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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Father's Day: Jack Daniel's Dipping Sauce

I have inherited a lot from my Dad, including a very similar taste in food. Which means that having my Dad round for dinner is a great excuse to cook what I'd really like to eat, if only I could be bothered to make it. This recipe for TGI Jack Daniel's sauce is one I had bookmarked, but had been a bit weary of attempting in case it tasted like a bad fake. Fortunately, it was worth the effort. It is still not close to the original Secret Recipe, which is good for me - I like having the excuse for a meal out. This recipe creates a rich dipping sauce, but you must serve it hot. Once it cools it creates a tar like substance, but it will liquefy again if you warm it through on the hob.


1 tsp onion granules
1 tbsp tabasco sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
120ml Jack Daniel's (doubled from the Original Recipe)
300g dark brown soft sugar (a little less than the original)
240ml water
4 beef oxo cubes


Place all the ingredients into a saucepan, and on the smallest hob ring, turn the heat up high till the mixture starts to boil, stirring regularly.

Once the mixture is bubbling, turn the heat down, and stirring every few minutes let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve in a pre-heated dish to help keep it warm. 


Friday, 17 June 2011

Chocolate Fondles

Forget music being the food of love. Oh no, the food of love is definitely chocolate. And if we can all agree on that, you should believe me when I say these Chocolate Fondants equal serious heavy petting. 

This is a fabulous, prepare in advance, wow your guests, woo your guests, recipe. They taste scrumptious and are very simple to make. You can even freeze them far in advance and cook them from frozen, which is great if your main course is a little more complicated, meaning you can take it easy for dessert.

First, before I give you the recipe, you must promise me you will treat this recipe to the finest darkest chocolate. I'm not a chocolate snob I promise you, but this fondant just knows when you're feeding her the cheap stuff. Any chocolate with less than 70% cocoa solids produces sad, sickly tasting fondants. I use Tesco's 74% plain chocolate which is perfect.

For this recipe (from Gordon Ramsay), you will need 6-9 ramekins, or disposable pudding tins like these if you're too lazy to do the washing up! The recipe makes 6 fondants for me as I only have 6 ramekins. Gordon recommends using 9 moulds, so perhaps I overfill my little dishes but they still turn out lovely.

The nice thing is, you only need a few simple ingredients, which should already be in your cupboards, meaning this doesn't make it too expensive a dessert either.


50g melted butter
A sprinkling of cocoa powder
200g 70% or higher dark chocolate
200g butter
200g golden caster sugar
8 eggs (4 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks. Use the leftover whites for meringues perhaps?)
200g plain flour


First you need to prepare your moulds. Good preparation at this stage means your Fondants will just ease right out when you go to serve them.  

After you melt your butter, using a pastry brush - brush the insides of your ramekins giving them a good coating. 

Put your ramekins in the fridge, have a coffee and 10 minutes later butter the ramekins again - using the same butter which should hopefully have also thickened slightly. You are aiming for them to look a little like this:

Whilst the butter is still damp, hold the ramekins at an angle above your cocoa powder, and using a spoon sprinkle the insides, turning the moulds till they are all coated, tip out the excess. Put back into the fridge once they are all prepared.

Melt the chocolate and the butter together using a bain marie and once melted put to one side.

Whilst the chocolate is cooling slightly, seperate your eggs and beat together the 4 eggs and 4 egg yolks till the  mixture froths slightly and the whisk leaves a trail behind it.

Sieve the flour into the eggs and beat well together.

Then fold in the melted chocolate and butter - a third at a time till the mixture is well combined.

Divide the mixture between your ramekins and place into the fridge to chill completely, or freeze until you wish to cook them.

To bake your fondants, preheat your fan oven to 180°C, place the fondants on a baking tray and cook on the middle shelf for 10-12 minutes. (15 minutes ish if cooking from frozen.)

The fondants should have risen a little, formed a crust on top started to shrink away from their edges:

Using a knife, carefully ease the fondants out onto a plate (I've made 18 and haven't broken a cake yet so don't worry too much). Plate up and serve quickly and watch your guests have the joy of peeking inside.

They taste perfect served with some double cream.

Enjoy the adulation.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Mushroom Paté with Red Asparagus

I was in the supermarket the other day, and they had a glut of reduced mushrooms for sale. And not just your boring button mushrooms either. Posh ones. Proper ones. Ones which I don't let my husband buy because I don't know how to cook them.

