Recipe – Baked Almond & Tofu Pudding with Berries

Silken tofu is extremely versatile when used in desserts, sauces and dressings, quite unlike its firm or extra-firm cousin which is best treated as a meat substitute; skewered, smoked, casseroled or baked in savory dishes. Apart from the protein factor, the greatest attribute of tofu is that it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook with it, having virtually none of its own.

Taking advantage of the smooth almost jelly-like texture of silken tofu, this dessert is incredibly easy to make and the batter can be prepared 12 hours ahead; just cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to stick it in the oven.

The result is a light yet rich-tasting fruity, almond-y pudding that’s best served warm. The batter doesn’t need to be distributed too evenly as the fruit will rise into the golden topping.

You’ll need a food processor and to serve, a dusting of powdered sugar and perhaps some vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche – but neither are essential as this pud is great on its own.

The best fruits to use here are blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, either alone or in combination.

Baked Almond & Tofu Pudding with Berries

BAKED ALMOND & TOFU PUDDING WITH BERRIES

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup (80 ml measure) of sliced almonds, lightly toasted in a dry skillet until golden

½ cup (120 ml measure) of vanilla sugar, or regular fine white sugar and ¼ tspn of pure vanilla extract, added in the final batter stage

2 level tablespoons of cake flour or regular plain all-purpose flour

A pinch of sea salt

Then…

1 large egg

1/3 cup (80 ml) of silken tofu, drained

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter at room temp

¼ teaspoon of natural almond extract

3 cups of berries (if using frozen, arrange them in the buttered baking dish to defrost, as you’ll want to capture the juices)

Powdered/icing sugar for dusting

Action:

Preheat the oven to 400F / 200C

Process the first 4 ingredients until finely ground, then add the remaining ingredients – pulse until well blended (the batter will keep in the fridge for 12 hrs)

Arrange the berries in a lightly buttered or oiled 2-pint shallow baking dish and spoon the topping over the fruit.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until golden on top and the fruit is bubbling. Cool for ten minutes then dust with powdered sugar to serve.

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Recipe – Pork Braised in Coconut Milk with Ginger, Chili, Fish Sauce & Kale

Despite taking about 90 minutes to cook on the stove-top involving an occasional stir, this is a really simple dish that rewards you with succulent chunks of pork bathed in a rich, spicy, ginger-y coconut sauce, spiked with  nam-pla (Thai fish sauce).

Adapted from a Uyen Luu recipe, this is authentic Vietnamese cooking at it’s best and the addition of Tuscan kale should please the health nuts.

The original recipe calls for pork belly but my local Whole Foods told me that they only carry tenderloin, no doubt because belly pork is deemed too fatty, too unhealthy. Given that they sell a ton of bacon, they need to become less boring and more adventurous. Pork belly is an inexpensive cut that’s succulent, full of flavor and the skin produces the world’s best crackling.

So, I went elsewhere and purchased country style ribs, which were the closest thing I could find to pork belly once I’d trimmed the meat off the bone. Either cut works here.

Serve it over steamed rice or your favorite noodle.

Pork braised in coconut milk with ginger, fish sauce & kale

Pork Braised in Coconut Milk with Ginger, Chili, Fish Sauce & Kale

PORK BRAISED IN COCONUT MILK WITH NAM PLA, CHILI, GINGER AND KALE

(Serves 6 with rice)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons of coconut or avocado oil

2 large shallots, peeled and sliced into thickish rings

1 oz (30g) of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

2 lbs (1 kilo) of pork belly, skin removed, or country style pork ribs, bone removed – cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks

1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon of chili flakes, depending on the amount of heat you prefer

One 14 oz (400ml) can of coconut milk

3 tablespoons of nam pla (Thai fish sauce)

7 oz (200 grams) of Tuscan kale, ‘cavolo nero’, tough stalks discarded and torn int small pieces

Action:

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan with a lid and cook the ginger and shallots over a medium heat until softened. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to a plate, then brown the chunks of pork in batches. Put all the pork, ginger and shallot back into the pan along with the chili flakes.  Mix well and continue to cook, stirring from time to time for about 10 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and simmer gently, uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fish sauce, stir well, put the lid on and simmer for another 30 minutes stirring occasionally, then finally  add the kale. Keep covered and continue to cook over a low heat until the kale is nicely wilted, about 5-8 minutes.

