Thursday, 29 May 2014


I thought this week I would make a collection of my favourite sauces- sweet and savoury- to share with you.
They are all really simple- because I'm not one for fancy reductions or emulsions.
I've done two hot, two cold, two sweet and two savoury.

They really do come into their own though for jazzing up leftovers-and none more so than a hollandaise sauce. Wonderful with salmon, asparagus, new potatoes or any fish, my favourite is with spinach and a poached egg on a toasted muffin.

First, make your hollandaise:  Melt 60g of unsalted butter in a pan or microwaveable dish.Take one egg yolk, the juice of half a squeezed lemon, a pinch of cayenne pepper if you have it and half a teaspoon of salt and put them in the goblet of the food processor or blender. Start the motor running and quickly but steadily trickle in the melted butter. Just watch the sauce emulsify. If it gets too thick, add a squeeze more lemon or a teaspoon of warm water.

Don't throw away your egg white- freeze it to use in meringues or cakes later.

To make eggs florentine- steam or microwave some spinach leaves, squeeze them quickly in a J cloth, then lay them on top of a toasted English muffin. Top with a softly poached egg and a good slather of the sauce.
Eggs florentine with hollandaise sauce
Fish and chips with tartare sauce

My next sauce is more of a relish really. To make your own tartare sauce, take a tablespoon of good mayonnise, add to it some chopped spring onion, some chopped gherkin and some chopped green olives. Voila! 

I told you it was simple this week.

A delicious variation uses black olives instead of green to make a cross between tapenade and tartare sauce. Yum!

And whilst we are tallking simple- here is just the best- but simplest- tomato sauce. Soften some onion and garlic in a saucepan, add a carton of chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon each of red wine vinegar and sugar, a pinch each of salt and pepper and simmer away for 15 minutes or so. Just before serving, stir in a knob of butter. The butter emulsifies and enrichens the sauce in an instant.
Tomato butter sauce

My last savoury sauce is made with mustard and creme fraiche. It's lovely on pork or chicken.

Deglaze and add mustrard
Mix in creme fraiche
When you have fried your meat, put it to keep warm in the oven and then deglaze the frying pan with either some warm water, some vermouth or some white wine.
Pork with mustard and cream sauce
When it is bubbling, add a tablespoon of coarse grain mustard and two tablespoons of creme fraiche. Stir quickly as it thickens and then pour back over the meat.

Now for some sweet sauces.

My favourite standby is a toffee or butterscotch sauce. Once you know how to make this, you can vary it according to the type of sugar you add- muscavado for a treacle toffee, soft brown for a fudge sauce, demerera for a butterscotch toffee sauce or with a pinch of sea salt for a salted caramel.

These skewered ban-iteroles are my latest creation. Choux buns filled with cream and banana, threaded on skewers to keep them together, with a toffee fudge sauce.
For the choux buns:
85 ml water
85 ml milk
65g butter
100g plain flour
2 eggs
200ml whipping cream
1 banana
1. Bring the water, milk and butter to the boil in a saucepan
2. Beat in the flour
3. Cool slightly and then add the eggs one at a time until you have a glossy paste
4. Spoon (or pipe) teaspoons of the paste onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper
5. Bake for 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown
6. Pierce the base of each to allow steam to escape
7. When cool, slice in half and fill with whipped cream and a slice of banana before sandwiching back together
8. Thread three or four onto a skewer to hold them together.
For the toffee fudge sauce:
150 ml cream
75 ml milk
75 ml golden syrup
25 g butter
150g demerera sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
1. Boil all the ingredients together (except the essence) in a saucepan.
2. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
Pour into jugs and serve with the ban-iteroles.
Ban-iteroles with toffee fudge sauce

And finally- the best and simplest chocolate sauce:

100g dark or white chocolate
25g unsalted butter
2 tbsp icing sugar

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan with 100 ml of water. Heat and stir until the butter and chocolate are melted and the sauce is glossy.

Pour over profiteroles, berries or ice cream or banana splits.....

