Archive | Pudding

Recipe | Chocolate caramel brownies

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 Tackling picnics…

“There is something a little unusual we would like you to do this time Philippa”
“Oh, yes?” Thought I, not entirely sure what my client was going to ask.

For the last few years I have been booked to make the journey to the boating heaven of Itchenor and prepare a post shoot dinner, arm the client with a selection of dinner party dishes they can whip out from the freezer when needed over the coming year and cook for a few casual family dinners.

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“We have been invited to THE Rugby on Saturday, we would like a pre match tailgate picnic.”
“THE Rugby”? Thought I, quickly trying to remember which match that might be.

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Part of the fun as a private chef is being exposed to so many different worlds. I have learnt more about the finance sector, the fashion industry, the art world, a bit on taxidermy, and a lot more on Scottish estates than I ever expected. I have found it useful and interesting to do a bit of homework on these varied matters hence my monthly diverse reading material ranges from Tatler to the FT and may include riveting reads like A Practical Guide to Algorithmic Strategies and Trading Systems and The Grouse in health and disease (ok the last two are still sitting by the bed). Rugby I am ashamed to say I know very little about.

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The plan was to drive to Twickenham, find somewhere nice to dine then off they would go to the match and then later that night we would return home in a state of celebration or misery (sadly we all know how the story ends).

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The picnic was a complete success despite on the way up a few anxious calls to those with local knowledge as to where we should have the picnic. There were good suggestions like a secluded little green patch they knew on the river bank by the Thames and less good ones like the local sports club car park or a friends driveway. We ended up in Bushy park , Richmond. The sun was almost ready for setting, the night was barmy warm for an October evening and the numerous stags who were rutting provided an unusual soundtrack to our al fresco dinner.

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Within minutes tables, chairs, table cloths and hampers had been unloaded from the Landrover, champagne corks had been popped and the feasting had begun. The pre-rugby picnic menu read as follows:

Canapés
Crab on toast with lemon, parsley and chilli
Smoked salmon pate with crudités
Cheese pastry swirls

Main
Slow roast shoulder of lamb with cabbage, caraway, pine nut and yogurt salad, hummus, chilli sauce and flat breads.
Lobster brioche rolls

Dessert
Chocolate caramel brownies
Fruit Kebabs

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I wasn’t quite sure of the precedent for a pre match picnic. Would it be like the ones at Glyndebourne where everyone tries to out do each other with candelabras and gulls eggs or would it be more a case of just making sure they eat some wholesome nosh as the nights can get a little wild at such events. I opted to go on the elaborate side. Personally I think if you are going to make the effort to go on a proper picnic you might as well go all-out on the food. Choose a few dishes you can tuck into straight away with the welcoming drinks and then maybe something like a chunk of meat that can be theatrically carved at the table.

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Passers by certainly were impressed with our spread and unfortunately so were their dogs with the slow cooked lamb bone, we even diverted the attention of a stag for a few moments before he spied his lady deer conquest across the park.

Picnic successfully consumed and the merriment underway the clients headed off to the match. We all now know what happened within the next few hours in the sad part of this tale but I wasn’t sure how bad they would take it and how moods would be for the journey back home.

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To help cheer things up I had at the ready trays of home made sausage rolls, glasses in the side doors and wine at the ready. This coupled with an impromptu Queen’s Greatest Hits sing along and an education in Pink Floyd led to a very entertaining and fun ride home. For the record, I was driving and was stone cold sober but in full voice nevertheless!
So overall the day was a great a success and greatly enjoyed by our party. Yes we may have lost the rugby but we certainly did it in style.

This postcard recipe is for my chocolate caramel brownies, damp and with a serious chocolate kick they will theoretically keep for at least 4 days, that’s if you can resist.

This week

Every home should have : a hamper

I’m driving: a BMW X5 and a Landrover

I’m loving : Royal park picnicking

I’m learning: about Pink Floyd

Dogs who tried to join picnic: 5

Owners who tried to join picnic :3

Chocolate Caramel brownies

Makes 12 squares
line a 20 x 20 cm brownie tin with baking parchment
250g 70% dark chocolate
250g salted butter
250g soft light brown sugar
4 organic eggs
1 tbs coco powder
130g plain flour
3 packs of Rolos

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pre heat the oven to 170°
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
With an electric mixer whisk the eggs and sugar together till thickened and at least doubled in volume ( 4 – 5 mins).
Fold the egg mix into the chocolate then fold in the coco powder and flour.
Poutr into the tin and scatter with the Rolos.
Bake on a low shelf for 30 – 40 mins (you want the slightest of wobbles in the centre to make sure they remain moist.
Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares.
You can take them out a little earlier from the oven then pop in the fridge for a few hours if you like your brownies to have a very fudge like texture.

Next stop, the Land of Macbeth…..

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Recipe | Spiced banana cake with maple syrup and honey

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Caught between a midge and …

Within minutes of arriving at the lodge in the Highlands I was faced with a dilemma.  It reminded me of the funny quandary questions children often ask like:

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Would you rather be chased by a herd of angry elephants or a pack of hungry wolves? Or would you rather have to run 100 miles carrying a bicycle or swim 100 miles wearing roller skates and a riding hat etc.

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My choice was:

Would I rather be eaten alive by midges or keep the kitchen window shut and practically boil alive in my Autumn attire.

