Recipe – A Simple Pear Tart

It really doesn’t get much simpler than this. If you don’t have time to make an elaborate dessert but want to create something with lots of oooh-factor, then this luscious little fruit tart with a flaky crust is an absolute winner.

You also wont mind cheating by using frozen puff pastry (which incidentally, is usually vegan unless it mentions butter on the packaging).

All you need are a few ripe, juicy Bartlet pears, a scattering of flaked almonds, a splash of amaretto perhaps – and a sprinkling of sugar. That’s it.

Barely a recipe.

A Simple Pear Tart with Flaked Almonds


(Makes 6 individual tarts)


6 raw frozen puff pastry shells, defrosted

3 medium to large ripe, juicy pears, halved and cored, then each half cut into 5 wedges

A good handful of flaked almonds

A splash or two of Amaretto liqueur

A tablespoon or so of fine white sugar

A little beaten egg


Preheat the oven to 400F (200C)

Ignoring the fact that raw puff pastry shells are designed to rise and be stuffed with something, roll them out into a circle on a lightly floured board until they’re about 4-5 inches (10-12cm) across. Brush a little beaten egg around the edge and roll it in about 1/2 inch (1cm) and press lightly to create a rim. Transfer the pastry circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Arrange the pears slices in the center of each tart and scatter with flaked almonds. Give each a splash of Amaretto followed by a good sprinkling of sugar.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the pears are tender.

Allow to cool slightly before serving with custard, cream or vanilla ice cream.

So simple and so very good.

Posted in Desserts, Vegan | Leave a comment

Recipe – Spiced Peach Chutney

When you live in a State that produces numerous tree fruits plus varieties of grapes that end up as fine wine (on occasion) – although unexpected, it’s no surprise that people have peach, plum and apple trees growing in their gardens.

In this case, a friend’s peach tree planted from seed over 30 years ago, was so weighed down with big fat peaches, that a third of them had flung themselves off the tree to lie, nestled in the grass – no doubt to save the branches from snapping under their weight.

A basket full of windfall peaches was a welcome gift and as there were so many – and as I already have a fridge full of jam – I decided to make chutney. Spiked with fresh ginger, clove, cardamom and chili, this is a deeply fragrant relish that’s simply divine slathered over soft goat cheese, on a toasted baguette. It would also enhance other cheeses, such as a good sharp Cheddar and it works brilliantly with pork, lamb chops, sausages and cold cuts.

Spiced peach chutney is easy to make and keeps well in the fridge for about 6 months, stored in sealed glass jars.

Spiced Peach Chutney

Spiced Peach Chutney


(Makes approx six 8-oz / 0.23 kilo jars)


4lbs (1.8 kilos) of ripe peaches

1 and 2/3 cups (400 ml measure) of soft light brown sugar

1 cup (240ml) of apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger

1 smallish red onion, finely chopped

12 green cardamom pods, lightly cracked to expose the seeds

4 whole cloves

1 dried red chili, seeds removed and crumbled

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt


If the skins wont peel off the peaches easily  without removing chunks of flesh, you’ll need to blanch them as follows:

Cut a small X in the base of each peach and put them in a large bowl. Have a separate large bowl filled with iced water to one side.

Pour boiling water over the peaches and let it sit for half a minute, then drain and dunk them in the iced water. Drain again and the skins should now slip off easily.

Cut the skinned peaches into smallish chunks and discard (or plant) the stones. Set aside.

In a large heavy pan, combine the vinegar, sugar, onion, ginger, cardamom and cloves. Bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to soften (5-8 minutes).

Add the peaches, chili and salt. Stir well to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook for about an hour stirring at 10-15 minute intervals, until the peaches are translucent and soft.

Allow to cool a bit before ladling into *clean glass screw-top jars. Spiced Peach Chutney will keep in the fridge for 6-8 months.

*To sterilize glass jars for preserves, wash them in hot soapy water, rinse well and dry in a 250F / 120C oven for 30 minutes.


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Recipe – Sausage & Cheese Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers

These spicy little nibbles are the sort of thing you find served all over the US while people are watching football.

I don’t watch football, ever. But I’d happily down a few of these fiery bites with a chilled IPA, served in a frosted glass.

The original recipe calls for pork sausage but I substituted spicy chicken sausage meat. Vegetarians could use sausage meat of the ‘V’ variety or leave it out entirely, adding more cheese.

Best of all they take no time to prepare and are done in 20-25 minutes. You can assemble them 24 hrs ahead – just cover with cling film and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake.