Saucy enough for you? I hope so.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Taste of Honey

Living here in Pooh Country (Sussex), it seems only right to write a blogpost about honey.
Sweet and sticky, it changes the flavour and the texture of dishes- be they sweet or savoury.
I'm featuring some of my favourites here, but I'm also including a link to the Guardian recipe swap site where other cooks have sent in dozens of lovely honey recipes too.

My own recipe featured in the newspaper today- even more reason to talk about honey!

Caviar d'Aubergines with Honey and Rosemary

Tarte Salee

Use the paste as a base for a savoury tartlet

Vegetable Lasagne

I use it, mixed with a duxelle of mushrooms as the 'meat layer' in a vegetable lasagne, layered up with tomato sauce, bechamel and creamed spinach or leeks.

Aubergine and White Bean Soup

Soups don't come much simpler to make than this- but the flavour is fab! Blitz together one portion of the caviar d'aubergines with a carton of butter beans and a litre of chicken or vegetable stock. The white beans thicken the soup and make it creamy- but without adding cream so good for you too!

OK- away from aubergines and on to more honey recipes.

Honey is used widely in Middle Eastern, North African and Greek cooking. I add a spoonful to a tagine to counteract the slight bitterness of the spice mix and the sharpness of the tomato stock.

Lamb Tagine with Couscous

Also, one of my favourite uses for honey is a sticky glaze for sausages.

Sticky Sausages

Week 1- Lamb Tagine and Middle Eastern Munchies

January has been a dull month.

It's hard enough to get into the right frame of mind for going back to work after Christmas, but the January weather makes it worse. Snow days, icy windscreens, wind, rain and mud all conspire to make the business of trying to earn a crust seem nigh on impossible.

Time to think about warmer climes, spicier flavours - and to use up some of those storecupboard ingredients bought in for Christmas that really shouldn't languish there until the Christmas decorations go back up in 2013.

I'm talking about dates, nuts, dried fruits, mulled wine spices- ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.

So, today's three course meal looks to North Africa for it's inspiration: roasted pepper hummus with flatbreads to start, lamb tagine with couscous for main course, and pears poached in mulled wine for pudding.

For the hummus- roast a red and yellow pepper (deseeded) in the oven until soft (20 minutes or so). You can do this earlier in the week when you have the oven on for another dish. Allow to cool completely before blitzing in the food processor with the juice of half a lemon, a can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), a clove of garlic (more if you like), a tablespoon of peanut butter or tahini paste and a glug of olive oil. When smooth, taste and add salt or pepper, more lemon or more oil if it is too dry. Place in a bowl and chill well.

For the flatbreads, I used half a packet of bread mix from my storecupboard (125g mixed with 175ml of warm water.) You could use bread flour with a sachet of yeast in warm water or self raising flour with 1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder, a tablespoon of olive oil and 125ml of milk.

If using yeast, the dough needs to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours.

When double in size, knock back and roll out into circles ( saucer sized or plate sized as you wish).

Brush a pan lightly with olive oil and fry gently on one side. As they start to puff up, press them down gently with a clean tea towel. Turn them over and brown on the other side.
Carrot and nut salad
Serve warm, sliced with a serving of hummus on the side and a carrot and nut salad, if you wish.

Next- the lamb tagine.

Spring lamb is not yet in season, but it is best to buy tougher cuts of mutton (which is in season) anyway for this dish. I used neck fillet, but you can use boned shoulder or knuckle.

First make your spice mix- 1 tsp of minced garlic, 2 tsps of ground ginger, 1 tsp of cinammon, 1 tsp of turmeric, a pinch of saffron soaked in an egg cup of warm water, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp mild chilli powder and a good grating of nutmeg.
Mix to a paste with the juice of half a lemon (the other half of the one you used for the hummus) and a tablespoon of olive oil.

You will need about 100g of lamb per person- cut into cubes and then coated in the paste. Leave to marinade for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.
Fry one onion, finely chopped in some olive oil, then fry the meat and add a handful each of apricots, dates and sultanas to the pan. Add a can of chopped tomatoes and the residue from the marinade bowl rinsed out with a cup of water, along with a teaspoon of honey to sweeten.

