Category: Main dishes

Luxury Cottage Pie with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Luxury Cottage Pie with Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Introducing the British classic, Cottage pie! I have just returned from the United Kingdom, where we were catching up with family, old friends and neighbors in London and around Scotland.  It was two weeks of visiting castles, churches, The Harry Potter Exhibition, walking on glorious sandy […]

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Perfect Picnic Food introducing the Sound Flat Ham Pie

Perfect Picnic Food introducing the Sound Flat Ham Pie

Perfect Picnic Food introducing The Sound Flat Ham Pie I am so excited to introduce you to your new go to picnic food recipe. Thick sliced ham and creamy Boursin cheese, sandwiched between two layer of puff pastry. Incredibly simple, yet unbelievably good. The sort […]

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Fabulous Buttermilk Roast Chicken and The Most Perfect Gravy

Fabulous Buttermilk Roast Chicken and The Most Perfect Gravy

Bronze Roast Chicken

Preamble

I started writing this blog about my new favorite way to roast chicken months ago, before all the fires in California and when none of us really understood how travel would seem like a distant memory. The recipe comes from the week when everything changed.

Perfect Roast Chicken

I have discovered how to cook the most fabulous roast chicken and think I may have perfected gravy. As we are now heading into prime comfort food season, I am excited to share this recipe.

I promise you, this is a game changer, because we can always learn something new. Even if it is a dish we have made hundreds of times before!

This roast chicken is also perfect with salad, and the recipe works with individual chicken portions as well as a whole chicken. Oh, and the chicken portions barbecue beautifully. If you want to cook a whole roast chicken and are running out of time, try Spatchcock. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut out the backbone and release the breast bone which allows the chicken to lie flat on the roasting tin.

So what are you waiting for?

Origins of Perfect Roast Chicken

Silicon Valley Mantra

At the end of February, I travelled to California. And yes, California does always seem to look like the picture below!

Santa Clara Campus

My husband’s company was launching a new product in Palo Alto and, for once, I was invited to the party! As we have two children living on the West Coast, I jumped at the chance to tag along and spend some bonus time with my kids.

Little did any of us know how much our lives were about to change!

During the day, everyone was working or in class so I had a chance to explore the area we all know as Silicon Valley! Obviously, I had to go and visit Apple Headquarters. The picture below shows how close I got. The real building is hidden behind the bushes. Apple is not open to the public, but rather futuristic technology allows you view the inside of this model and have a glimpse at the actual interior of the building. Very cool, but then you would expect no less.

Model of Apple Headquarters

Palo Alto

As I was staying in Palo Alto itself, I decided to check out Stanford, the ‘local’ school. It was within running distance, so I happily jogged round the campus checking out the cool sculptures.

Rodin

and the modern art.

YO

Lunch at Oak and Violet

After running all morning, I came back to our lovely hotel, The St James and decided to treat myself to lunch in the outdoor restaurant, The Oak and Violet . I ordered their lunch special, lemon and lavender ‘Petaluma Chicken’.

I was blown away with the roast chicken when it arrived. Bronzed skin, delicious juicy meat cooked to absolute perfection, served with a crisp salad. Simple, yet perfect, the way food should be.

IT WAS SO GOOD!

Obviously, I started interrogating the waiter about how it was cooked. He shared that it was marinated in buttermilk, lemon and a little lavender. I have seen lots of recipes using buttermilk, but this was the first time I had experienced the fabulous result! I ended up having the chicken twice during my stay. The second time, the chef was good enough to come and and talk with me. Originally from Italy, she had ended up in California and was now running the hotel Kitchen. The dish was her creation using half a small chicken, cut to order in the kitchen.

Now I am suspecting that for many of my American readers, the buttermilk marinade will come as no big surprise. But for all of you reading elsewhere, let me tell you about buttermilk.

Buttermilk

Darien has a historical society, a fabulous old building dating back to 1736. I was there chaperoning my son’s class, one day many years ago, but I still remember the fun group activity. We all put a little milk in a jar and took turns shaking it. Eventually, we ended up with butter! There was a little pale liquid left in the jar, and that, my dear readers, was buttermilk. It has been used in American cooking for, well basically, forever.

Nowadays, buttermilk is produced by adding lactic acid bacteria to low fat milk and can be found in the dairy section of most stores. However, you can make your own by adding 1 TBS of lemon juice to half a pint or a cup of milk. The bought version has a slightly more luxurious consistency, and, so far, is the only way I have tried this recipe.

You can use buttermilk as an alternative to higher-fat dairy products like cream and yogurt in everything from baking to curries. It also makes great salad dressings, fabulous light pancakes and desserts with a slight, acidic edge. In this recipe, we are using it to tenderize chicken meat.

Buttermilk Marinated Roast Chicken and the most perfect Gravy

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I am going to talk about roasting a whole chicken, as I was to share some of my insights into making that perfect gravy I was talking about earlier. I have also been using the marinade with on the bone chicken portions with skin, and the result is just as fabulous.

