Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Poached nectarines.

Left over from the parents day trip to france we have a tray of white nectarines that need dealing with before they go off so I decided to poach some in the bottle of rather nasty white wine which was left in the fridge. The flavour was very delicate as I was using white fruit but it would work equally well with yellow nectarines or peaches. 

180g caster sugar
1 orange
1/2 lemon
8 peaches, firm but ripe, white if possible
500ml water
500ml white wine, dry
1 vanilla pod

Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and with the blade of a knife scrape the seeds. Cut the orange and lemon into fine slices 2 - 3mm, rind on. Peel the peaches and put them in a pan a single layer deep the peaches in a single layer. Add the caster sugar, water, white wine, vanilla pod halves and seeds. Top with orange and lemon slices. Cut out a round of greaseproof paper the same size as the saucepan and cut a hole in the centre to allow the excess heat to escape; place it directly on top of the peaches. On a high heat bring to the boil, immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for approximately 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave them to cool in their own juices. Serve cold.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Lemon Tray Bake.

Tomorrow is St Peter's and St Paul's holy day of obligation I have managed to escape church in exchange for making a cake for the congregation. When I am not at university we live in a quintessential English village where the women run a flower and tea roster for the village church. the only thing we are missing is a WI. I am much looking forward to the village fete in a few weeks time as it is an opportunity to try out new baking recipes with no guilt over who is going to eat them or how much my waist line will suffer. I have relied upon a tried and tested recipe from the Mary Berry Aga cook book where she has a section devoted to tray bakes perfect for coffee mornings, fetes and school. It is neither an inspiring recipe nor one that you could not find elsewhere but if you are cooking in an Aga then the quantities are designed for a large Aga roasting tin. 

4 Eggs
350g Self raising flour
250g Caster sugar
250g Butter
3 Level tsp baking powder
6 tbsp Milk
zest 2 lemons

for the icing the juice of 2 lemons and either enough granulated sugar or icing sugar to make a thick consistency. I prefer the crunch of granulated sugar but children often prefer the white icing gained from icing sugar.

Pre heat oven to 180C or the grid shelf in the bottom of the roasting oven with a cold self. Simply mix all of the ingredients together and pour into the roasting tin. The mixture does not look like there will be enough but trust me it is. This does make a shallower cake designed to be eaten in fingers. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. If you are using granulated sugar ice immediately but if you are using icing sugar allow it to cool first.

Baked smoked haddock creams.

I made these the other day for my brother for lunch and served them with salad from the garden. But they are designed to be a starter. I'm afraid I did not manage to take a picture. The best way I can describe them is a quiche with no pastry so they felt much lighter than having a quiche. If you are on a diet or just generally very healthy I can't see why you could not use single cream instead of double. 

300g Smoked haddock un-dyed is nicer
1 Bay leaf
150ml Milk
150ml Double cream
3 Egg yolks
1tbsp Chives chopped

Pre heat oven 175C or in a 2 door Aga bottom of the roasting oven on the grid with one cold shelf. I found that this was fine but if your Aga is hot you may need to watch them and put in a cold shelf. Skin the fish then poach it for 5mins in the milk with pepper and a bay leaf don't add salt the smoking should have made the fish salty enough. The fish should be only just cooked at this point. Flake fish into 6 separate 4oz ramekins. In a mixing bowl mix yolks, cream, chives and nutmeg whisk thoroughly. Whisk in the hot milk and pour over fish. fork the fish to the top of the ramekins. Bake for 15-20 mins then leave them out of the oven resting for 10 minutes. I was in a rush and to my detriment tried to avoid this stage don't do this. The ten minutes cooling slightly allows the egg to set enough to turn them out with out overcooking. They should be nice and golden brown around the edges. Run a knife around the edge before turning out the look nicest if you serve them cooking side up. These can be cooked in advance and reheated at the same temp they are cooked at. I don't know how many days in advance you can make them as I have yet to experiment but you can definitely do them in the morning for a dinner. 

Friday, 24 June 2011


A little off the subject I know, but I just felt that I should mention some thing about how well Laura Robson has been playing. At 17 she has got her self into the second round against Maria Sharapova. Despite the fact that she lost the match she played like a professional not the junior which she is.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Moule Mariniere.

While I was out this morning Simon the Fish arrived. Simon is a white van man who drives up from the coast and every other Thursdays visits us selling whatever looked good from the catch that morning. My Father bought enough mussels for the two of us for lunch. He is blissfully happy at the moment putting up plaster board in my parents new bathroom, why pay some one else to do it when you can do it yourself? Fortunately for us he is quite the Mr fix it, so for the most part it is not a bodge job although he does believe that there is not much that cannot be fixed with either gaffer tape or cable ties. Having so said he came home last weekend with his thumb nail held together with a piece of gaffer tape. He had split the nail with a hammer whilst re-tiling the barn roof. This has now elegantly been replace with nail glue and an off cut of silk. 

