Tag Archives: Easy Recipe

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Until I tried this recipe, I used to think of fennel as strictly a summer vegetable, well, proved wrong again.  I love fennel, even raw in salads, and I’ve always roasted it, but along with other vegetables to add to warm salads mostly.  But there’s something about this way of preparing it that opens a whole other world of possibilities.  For example, this fennel is delicious on the side of roast chicken, and you can cook it while your chicken is in the oven too.  I think it’s something to do with the use of a bit of butter and the cheese – that’s what makes this dish warming in the winter and soothing in the summer.

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

The Recipe

Preparation Time:  25 minutes
Baking Time:  20 minutes
Serves:  4 to 6

Ingredients

About 1.5kg / 3.3lb fennel bulbs (normally this is about 4 or 5) – halved, stalks removed.  Keep back the green feathery frons for dressing.
4 x tbsp unsalted butter
2 x tbsp Niolly Prat (Optional – I only use it if I have it in the house, I don’t go out and buy it specially for this recipe.  You can also use white wine or vermouth, or exclude the alcohol altogether.)
50gr / 1.5oz. freshly grated pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Baked Fennel with Pecorino

Method

  1. Cook the fennel in a large pan of boiling salted water until softened, but not mushy. This should take about 20 minutes, it depends on the size of your bulbs.
  2. Whilst the fennel is boiling, set your oven to 200°C/400°F and use about a third of the butter to grease a roasting tray.
  3. Once boiled, drain the fennel and then cut each piece lengthways into 2 or 3 thick slices. Lay out in the roasting tray.
  4. Drizzle the Noilly Prat over your fennel (if you’re using it), dot the rest of the butter over and sprinkle the cheese. Give a few grinds of fresh black pepper and a pinch of salt (not too much, the water for your fennel will impart a little salt and pecorino is a salty cheese).
  5. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese and butter have become golden brown.
  6. Sprinkle over the fresh fennel frons before serving.

 Tips and Variations

  • An excellent side dish to fish or chicken.

Baked Fennel and Pecorino

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

This is my kind of cake, a bit spiced and a bit dense and a bit squidgy.  This is my kind of baking, a few turns of the spoon and it’s ready.  My spiced sweet potato cake is a version of my carrot cake and was borne out of the fact I bought too many sweet potatoes and wanted to use them before they went a bit musty.  If you’re not used to baking both this recipe and the carrot cake version are a really good place to start.

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake Recipe

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

For the Cake (You will need a 20cm baking tin)
150ml / 5 fl. oz. melted butter
225gr / 8oz.  self-raising flour
2 x tsps baking powder
150gr / 5 oz. light muscavado sugar
150gr / 5 oz. walnuts, chopped roughly
250gr / 9 oz. grated sweet potato
2 x large eggs
150gr / 5 oz. crème fraiche
2 x tsps cinnamon
2 x tsps ginger powder
1 x tsp nutmeg
Zest of an orange
Juice of half of the orange

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

For the Icing
200gr / 7 oz. cream cheese
50gr / 1.5 oz. icing sugar (or to your taste)
A few drops of vanilla extract
75gr Almonds, chopped roughly
75gr Walnuts, chopped roughly

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/360°F degrees and line your tin with baking paper.
  2. Place all the cake ingredients in a bowl and mix them together until everything is equally brought together. A few turns with a wooden spoon should do it – yes, this cake is that easy.
  3. Pour the mix into your tin, and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. To check if it is cooked through, pierce with a skewer, which should come out clean, not with wet mix on it.
  4. Place your chopped nuts in a baking tray and put them in the oven at the same time as the cake. They should take about 7 to 10 minutes to turn golden brown, but watch them carefully as they can burn easily and every oven is a different so it can be difficult to say exactly how long this will take.
  5. When the cake is ready, allow it to cool for a few minutes, then remove it from the tin and allow to cool completely before icing. If you don’t allow it to cool, the icing will melt and slide off the cake.
  6. To make the icing, mix together the cream cheese and icing with the vanilla until smooth and creamy.
  7. Spread the icing over your cooled cake, sprinkle over the nuts and store in an air tight container in the fridge. The cake will keep for a few days.

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Tips and Variations

  • This is a dense cake and so it does take quite a while to bake.  If you notice that the top is becoming too dark, cover it with silver foil until the cake is completely baked through.

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Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Creamy Tarragon Chicken

Creamy Tarragon Chicken

Creamy Tarragon Chicken

I can’t really claim ownership or inspiration for this recipe, I mean, it is a classic.  Chicken, tarragon, mushrooms, cream – that’s your base, but what my contribution has been is tailoring it to my own taste and probably simplifying it a little.  Another diversion from the classic I’ve allowed myself is from most standard recipes is I like to use a bit of the old Noilly Prat, most others use white wine, which of course you are free to do, I wouldn’t expect you to go out and buy a bottle of Noilly just for this dish.  This is a great warming supper for a cold night, hearty and filling.