Roasted chicken breasts with roasted vegetables

And it is the skin you want, as the marinade gives a gorgeous crispy bronze skin. I know for years, we were all trimming the skin off everything as we obsessed with low fat diets. But, now we know that fat is not the enemy. In fact we all need fat in our daily lives. In Copenhagen, they elevated the skin to a dish on its own, and served it, perfectly crisped, as an appetizer!

Ingredients

  • One beautiful chicken with giblets
  • jar of buttermilk
  • some gorgeous lemons
  • salt and pepper
  • a little lavender, just because that’s what I was told so I use the smallest amount possible, because who really wants chicken to taste of lavender?
  • olive oil
  • some carrots, peeled but left whole
  • a small onion, halved
  • some sticks of celery

For the Giblet Stock

  • Giblets from the chicken
  • some carrots, topped and tailed but left whole or cut in two if really big
  • an onion, halved
  • some celery stalks, washed, trimmed and cut in two
  • parsley stalks if you have some lying around
  • if you don’t have giblets then a good quality chicken stock would be an acceptable alternative or vegetable stock from any greens you are cooking
  • all purpose flour or corn starch for a gluten free option
  • Madeira or sherry (optional)
  • cranberry jelly or redcurrant jelly (optional)
  • splash of Worcestershire Sauce

Method

  • Remove the giblets from the chicken. (see below for instructions on making giblet stock, this takes about three hours)
  • Place the chicken in a shallow container or use a ziplock bag. Pour over the buttermilk, season with salt and pepper and maybe one small tiny piece of lavender
  • add sliced lemons and a drop of olive oil
  • leave to marinate for a few hours, overnight or up to a day.
  • When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 400f/200c
  • Use a roasting tin that can be put over direct heat as you will be making the gravy with the juices from the chicken and you want all that lovely ‘fond’, or brown bits as this is what forms the basis of your gravy.
  • But wait, there is more!
  • Place the carrots, onions and celery under the chicken. You are essentially adding a mirepoix (the French term for the basis of all stews, soups and sauces) to the roasting tin.
  • Drain the excess buttermilk from the chicken and place over the vegetables
  • Truss your Chicken! Using a small length of kitchen twice, simply tie the chicken legs together. this helps the chicken cook evenly.
  • Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your chicken. A 2 1/2 LB chicken will take around one and a half hours. But I tend to go on the does it look ready, and I use a meat thermometer. Chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165F/73.9C. We use a meat thermometer for all meats. If you don’t have one, you can use the classic way to check by inserting a knife into the leg joint and, if the juice run clear, your chicken is cooked.
  • Remove the chicken from the roasting tin. You want to rest you chicken, covered loosely with some foil, for 15-20 minutes while you get on with making some of the most delicious gravy.
  • TO MAKE THE MOST DELICIOUS GRAVY
  • Remove the cooked vegetables. Pour most of the liquid from the roasting tin into a container (if you have one of those fancy fat separator, now is the time to use it) , you want to leave around 3 tablespoons of the fat in the tin
  • Put the roasting tin on to the stove top over a medium heat.
  • Add 2 tbs of flour and stir to form a paste or roux. You may need to add more of the fat or flour to get the right consistency.
  • start adding the giblet stock slowly and, using a whisk, make sure you incorporate all the bits at the bottom
  • keep adding the stock and, once it has all been added, bring the gravy to the boil. At this stage add back in any of the original drippings from the chicken, and any from the plate where the chicken is resting. Take care not to add the fat. If the gravy is too thick, you can add a little commercial stock, or strained water from any vegetables you are cooking. If the gravy is a little thin, keep simmering until it reduces and reaches the desired consistency.
  • a little slug sherry or Madeira is a great boost at the end, likewise some cranberry or recurrent jelly and Worcestershire sauce (sweet and salty)
  • taste and season with salt and pepper to taste

Giblet Stock

  • In a medium sized pan, add the giblets and the vegetables and parsley stalks and cover with a good amount of water.
  • cover simmer over a low heat for 2-3 hours, adding more water as necessary
  • you want to ended up with three cups or 11/2 pints of liquid
  • Strain and return to the cleaned pot and heat gently before adding to the roux mixture above

Serve with

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with cranberries and pecans and some mashed potatoes. Delicious!

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Best Salad Ever! Quinoa Salad

Best Salad Ever! Quinoa Salad

Happy Memorial Day or Bank Holiday, depending on where you are! I hope you are able to celebrate with family and enjoy the holiday. I have just done a live cooking webinar for Hayvn Halftime, and wanted to share the link with you. Check out […]

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St Patrick’s Day – Beef in Guinness with orange

St Patrick’s Day – Beef in Guinness with orange

St Patrick’s Day March 17th March 17th is normally a day for celebrating, finding an Irish pub, eating Irish food and drinking Guinness. But we are not living in normal times. We are all being asked to do our part, limit social contact and avoid […]

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PIE DAY! 3.14 (only makes sense in America)

PIE DAY! 3.14 (only makes sense in America)

Happy Pie Day!