You see, as you will know if you've had me round to tea - I don't like mushrooms. This is pretty unlucky as they are in everything. Everything. I've mastered the art of picking them out of dishes swiftly. However... I am somewhat blessed in that I love the flavour - I'll even order things that come with a mushroom sauce and pick out the mushrooms, so I really don't mind mind cooking with them.

I seized the opportunity to be nice to my husband, for once, and I bought a pack each of Chestnut, Oyster, and Shiitake mushrooms, and a pack of red asparagus to see what that was all about too. It all came to about £2.50... Bargain.

 I came across this recipe whilst deciding what to do with them, and it suggested all the mushrooms I had bought, and very tasty it is too. This would make a great starter, or a nice dish at a buffet if you've got a vegetarian coming. NB - You need to start this recipe a few hours before you want to serve it, or the day before.


100ml vegetable oil
400g mixed mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
200g unsalted butter
A large pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 chopped garlic clove
Juice of a lemon
Cracked black pepper


The Day Before: In a large frying pan, heat the oil over a medium heat and add the mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally till everything has softened. Drain well in a colander, leave to cool for an hour and then put into a covered dish to go chill in the fridge, ideally for 24 hours.

The Next Day:  Use a food processor/hand blender to whizz half of the mushrooms with 125g of butter, the cayenne pepper, nutmeg, garlic lemon juice, and some black pepper till it is almost smooth.

Stir in the unblended half of the mushroom mixture.

Pour into 8 ramekins, or a terrine if you want to serve it at a buffet. (Bear in mind you wont decant this to a plate, whatever you put it into should be what you serve it in.)

Melt the remaining 75g butter to top the paté with, this will give it a nice seal. Put in the fridge till cold.

You can serve this with some chutney (after going to this effort you can easily get away with store-bought!) I have served it with the Red Asparagus I picked up next to it - which you eat raw, making it a perfect stress-free dish. Leave a pepper grinder out on the table so people can give the paté a bit more kick if they require.


Vanilla Syrup

I saw this being used on Raymond Blanc's show Kitchen Secrets. I only managed to catch the one episode, as our Sky box has been packed away for some DIY (oh how I miss you!).  Thank goodness I didn't watch any more of his shows and fall in love with more decadent things. However, I was insistent I had to make some Vanilla Syrup of my own. I pretend to slightly regret that decision now, considering the cost of real vanilla - but making it is easily one of the favourite things I've done in this kitchen so far.

I didn't know I loved vanilla so much, we're all used to the faux-smell. Vanilla is used in air fresheners, scented candles and I've used the extract lots in cooking. But wow, the smell of this true vanilla as I was blending was something else entirely. Monsieur Blanc tells us that we can use it for poaching pears and peaches, I imagine it will be divine in home-made ice-cream - but I made some so I could make a Riz au Lait, which I will blog about soon.

So, to make this you're going to need some vanilla. He recommends 8 vanilla pods, which I'd have to re-mortgage for, so I only used 4 long ones (£8!) and hoped they would be enough.

In a sausepan, dissolve 110g of caster sugar in 100 ml of water and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat, let it cool slightly and then add the vanilla pods, roughly chopped with the hard ends removed.

Use a blender, and whiz together until smooth. I was only using a hand held blender and it wasn't strong enough to whizz thoroughly, so in the end I had to strain it through a sieve. This will keep in an small airtight jar in the fridge for months.

Enjoy. And try to resist from opening the jar just to smell it occasionally. 

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I know, I know. A nice glacé cherry would really cheer this cake up - but I say - wouldn't that be a bit Eighties? A bit cliché? Actually, it's just because I don't like glacé cherries, which is a damn shame - they always seem so cute and filled with all the very best E-numbers!

This recipe for Pineapple Upside Down is really one of my favourites. It's very easy, very quick and quite forgiving. I believe the proper ones can take a good hour or two to cook - so this might not have the perfect sponge - but actually, you're only eating this cake for 2 reasons, the pineapple and the sugar crust and don't pretend otherwise! I use a bigger tin than the one from the official recipe, because then I can use the whole tin of pineapples, but you do get quite a scant sponge. I doubled the sponge for these pictures, but I don't think it tasted as nice. Serve with some whipping cream with a bit of the pineapple syrup stirred in. Then invite me round please!