Serve over rice or noodles.

 

 

 

 

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Recipe – Pasta with a Shrimp Sauce

My love affair with Italian cuisine began long ago in the late 1950’s when our father, who was quite the gastronome unbeknownst to me back then, took us one Saturday morning to an Italian delicatessen that had just opened in our local market town.

I’ll never forget the wonderful smell and mind boggling sight of vast hams and air-dried salamis suspended from the ceiling; sawdust on the floor, huge wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese carelessly stacked like the leaning tower of Pisa and shelves filled with jars of fascinating little things that looked quite other-worldly to my 7-year old mind.

Most of Britain was unfamiliar with Italian food back then and spaghetti continued to be viewed with suspicion for a number year after that. I remember a school chum running out of our kitchen crying “I’ll never eat those worms!” I had no problem eating them, in fact I could eat pasta every day of the year without the same sauce twice, which is almost true in that I’d like to but life tends to get in the way.

Pasta is also a great way to feed a crowd with just a few really good ingredients and a favorite book of mine that’s now well-thumbed and spotted with sauce, is Pasta Italian Style by Patricia Lousada. Sticking to mainly classic Italian dishes, it’s a fail-safe kitchen companion that’s as comfortable as an old pair of slippers.

I’ve slightly adapted this recipe which is lovely and fragrant with a touch of warmth. The good news is that you can make the sauce ahead and freeze it.

If you have shell-on shrimp, you can make a simple shrimp butter using the shells (you didn’t throw those away, did you?)

Pasta with a Shrimp Sauce

Pasta Shells with a Shrimp Sauce

PASTA WITH A SHRIMP SAUCE

(serves 4)

Ingredients:

1lb (450g) of raw shrimp (if they’re in the shell, use the shells to make a shrimp butter – see below)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter

2 shallots, finely minced

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon of chopped parsley

3 tablespoons of cognac

8 fl oz (240ml) of dry white wine

2 medium sized tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

6 fl oz (180ml) of heavy cream

A pinch of cayenne pepper

Sea salt

1lb (450g) of small pasta shapes

A tablespoon of shrimp butter* or regular butter to finish

Action:

Heat the oil and butter in a wide saute pan with a lid. Cook the carrot and shallots over a low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp, garlic, parsley, a pinch of cayenne and sea salt to taste. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes then add the cognac and bring the heat up to evaporate it quickly. Add the wine, tomato paste and chopped tomato and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Transfer the shrimp mixture to a food processor and blend to a puree. You can freeze the sauce at this point, otherwise transfer it back to the saute pan, and add the cream. Adjust the seasoning and heat it through gently to thicken the sauce while you cook the pasta.

Drain the cooked pasta quickly and put it back in the pan with about a tablespoon of butter or shrimp butter – toss it around to coat well before pouring the warmed shrimp sauce over.

Serve the pasta in a large warmed bowl with a scattering of chopped parsley.

Parmesan isn’t served with this – it would compete with the delicate seaside flavors.

*To make a simple shrimp butter (if you have raw shrimp shells), put them in a heavy pan with about 1oz (28g) of unsalted butter and a grind of sea salt. Heat gently until the butter is melted and the shells have turned pink then strain in a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl, pushing on the shells to get as much butter as possible.

 

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Recipe – Cinnamon Spiked Chicken Pilaf with Olives, Lemon & Almonds

I love one-dish meals that involve little effort but taste as though you slaved away for hours.

Apart from the chicken marinating time, this aromatic pilaf will be on the table in under 30 minutes, provided you have all the ingredients lined up first – something I recommend doing anyway.

If you have any leftovers, heat them through gently with a drizzle of cream stirred in – it keeps everything nice and moist.

The chicken can be marinated for 1-24 hours but bring it to room temp before grilling. I prefer boneless, skinless thigh meat over chicken breast as it’s more succulent and has more flavor but you can use either.

The olives I recommend using are the pitted Castelvetrano variety from Sicily due to their rich, buttery quality.