To my lovely readers, I hope this email finds you well and in a good place. In the last few weeks, we have seen our world change so rapidly and its looks like we are all going to be spending a lot more time at home, at least for the foreseeable future. So what are we going to do with all our time, and how do stop going stir crazy?

I think, for me, much of that time will be spend cooking, baking and trying out new recipes. (The rest of the time might be out in the garden, as we seem to be having an early Spring, and figuring out online bridge.)

I do not foresee fresh food really becoming an issue, but I have been seeing lots of ideas for store cupboard food and hope to share some of them with you.  Todays tip was using evaporated milk in place of cream in recipes. 

This post is a collection of previously posted recipes, gathered together as I suddenly realize that today is Pie Day!

An explanation for none Americans, pie day exists because in the USA they write the month first so today is 3.14. Which of course is the first few numbers of pii, that wonder irrational number that links the radius of a circle to its circumference, area and gives the sphere volume.  Extra prizes to anyone who can remember the formula  I will give you the first one…2(PII)R is the circumference.  A little bit of calculus will take you to the next two!

It also means today is a great excuse to eat pie! But which type of pie?

I am going to give you a choice.  As we are nearing spring I instantly think of Keylime pie, a super easy dessert using just a few ingredients.  I make it with ginger snaps (thanks Trader Joes), a little bit different and normal limes, as I suspect most people do.  I have tried with key limes but they are so tiny, it takes forever to get any juice out of them. It was always a favourite with the woman’s group at the Darien Community Association, which is where the photograph below comes from.  You can make it extra green by grating lime zest over the top or adding food dye.

Fancy a savory, but can’t be bothered with pastry, then try a fabulous Fish Pie. A pie with a lovely topping of mashed potatoes (have I mentioned my potato obsession?) There is something very comforting about fish in a lovely cheese sauce topped with creamy mash or even sliced cooked potatoes.

Finally a slight more traditional offering Chicken Pot Pie . Take some cooked chicken and add it to a creamy chicken stock based sauce with peas and carrots, top with pastry (I use store bought puff pastry) and serve with some baby potatoes. 

Individual uncooked chicken pot pies
Individual uncooked chicken pot pies

Sending good thoughts, and wishing you a very happy Pie Day!!

keep calm and carry on

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Burns Night

Burns Night

Robert Burns Robert Burns, the great lyrical poet (1759-1796) was born in Scotland on the 25th January and as that date approaches, I must warn you,  I become very Scottish. Burns was a nationally recognized poet, even in his own lifetime. His poems were brilliant […]

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Pulled Pork with Homemade Coleslaw

Pulled Pork with Homemade Coleslaw

Pulled Pork Revisited I am beginning to realize that what I call pulled pork might not meet the rigorous standards of barbecue aficionados.  But it works for me and is super easy. This recipe was offered by my wonderful neighbor, Mary McGee, although the original […]

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Another Fabulous Salmon Recipe – Poached Salmon

Another Fabulous Salmon Recipe – Poached Salmon

Repost from 2015!

Poached salmon is a fabulous dish for summer. A whole poached salmon is an impressive centrepiece and can be made ahead of time.

I have great pleasure in giving you an updated post from a few years ago. There is recipe for poaching salmon, a cucumber salad and a dill sauce.  Some baby new potatoes would also be very lovely for this classic summer lunch. Any left salmon can be used to make Salad Niçoise with Salmon.

Salad Niçoise with Roasted Salmon
Salad Niçoise with Roasted Salmon

Stealing recipes from Post 1020, Darien CT!

I was at 1020 Post recently in Darien, and, after seeing it on a friends plate, I ordered the poached salmon with dill cucumber sauce.  It was out of this world.  I then spent the rest of the evening trying to worm the recipe for the sauce out of the kitchen. I was not convinced that the list of ingredients they gave me would produce the sauce I had eaten.

Success!

I am delighted to report that I have succeeded in recreating the dish and recently served it as lunch to a large crowd, together with lentils, a traditional accompaniment to salmon. I topped lentils with roasted Brussel sprouts, cranberries and candied pecans.

Brussel sprouts with cranberries and pecans

The cranberry and Brussel sprout mix was inspired by a dish I tasted at the Harlan Social in Stamford. Admittedly, it was last December but it worked just as well in July and I could not believe how excited everyone was by Brussel sprouts!

Poaching hack

I cheated slightly with the poaching liquid.  Normally I would use a bottle of dry white wine and top up with water.  However, when I went to the wine fridge there was not more than two glasses left (ahem). A classic court bouillon can be made with wine and shrimp tails so I improvised with what I had to hand.  It worked well, but feel free to use wine only, if you have not drunk it all!

To poach the salmon I also used a proper poaching kettle.  If you do not have one, you can use  a roasting tin as long as it is deep enough to allow the poaching liquid to cover the fish completely.