For the Topping:

50g softened butter
50g light soft brown sugar
7 pineapple rings, tinned in syrup
Glacé cherries (optional!)


In a large bowl, use a spoon, or hand held whisk to mix the butter and sugar together till creamy. Spread out onto the bottom of a 20cm+ cake tin, smearing a little bit up the sides too. Drain the pineapple rings, keeping the syrup, and arrange into the tin, along with your cherries. 

For the Sponge:

100g softened butter
100g golden caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
 2 tbsp pineapple syrup


So simple - put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk them all together!

 Spread out over your pineapple layer, put into an oven heated to 180°C for 30-35 minutes. Leave for a few minutes before you cross your fingers and flip upside-down! A great cake tin really helps with this. I use a spring form cake tin which makes this very simple.

Enjoy! If you do get any left over, it tastes just as lovely the next day with a cuppa.

Hint: I've been known to prepare the pineapple layer, and make the cake batter, a couple of hours before dinner. Then as I serve up our main course, I fix the two pudding layers together and slip into the oven. 

Friday, 6 May 2011

Quick Roasted New Potatoes

Just a quick post for today about a handy side dish of Roasted New Potatoes. Now normally these can take about 40 minutes to roast, or might involve some par boiling, but I've happened on a way to get it done faster and to fit in alongside your dinner. I hate it when it take longer to cook the potatoes than whatever it is I want to eat with them!

First - have a handy route inside your store cupboard/fridge. Have some oil? Good! Now, what do you like to have your new potatoes with? A bit of garlic? Lemon? Herbs? Bacon? (Again with the bacon I know... I'm obsessed.) Use whatever you have or like.

Add 500g new potatoes to a microwavable bowl with a lid. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water.

On a high heat cook them for around 5 minutes till they go soft. Then add them to a baking tray of olive oil, and whatever additions you fancy.  I've used some chopped garlic and rosemary here - but you could easily try some lemon zest, or something a bit spicier

Add your potatoes and give it a good shake to mix it all up and coat well.

Cook for around  10-15 minutes in a hot oven (maybe 180C - whatever suits) till they go crispy.

Enjoy! Will put on a much more exciting (and deliciously simple) Pineapple Upside Down cake tomorrow.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Herbed Cabbage

I didn't like cabbage as a child. Realising I did actually like cabbage was a sign of maturity - I was 24.

Children aren't supposed to like cabbage. If other people didn't like it then I was just certain that I wouldn't like it either... Like sprouts. They're just "urgh" aren't they?!

Umm, no. Aside from being delicious, and good for you - cabbage is also very pretty. It shouldn't make a difference in whether or not something is edible, but it totally does. 

This recipe is another I have pilfered from BBC Good Food although I'd change it a fair bit. As flavoured as this dish was, it should be more. More herbs. More garlic. More yum.

There are 3 ways of making this dish, the way the recipe says, the way I made it in these pictures, and the way I will try next time. Sorry to make it all too complicated, I know it's only cabbage.

I didn't have any goose fat as per the original recipe. I'm a bit fed up of buying expensive only use once ingredients - but I think the plan here is that you make this cabbage on Christmas day and you would already have some for your roasties. (Have you that yet? You really should.) You can buy a jar and keep it in your fridge for months, so if I can find it I will try next time, I reckon it will add some va-va-voom.

Also - the original recipe says to remove the herbs you add in once you flavour the shallots. I did a bit of both for this dish - because I left in some chopped rosemary. Next time I'm going to crush one garlic clove and add that in with even more chopped rosemary. I didn't have shallots and I used leeks as they were in the fridge. It still tasted nice, but I will probably try it with onion next time.

Serves 4- 6


1 savoy cabbage
1 tbsp olive oil (or 4 tbsp goose fat)
1 medium leek. (or 4 shallots, or 1 onion)
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 garlic cloves

  • Finely chop your your leek/shallots, 1 sprig of rosemary and 1 clove of garlic. Leave to one side
  • Quarter the cabbage, remove the core and shred thinly
  • Quickly blanch the cabbage in salted boiling water for 3 minutes

  • Then tip it all into a colander in the sink, and hold under cold water till cool. Drain well.
  • Heat the olive oil (or goose fat) in a pan till hot and sauté the leek/onion/shallots, rosemary and one whole garlic clove and one crushed garlic clove for 5 minutes

  • Discard the whole clove of garlic, and rosemary sprig
  • Add the cooled cabbage and heat through. This gets steamy!
  • Season & enjoy.

