Recipe – Mushroom, Chestnut & Spinach Parcels with Goat Cheese

One of the nice things about these delicious mushroomy little puff pastry parcels is that you can make the filling ahead and freeze it, along with your frozen puff pastry.

The quantities listed below will also make a vegetarian ‘Wellington’ if you want to wow your veggie guests with an impressive entrée; alternatively, there’s enough for 8 individual pastries, ideal for a light lunch served with salad.

You don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy them, either!

Note: *dried porcini mushrooms are available from most decent supermarkets these days. They add an wonderfully intense mushroom flavor to anything but if you can’t find them don’t worry, the mushroom filling here is excellent even without them.

Mushroom, Chestnut, Spinach & Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Parcels

Mushroom, Chestnut, Spinach & Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Parcels

MUSHROOM, CHESTNUT & SPINACH PARCELS with GOAT CHEESE

(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

1 lb (approx 500g) of frozen puff pastry, thawed

A 5 oz packet (142g) of ready to use baby spinach leaves

2 oz (50g) of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 medium leeks, washed trimmed and thinly sliced, white and pale green parts only

5-6 sprigs of thyme, leaves pulled off the stalks and stalks discarded

1/3 cup (80ml measure) of *dried porcini mushrooms, soaked for 15 mins in hot water then drained and finely chopped (save the mushroomy soaking water for another use such as gravy, soup, etc)

7 oz (200g) of cooked, peeled chestnuts, crumbled

2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed

22 oz (600g) of crimini/baby portabella/chestnut mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and quartered

5 oz (150g) of soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled

To glaze the pastry, 1 lightly beaten egg

Action:

In a wide skillet or sauté pan, heat the butter and olive oil and sweat the leeks until they’re meltingly tender over a low heat. Add the garlic, chopped porcini (if using) and thyme leaves and cook for a few more minutes, then add the mushrooms. Turn up the heat a bit and toss the mushrooms around in the pan until they’re cooked and golden.

Add the spinach leaves and stir until they’re wilted, then take the pan off the heat and stir in the chestnuts. Set the filling aside to cool.

Once cooled, mix in the crumbled goat cheese and if you’re making a Wellington, form the cooled filling into a log shape to fit your puff pastry and wrap it in cling film. Chill until firm (or freeze at this point).

When you’re ready to make the parcels (or Wellington), heat the oven to 400F /200C.

Roll out the pastry into either 8 small squares or one large rectangle. Brush the edges with beaten egg and divide the filling equally for the individual parcels then bring the edges together in an envelope, pressing to seal. If you’re making a wellington, wrap the chilled filling until you have a sealed log with the seam on the bottom (also brushed with egg wash to seal it).

Using the left over pastry bits, cut out shapes to decorate your parcels (or Wellington) then brush with beaten egg.

Bake on a parchment-lined sheet for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting/serving.

 

 

 

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Recipes – Freezer Essentials

Apart from the obvious such as meat, fish, chicken, peas, vodka, raw pizza dough, ice, ice cream, ginger and garlic paste, butter, bread and soft fresh goat cheese – and in keeping with my philosophy of preparing meals that are quick and easy, especially when feeling tired and un-bothered – I’ve always felt it makes sense to keep a supply of delicious recipe ‘enhancers’  in the freezer.

Below is a selection of some of my favorite freezer treasures, guaranteed to transform and inspire, enabling me to whip up something delicious at short notice.

Just click on the HEADER links below for each recipe:

GNOCCHI 

Light and pillowy-soft, what sets this Antonio Carluccio recipe apart is that it’s made with baked potato rather than the usual mashed. Very simple to make and freezes like a dream stored in a sealed plastic container.

DUXELLES

This intense mushroom paste is wonderfully versatile and can be used in a myriad of ways such as a base for pizza topped with mozzarella, prosciutto and a flourish of truffle oil, or as a topping for burgers or steak; whipped into mashed potatoes;  used to enrich gravy and soup; served with pasta or baked eggs; made into little puff pastry parcels – the list is long. Duxelles also makes a perfect layer between beef and puff pastry in a Beef Wellington – a less rich option than pâté.

BRAZIL NUT PESTO

Replacing pine nuts with Brazil nuts and equally delicious, this – as with any type of home made pesto – will freeze well in ice cube trays. Just pop them out when frozen and transfer to a seal-able plastic bag.

ONION ‘JAM’

The longer you gently cook onions, the sweeter they become. This fabulous condiment is delicious on crostini topped with goat cheese; used on pizza perhaps with sliced fig and mozzarella; on a burger, steak or pork chop; in mashed potato…the possibilities are endless. Freeze in small seal-able containers.

PRALINE

I like to make praline with hazelnuts but you can use almonds if you prefer. Crushed coarsely, praline elevates a simple dish of ice cream when sprinkled over (like here); or use it in chocolate truffles; as a topping for cakes or cupcakes; folded into whipped cream and served with berries; added to meringue, etc.