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Salad Niçoise with roasted Salmon

Salad Niçoise with roasted Salmon

Salad Niçoise – Classic French Dish (apologies if you have seen this already, trying to test my website, as it seems to have stopped sending emails properly, if you receiving this for the first time love to hear from you) Salad Niçoise is a classic […]

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Menu for two days at a Danish Sommerhus and Aquafaba.

Menu for two days at a Danish Sommerhus and Aquafaba.

I have just had the most fabulous experience. I spent two days in the beautiful Danish countryside, cooking for a company offsite. In this post I am going to share the menu, including my goto summer barbecue recipes, tell you a little about Danish summerhouses […]

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Assorted Quiche

Assorted Quiche

If it is Quiche, it must be Monday

Quiche for me will always mean Monday. Growing up in the North-East of Scotland, we generally had one of two things for tea on a Monday.  We either had Stovies, a fabulous one pot combination of onions, potatoes, gravy and meat, made from the left over Sunday roast or Quiche made from the left over breakfast of bacon and eggs.  Bit of a win win situation.

I have now bought some fantastic 10 inch Quiche tins, they are from Fat Daddio and are over an inch deep.  This produces a lovely filling to pastry ratio and allows you to load the quiche with all sorts of winning combinations.

For me quiche works well for lunch.  Serve with a large green salad.  Any left overs make a great supper or quick snack.  Quiche are also a fantastic picnic food. 

Shortcrust Pastry

This a basic shortcrust recipe which I use for all sorts of sweet and savory recipes.  Freezing the butter briefly allows it to form small pockets of air during the cooking process which results in a light, flakey pastry.  Although the recipe makes enough for two Quiche I often make a few more batches as the pastry freezes well. I know you can buy all sorts of lovely pastry in the chill section, but I think this homemade version is still worth the effort.

I also quite often make the filling for this Quiche ahead of time as everything should be cold or at room temperature when it is being assembled.

Mushroom, Leek and Bacon Quiche

April 13, 2018
: 8 good portions
: moderate but not that bad

By:

Ingredients
  • Quiche Pastry or Basic Shortcrust Pastry
  • 1lb all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out
  • 1/2 lb. or two sticks of butter or mix of vegetable shortening and butter with butter being at least half of the mix, cut into small dice
  • ice-cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Basic savory custard
  • 4 eggs
  • 480ml/ two cups of heavy or whipping cream
  • salt and pepper
  • Filling
  • 3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced
  • medium-sized box of mushroom, cleaned and cut into thick slices
  • 6oz pancetta or bacon cut into strips
  • 1 TBS French mustard
  • Good handful of grated cheese, Gruyère or similar hard cheese
  • olive oil
  • knob of butter
Directions
  • Step 1 Pie Crust (enough for two Quiche) I use 10 inch deep Quiche tins, see comments.
  • Step 2 Take the tiny cubes of butter or butter and shortening mix and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Step 3 Tip all the flour into a mixing bowl. I use a kitchen aid to make my pastry but it could also be done by the rubbing in method.
  • Step 4 Add the very cold butter to the flour and, with the mixer on slow, combine until fully incorporated.
  • Step 5 Start to slowly add ice-cold water until the mixture starts to come together and leaves the sides of the bowl clean.
  • Step 6 Turn the pastry onto a floured surface and quickly work into a smooth dough. I divide the dough into two pieces, as there is enough for two Quiche.
  • Step 7 Leave the dough to rest for at least half an hour in the fridge.
  • Step 8 To make the Quiche roll out the larger disk of pastry. Dust your surface and rolling-pin with flour. With a constant pressure roll the pastry in one direction, make a quarter turn and again roll the pastry out in one direction.
  • Step 9 Repeat until the pastry is large enough to cover your Quiche tin with a small overhang. Do not stretch the pastry as it will only shrink during the cooking process.
  • Step 10 Make sure the pastry in pushed firmly into the Quiche tin and the overhang is turned back into the tin to form a slight double layer at the top of the tin. Prick pastry all over then line the pastry with foil or parchment paper.
  • Step 11 Use either baking beans or regular dry beans, such as kidney or white beans, to weigh down the foil or parchment, bake the pastry until the top is just starting to color (this is called baking the pastry blind).
  • Step 12 Depending on the size of Quiche tin this may take 15-20 minutes. Remove lining paper and beans and brush the inside of the pastry with the beaten egg. Return to the oven for a further five minutes.
  • Step 13 Pre-cooking the pastry and sealing with egg mixture prevents the pastry becoming soggy when the filling is added.
  • Step 14 In a large frying pan gently sauté the mushrooms in a little butter. and olive oil. Cook gently for five minutes, then turn up the heat until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are slightly browned.
  • Step 15 In a skillet, or large frying pan heat a little oil and butter and sauté the leeks for 15-20 minutes.
  • Step 16 Finally cook the bacon or pancetta until crisp.
  • Step 17 Spread the mustard evenly over the base of the cooked Quiche.
  • Step 18 Add the cooked leeks, mushrooms and bacon and cheese.
  • Step 19 Carefully pour the custard into the Quiche tin until it almost reaches the top of the pastry.
  • Step 20 Be careful not to overfill.
  • Step 21 Gently return to the oven and bake until the filling is set and slightly risen, 40-50 minutes.  