I took my chances with the midges for a bit until we had regulated the inside temperature but with them being particularly ferocious this year I wonder in hindsight maybe I should have just got back into my summer kit despite being in the Highlands in late September and it exposing more flesh to midge attack.

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I used to have a sure fire way of avoiding midge bites, which was to slap on Avon Skin So Soft every morning – as recommended by the Army and anyone used to being Summer / Autumn savvy in Scotland.  I was put off however when I fairly recently lent out a bottle to have it quickly returned suggesting that it wasn’t the best thing to put on oneself, as it smelt of oil used by strippers.  I didn’t enquire further…

My week in Scotland was cooking for a party of stalkers.  Having done a fair few of these kind of jobs now, I felt I knew the drill.  Big cooked breakfasts, groaning table spread of hams and cheeses, buns and sweets to take as pieces on the hill, afternoon tea consisting of freshly baked cakes and lashings of tea served by roaring fires and a hearty evening meal to help refuel after their 7 hour day stalking up, down and across mountain and moor.

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Everything was as expected, accept for the breakfasts. In the entire week I didn’t make one traditional cooked breakfast.  There were boiled eggs galore, a really delicious quinoa style porridge that I was inspired to make with almond milk, toasted nuts, grated pear and orange soaked raisons, a few American style pancakes, 2 kippers and 1 round of eggs benedict, but no requests for sausages / bacon  / mushrooms etc.  I guess this really shows that even in the most traditional of set ups peoples tastes, ideas and approach to food really are changing.

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Stalking – the managed and selective shooting of deer – is generally seen as part of the essential management of a healthy and sustainable deer herd.  With no natural predators numbers must be kept in balance with what the delicate habitat can support. As deer are prolific breeders numbers can quickly grow to the point where, unchecked, they will cause significant crop, tree and flora damage as they expand their range to seek out food sources especially in the winter months when starvation sets in due to excess numbers. Maintaining the size, balance and welfare of the herd proportionate to what the hill can naturally support is the objective of any good sporting estate and this takes much effort, skill and expenditure to achieve which is partly offset by the revenues generated from stalking.

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The stalkers or ghillie  (the persons accompanying the guest up the hill) job is to lead the party (generally of one or two ) to within range of the animal so it can be safely and cleanly shot.  They have to know which ones are eligible for shooting, often the older or weaker ones, and get themselves into a safe position so a clean and successful shot can be taken.   This can mean walking and crawling for hours in what may seem the wrong direction so no one is seen and the wind doesn’t carry the stalkers scent and alert the deer/stag.

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With such full-on days you can see why it is so important on these weeks to be well fed.  The hills are super steep, the weather can be hot, cold, misty or raining (possibly all of them within the hour when in Scotland), and there is only one way up and down and that is by foot.

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Afternoon tea is one of the best moments for me as I love it when the guests arrive back rosy cheeked, exhilarated and exhausted from the day but when they see the roaring fire, hot pots of tea and big slices of cake, massive smiles of delight break out and the stories from the day’s adventures begin.

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For this postcard recipe I would like to share one of my current favorite afternoon tea treats, a spiced banana and maple syrup cake.

 This week

Stags shot : 1

I’m driving: a VW Passat estate  – favourite hire car I have had, there is a little tiger in the engine and its as smooth as a peach to drive BUT sadly their turns out o be a devil in the exhaust.

Cooked breakfasts eaten: 0 (!?!?%@**)

I’ve learnt: 1724 tonic is the cream of the crop when it comes to a perfect G and T.

Every lodge should have: at least 2 roaring fires.

The in vogue gift for your host: home grown veg.

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Banana cake with maple syrup and honey

 For me this is the perfect banana cake, not too sweet, hints of spice and not too dense.

 3 ripe bananas peeled

2 tbs orange or apple juice

130g room temperature salted butter

2 free range  / organic eggs

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ nutmeg – grated

2 tbs maple syrup

100g soft brown sugar

250g SR flour

 

Pre heat the oven to 170 ° C

Grease and line a 1 ltr loaf tin.

 In a free standing mixer beat the bananas till mushed, add the juice, butter, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, syrup and sugar and beat for a couple of minutes.

 Stop the mixer. Scrape down the sides then beat for another minute.

 Stop it again, add all the flour in one go and then beat on a low speed for 1 minute and the mixture is totally combined.

 Scoop the batter into the loaf tin and bake on the centre shelf for 40  – 50 mins or a cake skewer comes out clean.

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Next stop,  I’m making a pre rugby match feast at Twickenham, Australia vs. England.

 

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Recipe | Pistachio, mint and vodka ice cream with pistachio praline

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Cooking for numbers

The party had already started when I arrived at the villa in Provence and so the first days of my week were spent in top gear getting up to speed with the shopping and cooking for the 23 guests. Apparently, akin to a duckling, above the surface I was calm, collected and easily floating but underneath I was paddling like hell!

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I know that for some shopping for a group of 16 people and above can seem extraordinary and there is a small voice in me that occasionally goes:

“Philippa are you really going to use THAT much milk / fish / cheese” ?

Luckily I always ignore it as the answer always turns out to be ‘YES’!

There are a few tricks and rules I set myself when I am doing jobs like this and may be useful for you to bare in mind if you ever find yourself cooking for what seems a biljillion ( I have it on excellent authority from a top financial that this is indeed a number) people.