I'm trying to resist the temptation of adding bacon to this. You know it would taste SO good. In fact, the bacon might save you the purchase of goose-fat. Bacon flavour that also saves you money? Well all right then. 

Friday, 29 April 2011

Hoorah for Bank Holidays!

Congratulations to the Prince and Princess, and may we all have a jolly good weekend!

PS: To enjoy some of your own Royal Wedding Cake, check out this post.

For the recipe, see Celebration Cupcake

Potato Cakes

This recipe is another from the book, the British Food Bible. Potato Cakes are delicious for a snack, with bacon for breakfast, or as a nice change with dinner, served with some lamb. It's also a handy way of using left over mash from the night before. According to the book, for a truly perfect potato cake you must use fresh, piping hot mash, but I've done otherwise and it still tastes gorgeous to me!


550g mashed potato
25g butter
1 egg (optional)
115g plain flour


Whip your mash (either hot or cold) with the egg, butter and seasoning.

Mix together with the flour.  Add 100g of flour at first and keep adding flour when necessary going till you get a good doughy texture.

You could take an opportunity now to mix in an optional extra or two - such as small bits of crispy bacon or some spring onion. I've used some tiny bits of chopped leeks here to match in with the rest of our dinner.

When it has all formed a dough, place onto your work top, which should be well dusted with flour, and sprinkling the rolling pin with flour to give you a helping hand - roll out till the dough is 2cm thick.

Use a pastry cutter to cut into the sizes you desire - larger for a snack on their own, smaller if you wish to serve them breakfast or dinner. If you are preparing these for a dinner party you can make them in advance, dust them well with flour, and place them in between sheets of baking paper. Leave in the fridge till you're ready to cook & eat them.

To cook (from freshly made or chilled and waiting) -  oh a high heat, preheat a griddle (or a frying pan) and sizzle off a small dash of butter.

Cook each potato cake for 2 minutes on both sides, till they turn golden brown. Serve straight away.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Sugar Crusted Lamb

This recipe is delicious and quick to prepare for a dinner party - and pretty unique too. This lamb generally comes out pink > a teeny bit undercooked so be cautious if you're thinking of serving it to a fussy eater. And a small advanced warning about getting an urge to sprinkle sugar on all your dinner - I'm sure it wont taste as good!

Serves 4


8 lamb cutlets - 700g
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 large sprigs of rosemary
2 tbsp demerara sugar
A smearing of olive oil


  • Preheat the grill to high, and place a baking tray underneath it to heat up
  • Prepare the lamb by seasoning with salt and pepper
  • Strip the rosemary sprigs by stripping the leaves off and discarding the stalk
  • Mix the lamb with the rosemary and mustard - ensuring it's well coated
  • On a separate plate, spread out the sugar and dip each side of the lamb cutlets onto the sugar
  • Take out the baking tray from under the grill, quickly place the cutlets on and return to the grill for 10-12 minutes. Or as long as you can stand the smoking! The sugar does burn - but don't worry, it does not taste burnt.

Recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food, which is a fantastic resource.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Birthday Cake

My niece's birthday practically coincided with Easter this year so she requested a mash-up Chocolate Fairy Easter Birthday Cake!  We've been DIYing* all week so to save time I cheated and used this Devil's Food Cake with chocolate fudge icing.

To decorate I used:

  • A Fairy Topper from her last birthday cake
  • Some official Fairy glitter-dust
  • Dotted sugar flowers
  • A few chocolate cornflake nests
  • And teeny-tiny eggs and chicks from Tescos. Too cute!