The Quiche reheats well at 350F for around 30 minutes, or until hot.  Again allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving.  In our family we think we might prefer it cold out of the fridge.

Assorted Quiche

April 13, 2018
: 8-10
: not too bad

There are all sorts of lovely filling you can use for quiche, do not be limited by my suggestions

By:

Ingredients
  • The savoury custard for all the quiches is the same
  • 2 eggs for every cup or 240ml of heavy or double cream
  • add salt and pepper
  • Smoked Salmon and Asparagus
  • 4oz/100g smoked salmon. cut into slices
  • bunch of asparagus, trimmed
  • pack of boursin or similar herbed soft cheese, crumbled into small pieces
  • olive oil
  • Pesto, Goat Cheese and Tomato
  • 1-2 TBS good pesto
  • baby tomatoes , halved( amount will depend on the size of you quiche)
  • small log of soft goat cheese
  • Provençal
  • one eggplant (aubergine), sliced
  • two large tomatoes, sliced
  • green pepper, cut into slices
  • TBS mustard
  • good handful of hard cheese such as gruyere
  • olive oil
  • some black olives
  • small handful of herbs such as basil, parsley, chopped
Smoked Salmon and Asparagus;Preheat oven to 400F/200C;Roast the asparagus in the oven for around ten minutes, or until it is cooked but still retains a little bite. The time will depend on the size of the asparagus.;Cut asparagus into bite sized pieces.;Spread the smoked salmon over the base of the quiche.;Top with the asparagus and boursin.;Cover with the savoury custard and cook as before.;;Pesto, Goat Cheese and Tomato;Spread the pesto over the base of the quiche.;Scoop out the inside of the halved tomatoes and arrange in a single layer on top of the pesto.;Scatter with goat cheese.;Cover with the savoury custard and cook ss before.;;Provençal ;preheat the oven to 400F/200C;place the sliced eggplant/aubergine on a baking tray together with the green peppers and drizzle with olive oil.;Roast in the oven until the eggplant/aubergine is cooked and the edges of the pepper starts to brown, around 25-30 mins. Turn the eggplant/aubergine half way through;Spread the mustard over the base of the quiche, top with the;aubergine/eggplant, green pepper slices, sliced tomatoes and olives. Scatter the grated cheese over the top.;Cover with enough of the savoury custard to just reach the top of the pastry crust. Do not overfill.;Bake as above, adding the herbs five to ten minutes before the quiche is due to be ready;;[/lt_recip

Smoked Salmon and Asparagus

Preheat oven to 400F/200C

  • Roast the asparagus in the oven for around ten minutes, or until it is cooked but still retains a little bite. The time will depend on the size of the asparagus.
  • Cut asparagus into bite sized pieces.
  • Spread the smoked salmon over the base of the quiche.
  • Top with the asparagus and boursin.
  • Cover with the savoury custard and cook as before

Pesto, Goat Cheese and Tomato

  • Spread the pesto over the base of the quiche.
  • Scoop out the inside of the halved tomatoes and arrange in a single layer on top of the pesto.
  • Scatter with goat cheese.
  • Cover with the savoury custard and cook as before

Provençal

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C

  • Place the sliced eggplant/aubergine on a baking tray together with the green peppers and drizzle with olive oil
  • Roast in the oven until the eggplant/aubergine is cooked and the edges of the pepper starts to brown, around 25-30 mins. Turn the eggplant/aubergine half way through
  • Spread the mustard over the base of the quiche, top with the;aubergine/eggplant, green pepper slices, sliced tomatoes and olives. Scatter the grated cheese over the top.
  • Cover with enough of the savoury custard to just reach the top of the pastry crust. Do not overfill.
  • Bake as above, adding the herbs five to ten minutes before the quiche is due to be ready
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Pasta Primavera- Spring is in the Air

Pasta Primavera- Spring is in the Air

Spring is Finally in the Air. Pasta Primavera is a quick and easy supper. Perfectly cooked pasta with crisp green vegetables, sautéed onions and fresh baby tomatoes mixed together with a little creme fraîche and lemon zest. Spring in a bowl, quite literally as Primavera […]

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Puy Lentils with Caramelized Onion Chutney, Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, Pomegranate  and Sliced Broccoli

Puy Lentils with Caramelized Onion Chutney, Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, Pomegranate and Sliced Broccoli

Vegetarian Challenge Alan and I are continuing with the vegetarian challenge. So far we are finding it very easy, last night was a stir fry. On Saturday night I made Puy Lentils with Caramelized Onion Chutney, Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, Pomegranate and Sliced Broccoli salad . […]

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New Year’s Eve Menu with Haggis Beef Wellington

New Year’s Eve Menu with Haggis Beef Wellington

One last feast

We are looking forward to one last feast on New Year’s Eve with Haggis Beef Wellington as the star of the show.