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Try and shop for at least two days at a time.

Yes the fridges and store cupboards will be crammed but shopping for this many can take at least an hour plus travel time and there generally isn’t time to do it everyday.

When buying fruit buy half of it unripe and half ready to eat. This works particularly well in hot climates where it ripens quickly. We had bowls of fruit out on the tables for guests to help themselves and went through about 4 kilos of the delicious local Provencal cherries, apricots and peaches a day!

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When menu planning, always have a back up plan.

Generally when catering for this many there will always be a few who cant eat certain foods weather its allergies/ intolerances / religious reasons or simple dislikes. Chicken and salmon or white fish are obvious easy non controversial standbys and I always make sure I have a good cheese that can be used into salads and a section of interesting vegetables and some good grains or pulses if I need to go vegan.

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Get ahead when you can.

If there is a lull (!?) use your time to make a few puddings as its great to have a few up your sleeve and easier to make if you have the kitchen in dessert mode. Ice creams and sorbets obviously keep well and desserts like tiramisu and summer pudding not only keep well but also improve after a day or two.

Though of course the simplest solution to all this is to hire a private chef!

The villa was in full swing all week and with breakfasts, lunches, tea time treats, kids tea and adult suppers keeping me occupied the week has flown by. I have managed to shave 3 minutes off my table laying times and now know the butcher the baker and the cashiers of the local shops all by name.

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I did learn this week that tomatoes really should never be stored in the fridge, as not only are they extremely sensitive to the slightest bit of cold but also the volatiles that produce the aromas are destroyed so you end up with a less tasty and more watery tomato. They are particularly amazing at this time of year in Provence so have been treated with the ultimate respect.

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Menu wise I have been totally enjoying the impressive produce that is so easy to come by locally and as an outside kitchen with a charcoal BBQ has been built in my honour, I have been making the most of that. Temperatures have been dallying around the mid 30 ° ’s so various ice creams and sorbets have been making appearances and for this postcard recipe I wanted to share with you one of the ice creams I made.

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On a recent visit to a very good ice cream parlour in St David’s (Wales) I realised that I go through the same process and emotions in choosing ice cream as when I’m in a cocktail bar deciding on drinks and I’m not talking about getting over excited and having one too many. No, it’s the attraction of trying something new then regretting it. Yes the quadruple chocolate marshmallow, ginger fluff with popping candy and dehydrated hibiscus flower ice cream may sound interesting but it will never beat a simple pistachio or mint (without the choc chips) in the same way a perfect dry martini can not be ousted by some over engineered cocktail with a ridiculous name.

With this is mind I will share with you my pistachio, mint and vodka ice cream that is a classic in my repertoire.

 This week:

Table places laid : 1 biljillion

Apricots consumed : 235

Olive oil used : 7 litres (no I was not bathing in it but down here it’s my butter)

Every home should have: French linen

Times surprised by Lizards: 7

 

Pistachio, mint and vodka ice cream with pistachio praline

Makes 12 scoops

 800 ml double cream

200 ml whole milk

1 vanilla pod

4 – 6 tsp pistachio extract

small handful of powerful mint

 10 egg yolks

100 g sugar

 good splash of vodka

 Pistachio praline

 200g caster sugar

splash of cold water

175 g bright green pistachios

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To make the ice cream base

Swill out a large heavy based pan with water (this is said to help stop the cream from sticking to the sides) and add the cream, milk, mint and vanilla.

Bring to a boil then turn off and leave to infuse while you separate the eggs.

Put the yolks in a large bowl (you can freeze the egg white for use at a later date) and add the 100g caster sugar. Whisk till pale (a couple of minutes).

 Strain the hot cream into the yolks, whisking immediately once combined, then pour back into the heavy based pan.

 Place the pan back on a low heat and cook till thickened. You will need to stir constantly and I have found a heat proof spatula best for this.

 Once thickened add the pistachio extract and vodka and stir (you want to be able to just taste the vodka but if you add too much the ice cream will not freeze that well) then pour into a wide dish to cool.

 Once cool you can use an ice cream machine to churn it or semi freeze ( which takes about 3 hours) then blitz in a food processor then return to the freezer – it should be ready after another 4 hours.

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To make the praline coating

Line a wide tray or dish with baking paper

In a heavy based pan melt the 200 g of caster sugar with a splash of water.

The sugar will melt then start turning to caramel (its best not to stir but only give the pan an occasional jiggle) . Once darkened add the pistachios, stir and pour onto the tray.

When cool and hard blitz in a food processor – you want it mostly in small dusty bits with a few larger lumps.

To serve make balls of the ice cream and roll in the blitzed pistachio praline. Serve in chilled bowls.

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Bags are now packed and I’m en-route to the next gig in …Ibiza

 

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Recipe | Meringue Roulade

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Nawr yn dod â rhai pwdinau hufennog ni …

If I was Father Christmas I would generally go for the glass of sherry over the milk, I am sure the reindeer are perfectly capable of doing their own navigating by now and it would be just too bad a PR for the police to pull over FC on drink driving charges. When dropping off the presents on a dairy farm in Wales however I would defiantly go for the milk, fresh from the udders of the herd it would make a most nourishing drink.