I like to serve these with a mild salsa because they have plenty of bite without adding more. If that’s still too much fire for you, serve them with a cooling ranch-style dressing.

Sausage & Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos

Sausage & Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeños


(Makes approx 40)


1lb (450g) of sausage meat

8oz (225g) of cream cheese at room temp

4oz (113g) of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

20 large firm jalapeño peppers, split lengthwise and seeds removed

To serve – mild salsa or ranch dressing


Preheat the oven to 425F (220C)

Arrange the pepper halves on a large baking sheet.

Cook the sausage meat in a heavy pan over a medium heat until it’s no longer pink. Set aside.

Combine the cheeses and add the sausage. Mix thoroughly and place a tablespoon of this mixture in each pepper half.

Bake for 18-25 minutes or until the topping is golden and bubbling.

Allow them to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.


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Recipe – Baked Eggs with a Sweet Pepper, White Bean & Tomato Hash

When you’ve stumbled home exhausted at the end of a long work week and only have a few items in the larder, you’ll be surprised by what you can pull together with a couple of eggs, a bit of onion, a scattering of crumbled feta, fresh parsley and a can opener.

Deeply satisfying and filling, this hearty baked dish makes a wonderful vegetarian supper and takes very little time to make. Serve with some hot crusty baguette for dunking – perfect for sharing.

Baked Eggs, Sweet Pepper, White Bean & Tomato Hash with Crumbled Feta


(Enough for two)


A 14oz (400g) can of canellini beans, rinsed and drained

Half a red onion, sliced very finely

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter

4oz (100g) of fire-roasted red peppers from a jar, sliced

1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar

8oz (227g) of chopped Italian tomatoes with their juice

1.5 tablespoons of cider vinegar

2 large free range eggs

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

2oz (58g) of crumbled feta cheese

A handful of chopped parsley


Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Heat the oil and butter over a medium heat and saute the onion until translucent. Add the sliced peppers, sugar, smoked paprika and a good grind of sea salt.

Cook, stirring for about 2 minutes then add the chopped tomatoes, cider vinegar and beans. Continue to cook, mashing the beans a bit until you have a thick mess – about 5 minutes.

Transfer the  mixture to an oiled, shallow ovenproof gratin dish and with a spoon, make a couple of deep wells – crack an egg into each. Season the eggs with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper then bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle the feta cheese and parsley over the top and serve immediately with hot crusty bread for dunking.

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Recipe – My Favorite Clam Chowder

There’s nothing nicer than a steaming bowl of clam chowder on a chilly Autumn evening.

This easy recipe doesn’t involve shucking fresh clams and is quite wonderful, despite being made with canned baby clams.  It has a little kick, too – you can omit the chili if you prefer but it wouldn’t taste quite as lively.

Chock full of good stuff, this is a hearty a meal in itself; just serve it with some hot crusty bread on the side.

Clam Chowder


(Serves 4 as a main course)


3 x 8 oz (237ml) bottles of clam juice

1 lb (454g) of red skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch (approx 1cm) cubes

2 oz (57g) of butter

3 slices of smoked bacon, diced small

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 large celery stalks, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of all-purpose/plain flour

40oz (1.134g) of canned whole baby clams – drained, juices reserved

1 ¼ (300ml) cups of half and half or thin cream

1/2 – 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes (adjust to taste)


Bring the bottled clam juice and diced potatoes to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Melt the butter in a heavy pan over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until just starting to brown; add the chopped onion, celery, garlic, chili flakes and bay leaf; sauté gently until the onion is tender.

Stir in the flour and mix really well – cook for 2 minutes; don’t allow the flour to brown.

Slowly whisk in the reserved juice from the canned clams.

Once it’s well blended, add the potato-clam juice mix, half and half and clams, then simmer for at least 5 minutes and adjust the seasoning…add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

You can make it up to 24 hours ahead – refrigerate and slowly bring to a simmer to serve.

Posted in Fish & Seafood, Soups | 1 Comment

Recipe – Peach & Blackberry Crumble

Summer is slowly coming to an end with cooler, shorter days and the hedgerows are lined with wild blackberry bushes, their branches buckling under the weight of intoxicatingly perfumed fruit, staining our fingers and mouths purple. Anyway, that’s how I remember blackberry picking in the UK, long ago.

In Colorado we have to buy blackberries in little plastic cartons. They’re big, fat and juicy but don’t quite have the flavor of wild English blackberries. Still, they’re wonderful in pies and crumbles.