Chicken Pilaf with Green Olives, Lemon & Almonds

Cinnamon Spiked Chicken Pilaf with Lemon, Olives & Almonds

CHICKEN PILAF WITH CINNAMON, LEMON, OLIVES & ALMONDS

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

14 oz (400g) of boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 heaped tablespoons of plain yogurt (not fat-free)

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, separated

The finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice

1 oz (30g) of unsalted butter

2 shallots, minced

7 oz (200g) of basmati rice

1 teaspoon of salt

12 fl oz (350ml) of organic chicken stock

4 oz (115g) of pitted green olives, rinsed and drained

A small handful of fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped

1 oz (30g) of flaked almonds, lightly toasted

Action:

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Add the chicken thighs and give them a good stir to coat well. Set aside for 30 minutes at room temp, or refrigerate covered for up to 24 hrs but bring them back to room temp before cooking.

To cook the chicken, grill/broil for 5 minutes each side until golden brown in patches and cooked through. Set aside covered with foil while you cook the rice.

Preheat the oven to 350F /180C.  (it should already be hot enough from the grill).

In a wide ovenproof skillet or heavy casserole with a lid, heat the butter until foaming and saute the minced shallot until soft and translucent, then add the rice and give it a good stir to coat each grain, followed by the salt, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and the remaining half teaspoon of cinnamon. Add the stock, bring it to a boil then put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the rice from the oven and stir in the olives and chopped cilantro. Set aside, covered while you chop the chicken into smallish chunks, then fold them through the rice.

Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon on the side and a green vegetable, or not.

 

 

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Recipe – Rosemary-Scented Blackberry Fool

When you find yourself in a field that’s almost completed fenced in by towering blackberry bushes loaded with fruit, you have to run and get a large container.

I know I go on about British fruit but I can honestly say that I’ve never seen so many blackberries in one location in my entire life – and they were perfectly ripe and smelled heavenly.

Scratched to pieces, with deep purple fingers and aching arms, I staggered back to the house barely able to carry the load.

As time was tight, most of them ended up in the freezer but I did make this lovely summer dessert for that evening’s meal, taking advantage of a small sun-warmed rosemary bush, just outside the kitchen door.

So simple and absolutely luscious with perfumed fruit.

Rosemary Scented Blackberry Fool

ROSEMARY SCENTED BLACKBERRY FOOL

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

A sprig of fresh rosemary

1lb (approx 500g) of ripe blackberries

2 oz (56g) of fine white (caster) sugar

The juice of half a lemon and a good-sized piece of lemon zest with no white pith

11 fl oz (330ml) of heavy whipping (double) cream

7 oz (200ml) of Greek style low fat or fat-free yogurt

Action:

Put the sprig of rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and all but 12 blackberries (set aside for decoration) in a large pan and bring it to a boil over a medium heat for a few minutes, until the blackberries have released a lot of lovely purple juice but haven’t quite fallen apart. Adjust the sugar to taste and allow it to cool, then remove the rosemary and lemon zest.

You can make this a day ahead – just cover and chill it in the fridge.

In a large bowl, whisk the cream to form soft peaks then fold in the yogurt. Once they’re well combined, fold in about a third of the blackberries and juice, just enough to create a marbled effect.

Divide the remaining blackberries and their juice among 4-6 pretty dessert glasses, top with the fruit-yogurt mixture and decorate with fresh blackberries. You can assemble these an hour or so ahead; just chill them in the fridge.

 

 

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Recipe- Roasted Pork Loin with Spiced Plums

British plums are best. There, I’ve said it and nothing will persuade me otherwise.

Picking plums from trees that are buckled over by the weight of ripe fruit is incredibly nostalgic – especially as it was bucketing down with rain – I was flooded with childhood memories of late summer fruit-gathering in wet and soggy English gardens.

This time I was a guest at an English country house and so armed with a huge basket, I went to the bottom of a very long garden to pick as many plums as possible. Most of the purple variety were still hard as bullets but the golden plums were so ripe, they were almost translucent. Some plucked straight from the tree had become positively alcoholic but those were eaten there and then as they would have been too soft to cut  – but not so alcoholic that I couldn’t tackle the task at hand.