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My weekend was spent in an incredibly beautiful area in Pembrokeshire, Wales on a farm cooking a traditional Christmas Turkey dinner for 12 a canapé party for 30 and a Sunday lunch. Although I was as busy as one of Santa’s elves in the pre Christmas rush, preparing the food for the parties I did have time to take a quick spin around the country lanes, up onto what’s known as angels mount and down into the sheep spattered valleys. My excellent guide amusingly told me all the local gossip (I think there must be something in the Welsh water) and historical facts about the area, we were very near where the stones from Stonehenge in the west country originated from. I could have listened to them for hours although this could also be because I have fallen in love with the lyrical Welsh accent.

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The weekend was a joint celebration of the family’s Christmas together and a milestone birthday. The traditional Christmas dinner was like a session at the gym, carrying a 9 kilo turkey plus stuffing in and out of the oven and then once cooked parading it into the dining room on a spectacular silver tray filled with hot water – I tell you I now have arms like the incredible hulk. What was impressive was the fact that they requested 4 puddings! Sticky toffee pudding, a triple choclate cheese cake, a sloe gin and quince trifle and a raspberry meringue roulade (this postcards recipe). Mind you if you can’t eat four puddings at Christmas when can you?

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The canapé party was great fun as all the generations pitched in. Setting up the rooms ready to receive the guests, making the cocktails and handing out the drinks, helping finish the canapés (some rather enthusiastically) and of course passing round the plates of food.

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Come Sunday morning there was a fridge filled with various goodies and a chicken pie if needs. With everyone well fed and watered and a definite festive spirit now in the house I packed my bags said my goodbyes and headed west towards Dorset for Christmas…

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 This week,

Mince pies made: 72

Mince pies eaten: 12

Every home should have a dairy herd.

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 Raspberry Meringue roulade

Serves 8 – 10

You can make the meringue a few days before and add the cream and fruit just before serving.

There are quite a few methods to make merengue’s but having tried a lot of them this is my favourite way to make them and it works for roulades, individuals and pavlova. It definitely is easiest to make if you are have a standing electric mixer though you can use hand held electric whisks and a lot of patience.

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4 egg whites

caster sugar – double the volume of egg whites

400ml double cream

1 tbs. icing sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

400 raspberries and

4 sprigs of redcurrants to garnish.

 

Pre heat the oven to 110°C. Place one oven rack on a low shelf and one on a high shelf. On the highest shelf put an empty baking sheet or roasting dish (this just helps the meringue stay white.

You will need a flat baking tray lined with baking parchment roughly 30 cm x 25cm.

 

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Get two glasses the same size.

Pour the egg white into one of the glasses then measure the same volume of sugar in the other.

Pour the sugar into the bowl of the electric mixer (making sure it is grease free).

Measure another volume of sugar the same as the egg whites and keep to one side.

Pour the eggs whites into the electric mixer (with the first half of sugar) and whisk until thick (about 6 minutes).

In 3 stages over the next ten minutes add the glass of caster sugar, continuously whisking on the fastest speed.

By the end the mix should be thick enough to hold the bowl over your head (or someone else’s) and for the meringue mix to stay in the bowl.

Ladle the mix out onto the lined baking sheet into a rectangular shape.

Bake in the oven for about 1 ½ – 2 hours until firm (but it should still be soft in the middle). You can check by having a gentle prod in one of the corners.

Once cooked bring put the oven and leave to cool.

Whip the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla till soft peak stage.

Flip the cooled meringue onto a clean tea towel.

Lather the meringue with the whipped cream, scatter on the raspberries then roll up (using the tea towel to help) into a roulade.

Serve with extra raspberries and redcurrants on top.

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Next stop …Dorset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe |Panettone Bread and butter pudding

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The Pudding of Christmas Present…

What better way to stir up the Christmas spirit than to invite the cast from theatre company Dorset Corset’s adaption of ‘A Christmas Carol’ to dinner? The actors filed into the house with merry tunes and a jig in their step. The days rehearsing had gone really well and curtain up was in 8 days.

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(Dorset Corset poster for the show)

With the music director straight on the task of handing out the chilled gin in double quick time the party swung into action. Taking stage centre on the dinner table were apple and pork sausages, buttered mash and savoy cabbage with slow cooked tomato, cinnamon and Parmesan.

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The dish that really stole the show however, which makes it as this postcard’s recipe, was the Panettone bread and butter pudding. Laced with Christmas spice, nuggets of candied peel and oozing with creamy vanilla custard it got rave reviews and is heading straight to the West End (well, I am anyway).

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Dorset Corsets ‘A Christmas Carol’ is being performed in the Shelley theatre in Boscombe near Bournemouth from wednesday 17th December  – 24th December  tickets can be bought on their website

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This week:

Hungry theatrics fed: 10

Actors playing the part of Kermit: 0

After dinner entertainment: the usual singing, dancing, circus acts etc…

Rowdy guests thrown out of house: 1 (a ridgeback).

Mince pies personally consumed: still 0 !

 

Panettone bread and butter pudding

 

Feeds 12

With a sudden final head count the 1 panettone I had bought was not quite enough so I added some brown bread into the mix and it was delicious.   This recipe will definitely be making a repeat performance over Christmas as it was perfect for a hungry crowd.

 

 700g Panettone (or mix of bread)

150 g soft butter

600ml double cream

200ml whole milk

1 stick cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla extract

9 eggs

175g caster sugar

½ nutmeg

2 tbs. Demerara sugar

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Method

Pre heat the oven to 180°C.