Mum used to make the most wonderful blackberry and apple crumble, always served with a jug of steaming hot custard (crème anglaise) but we don’t have the right kind of apples over here to make it just the way Mum used to make it, so I replaced the apples with local Colorado peaches which are at their glorious best right now.

The crumble topping has an oat and walnut crunch and this wonderful pudding is best served warm or at room temperature, along with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream.

Note – any unused crumble topping can be frozen.

Peach & Blackberry Crumble


(Serves, 6-8)

Ingredients for the topping (it can be made ahead and kept chilled in the fridge):

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

3oz (85g) of all-purpose (plain) flour

3 oz (85g) of chilled butter, cut into tiny pieces

3oz (85g) of old fashioned oats, divided in two

3 oz (85g) of soft brown sugar

3oz (85g) of walnuts, chopped finely

For the filling:

1.5lb (680g) of fresh ripe peaches, stoned and sliced

12oz (340g) of fresh blackberries

The finely shredded zest of a small to medium lemon

2.5oz (70g) of sugar

1 heaped tablespoon of all purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Butter a large, fairly shallow ovenproof dish. Gently toss all the filling ingredients together and set it aside while you make the topping.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, butter and half the oats in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the remaining oats, sugar and chopped walnuts.

Arrange the fruit and any of the released juices in the buttered dish and sprinkle the topping over the fruit. It’s up to you how deep you want the topping but I think less is more, so freeze the rest for another time.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.



Posted in Desserts | 2 Comments

Recipe – Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms & Tomato

We haven’t had a great mushrooming year so far, partly due to lack of rain and too many wildfires. Luckily, past years yielded so much that I still have several jars of dried porcini, so with the first chilly morning of the season, I wanted to make a mushroom-y and satisfying pasta dish.

You don’t have to pick your own wild mushrooms – in fact unless you know what you’re doing I don’t advise it. Most good supermarkets sell small packets of assorted edible dried mushrooms. I particularly love porcini for their deeply savory, intense, earthy and almost meaty flavor – and they make the best mushroom sauce for pasta.

Canned Italian tomatoes are a cupboard staple for me and there’s always a good hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in my fridge. Combined with porcini, they create a robust and hearty supper dish that’s really easy to make.

Pasta with Porcini & Tomatoes


(Serves 4)


1 large shallot, finely minced

2 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

2 slices of pancetta, chopped

1.5 cups (360ml) of chopped Italian plum tomatoes, along with their juice

1 oz (28g) of dried porcini mushrooms

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1lb (450g) of uncooked pasta

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to serve


Start by soaking the dried porcini in 2 cups of hot water for 30 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, capturing all the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms under cold water, chop them coarsely and add them back to their soaking liquid.

Heat the butter and oil in a wide sauté pan until foaming then add the shallot and pancetta. Sauté gently, stirring until the shallot is translucent and the pancetta is golden.

Add the chopped tomatoes and their juice, the chopped mushrooms and their soaking liquid and a good grind of sea salt and black pepper.

Simmer gently, uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning.

Cook the pasta according to instructions, drain and toss with the sauce. Serve with plenty of grated Parm to pass around.





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Recipe – Zucchini, Lemon & Elderflower Cake

Let’s face it, zucchini (courgettes) are pretty tasteless and watery; for instance, if you want to roast them, they’ll need to be salted first to remove excess moisture and to ensure they keep their shape in the roasting pan. Then you’ll want to add garlic, tomatoes, onion, peppers, etc., because on their own they’re a bit ‘blah’.

However, firm young zucchini when grated and drained a bit (and squeezed to get rid of excess water), make a great addition to cake, yielding a moist result. You can then add other things for flavor such as chocolate, lemon, elderflower syrup and so-on.

Here’s a simple recipe for a wickedly moist and luscious cake but be sure to use young zucchini/courgettes only. Once they start to get a bit hefty their extra weight is all water, so just chop the big ones up and add to a salad.

Note: this cake is dairy-free.

Zucchini, Lemon & Elderflower Cake


(Enough for 8-10 slices)


1 and 1/4 cups (300ml measure) of fine (caster) sugar

6 tablespoons of a good, fruity, extra virgin olive oil

2 large eggs at room temp, lightly beaten

1/3 cup (80ml) of almond or coconut-vanilla milk

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

2 cups of *cake flour, sifted together with:

1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt

1 and 1/2 cups (360ml measure) of grated zucchini that’s been drained for about 30 minutes then gently squeezed out to remove any excess moisture

4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, divided

2 tablespoons of elderflower cordial mixed with 2 extra tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (optional)

2 tablespoons of finely grated lemon zest

1 level cup (240ml measure) of powdered (icing) sugar


Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9″ x 5″ (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan and line it with parchment.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and sea salt in a bowl and set it aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil together with the eggs and sugar until light and airy then whisk in the almond milk. Stir in the vanilla, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, followed by the sifted flour mixture. Fold everything together with a large metal spoon until combined, then stir in the shredded zucchini.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes. Test with a toothpick or skewer – the cake is ready when a few crumbs stick to the skewer and the surface is lightly golden.