I’ll crush the praline coarsely with a rolling pin or grind it finely in a processor as it has multiple uses both ways. Try making it with pumpkin seeds and just breaking into slender shards to stab into a scoop of ice cream. Freeze the coarse and fine praline separately in small seal-able containers.

THE ULTIMATE GLUTEN & DAIRY-FREE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE

Not only do these perfect cookies only take 12 minutes to make, they freeze really well and once you’ve tried them, milk and cookies will never be the same again and you’ll never want to be without. Just about everyone – except those with a peanut allergy – will be able to enjoy them so make an extra large batch as they tend to disappear fast!

CHOCOLATE

People don’t believe me when I say I make my own chocolate from scratch in under 20 minutes but here’s proof that it can be done and very easily too. I like to keep a batch in the freezer to take to dinner parties and it’s a lot of fun watching people’s facial expressions when you tell them you make it yourself. Home made dark organic chocolate squares also make the most amazing ‘S’Mores’.

Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Desserts, Pasta, Sauces, Preserves, Condiments, Vegetables / Vegetarian | 2 Comments

Recipe – Beer Bread

Who doesn’t have a can or bottle of beer lurking somewhere in the fridge? Well of course non-drinkers won’t but rest assured the alcohol evaporates entirely, leaving you with a wonderful, fragrant and almost cake-like loaf of bread that’s ridiculously easy to make.

With its crunchy crust and crumbly texture, this would be absolutely perfect served with a bowl of chili or soup.

I also recommend eating it still warm from the oven, smothered in lashings of butter.

It’s important to use a pale ale or lager beer, such as Blue Moon Belgian White and trying to be creative, I used maple syrup crystals instead of sugar but there wasn’t any discernible difference in the overall flavor so use regular sugar, it’s less expensive!

This recipe comes courtesy of a friend who’s a chef; thanks Tracey!

Here it is – the easiest, no-rise bread imaginable…

Beer Bread

BEER BREAD

(Makes one 9 x 5in / 22.8 x 12.7cm loaf)

Ingredients:

3 cups / 360g of multi-purpose unbleached organic flour

1/4 cup / 50g of organic cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt

3 teaspoons of baking powder

1 bottle / can of light ale, beer or lager

1/4 cup of butter, melted

Action:

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C.

Line a loaf pan with baking parchment then spray with oil.

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Using a large balloon whisk, whisk gently to ensure everything is completely combined.

Pour in the beer. It will foam up but stir until you have moist clumps and it’s just holding together.

Tip into the loaf pan and pour the melted butter all over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes until you have a light golden crust.

Immediately turn the loaf out of the pan onto a cooling rack to ensure you have a crunchy crust.

It may be hard to resist but wait a bit before cutting into it – you need it to firm slightly.

 

 

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Recipe – Butternut Brûlée

I’m generally not a fan of vegetables and sugar in the same dish, particularly after being presented with a sweet potato and toasted marshmallow ‘casserole’ many years ago. I’d recently moved to the US and was hosting Thanksgiving dinner in an attempt to embrace American culture. Even today, the very thought of that well meant but unsolicited offering makes me shudder. Needless to say it remained untouched even by my new American friends and was taken away intact. Perhaps I should have served it as a dessert but as the gifter insisted it should be served with the turkey, I thought it best to leave well alone.

On the other hand, this is a rather lovely – and different – way of serving mashed butternut squash, that goes very well with roast chicken, turkey, goose or pork. After you’ve drained the squash, don’t discard the chicken broth; it can be added to soup or used to make gravy for your roast.

Butternut Brûlée

BUTTERNUT SQUASH BRULEE

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

2 lbs (1 kilo) of butternut squash, peeled, seeds discarded and cut into  smallish chunks

2 cups (480-500ml) of chicken broth

A level teaspoon of grated nutmeg

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (120ml) of crème fraîche

1/4 cup (50ml) of grated parmigiano reggiano

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Action:

Heat the oven to 375F (190C)

Put the cubed squash and chicken broth in a pan, bring it to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain the squash, reserving the broth for something else.

Tip the squash back into the pan, add the crème fraîche, nutmeg, egg, parmesan,  sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, then mash until smooth.

Transfer it to an oiled, shallow baking dish and smooth the top, then dot with small pieces of butter. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Remove it from the oven, set the broiler/grill on high and sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the baked squash. Stick it under the broiler/grill for a couple of minutes until the sugar has melted and is bubbling.

Serve very warm.

 

Posted in Vegetables / Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Recipe – Nigel Slater’s Apricot, Orange & Anise Liqueur (and Drunken Apricots)

Nigel Slater’s latest book,  ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ is something you’ll want to snuggle up with on a wintry night with a little glass of something lovely on the side (such as this).