Slice the bread into 1 cm thick pieces. Spread each piece with butter, cut on the diagonal then layer in a large baking dish

In a saucepan heat the milk, cream, cinnamon stick and vanilla till it comes just to the boil.

Meanwhile in a large bowl crack the eggs and whisk in the caster sugar.

When the cream mix is hot strain the liquid (discarding the cinnamon stick) into the eggs and whisk.

Pour onto the buttered bread in the dish and leave to soak in for 10 – 15 minutes.

Grate on top the nutmeg sprinkle on the Demerara sugar and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 mins (you want it slightly browned on top and with a little wobble).

It should be wet enough not to need anything but an extra dash of cream to serve never goes a miss.

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Jobs done, bags repacked, next stop West London to whip up a fish pie for 100….

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Recipe | Clementine Sorbet with chilled vodka

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Hair of the dog…

My clients, I think, went for the theory that the best way to recover from a dinner party was…to hold another one. So with impressive stamina, night after night they wined, dined and entertained. Located in the area around Holland Park it s a chef’s dream as far as sourcing quality produce is concerned.

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There is the fabulous Lidgate Butchers (where I had my first job in London), top notch green grocers and just down the road there is the excellent Kensington Fish Shop, Chegworth apple store (for those discerning apple eaters whom Pink Lady just don’t cut the mustard) and the super impressive Whole Foods.

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For those of you who don’t know, I feel I must tell you a little more about Whole Foods. It is a predominantly organic supermarket that has exceptional standards.

Staff are phenomenally polite e.g. even if you show the slightest sign of being vaguely lost or looking for something they will spring to your aid and / or they will bend over backwards to fetch, carry or hail a cab for you. I’m sure they would even agree to singing your favourite Christmas carol while you chose the most festive looking clementine’s if you asked.   The meat is excellent, the fish sourced well and I am convinced the vegetables are given a pep talk each morning to remind them to look their best and anythingless than perfect will be marched off the shop floor with no second chances.

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It is also the kind of place where you can find ethically sourced, completely natural, CO2 neutral, anti animal testing, biodynamic washing up liquid (that unfortunately doesn’t wash your plates very well) and breast feeding mothers happily sipping their decaf almond milk lattes (I spied 8 in various bits of the shop over the week).

There is also a fantastic local farmers market on Saturdays that had the finest display of brassicas I have ever seen as well as some happily reared meat, baskets of blue eggs, bread stalls that would impress even the French and bags of delicious UK apples.

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So with fantastic shopping just a short walk/taxi/tube away sourcing the food for the parties was easy and fun.   The menu for the first night read as follows:

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Moscow Mules

Canapé .

Goats cheese, San daneille and balsamic

Starter

Pan fried scallops with whisky butter, bitter leaves toasted hazelnuts and samphire with lemon

Main

Slow cooked lamb shoulder with vermouth, thyme and rosemary served with blanched chard and patats povres.

Dessert

Clementine sorbet with mint sugar

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For this postcard recipe I will give you the recipe for clementine sorbet, a light and refreshing festive dessert.

 

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This week;

Maids a milking seen; 8

Fluffy poodle like things seen; 14 (clearly the must have accessory around this part of town).

Mince pies personally consumed – a pathetic; 0

I’m reading; The London Underground Map.

Percentage of taxi drivers eating turkey for Christmas; 100%.

 

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Clementine sorbet with chilled vodka

 This dessert works really well around this time of year as with so many big meals and celebrations going on something light and refreshing to finish is most welcome.

The difference between sorbet and granita is the texture achieved by freezing methods. A sorbet is churned and should be smoother and the grainta will have ice crystals as is only agitated while being frozen.

You can make this recipe into a sorbet or granita depending on preference.

Serves 6

30 clementines

zest and juice of 1 lime

100g sugar

To serve

12 mint leaves

1 tbs Demerara sugar

50ml Vodka plus extra shots chilled to serve.

Juice the clementines

Briefly bring to the juice to the boil with the sugar, lime juice and zest then leave to cool. Add the 50 ml of vodka  (this lowers freezers temperature and stops it from freezing rock solid).

To make sorbet;

Once chilled place in an ice cream machine to churn till frozen

Or if you don’t have a machine;

Place in the freezer for about 4 hours (or till semi frozen )

Then blitz in a food processor till smooth, return to the freezer for another four hours or until fully frozen.

To male granita

Freeze in a dish occasionally agitating the mix with a fork. (about three times over the 6   -8 hour freezing period.

To serve the sorbet or granita;

Place the mint and Demerara sugar on a board and chop the mint so it gets crushed with the sugar.

Place scoops of the clementine sorbet/granita in a serving dish and sprinkle with the mint sugar.

 

Next stop…. Feeding the theatrical cast of Dorset Corset’s “A Christmas Carol”….

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Recipe | Apple and Pear Tart

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Autumnal fruity tart…

The Scottish skies were dark and foreboding, the rain relentlessly lashed down and the wind whipped across the hills.  Not my favourite traveling weather but it would certainly add a challenge to my journey.  Heading north from Biggar to Perthshire I had stopped at William Ovens butchers to collect my meat.

Butcher 1 says

“Be careful now Philippa with wind like this you’ll be wanting to avoid the Forth Road Bridge, turn off the road before you get to the … “

and off he went explain to me some clever route I could take.

