spread it evenly, topped with a scattering of hazelnut praline.

Chill in the fridge until the chocolate has set (at least 30 mins).

You can make this 1 or two days before – just keep it covered in the fridge.

Posted in Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts | 2 Comments

Recipe – Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Saffron, Lemon & Tomatoes

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to serve shrimp and this lovely baked pasta dish delivers bright, fresh flavors. Positively bulging with big, fat juicy shrimp and topped with tangy feta cheese, this is a lively, fragrant, satisfying dish that’s lighter than many baked pasta dishes.

Similar to risotto in preparation  – but then you stick it in the oven for 20 minutes, making it a perfect supper dish for entertaining.

This recipe is best made just before you want to serve it, so get everything prepped and ready to assemble beforehand.

*Saffron is a rather luxurious spice but well worth investing in – a kitchen treasure that enhances desserts, cookies and rice dishes among other things.

Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Saffron, Lemon & Tomatoes

BAKED ORZO PASTA with SHRIMP, SAFFRON, LEMON & TOMATOES

(Serves 8)

Ingredients:

1.5lbs (680g) of fresh shrimp (preferably wild caught), peeled and de-veined

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons of x-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

4-6 cloves of garlic, crushed

1lb (450g) of orzo pasta

1 large pinch of *saffron

1 tablespoon of lemon zest

4 cups (1ltr) of chicken broth

1 cup (240ml) of water

28 oz (800g) can of chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, chopped

12 oz (340g) of feta cheese, crumbled

To finish:

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

A handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

Action:

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Oil a 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33cm) baking dish.

Toss the prepared shrimp in sea salt and black pepper and set it aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil and gently saute the onion and red pepper.. Cook over a medium heat until softened, stirring frequently. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute then add the orzo pasta, saffron and lemon zest.

Stir well for a minute until the orzo is coated with oil, then pour in the broth and water. Bring it to a good simmer, add a generous pinch of sea salt and cook, stirring frequently until just below the orzo recommended cooking time (you want it to be still quite ‘al dente’ before you put it in the oven – 8 minutes approx). Most of the liquid will have been absorbed at this point.

Check the seasoning then add the tomatoes, shrimp and oregano. Transfer it to the baking dish and top with the crumbled feta cheese. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through and the feta is starting to brown in places.

Serve right away, scattered with chopped parsley and a drizzle of lemon juice.

Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Saffron, Lemon and  Tomatoes

Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Saffron, Lemon & Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fish & Seafood, Pasta | 5 Comments

Recipe – Chili Cornbread

Another easy recipe that freezes well. Cornbread can be rather sweet, almost dessert-like but I prefer a more savory version and this is exactly that.

Fresh chilies, green onion and cilantro (coriander leaf) lift this up and out of the dessert category. I like to serve it toasted with ripe avocado or with lots of butter.  Chili cornbread also makes a wonderful accompaniment to this very easy chicken tortilla soup recipe – in fact I’ll replace crispy tortilla strips with toasted cornbread any day.

Chili Cornbread with Scallions & Cilantro

CHILI CORNBREAD WITH SCALLIONS & CILANTRO

(Makes about 12 slices)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 oz (50g) of butter, melted

9oz (250g) of quick-cooking polenta

4 1/2 oz (125g) of plain, all purpose flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons of sugar

19 fl oz (568ml) of buttermilk

2 eggs

3 scallions (spring onions) trimmed and sliced thinly

Small handful of cilantro (coriander) chopped

2 red chilies – seeded and finely chopped

Action:

Heat the oven to 395F (200C ). Grease and line the base and long sides of a 2lb (900ml) loaf tin.

In a large bowl combine the polenta, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder.

Mix the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter in a separate bowl and stir this into the dry ingredients. Finally, fold in the chilies, scallions and chopped cilantro/coriander. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. The top should be golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If it looks like it’s browning too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil during the last 10 minutes or so.

Cool it completely in the loaf pan before turning out. It keeps well for a couple of days in an airtight container – or freeze it for later.

Posted in Bread & Cakes, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Poached Egg Vol-au-Vents with Spinach, Wild Mushrooms, Goat Cheese & Hollandaise

Someone just gave me a few duck eggs and I already had a stash of sauteed chanterelles and frozen puff pastry in the freezer, so this was pretty easy to put together.

However, the simple recipe below is made from scratch and as it’s rather rich, it would make a luxurious brunch or *drunch dish  – either way it’s quite wonderful.

Duck eggs are almost twice the size of regular hen eggs, which explains the top heavy pic but they aren’t necessary and neither are the chanterelles.  Good old chuck eggs and little brown ‘shrooms would do very nicely here.