*Disclaimer: Due to DIY projects this cake may/may not taste of paint!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Beef Stew with Dumplings

You can make this recipe easier on yourself by just making the stew with 600ml of stock and 200ml red wine and just leaving it in the oven for 2 - 2½ hours, served with a potato side-dish, but my husband and I have quite a soft spot for a good dumpling! This makes a lovely thick and very warm-your-bones stew, and is a great way to use some cheap cuts of beef - the long slow cook makes it very tender. Recipe is slightly adapted from the British Food Bible.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients for the Stew
3 tbsps olive oil
2 medium-large onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1kg casserole steak (or braising steak), trimmed and cut into pieces
2 tbsps plain flour
Hefty sprinkle of seasoning
1 litre beef stock
300ml red wine
1 bouquet garni (I use a dried one from Tesco)

Ingredients for the Herb Dumplings
115g self raising flour
55g suet
1tsp mustard
1 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
A little seasoning
4 tbsp cold water


  • Preheat oven to 150°C
  • I use a flame-proof casserole dish, but if you don't have one of these, use a frying pan first, and transfer to an oven-proof casserole dish with a lid
  • On a medium heat on the hob, heat 1 tbsp of the oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft and golden. Remove from the pan
  • Turn the heat up, use the remaining 2 tbsps of oil and quickly brown the meat all over
  • Sprinkle in the flour and stir well
  • Turn the heat down to medium, pour in 300mls of stock, stirring well to blend it together
  • (At this point, move all the cooked ingredients into the casserole dish if necessary)
  • Add the cooked onions, bouquet garni, seasoning and and 200ml of red wine, mix together.
  • Cover and put into the oven for an hour
  • After an hour, take the casserole dish out and check liquid levels - I find the original recipe quite dry, so at this stage I have taken to adding a further 200-300ml of stock, and if necessary a dash more wine
  • Cover and put into the oven for an additional hour, when the hour is up - leave the oven on, and leave the stew in whilst you start making your dumplings
  • Place the dry dumpling ingredients into a bowl and mix well
  • Add the water to the mix a bit at the time till you create a firm, but soft dough. Use a bit of flour and your hands to shape them into 10-12 dumplings
  • Take the stew out of the oven, remove the bouquet garni, add a bit more liquid if you need (the dumplings will soak up some liquid)
  • Add the dumplings and push down under the liquid. Cover, and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes till the dumplings double in size

Cookbook Review: British Food Bible

A definite 10 stars - a truly great book, and amazing value. I find so many cookbooks are filled with fancy food that I don't want to cook, or they skip past the basic food in favour of something impressive sounding. This book is a wonderful mix of regional British dishes and clear instructions. Everything I've made from it so far has worked very well.

To give you a couple of examples of Chapters and Recipes -

English Breakfasts: traditional Porridge; Kedgeree
Meat, Game & Poultry: Game Pie; Steak & Kidney Pudding; Toad in The Hole
Vegetables & Salads: Pan Haggarty; Colcannon; Glazed Turnips
Tea Time Treats: includes Crumpets, Tea Cakes and Lemonade

I really didn't need another cookbook, however I bought this book for a friend at Christmas, and at buy-one-get-one-free from Tescos - I simply had to add a copy to my ever-blossoming collection of recipes! I've written this review mainly because I was going to link to it for the Beef Stew with Dumplings post, but I can't find a copy of it in an online bookshop anywhere, even using its ISBN.

There are found 4 copies for sale on eBay at £10 including delivery.

But it was still available to buy last week from our local Tescos, at a billy-bargain price of £5!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Secret Scones

In many ways, home-made scones are the epitome of British Baking. There's nothing quite like a warm scone, fresh from the oven served with some home-made Smug Strawberry Jam, a hefty dollop of clotted cream and a nice cup o' tea. 

Enjoy them straight out of the oven when a friend calls round for a cuppa. Selling the house? Forget brewing coffee, it's so 90's darling... Plate up some of these for an instant welcoming feel. 

Go vintage, go retro - go get your scones on.

So why are they called Secret Scones? 
    Because, shhh....

They're from a packet. 

I'm a firm believer that not everything is best being home-made. Just ask our local take-away for a start. With this Tesco scone mix, you still get the satisfaction of kneading the dough, rolling it out, getting messy with some dusting flour. It's still much cheaper than buying ready made scones (this packet is only 60p). And importantly - they avoid any uncertainty over what they'll taste like. You're guaranteed perfect scones every time.

For variation, you could try cherries, or make them savoury with some grated cheese sprinkled on top. I'm tempted to make my next batch with sultanas and a try of some lemon zest.

See Also: Jam