I hope we all had a Merry Christmas and are enjoying the quiet time between the two last major holidays of the year.  I am looking forward to January, the chance to reset eating (and drinking) habits and welcome exercise and vegetables back into my life.  We have just one more holiday to observe, New Year’s Eve, the night we say goodbye to the old year and celebrate the arrival of 2018.

We have just had a fantastic Christmas in Scotland, spending time with extended family. During the day we went on long walks and hung out and every night we stayed up late feasting and playing games. We even did a bit of singing!

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Eddie family at the pantomime Aladdin

I was especially pleased that we also introduced our children to the delights of a proper British Pantomime. Thats us in the Gods.

Aladdin was playing in Aberdeen and was starring JIMMY OSMOND as Abanazar. The pantomime had all the traditional silly elements and lots of local jokes about the North East of Scotland. The Dame, Widow Twanky, was played by a man, who was dressed in ever more bizarre costumes. We were encouraged to boo the baddy, Abanazar, cheer Aladdin and sing the song with the rather dodgy words on the drop down screen. Obviously the highlight was the constant references to Long Haired Lovers and Crazy Horses. Jimmy was a great sport and sang a medley of old Osmond song as he tried to woo the Princess Jasmine. Not sure it gets better than that!

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Jimmy Osmond in Aladdin at His Majesty’s in Aberdeen

 New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay in Scotland

When I was young and lived in Banff, New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as it is known in Scotland was great fun.  After an evening of dancing at the local hotel we would ‘see in’ the New Year at home, but then we would go ‘first footing‘.  Armed with a bottle we would go and visit or ‘first foot’ our friends and their family.  Every house would be expecting us and we would go from home to home offering and accepting a wee dram. The food was fairly traditional too. We would eat sausage rolls, cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks and if we were lucky maybe a small bowl of soup. It was a magical night where everyone was your friend. I have vague memories of dancing an Eightsome Reel in the middle of the street with complete strangers.

The most important visitor of the evening was the first to arrive after midnight, the first foot. Tradition said that it should be a dark haired man ( no blond Vikings bearing axes please), a stranger, bearing a gift such as a piece of coal or shortbread. This would bring good luck to the household in the coming year. First footing would continue into the wee hours and then would start again the next day. Ideally you would try to visit and be visited by all your friends in the first few days of January.

Most cities in Scotland now offer major street parties with fireworks and concerts lasting well past midnight, and I suspect either attending or watching the parties on TV has replaced much of the old traditions.

New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen

We will be in Copenhagen on the 31st and are excited about spending it with just family. New Year’s Eve in Copenhagen is also rather fun, if slightly dangerous.  Fireworks are purchased in large quantities at pop up stores and are let off during the day and at midnight.  The main gathering point is at the Town Hall, opposite Tivoli. For the first time Tivoli is having a fireworks display on the 31st, although it also lets off fireworks every night for the week leading up to the 31st.

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Fireworks at Tivoli

Everything stops for the Queen’s speech at 6pm and then the Danes either go out or eat first, then go out to party.  Large quantities of alcohol are involved either way , which is not necessarily the best mix with fireworks.  Everyone is advised to wear safely goggles! Apparently at midnight there is also a special cake, Kransekagewhich is eaten whilst sipping champagne. Our friend Paul Hollywood has very kindly provided a recipe on the BBC Good Food website.

I think we are going to eat at home, then maybe even just watch the Tivoli fireworks from our balcony.  My proposed menu is

Nordic Platter

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Nordic Platter

Blue Cheese. Pear and Candied Pecan Salad

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Stilton, pear, pomegranate and candied pecan salad

New Year’s Eve Haggis Beef Wellington

 

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Haggis Beef Wellington

Recipe below

Dauphinoise Potatoes

Recipe below

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Dauphinoise Potatoes

Roasted Root Vegetables

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Toffee Pudding

Haggis Beef Wellington

I made this dish over Christmas and I am going to share my not desperately scientific way of doing it! This served ten people with leftovers.

For four to six people by the center cut of the fillet or the chateaubriand.  You can then half the other ingredients. I made the haggis stuffed version for New Year’s Eve and it was absolutely amazing.

Ingredients

One whole trimmed fillet

olive oil and butter for browning

Two packs of puff pastry

Onion, finely chopped

Large pack of mushrooms, any type your choice, thinly sliced.

A little parsley

Two packs of pate, some cooked haggis or black pudding would be fantastic too! – I finally made mine with the Christmas present from Alan’s dad, the award winning haggis from Cockburns of Dingwall

Egg, beaten for egg wash

Beef stock and  some red wine

Method

Heat some olive oil and a knob of butter in a large skillet or frying pan.

Gently sauté the onions for five minutes, then add the mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms, have softened and released their liquid, about 7 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Add chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. Put to one side to cool in a small bowl. Technical point, the mushroom mixture is known as a duxelles. It is fabulous used on its own as a mushroom spread, and freezes well.