Anyhow back to the recipe we cook mussels a lot in Scotland where they somewhat give me the heebie-geebies as we collect them of the beach and they are full of pearls. Not the kind of pearls which you want to keep but the kind which you crack your teeth on. If I must eat mussels even pearl free ones, I do always think that they are better as plain as possible. This is for two.

1.5kg Mussels
1-2 Shallots depending on size
2 cloves of garlic crushed
A handful of parsley 
salt and pepper
100ml white wine or cider
150ml cream optional

First de-beared the mussels and scrape off any barnacles then wash them with cold water. Finely chop the shallots you can use onion but it is not as sweet. Sweat off the shallots and garlic then add the mussels and wine. Turn up the heat bring to boil with the lid on and allow the mussels to steam for 3-4minutes shaking the pan occasionally. Once all the shells are open they are cooked. At this point you can either serve it or remove the mussels and tinker with the sauce. Once you have taken out the mussels you can season, reduce it if you prefer it a little thicker of add some cream. Finally sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Honey Tea Bread.

I am about to embark on another summer of lodge cooking in Scotland to fund my university education, as such I am researching and trialling new recipes. Lodge food tends to be rather traditional so I don't get much scope to work with but it is always fun trying new things. I also work for a catering company who do amazing canapes, I wish I had more time to make fun canapes. Anyhow back to my next recipe. Honey Tea Bread I have been reading about these on various different blogs. I like loaf cakes as they don't seem to go off as quickly as a standard sponge. When they do start to go stale simply pop a slice into the toaster and add butter, it never fails. This particular recipe appealed to me as there is no refined sugar only honey, no fat and it is also made with whole-wheat flour rather than white.


225g (8oz) raisins
75g (3oz) set honey
300ml (½pt) freshly made strong tea
2 eggs, medium eggs, lightly beaten
275g (10oz) whole-wheat flour
2.5ml (½tsp)ground mixed spice
15ml (1tbsp) baking powder
Pre-heat oven to 180C in a  2 door Aga this is on the grid in the bottom of the roasting oven with a cold shelf. Place the raisins in a bowl. Stir the honey into the tea and pour this over raisins. Leave to soak for 2 hours. Stir the eggs into the raisin mixture.
Mix the flour with the spice and baking powder then mix these dry ingredients into the raisin mixture. Transfer to a greased 900g (2lb) loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes. Mine slightly caught around the edges and I also cooked it for 20minutes less than the recipe required. If you are cooking in an aga I would suggest 30minutes in the roasting oven and then move it down to the simmering oven until it is cooked. It does look like you have burned it but as it is whole-wheat flour it is naturally much darker in colour.

This cake also keeps for about a week before going stale.

Beef shin stew.

My parents have gone to France for the day leaving me looking after the dog and the house, we are currently living on a building site. My Father has taken four months gardening leave and in that time taken out all the bath rooms in our house and knocked down the kitchen. The Aga is being put into storage on Wednesday leaving us with only a microwave and the barbecue to cook on until september at least. While they are out in between watching wimbledon I am meant to be making supper and using up some eggs that are about to go off. I thought that I would start by using a Jamie Oliver recipe for shin of beef stew as the base for this recipe.


2 red onions
3 carrots
3 sticks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
a small handful of dried porcini
1 cinnamon stick
1kg shin of beef, preferably free-range or organic, bone removed, trimmed and cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon flour
800g tinned good-quality plum tomatoes
750ml red wine.

Preheat your oven to 180ÂșC or in a two door aga on the grid shelf with the grid on the floor of the roasting oven and a cold shelf or if you have longer than three hours you could cook it in the simmering oven. If you are following option two make sure you have brought it to a boil on the top first. Gently fry the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs, porcini and cinnamon for 5 minutes until softened slightly. Meanwhile, toss the pieces of beef in a little seasoned flour. Add the meat to the pan and brown, then add the tomatoes, wine and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently bring to the boil, put the lid on and place in your preheated oven for 3 hours or until the beef is meltingly tender. Taste and check the seasoning, remove the cinnamon stick and rosemary sprigs and serve.

This was a very easy and delicious recipe made only better by the fact that shin is also an extremely cheap cut of meat at the moment, it is only around £4.50 per kilo. I hate the look you get that follows the pronouncement that you are a student and like to cook so many 'adults' slowly raise one eyebrow as if to say I don't call beans on toast cooking. This will then be followed up with whats you speciality spaghetti Bolognese. Ok so I'm a student so we eat on a budget but that doesn't  mean that we don't cook good food. We try to maintain a balanced diet fruit, vegetables and good meat. This does mean being canny with  the cuts you buy and I have recently discovered shin. A great alternative to supermarket stewing steak which has usually been pre cut into pieces far to small to cook for long enough to get tender without them disintegrating. 

I fear that my photo does not do my stew justice. This must partially be blamed on stew, as stew never does looking as appetising as it tastes the attraction must be in the smell. More importantly though the photo was taken on my iphone not on some super swish camera. I must confess I'm a point and press kind of girl the camera consequently on my phone is all I have.