*drunch = one of those lingering lunches accompanied by good wine.

poached egg vol au vents with wild mushrooms, spinach & goat cheese

Poached Egg Vol-au-Vent with Spinach, Wild Mushrooms, Goat Cheese & Hollandaise

POACHED EGG VOL-AU-VENTS WITH WILD MUSHROOMS, SPINACH, GOAT CHEESE & HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

4 uncooked puff pastry vol-au-vent cases

A splash of olive oil

3oz (85g) of soft mild goat cheese

5oz (140g) of ready-washed baby spinach leaves

3oz (85g) of fresh wild mushrooms such as porcini or chanterelles – or small crimini/brown chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced

4 large eggs (hen or duck)

Sea salt

A few snipped chives to finish

Ingredients for the easy microwave hollandaise sauce:

2 large egg yolks

Juice of a quarter to ½ a lemon, to taste

A pinch of cayenne

A pinch of sea salt

4 tablespoons of butter, melted

Action:

To make the pastry cases and filling:

To make the vol-au-vents, preheat the oven to 425F and bake them for 18 mins until puffed and golden. When cool enough to handle, pull off and discard the tops and any uncooked pastry inside, leaving a hollow, crisp shell. Keep warm.

(Can be made ahead; just keep in an airtight container at room temp)

For the filling and while the pastry is cooking, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan set over a medium heat. When the pan is hot, sauté the mushrooms until golden, add the baby spinach and cook, stirring until it’s wilted.  Take it off the heat and stir in the goat cheese until it melts. Cover and set it aside while you poach the eggs and make the hollandaise.

(The filling can also be made ahead – cover and chill but bring it to room temp before stuffing the vol-au vents, then warm them through in a 350F oven while you poach the eggs and make the sauce)

While the vol-au-vents are heating through, bring a pan of salted water to a boil and poach the eggs for 3-4 minutes depending on size.

While the eggs are poaching, make the hollandaise. In a microwaveable bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne and salt. In a thin stream, pour the melted butter over the yolk mixture, whisking all the time. Microwave for 10 seconds then whisk. Repeat this 4 – 5 times or until you have a lovely thick sauce.

Serve right away on warmed plates – top each spinach and mushroom-stuffed pastry case with a poached egg and a couple of tablespoons of hollandaise followed by a sprinkle of snipped chives.

Posted in Eggs, Made in Under 30 mins, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Truffled Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese

Looking for something really luxurious to serve on New Year’s Eve that doesn’t involve hours of prep?

This is my easy version of lobster mac ‘n cheese using ready cooked chunks of lobster and *lobster juice  – and it doesn’t require baking in the oven like regular mac ‘n cheese.

Generously studded with glorious chunks of lobster meat and finished with a drizzle of white truffle oil – it really doesn’t get much better than this!

*Bottled lobster juice (8oz / 240ml) is available from Whole Foods and if you can’t find it, just double up on the half and half or pouring cream.

Truffled Lobster Mac 'n Cheese

Truffled Lobster Mac ‘ n Cheese

TRUFFLED LOBSTER MAC ‘N CHEESE

(6 servings)

Ingredients:

1lb (453g) of macaroni, dry weight

1lb (453g) of cooked lobster meat, cut into bite sized chunks (Costco sells bags of frozen lobster meat that’s perfect for this, unless you want to start with a live one…)

1 medium sized shallot, finely minced

1 clove of garlic, minced or crushed

5 tablespoons of unsalted butter

4 tablespoons of all-purpose / plain flour

A pinch of cayenne

A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon of dry mustard powder

1 bay leaf

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.5 cups (354ml) of half and half or pouring cream

1.5 cups (354ml) of lobster juice plus extra to finish (that’s two 8fl oz / 240ml bottles) or half and half as above

4 oz (113g) of Marscapone

4.5 oz (128g) of grated Gruyere

4.5 oz (128g) of grated Fontina

White truffle oil to finish

Action:

In a separate large pan, melt the butter and gently sweat the shallots and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the flour, nutmeg, cayenne and mustard, stirring for about 2 minutes to create a ‘roux’, then slowly whisk in the half and half and lobster juice. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste then add the bay leaf and bring it to a gently simmer for about 8-10 minutes until it thickens, stirring every minute or so.

Start cooking the pasta.

Back to the sauce; once thickened, discard the bay leaf and reduce the heat to very, very low. Fold in the Marscapone until it melts into the sauce, followed by the grated Gruyere and Fontina. Stir well to melt the cheeses.

Quickly drain the pasta and fold it into to the sauce along with the remaining lobster water (if you aren’t using lobster water, use some of the pasta cooking water if the sauce needs thinning out) Stir to combine and check the seasoning.

Fold in the fresh lobster meat and let everything heat through gently for a couple of minutes before dividing between warmed individual bowls.