‘The Christmas Chronicles’ is chock-full of wonderful tales of Christmases long past and is brimming with nostalgia, festive spirit and wonderful recipes, some of which are so simple yet manage to be irresistibly luscious, like this one; a heady, creamy and fragrantly-spiced apricot concoction.

The best news is that the boozy apricots are absolutely wonderful served with a very good Stilton cheese (or some other blue). You could even use them as a filling for chocolate truffles – just switch them out for the prunes in this recipe here.

This recipe yields approximately a pint of liqueur with lots of drunken apricots and you’ll need to make this at least 2 weeks and preferably a month before you want to drink it – I recommend using only the best quality ingredients you can afford.

You’ll also need a large sterilized jar with a screw top.

Nigel Slater’s Apricot, Orange & Anise Liqueur

APRICOT, ORANGE & ANISE ‘LIQUEUR’

Makes approx 1 pint (473 ml)

Ingredients:

1.1 lbs (500g) of dried apricots

One large orange

4 whole star anise

1 and 1/4 cups (300ml) of cognac/brandy

3/4 cup (150g) of fine white sugar

1 and 1/4 cups (300ml) of good dessert wine

Action:

Put the apricots in a stainless steel pan along with a few strips of orange zest. Add the star anise, sugar and cognac and bring it to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer everything to a sterilized jar and pour in the dessert wine. Seal the jar well, give it a good shake and allow it to sit in a cool dark place for a minimum of 2 weeks and up to a month.

 

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Recipe – A Winter Soup

Chock full of smoky andouille sausage, potatoes, kidney beans and kale, this soup is hearty, spicy and rather garlicky – in fact it’s just perfect served piping hot, with lots of crusty bread on a frosty night.

It’s also really simple to make if you’re able open a can of kidney beans, a packet of baby kale and a couple of cartons of organic chicken broth. Ready in under 30 minutes, it’s a great go-to soup when you’re in a rush. Having said that, I like to make it ahead and let it sit for a couple of hours because like most soups, the flavors improve with a bit of time.

I used all-natural Wellshire Smoked Andouille Sausages but any good andouille sausage will do and if you cant find them, try chorizo or polish keilbasa.

If you can’t handle this amount of smoke and garlic, here’s a delicious Tuscan Kale & White Bean Soup recipe that may seem similar on the face of it but the end result tastes entirely different.

A Winter Soup with Andouille Sausage, Kale, Potatoes & Beans

A WINTER SOUP

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

1 lb (1/2 kilo) of andouille sausages, sliced thinly

6-8 fat cloves of garlic, minced

1 lb (1/2 kilo) of canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

2 quarts (2 liters) of organic chicken broth

1 lb (1/2 kilo) of little red skinned potatoes, washed and left unpeeled, cut into small chunks

6-8 oz of fresh Kale (use ready washed baby kale if you’re feeling lazy)

1/4 cup of sherry vinegar

Black pepper and sea salt to taste

Action:

In a large heavy pan, cook the sausage until the slices are browned and they’ve released at least 2 tablespoons of oil. Transfer the sausage to a bowl using a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the rendered oil (if you don’t have enough, add a little vegetable oil at this point) sauté the garlic until its golden then add the broth and potatoes and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the drained beans and kale and simmer for 5 minutes, followed by the sliced sausage  – cook for another couple of minutes.

Check the seasoning and add salt and a grind of black pepper if you think it needs it.

Last of all,  stir in the sherry vinegar.

 

 

Posted in Made in Under 30 mins, Meat, Soups | 2 Comments

Recipe – Pecan Meringue Cookies

Whether you use these to sandwich clouds of sweetened whipped cream, serve them with your favorite ice cream, or simply nibble on them while you’re enjoying a nice espresso, you’ll love these little meringues.

As light as puff of air and with a nutty-spicy flavor, they’re crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle, making them utterly moreish.

If you can resist eating them all at once, they’ll keep well for a week in an airtight container at room temp.

Spiced Pecan Meringue Cookies

SPICED PECAN MERINGUE COOKIES

(Makes approx 20)

Ingredients:

3 large egg whites

3/4 cup (180ml measure) of raw pecans, lightly toasted

3/4 cup (180ml measure) of vanilla sugar

1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1.5 teaspoons of grappa or cognac (optional)

Action:

Preheat the oven to 300F / 150C and line a couple of cookie sheets with baking parchment.

Finely chop the toasted pecans. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until peaks form then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking until you have stiff glossy peaks.

Whisk in the spices followed by the grappa or cognac if using, then fold in the chopped nuts with a large metal spoon, using a cutting motion.

Pile heaped tablespoons of the meringue onto the baking sheet, spacing them about an inch (2.5cm) apart.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temp to 200F (93C) and cook for another hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely and be careful as they’re fragile! Eat them right away or stack them gently in an airtight container and store at room temp for up to a week.

 

Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts | 1 Comment