I nodded and thanked Butcher 1 for his help and concerns and agreed it sounded sensible to avoid the bridge.

Then as I was paying the bill Butcher 2 quietly says

“Aye you will want to be careful Philippa, but if I were ye I would take the 3rd road after the turn then head west before you re-join the road at …….”

and he spieled off another route I should take

I nodded and thanked Butcher 2 for his help and concerns (but quietly was feeling a little confused and none the wiser as to how to get there).

Then Butcher 3 offered to take the boxes of meat to the car.

“ Now, now Philippa, you don’t want to be taking those routes, you should take the bridge but turn off after you reach….

And then I got route number three.

“Ring us if you get lost !” They chorused as I closed the car door and drove off.

“Crikey”! I thought and pulled up out of their sight and turned on my trusty sat nav, who although I am convinced always takes me different routes just to keep me reliant on it and occasionally freaks out in remote locations, and is not that keen on going anywhere too hot, it always gets me there one way and/or another.

As I headed north the weather began to clear so the drive was not that bad and as the countryside was in its full Autumnal glory it was all rather stunning and enjoyable.

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Arriving at the house it was straight into action. I was cooking for a weekend pheasant shoot for 10 guests; breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea and 4 course suppers plus canapés and cocktails.  Out of the car came the 10 dozen eggs,12 packs of butter along with the kilos of meat, cheese and you will be glad to hear 9 big boxes of fruit and vegetables as lots of side dishes and big interesting salads had been requested.

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One of the things I love about cooking for this client is that although they have probably been hosting these sorts of weekends before they had even learnt to walk they are not afraid to try something new and step away from tradition whilst still keeping great style.  We had planned amongst other things; a curry night, a Middle Eastern feast, a pulled pork lunch and some American style breakfasts.   I hoped the guests would arrive hungry…

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With the nippy November air, some bracing outdoor sport and partying from dawn to dusk the guests did have a great appetite. Yet again I was impressed by the stylish guests; the ladies coming in from their days shooting, swapping their Land Rovers and Labradors for Loubtoutin’s and Lacroix, and the gents discarding theirshooting sticks and spaniels in favour of smoking jackets and spats (ok I am exaggerating about the spats).  It was a grand weekend.

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For this postcard recipe I am going to give you the tasty Autumnal fruit tart I served for dessert on Saturday lunch, its a delicious  way to use the abundant amount of apples and pears that seem to be stacked in everyone’s cellars at the moment.  It also is quite a light dessert which is perfect if you have several days of feasting and working your way through 10 dozen eggs and 12 packs of butter in a weekend….

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This week

I’m driving; A4 Audi.

I learnt; 12 packs of butter are easier than you think to go through.

Spaniels fought with for a space next to the Aga; 2

Every home should have; a butlers pantry.

 

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Apple and Pear Tart

This is a great light Autumnal dessert  it has a pear puree underneath then the baked slices of apples on top.

Serves 10 – 12

1 block ready rolled all butter puff pastry

4 – 6 ripe pears (depending on size)

4  – 6 apples (depending on size)

4 tbsp. Demerara sugar

1 tsp. sugar

75 g salted butter

½ nutmeg grated.

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pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Unroll the pastry and put it on a flat baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Lightly score the entire sheet in a 1 inch diamond pattern (being careful not to cut all the way through)

Peel the pears and chop into chunks, discarding the core.

Cook the pears in a saucepan with 1 tbsp. of the sugar and the grated nutmeg.

Cook until soft then blitz to a smooth puree. *

Cool a little then smear all over the puff pastry.

Peel and thinly slice the apples into thin crescents (discarding the core)

Layer in lines across the puree.

Dot the butter over the tart and sprinkle with the rest of the sugar and the cinnamon

Bake for 30  – 40 mins until golden.

Serve warm or cold with something creamy eg. calvados ice cream, yogurt, crème fraiche or of course cream!

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* When I first made this dish I whizzed up poached pears that I had used for something else, which worked out perfectly.  When cooking the pears in a saucepan I had to cook it a fairly long time to evaporate a lot of the juice the ripe pears produced so you have to judge it for your self.

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Next postcard from the magnificent Cawdor estate in the Highlands.

 

 

 

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Recipe | Plum and meringue Ice cream

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The battle of the plums..

Before I tell you about the battle of the plums I am delighted to announce the completion of my first short cooking video for The Field magazine, which can be viewed by clicking the link below.

The Field Video

The video was done with the expertise of the wildly talented, energised and patient film maker

Megan Horvath ,

 And now for the plums….

It was hard to resist the temptation to pull over every five minutes to take photos of the magnificent Scottish landscape on my drive through Stirlingshire. With an unfamiliar kitchen to conquer and a lunch to get on the table I resisted, well mostly….

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I soon learnt there were lots of exciting elements to this job, a freezer full of locally shot game, a beautiful walled garden containing lots of produce and a fantastic ice cream machine that was 32 years old. Being of the same vintage we bonded instantly.

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If you read my last postcard you will know that I had just been in Toulouse where there was also a garden full of produce. What I might not have emphasized was I had almost become obsessed with the impossible task of making use of all the plums. Every time I went outside I would spot another plum tree laden with fruit, I would take a deep breath scramble up a ladder then diligently pick as much as I could and turn it into something. So it was with mixed delight when in Scotland the first thing I saw in the garden was this…

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With that many plums, one of us is going to break I thought before I got distracted by the charms of the rest of the garden.