So, faced with about 30lbs weight of ripe fruit and having prepped and frozen most of them, I had to find a way to cook them (besides stewing and puréeing), in order to produce a delicious supper for my friends and hosts.

This old standby fit the bill perfectly so here it is; great British pork with spiced plums – impressive enough for a dinner party, absolutely delicious and quite simple to make.

Note: if you prepare the plums and sauce the day before, this dish can be on the table in 40 minutes.

Roast Pork Loin with Spiced Plums

Roasted Pork Loin with Spiced Plums

ROASTED PORK LOIN with SPICED PLUMS

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

6-8 large, ripe but still firm plums (I used a combination of purple and golden plums) quartered and stoned

2 cups (480ml) of medium dry white wine

1 cup (240ml) of dry red wine

2 whole star anise

A stick of cinnamon

1/4 cup (60ml) of sugar plus a separate 1.25 teaspoons

2 cups (480ml) of low sodium chicken broth

5 fresh thyme sprigs, plus 3 separate teaspoons of finely chopped thyme

2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallot

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Two 1.25 pound (just over half a kilo each) of pork tenderloins

3 tablespoons of olive oil

A few chopped fresh chives to finish

Action:

Combine the first 5 ingredients and 1/4 cup (60ml) of the sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring it to the boil stirring gently until the sugar dissolves, then reduce the heat and simmer until the plums are tender (15-20 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the plums to a shallow dish then strain the liquid and return it to the saucepan.

Add the chicken broth, 5 thyme sprigs and chopped shallot to the plum cooking liquid and bring it to a boil, cooking until it’s reduced to about 1 cup (240ml). Strain the sauce again and stir in 1.25 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of the chopped thyme. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set it aside.

You can make it up to one day ahead to here – just cover the sauce and plums separately and put them in the fridge. Bring both back to room temp when you’re ready to proceed. It will take approximately 40 minutes to finish the dish from this point.

When you’re ready to cook the tenderloin, preheat the oven to 400°F/200C.

Pat the pork dry then brush all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkle all over with the remaining 2 tablespoons of thyme and minced garlic. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large ovenproof skillet large enough to contain both tenderloins, over a medium to high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, turning often for about 4-5 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven, and roast the pork for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, tent it with foil and let the pork rest for 10 minutes while you gently reheat the sauce and plums.

To serve, carve the tenderloins crosswise into ½”/1.25cm thick slices and serve the sliced pork on a warmed platter with the poached plums and sauce poured over.

Sprinkle with chopped chives and offer some mashed potatoes and a green vegetable on the side.

Golden Plums

Very English Golden Plums

 

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Recipe – Espresso & Rum Semi-Freddo

I didn’t set out to make a semifreddo, it just evolved into one. I was intrigued by the utter simplicity of a classic Italian dessert that should have taken no more than 5 seconds to make in a blender; ricotta, sugar, espresso and dark rum. A quick blitz, nothing more.

Unfortunately, the overnight ‘setting’ process didn’t happen, so I folded in some whipped cream which didn’t in any way detract from the wickedly good combination of rum and coffee. It was still a bit runny for my taste so I stuck it in the freezer for 20 minutes after which it was absolutely perfect.

This is a bit on the boozy side, so is unsuitable for the very young; however, adult children will love it and you can make this in under 30 minutes – from blender to freezer to table – in fact just about the same time it takes to eat your main course.

Espresso & Rum Semifreddo

ESPRESSO & RUM SEMIFREDDO

(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs (680g) of ricotta

2/3 cup (160ml) of sugar (caster sugar in the UK)

5 tablespoons of good, dark rum

1/2 cup (120ml) of cold espresso, plus 2 tablespoons

1/2 cup (120ml) of heavy whipping cream, beaten into soft peaks

A few coffee beans for decoration

Action:

Put the ricotta, sugar, rum and espresso in a blender – blend until creamy.  Transfer to a bowl and with a large metal spoon, gently fold in the whipped cream.

Divide between dessert glasses ( I like martini glasses) – put them on a tray and stick in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Top each with a few coffee beans before serving.

 

 

 

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