To serve, top each bowl of pasta with a small drizzle of really good white truffle oil (don’t overdo it as you don’t want the truffle to dominate)

Happy New Year!

 

Posted in Fish & Seafood, Pasta | 2 Comments

Recipe – Salmon Tagine with Lemony Couscous

Here’s a deliciously different  way of serving fresh salmon that’s been marinated in an African spice paste called chermoula. If you can’t find chermoula, make your own (*simple instructions below) – it will taste even better.

Served over a lemony, minted couscous, this colorful and rather exotically fragrant dish is loaded with vegetables – and if you don’t make your own preserved lemon, use finely grated fresh lemon zest to give the couscous a perfumed tang.

Start by marinating the salmon for an hour or better yet, overnight if you have time.

Note: I used little purple potatoes because that’s what I had  but for a brighter-looking dish, use baby white potatoes or the red-skinned variety.

SALMON TAGINE with COUSCOUS

Tagine of Wild Salmon & Vegetables with Lemony Minted Couscous

WILD SALMON & VEGETABLE TAGINE WITH LEMONY COUSCOUS

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

5 fl oz (170g) of chermoula paste (recipe below)

1lb of wild salmon fillet, skinned and cut into chunks

11 oz (300g) of wholewheat couscous

A good grind of sea salt

The thinly sliced rind of 1/2 a preserved lemon – or the finely grated zest of half a fresh lemon

3 tablespoons of extra-v olive oil (for the couscous)

A small bunch of fresh mint, leaves stripped and chopped (save a few for a garnish)

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

12 oz (340g) of baby potatoes, washed and halved

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

14oz (400g) can of chopped tomatoes and their juice

A handful of pitted kalamata olives, halved

Action:

Spread the chermoula paste over the fish, cover and chill for at least 1 hr or overnight.

Make the couscous: put it in a bowl with a grind of sea salt and pour 14fl oz (400ml) of boiling water over. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes then fluff it with a fork. Add most of the lemon peel (or fresh lemon zest), the extra-v olive oil and chopped mint. Set it aside.

In a heavy sauté pan, heat the remaining oil over a medium heat then add the sliced onion, carrots, potatoes, cumin and a good grind of sea salt. Sauté for 5-6 minutes then add the garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes along with 10 fl oz (300ml) of water and the olives. Bring it to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add the fish, gently tossing to combine, then simmer for another 5-6 minutes until everything is cooked through.

Check the seasoning and let it sit covered for another 5 minutes. Serve with the couscous plus a few mint leaves and the remaining lemon peel or zest scattered over.

*EASY CHERMOULA PASTE

Put the following ingredients in a blender and pulse until you have a thick, green-flecked paste:

250ml fresh cilantro (coriander leaf)

4 fat cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of white wine vinegar

The juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp of ground paprika

1 tbsp of ground cumin

1 red chili, seeds discarded

2 tbsp of olive oil

Posted in Fish & Seafood | 4 Comments

Recipe – Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you have a slow cooker and a can opener, this is one of the easiest, tastiest and most heartwarming soups imaginable and it only takes about 15 minutes to assemble – the next 5-6 hrs of simmering in a slow cooker can mind its own business while your working, skiing or whatever it is you like to do elsewhere.

The wonderful aroma that greets you when you return is just what you’ll need when you stagger home cold and exhausted.  Even if your’e bouncing with energy, this soup will make a delicious and fool-proof addition to your repertoire.

A meal in itself and bursting with spicy Southwestern flavors, there are many versions out there – I happen to like this one, adapted from a friend’s recipe.

Toppings can include crispy tortilla strips or chips, sour cream, fresh cilantro (coriander), sliced avocado, chopped chives, shredded Jack (or mozzarella) cheese…or not.

Either way, this hits the spot.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Southwestern Chicken Tortilla Soup

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP

(6 servings)

Ingredients:

1lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 x 15oz can (425g) of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 x 15oz can (425g) or chopped tomatoes – preferably fire-roasted

12oz (340g) of frozen sweetcorn kernels

1 large red and 1 large green pepper, seeded and diced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 fat cloves of garlic, minced

A small handful of fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped

1 tablespoon of ground cumin

1 bay leaf

1-2 large tablespoons of chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped (or chili powder)

1 teaspoon of sea salt

2 – 3 cups (480ml – 720ml) of chicken stock

Action:

Combine everything in your slow cooker and nestle the chicken breast somewhere in the middle.  Cook on low for 8 hrs or high for 5-6.

Before serving, use two forks to shred the chicken to distribute it throughout the soup.

To serve, top with all, some or none of the suggestions listed above.

Like many soups, this tastes even better the next day – just warm it through gently.

 

 

Posted in Poultry, Soups | 1 Comment