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As you can imagine the week’s menu did have numerous appearances of plums but luckily the family and guests were also quite happy simply eating out of a constantly over flowing bowl so I resisted the need to slip plums into every dish.

 

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This week’s postcard had to be a plum recipe and with the help of the impressive vintage ice-cream machine I give you my plum and meringue ice cream.

 

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I am now in Dublin for 72 hours shore leave then I weigh anchor and set sail, well jump on a plane really, and head to Perpignan  in Southern France.

 

This week

Plums picked: I can’t even think about it.

Spaniels at my feet: 2

Every home should have: a dinner gong

 

 

Plum and Meringue Ice cream

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I love putting crushed meringue through ice cream as its obviously delicious and encourages you to use up the egg whites straight away.

 

Serves 8

Meringue

Pre heat the oven to 110° C and line a flat tray with non-stick parchment.

 

5 egg whites

Caster sugar (Twice the volume of the egg whites)

 

In an electric mixer whisk all the whites on high speed with half the volume of sugar.

Once it has become stiff start adding the rest of the sugar in 3 stages over 10 minutes.

Once all the sugar has been added whisk for a further 5 minutes.

Spoon out onto a tray so it is roughly 5 cm thick and bake for 2 – 2 ½ hours or until the bottom is firm.

Once cooked take out and leave to cool

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For the plum swirl

400g plums cut in half and the stone taken out.

300g caster sugar

2 tbs vodka or gin

 

Put the plums and sugar in a saucepan and cook on a medium heat until the plums have yielded their juice and the mixture has reduced slightly then add the vodka

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Ice cream custard base

5 egg yolks

100g caster sugar

450 ml double cream

150 ml whole milk

½ tsp ground ginger

½ teaspoon (no more as it is too dominating) ground cinnamon

1 vanilla pod split in half

 

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick ( about 3 minutes with an electric whisk)

Meanwhile in a saucepan bring the cream, milk, spices and vanilla so it just reaches boiling point,

Immediately strain the hot cream into the egg yolk mix, whisking the whole time.

This should be enough to thicken and cook the mixture but if it hasn’t return the mix to the saucepan and slowly continue to cook stirring the whole time with a spatula.

Once it is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula take it off the heat and poor into a bowl to cool.

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Churn the ice cream until half frozen then scoop out into a bowl.

Spoon in the plum mix and crumble in a few handfuls of meringue (you wont need to use it all)

Give it one stir then transfer into a freezer proof container and chill until frozen.

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Notes and tips

When cooking out the custard base of ice cream you must stir constantly otherwise you will get scrambled eggs.

 

Adding sugar and alcohol to ice creams, particularly fruit based ones will help it from not freezing rock solid

 

If your ice cream machine is not very powerful you may want to quickly blitz the churned ice cream in a food processor to get rid of any ice crystals that have formed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe | Boston Cream Pie

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Happy as a clam…

 

Arthur kept me up for most of the night, boisterously crashing around and showing off and with repeated spectacular flashes I began to wonder if he would ever let me get to sleep. I must confess I was slightly relieved that he was not quite on the scale that was first rumoured but impressive none the less…

I think I may have forgotten to mention as a carry on from my last postcard that :

a)     Cooking for the party in London went very well and a jolly good time seemed to be had by all (rolled veal escalopes stuffed with ricotta and black olives might be a new summer party food favourite of mine).

b)     I have headed across the pond for a few weeks and am now as happy as a jumping bean in Boston, Massachusetts

c)     Arthur is a Tropical Storm that has been tormenting the East coast of the US.

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On a recent trip to France I was chatting to the lady in the bakers about cooking and she asked me what kind of food I made. I said Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/British and some American influence.

“American she said “? Raising her eyebrow so much so I thought she may have been practising a Roger Moore impersonation. “Ha !”she said “Americans don’t have real food”

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Well I have to say that French bread lady has been proved very wrong. In and around Boston there are some amazing produce and dishes. There are some of the best lobsters you will ever eat, clams that are super sweet and that come in a number of varieties (the happy looking steamer clam below is a new favourite that get steamed in beer then dipped in butter for serving), some fantastic local farmers markets, corn that is definitely some of the tastiest in the world and home of the Boston cream pie.

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To celebrate the 4thJuly I thought I would make my first Boston Cream Pie. I had never made one so started looking up recipes. I promise you at least 70 % of the ones I found started with ‘take one packet of cake mix and a box of ready made custard’ which wasn’t quite what I was looking for. When I did find one that was more from scratch I had to read it several times over to get the various steps and although it only takes 18 minutes to cook it takes 30 mins to wash up all the pans you use to make it.

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Was it worth it? I can’t say it will become a regular baking choice for me but with a light airy sponge, thick cold custard and a chocolaty rich topping it is delicious. So just in case you fancied a washing up extravaganza that comes with a glorious celebration cake this postcard recipe gives you the Boston Cream Pie.

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This month also brings the start of my new commission as the cookery writer for The Field Magazine. A great publication for anyone interested in shooting, stalking, gun dogs, fishing and other rural pursuits. My recipes appear in the monthly magazine and will also appear online at http://www.thefield.co.uk .

 

Boston Cream pie

Custard

470 ml single cream

100g caster sugar

5 egg yolks

2 tbs cornflour

50g salted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

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Method:

Heat the cream with 60g of the sugar and the vanilla.