Preparation Time:  15 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Serves 4 to 6
1 x tbsp of olive oil
2 x tsps. unsalted butter
2 x medium sized leeks, chopped finely
4 x large garlic cloves, chopped finely
8 x chicken thighs
50ml / 1.7 fl. oz. Noilly Prat (if you don’t have this you can use white wine)
10 x sprigs of fresh tarragon, chopped finely
400ml / 13.5 fl. oz.  x good quality chicken stock (no cubes, please)
250gr / 9 oz. chestnut mushrooms, chopped roughly
125gr / 4.5 oz. cubed bacon
50ml / 1.7 fl. oz.  single cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Creamy Tarragon Chicken

Method

  1. Heat the oil and butter and add the chicken to the pan to brown. If you move the meat too soon once it’s in the pan it will stick, so resist the temptation and leave it a good few minutes on each side.  You may need to do this in batches as all the surface of the meat will need to touch the bottom of the pan so it can turn golden brown.
  2. Remove the chicken and set it aside on a plate.
  3. Add the bacon to brown, without cleaning the pan. This should take a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the leeks garlic and about 80% of the tarragon. Turn the heat down a little and allow the leeks to soften, this should take about 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Put the chicken back into the pan.
  6. Turn the heat back up and add the Noilly Prat – it should hit the heat of the pan with a good sizzle.
  7. Add the stock and a little salt and pepper – err on the side of caution with the salt as the amount you need will depend on the saltiness of your stock.
  8. Cover with a close fitting lid and allow to simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through. This will take about 20 minutes.  You can check when the chicken is ready by inserting a knife into the thickest part of the meat close to the bone and if the juice runs clear, it’s cooked.
  9. Add the mushrooms, the rest of the tarragon and the cream. Stir through and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes until the mushrooms are ready.
  10. Check the seasoning and serve.

Tips and Variations

  • I like to serve this with some boiled white rice or potatoes and maybe some broccoli.

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  Creamy Tarragon Chicken

Savoury Sundried Tomato Pinwheels

Savoury Sundried Tomato Pinwheels

Savoury Sundried Tomato Pinwheels

There’s a balance to be struck when you’ve got people over for drinks and nibbles.  The thing is you don’t (or at least I don’t) want to give them stuff I’ve bought ready prepared – no matter how posh, it’s not the same as making the effort and never as tasty.  And those awful snacks from supermarkets – yuk!  Expensive and salty!  And the other side is, you don’t want to be in the kitchen for hour’s or worse, stuck melting your make-up off at a hot oven while your guests are enjoying drinks without you.  So, I normally keep it simple, maybe a nice cheeseboard, some brown shrimp in small glasses, some cured meats like salami etc. on a rustic wooden board, maybe an olive or two and then a couple of things I make myself, like a hummus dip or my red pepper dip,  (which I make in bulk and usually have in the freezer ready to go) and then a nice warm pastry that’s easy to make and can be prepared in advance – this one you can make a day early.  The only thing I feel I need to warn you about with this recipe is make sure you make enough.  These are a real crowd-pleaser, and the smell of them baking in the oven seems to get everybody a bit crazy – even with those people who always say ‘Oh, looks lovely but I won’t.’  This is the time when they definitely will.

The Recipe

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Baking Time:  20 to 25 minutes
Makes: About 22 pinwheels

Savoury Sundried Tomato Pinwheels

Ingredients

450gr / 16 oz. ready-made puff pastry
200gr / 7 oz. sundried tomatoes – drain the oil and pat them dry to remove excess
2 x large cloves of garlic, crushed
2 x tbsp of dried oregano
1 x tbsp of dried mint (or an extra oregano if you don’t have mint)
100gr / 3.5 oz.  grated parmesan cheese
A little plain flour to help you roll out the pastry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x beaten egg to brush over the pinwheels before baking

Savoury Sundried Tomato Pinwheels

Method

  1. Set your oven to heat to 200°C/400°F and line a roasting tray (or two) with baking paper.
  2. Place the sundried tomatoes, garlic, a little salt and pepper into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Taste and adjust the salt, or you may wish to add more garlic or pepper.
  3. Sprinkle a small handful of flour on a cool, dry, clean surface and roll out the pastry, turning it over occasionally until it measures about 46cm / 18in. x 35cm / 14in.
  4. Place spoonfuls of the sundried tomato mix at random intervals over the pastry and spread them together with the back of a metal spoon until evenly distributed – get the mix as close to the edge as you can.
  5. Sprinkle the herbs over evenly, then the cheese.
  6. Then it’s time to roll. Be quick, firm and smooth with your actions.  Roll from the longest side, make sure your pastry is even when you roll and not loose.
  7. Take a sharp knife and slice the pastry roll into 1cm pinwheels and lay on your baking trays – not too close together – this is puff pastry after all, about 3 to 4cm / 1.5in between each wheel should be enough.
  8. Brush each pinwheel with the egg wash and place in the oven, for about 20 to 25 minutes, but check after 15. They are ready when golden brown and crispy.