Pierce small holes over the surface of the warm cake with a toothpick and drizzle the elderflower-lemon juice mixture over the top. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes then lift out and cool completely on a rack.

One the cake is cool, stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into the powdered sugar and pour the glaze over the cake. Decorate with chopped candied citrus peel, toasted flaked almonds or whatever you like – or leave it simply glazed.

*Cake flour is slightly lighter that regular wheat flour. For every cup (240ml measure) of regular flour, replace 2 tablespoons with cornstarch/cornflour and sift together. That’s it.





Posted in Bread & Cakes, Desserts | 1 Comment

Recipe – Pasta with Smoked Trout, Broccoli & Lemon

Being landlocked in Colorado, our selection of available fresh fish leaves much to be desired but we do have excellent smoked Rocky Mountain trout.

The flavors of smoked trout, lemon, broccoli, anchovy and garlic, combine brilliantly to create a surprisingly hearty dish. All you’ll need to accompany this is some extra Parmigiano Reggiano to pass around – and perhaps warm crusty bread for the very hungry.

Note: a fish or seafood pasta dish is rarely offered with grated cheese, in fact it’s somewhat frowned upon. However, in this case it works beautifully but leave it out if you prefer.

Pasta with Smoked Trout & Broccoli

Spaghetti with Broccoli, Smoked Trout & Lemon


(Enough for 2-3)


6 oz (150g) of your favorite pasta shapes

6 anchovy fillets in olive oil plus 1 taablespoon of their oil

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

8oz (230g) of young broccoli, broken into small florets with some of the tender stalks, chopped

8 oz (230g) of smoked cooked trout, torn into bite sized pieces

Extra-v olive oil

The finely grated and chopped zest of 1 medium lemon

1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

A good handful of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1-2 oz (30-60g) of grated Parmigiano Reggiano plus extra to pass around

Freshly ground black pepper


Bring a big pan of salted water to a rapid boil and drop in the broccoli. let it simmer for 4 minutes then remove and set it aside. Use the water for the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking per instructions, heat the anchovy oil, anchovies and crushed garlic together in a wide pan, breaking up the anchovy fillets, until you have a lovely fragrant mush.

Add the drained broccoli and give everything a good stir over a low heat, then add the smoked trout and a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, followed by the cooked pasta. Drizzle a little extra-v olive oil over and toss well to combine.

Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley and a good grind of black pepper. Continue to toss, then add the grated cheese, giving it a final toss before serving in warmed bowls – with extra cheese passed around.


Posted in Pasta | 2 Comments

Recipe – Quick & Easy Cheese Crackers

I recently made the mistake of buying some frozen puff pastry vol-au-vent cases thinking I was buying a puff pastry sheet.  I wasn’t in the mood for making vol-au-vents, nor deciding what to stuff into them, so I rolled them out into thin sheets, sprinkled with finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a dash of cayenne, then folded and rolled again…

These are lovely little crispy, flaky-cheesy bites with a bite; perfect served with a chilled glass of wine.

The trick is to prevent them from puffing up, as you’ll see – but overall, this is a very simple recipe that’s a perfect way to use up any puff pastry you may find lurking in the back of your freezer.

You’ll need two cookie/baking sheets of equal size.

Quick and Flaky Cheese Crackers



A sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed

1-2oz (28-56g) of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or sharp cheddar, mixed with dash of cayenne (optional)

A sprinkle of finely milled sea salt


Preheat the oven to 425F / 220C

On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry until it’s very thin and trim it into a neat rectangle. Sprinkle the cheese and cayenne over half of the pastry and fold the remaining half over. Roll again until the cheese is well distributed.

Cut into small squares or rectangles and arrange on a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment; scatter a little sea salt over the pastry squares, then cover with another piece of baking parchment.

Place the second cookie sheet on top. This will prevent the pastry from puffing up but will still give you a crispy cracker.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

These crisp little nibbles will keep for a week in an airtight container at room temperature.


Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Salads & Appetizers | 1 Comment