Without washing the pan add a little more oil, and increase the heat until the oil is sizzling. Using tongs quickly brown the beef on all sides, then leave to cool. Do not wash the pan as will use the ‘font’ to make a gravy.

Lay both sheets of pastry out then spread the cooled mushroom mixture in the middle. Place the cooled beef on top of the mushrooms and then spread the pate or haggis or black pudding on top. I had so much haggis I rather encased my fillet on the ‘you can never have too much of a good thing.’ principal.

Wrap the beef like a present, sealing the edges with water. Trim the excess pastry and use to decorate.

Turn the beef so the seal is on the bottom, decorate the top with the pastry trimming, I always write next year on mine so hope there is enough trimmings for 2018! You can stop at this stage and refrigerate the beef until you are ready to cook it. Remember to take it out a little early to bring the meat up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 210c/425f

Place fillet in a large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

Wash pastry with beaten egg, and make a few slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape while it is cooking.

Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes.  Pastry should be brown and crisp by this stage.

Leave to sit for ten minutes then cut into large slices.

To make the gravy, deglaze the pan with some red wine and add beef stock. Cook to reduce and add some salt and pepper. Little port or Maderia would be great too.

Potatoes Dauphinoise

This is a really easy way to cook potatoes, and absolutely delicious.  You can cook the whole dish ahead and simply reheat on the night. I am giving you the method and how much you make will depend on how many you are cooking for!

Ingredients

Two potatoes per person

Double or heavy cream

Milk

Parmesan cheese

Butter

Salt and pepper and nutmeg

Method

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. I use my mandolin for this.

Add to a large pan and cover with just enough heavy cream and milk….I use about a two thirds to one third ratio. Add salt and pepper and a little grated nutmeg.

Bring to the boil and simmer for around five minutes.

Pour potatoes and cream into a butter greased casserole dish. Try and get the slices even and only cover with just enough of the cream mixture. Top with grated parmesan.

Preheat oven to 300F/150C

Cook for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are fully cooked, the cream is bubbling and the top has started to brown nicely.

It only remains for me to wish you a

Very Happy New Year!

 

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Ultimate Comfort Food Chicken Pot Pie

Ultimate Comfort Food Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is the Ultimate Comfort Food This chicken pot pie is the ultimate in comfort food. Chicken, carrots and peas in a rich creamy sauce, covered with a snuggly little blanket of puff pastry, totally hygge. Perfect for a snowy winter’s day. The […]

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Sausages, a cautionary tale!

Sausages, a cautionary tale!

Social Media is not for the Fainthearted In this post I will confess to an act of great stupidity, it involves sausages. But first let me give you a little background. Obsessions I think most of you probably know about my potato obsession. Well I […]

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Walnut, Celery and Danish Blue Cheese Quiche with foraged Redcurrents

Walnut, Celery and Danish Blue Cheese Quiche with foraged Redcurrents

Every time I see red currents I have to make this quiche. I have probably only made it a handful of times as red currents were never very easy to find either in Wimbledon or in Darien. Then I moved to Denmark.  I now come across red currents, or ribs as they are known here, everywhere. This quiche was made with fruit I gathered on my foraging adventure, making it extra exciting. For more foraged related posts see recipes for black current scones and strawberry jam, Scottish pancakes with foraged berries and  peach and summer berry crostata.

red current bush

Whats the story behind the quiche?

When I was pregnant with my first son Robert I went to antinatal classes run by the NCT. The National Childbirth Trust, an excellent organization, was all about natural childbirth and using cabbage leaves stuffed down your bra during breastfeeding. The real benefit of the classes however was meeting nine other mothers who lived locally and had similar due dates. Those wonderful woman were my lifeline in my first year of motherhood. We met weekly to drink coffee, eat cake and  share stories of sleepless nights and crying babies. We watched our babies grow into toddlers and learn how to play together. When the first birthdays came around we held a joint party in our garden There are some wonderful photographs of us all holding our children, which unfortunately are in the attic in America ( the photos not the children). It was a very special day.

One of the mothers was vegetarian and she brought a quiche with lattice work making the word ‘one’. It was decorated with red currents and was stunning.  That was almost twenty three years ago and our children are babies no longer. I am still best friends with one of the mothers.  Sadly one died shortly after that party. I gradually lost touch with the others. We had more children, many went back to work or, like me, moved away.

This is my version of that very special quiche. Every time I make it I am transported back to that party so many years ago.

Notes on the recipe.

I have now bought some fantastic 10 inch quiche tins, they are from Fat Daddio and are quite deep.  This produces a lovely filling to pastry ratio and allows you to load the quiche with all sorts of yummy things. The amount of custard required will depend on the depth of your tins.

I use a basic shortcrust recipe works for all sorts of sweet and savory recipes.  Freezing the butter briefly allows it to form small pockets of air during the cooking process which results in a light, flakey pastry.  The recipe makes enough for one quiche however I often make a few more batches as the pastry freezes well.