In a small bowl beat the yolks, the other 40g sugar and the cornflour.

When the cream has come to a simmer and the sugar has dissolved pour the cream onto the egg yolks whilst whisking then pour all the mixture back into the saucepan.

Keep whisking on a low heat until the mixture is thick.

Take off and transfer to a bowl. When cool cover with cling film and store in fridge till set ( at least 4 hours).

 

 

Chocolate Frosting

50 ml double cream

30g caster sugar

120g dark chocolate, chopped up

120g milk chocolate, chopped up

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Heat the cream and sugar until it comes to a simmer.

Take off the heat then then stir in the chocolate/

It should all melt with in a couple of minutes.

Leave to cool and thicken giving it a whisk every 20 mins.

(It should take about 1 ½ hours to cool and thicken ).

 

Sponge

 

100g plain flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

3 tbs milk

50g salted butter

150g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 large eggs

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Pre heat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line two 9 inch cake tins.

Heat the butter and milk in a saucepan until it just comes to a simmer

In a bowl whisk the flour and baking powder together

Separate 3 of the eggs

Whisk the 3 whites with 75 g of the castor sugar until soft peak stage.

In another bowl whisk the other 2 eggs with the 3 egg yolks and the other 75g of caster sugar until thick ( best done with and electric whisk ).

Gently fold the egg whites into the beaten egg mix, fold in the flour then pour the warm milk/butter into one side and gently mix.

Gently pour into the cake tins and bake for 16 – 18 mins. (the cake should bounce back if lightly pressed)

When done take out the oven and immediately take out of the tin and cool on a cake rack.

 

To assemble the cake sandwich the sponges with the custard and top with the cooled thickened chocolate frosting and after you have finished the washing up you can ‘have a nice day’!

 

This cake keeps surprisingly well covered overnight in the fridge.

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Recipe | Cherry Clafoutis

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Feeling Fruity?

 

Well I am down in the south of France and things are hotting up. Stationed near Les-Baux de Provence, a stunning commune chiselled into the Alpilles mountains, I am cooking for a family who are keen to embrace the fantastic local produce.

Now being savvy to the ways of the local markets, I always try to get there early to miss the tourist crowds that are drawn to the splendiferous offerings. I headed straight to the fruit and veg section and was delighted to see the first of the local fruit; apricots bursting with flavour; crates of juicy scented peaches and avalanches of bright red cherries in their lycra-tight shiny skins.

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‘ Lycra’ springs to mind as this is a prime cycling area. No matter what time of day it is when I am out and about I am on average passing at least 25 cyclists within 30 minuets!

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Firstly it amazes me that anyone would do this for fun around here. For those of you who don’t know this part of the country it is seriously steep with many a James Bond-esque switchbacking road, windy (with the Mistrals) and to top it off at this time of year it is starting to get really hot. The other thing that really amazes me is the age of these cyclists – a lot of them are no spring chickens yet they are out there making it to the top and no doubt enjoying the pay-off of the speedy, twisty decents.

I salute you, but will not be rising to the challenge myself.

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A challenge however I did tackle was one raised by my client.  I had been putting piles of fresh cherries on the table and we had all been tucking in to them and I had of course been making lots of cherry based desserts. After supper was finished one night the question was raised –

“How do you feel about cherry clafloutis”

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Now generally I am positive about most things but cherry clafloutis? My trouble was I felt I had never made a really nice one so had shelved the concept about 5 years ago.

She continued..

“Mine always turn out eggy”

“Mine too” I muttered.

Unlike a crazy cycle ride up the mountain I decided I could conquer this cherry challenge and so with a bit of research, a lot of kirsch (for the cherries, not me) and the idea that most things can be improved with a lashing of cream, I made what turned out to be a very successful cherry clafoutis that not only was not eggy but it was also delicious warm for dinner and cold for breakfast the next day. So this postcards recipe is a delicious non eggy delicious cherry clafoutis.

 

This week;

Cyclists seen on road 213

Cherries consumed 423 ( including 48 in a delicious cherry clafoutis)

Driving   – a Nissan Micra (excellent for zipping down the winding roads of Les Baux, less successful at accelerating into a Mistral headwind).

 

Cherry Clafoutis

600g fresh cherries
de stoned

100g demerara sugar


6 tbsp kirsch


20g salted butter, melted plus extra to grease

50g plain flour



2 medium eggs,


180ml milk


100ml single cream

zest of 1 orange

 

At least 3 hours before baking take the de-stoned cherries and macerate them in 3 tbs taken from the 100g of demerara sugar and all the kirsch. Leave this at room temperature.

 

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Butter a round 25cm baking dish and sprinkle it with demerara sugar (also taken from the 100g)

When about 1 1/2 hours away from wanting to eat the clafoutis –

Pre heat the oven to 170 C

Make the batter by ;

Mixing in a bowl the eggs/cream/milk/orange zest/melted butter.

Briefly whisk in the flour (this is best done by dumping the flour in the middle of the liquid and whisking at first only in the middle then gradually incorporating the rest).

Pour the cherries and their juice into the buttered and sugared dish.

Pour over the batter.

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Bake for 40 mins (its should still have a little wobble in the middle) then leave to rest for at least 15minutes.

Eat with a lashing of pouring cream

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