Savoury Sundried Tomato PInwheels

Tips and Variations

  • Keep the oil from the tomatoes, you can use it for lots of tasty pasta dishes.
  • The tomatoes need to be drained because if they are too wet the mix will be too moist and the pastry won’t crisp up.
  • You can prepare the pinwheels up to a day in advance, keep them in the fridge and bake them when you want them.
  • You can serve the pinwheels at room temperature, but they are really delicious fresh from the oven, and the smell of them baking gets everyone’s appetites going.
  • If the pastry has become warm whilst you’ve been working with it, it may be difficult to cut into nice slices so place the pastry ‘sausage’ in the fridge for about 30 minutes to chill.

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Savoury Sundried Tomato Pinwheels

Rabbit Stew with Prunes

Rabbit Stew with Prunes

Rabbit Stew with Prunes

Every year, when the days get shorter and the temperature drops I start to crave comfort food.  This comes in many forms for me, and one category is stew.  It never used to be, I grew up eating stew in some form or another practically every day.  I was so bored with it and had no appreciation for how good it really was.  I was completely oblivious to the goodness and taste of all those fresh root vegetables, straight from our garden, and the cuts of local meat and game my dad procured from farmers and game keepers on the island.

Now, it’s a different story.  I would love to pick vegetables from my own garden or pop next door to the game keeper for some fresh rabbit, deer or pheasant.  We always want what we can’t have I suppose.  But that’s not going to stop me having good go at it.  Until now I’ve concentrated on strews with beef, oxtail, casseroles with chicken and even sausages, but this year I’m upping my game.  Enough time has passed and the trauma of skinning rabbits at our kitchen table while the Border Collies looked on licking their lips has subsided.  It’s time to make rabbit stew.  I looked at a lot of recipes and decided I liked the idea of adding some prunes as well as a bit of booze, so this is my first very own rabbit stew.  I’m really pleased with it, and as with all stews it’s really easy to make.

Where to get your Rabbit

In the Netherlands you can buy rabbit at the poultry shop (poelier), and not the butcher (slager). This is my local poelier :
F. Jonker
Maasstraat 19
1078 HB Amsterdam
Tel:  020-6626681
It’s best to give them a call beforehand to ask them to keep a fresh rabbit back for you, otherwise you can buy frozen.

Rabbit Stew with Prunes

The Recipe

Preparation Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cooking Time:  2 and a half to three hours
Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 x tbsp olive oil and 2 x tsps unsalted butter
2 x rabbits, jointed
200gr / 7oz. prunes
1 x tbsp honey
A little plain flour to dust the meat
100gr / 3.5oz. bacon, sliced finely
2 x medium sized carrots, chopped roughly
1 x onion, chopped roughly
2 x cloves of garlic chopped roughly
The leaves of 4 sprigs of thyme chopped finely
2 x bay leaves
150ml / 5fl. oz. Madeira
150ml / 5fl. oz. red wine
200ml / 6.5fl. oz. good quality chicken stock (no cubes please)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Some freshly chopped flat parsley leaves to serve

Rabbit Stew with Prunes

Method

  1. Set your oven to heat to 150°C/300°F.
  2. Sprinkle a small handful of flour onto a dinner plate and roll the pieces of rabbit in it until they are lightly covered.
  3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large stew or soup pan (that you can put in the oven) on a medium to high heat. Place the pieces of rabbit into the pan and allow them to brown – make sure they sizzle as you put them into the oil and butter mix, but not too aggressively, you don’t want the butter and oil to burn.  This should take a couple of minutes on each side.  You may need to do it in batches as all the meat will need to come into contact with the base of the pan so it can brown nicely.  If you move the meat to soon after putting into the pan, it will stick, so resist the temptation.
  4. Once the meat has been browned set it aside and add to the same pan (without cleaning it) the onion, bacon, carrots and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes allowing the bacon to brown, but be careful the garlic doesn’t burn.
  5. Return the rabbit to the pan, add the thyme, bay, Madeira, red wine, stock, honey and prunes. Add a little salt and pepper too.
  6. Bring the stew to a gentle bubble, put its lid on and place it in the oven for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender and almost falls off the bone – check after the first 20 minutes to make sure it is bubbling very gently.
  7. Check for seasoning and remove the bay leaves before you serve and sprinkle some fresh parsley over the stew before you bring it to the table.

Tips and Variations

  • My favourite way to serve this rabbit stew is with some boiled potatoes and Savoy cabbage.
  • This stew will keep for a few days in the fridge, so you can make it the day before if you wish.

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Rabbit Stew with Prunes