I also make the filling for this quiche ahead of time as everything should be cold or at room temperature when it is being assembled.
Celery. walnut and Danish Blue Cheese quiche with foraged red currents

Yum

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Salad Niçoise with Roasted Salmon

Salad Niçoise with Roasted Salmon

Salad Niçoise – Classic French Dish Salad Niçoise is a classic French dish. I switch it up slightly and use fresh roasted salmon instead of the traditional tinned tuna. With a lemon dressing, the combination of salmon, baby new potatoes, French green beans and locally […]

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Fabulous Fish Pie

Fabulous Fish Pie

For Christmas I treated myself to an Emma Bridgewater Fish Pie dish.  So recently for dinner we had Fish Pie followed by Apple and Blackberry Crumble.   The menu was inspired by watching Downton Abbey, and in particular Mrs Hughes attempts to please her new husband. […]

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Flatbreads or Pizzas to please everyone!

Flatbreads or Pizzas to please everyone!

One pizza, so many choices

I love the flatbreads and pizza bases you can buy because a) everyone gets to choose their own topping and b) by calling it artisanal you can convince yourself  that it is both healthy and lower in calories than a regular pizza.  Also I can never quite choose what I want so this way I can have a little bit of everything. This works really well for serving at a children’s party as they can choose which toppings they want and make the pizza themselves.  Do not be limited by my suggestions!  As you can see in the picture I did not have the lovely green basil or arugula to finish the pizzas, they really do add to the taste and are worth adding.

I love a crisp salad with my pizza. For this  I would just have some green, maybe some cherry tomatoes and a lovely lemony dressing.  For the dressing use the ratio of two parts fresh lemon juice, 5 parts olive oil and add a little salt, pepper and some mustard powder or dijon if you have it.

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Ginger and Howard’s Fabulous Fillet with Horseradish and Mustard Creme Fraiche

Ginger and Howard’s Fabulous Fillet with Horseradish and Mustard Creme Fraiche

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” -Julia Child A beautifully cooked fillet is a thing of beauty, but they are so expensive that I find cooking them extremely stressful. My dear friends Ginger and Howard […]

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Meatloaf

Meatloaf

I wanted to make a meatloaf for the Art Lecture lunches as part of the Mid West theme and this is my go to recipe.  I am sure this meatloaf is great hot but for some reason I have only ever served it at room […]

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Summer Quinoa

Summer Quinoa

I have found a fantastic combination of ingredients to make what I, with great imagination, am calling my ‘Summer Quinoa’.  To be honest, add any green vegetable you have to hand although the combination of avocado, asparagus and sugar snaps is particularly pleasing.  I have been adding shrimp to make it more of a main course, but it is not essential.

 

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Bob Smith’s  Absolutely Fabulous Korean BBQ Pork ( and bonus Flank steak recipe)

Bob Smith’s Absolutely Fabulous Korean BBQ Pork ( and bonus Flank steak recipe)

A few weeks ago I helped out at the Darien Men’s Association Soiree at Weed Beach.  The full menu appears under the menu tab on my website.  The food was fabulous, Roberto and two other members of staff from Tokenize club helped out at the […]

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Zarzuela a la Catalana – Catalan Fish Stew

Zarzuela a la Catalana – Catalan Fish Stew

This recipe,  together with the lentils recipe, was suggested by my sister in law, Avril, who has spent many years living in Spain.   I thought it might be a little exotic for Darien but it proved to be the star of the show at the […]

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Absolutely Fabulous Oven Roasted Salmon with Parsley Crust

Absolutely Fabulous Oven Roasted Salmon with Parsley Crust

This recipe for salmon is such a crowd pleaser and is so easy.  I give quantities here for a whole salmon as it makes such an impressive centerpiece if you are feeding a crowd of people, but it should work just as well for individual fillets or smaller pieces. I like to serve it with the Butternut Squash Quinoa or baby buttered potatoes (did I mention my potato obsession?) and a beet and orange salad with goats cheese.  It is wonderful warm from the oven, fantastic at room temperature and fabulous cold from the fridge.  What more can you ask of a recipe? I also use it when I am making Salad Niçoise.

 

(more…)

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Tuna with Lime Cilantro Sauce

Tuna with Lime Cilantro Sauce

TUNA WITH LIME CILANTRO SAUCE, WASABI MASHED POTATOES AND BOK CHOY I first tasted this lime and cilantro sauce at my friend Lynn’s house.  We were co-chairs of the wine tasting committee for the Darien YWCA, a tough job but somebody had to do it. […]

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( Irish) Bangers and Mash or Colcannon

( Irish) Bangers and Mash or Colcannon

Bangers and Mash or Colcannon (first published Jan 2015) This is the lunch I served for the January 2015 Darien Community Association Woman’s group lunch.  I think I cleaned out Whole Foods as I left with 192 sausages.  It seem a perfect supper to serve […]

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