I cook mine in a slow cooker (but of course you could use a tagine pot if you have one, or a casserole dish in the oven.)
Lamb Tagine with Couscous

The dish takes about 7 hours to cook in a slow cooker - until the lamb is tender.

Serve with couscous and a drizzle of natural yoghurt if you like that.

For dessert, I poached some pears in a cupful of red vermouth (but red wine with a little vanilla sugar added is fine), with a good grating of nutmeg and a teaspoon of mixed spice.
Poach until the pears are tender and have taken on the pink colour of the wine or vermouth.
Pear in Mulled Wine

Serve warm or cold to your liking.

Beans means Tagines!
And what of the leftovers- well, there was no meat left over but plenty of sauce- so I mixed it with a can of butter beans, drained and rinsed, a small can of chopped tomatoes and a dollop of smoky barbecue relish. It made an excellent filling for baked potatoes, and went well with chips too!
It would have been good as well with a slice of garlic bread to make Posh Beans on Toast.


Any leftover couscous can be made into a tabbouleh with parsley, mint, tomatoes and cucumber, and the hummus makes a tasty addition to my lunch box during the week.

The flatbreads freeze well- and make easy pizza bases for another meal.

Even the leftover fruit syrup from the pears can be used again (if there was any left) in a fresh fruit salad the next day.

I hope this trip to North Africa and the Middle East helps lift the winter gloom- there's lots to look forward to in the next few weeks- Pancake Day, Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day.

I haven't decided where in the world I'm going next week.

Any preferences?

Monday, 5 May 2014

A Week's Worth of Roasted Vegetables

Mediterranean Chicken (for the recipe see the link below)
There was a time when roasted vegetables meant roast potatoes and parsnips and nothing much else.

Can you remember when we all started tray baking our courgettes and peppers? For me, I first had the dish (in a wondrous balsamic vinegar dressing- totally new to me!) at a party in the Nineties.

I did a quick search on the internet and saw that this dish grew in popularity circa 1995 when Delia Smith brought out her 'Summer Collection' and suddenly we were all making Pasta Puttanesca, Chicken Basque and of course all oven-roasting our veg.
Well, nice one Delia.
It's been a mainstay of my repertoire evcr since.

When you have the oven on (if you're baking a cake or roasting a chicken perhaps), find the biggest oven tray you have and roast whatever is in the veg drawer of your fridge. Onions, garlic, courgettes, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, squash, leeks, new potatoes- any combination as long as there is plenty of variety.
Cut them into equal sized chunks so they cook evenly, toss them in some olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and loads of salt and pepper and roast until they collapse and caramelize (usually 35-40 minutes at 180 degrees).

You can then serve them hot to accompany your meal- with chicken, steak, chops, salmon, hake...anything really- but then keep the rest and allow to cool completely and absorb the dressing. (Don't waste a drop of that sticky sauce!)

Hake with Roasted veg

Here are some suggestions of how you could use all these cooked veg during the rest of the week.

1. Mix with couscous to make a salad or to accompany  burgers, meatballs or quiche.

Couscous with roasted veg

2. Cook a pack of ravioli or tortellini , mix with the veg and some chopped tomatoes, top with grated cheese.
Tortellini pasta bake
3. Make a vegetable curry - by coating the veg in some korma paste, frying gently and then adding a tin of lentils and half a tin of coconut milk and simmering together until the flavours blend. Serve with basmati rice.

Vegetable curry with lentils

4. Mixed with salad leaves, fresh tomatoes and cucumber, pine nuts etc

Roasted veg salad with spinach and pine nuts

5. Blitzed with peanut butter or tahini, olive oil and lemon juice to make a roasted veg hummus

This recipe featured on the Guardian recipe swap website (link above).

6. Packed with slices of mozzarella into a baguette for a substantial lunch

Roasted veg and mozzarella baguettes

7. Any left? Blitz the last little bit to make a sauce for white fish. Red pepper and tomato go particularly well with delicate flavoured fish.
Sea bass with roasted vegetable sauce

So, the week has gone by and the roasted veg have been used up in a variety of ways.

I hope you've enjoyed them and are not vegged-out!