Wednesday 30 December 2009

Butter bean hummus

Smooth, dreamy hummus with my favourite member of the bean family

I love hummus. This is a long-standing fact. I now also love butter beans. I felt I needed to combine these two loves to create a Super Hummus, one capable of destroying nuclear-powered bad guys and keeping the world in balance. I soon found that this was not in the slighest bit possible. However, I did find that butter bean hummus is delicious. It won't keep your house safe from burglars or pillagers, but it will keep your belly full of niceness.

- 1 tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon of tahini
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (to your taste)
- Juice of half a lemon
- A few tablespoons of good quality olive oil
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt, pepper

- Chuck the butter beans in a food processor with the tahini, garlic and lemon juice and blitz.
- Add a good pinch of salt and pepper and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Blitz again until the mixture is thick and smooth.
- Taste it for seasoning; add more salt if it's needed. Stir in some fresh parsley.
- Sprinkle a little paprika on the top, garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve with some toasted pita breads and sliced raw vegetables.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Chicken liver pate

Rich, mouth-watering pate which only gets better with time

This was also made for our starter on Christmas day. We had quite an assortment of different breads and chutneys and this pate fitting in perfectly. I was inspired to make this by the rather brilliant Lola-Lu's Kitchen, which is run by my friends Lucy and Rayne, both of whom are a dab hand in the kitchen (to put it mildly). I'd never made a pate before and had always assumed it must be difficult, as it tastes so damn good. However it was really easy and fairly quick, the only unpleasant part is preparing the raw livers at the start. I drafted in some help for that bit!

- 6.5 oz butter
- 1 onion or a couple of shallots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 lb chicken livers
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
- 2 tbsp brandy

- Heat half of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the onion genty until soft; it takes about 8 minutes. Add the garlic for 1 minutes and then transfer the whole lot to a food processor.
- Now, to the livers. You need to check the livers for any sinewy bits or gristley bits and remove them with a knife. This isn't a nice job but it's worth it in the end so keep that in mind.
- Add the livers to the frying pan with the orange zest and cook for a couple of minutes until browned.
- Add the brandy and orange juice for 1 minute, then put all of this into the food processor with the onions and garlic. Add the rest of the butter and process really well until it is as smooth as possible.
- Scrape into a nice serving dish and place it in the fridge after it has cooled. It will be quite runny when just cooked, but it will set quite quickly in the fridge.
- This is good to eat for about 3 days, and in fact it tastes better as the days go on. Ridiculously delicious stuff, this.

Cranberry muffins

A sweet start to Christmas day

My father makes these every year at Christmas, and they get devoured with big steaming cups of tea and small glasses of sweet sherry. They are a great way to take the edge off the hunger while you're cooking the Christmas dinner.

- 6 oz fresh cranberries
- 2 oz icing sugar
- 5 oz wholemeal flour
- 5 oz plain white flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- Half tsp salt
- 2 oz soft brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 8 fluid oz milk
- 2 fluid oz vegetable oil

- The first thing you need to do is cut all the cranberries in half (this part is a bit laborious, stick on some music and you'll manage) and place them in a bowl with the icing sugar. If you have time to do this part the night before, that's preferable. Mix the icing sugar and cranberries together and leave to rest, if not overnight then for about an hour.
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease some muffin tins well.
- Sift together the white flour, wholemeal flour, baking powder, mixed spice, salt and brown sugar and mix well.
- Make a well in the centre. Beat the egg with the milk and oil and add to the dry ingredients. Stir until just blended but try not to over-mix it.
- Gently stir in the cranberries.
- Fill the muffin trays with the mixture, getting each muffin about two-thirds to the top.
- Bake in the oven for approx 20 minutes until the muffins are risen and turning golden. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.


Goats cheese & potato bread

Bread and cheese, a happy marriage indeed

I cooked this as part of our Christmas dinner starter and it went down a treat. It's a dense, heavy bread that is bursting with flavour. It looks fancy but, as usual, it's easy to make.

- 4 oz goats cheese
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 medium potato (approx 6oz)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 6 oz self-raising flour
- 1 tsp salt
- Pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 generous tsp wholegrain mustard

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grease a baking tray.
- Sift the flour, salt and cayenne pepper into a bowl.
- Peel the potato and grate it into the bowl.
- Add in the chopped spring onions and fresh thyme.
- Chop the goats cheese into 1cm cubes and add two-thirds of this to the mixture.
- Mix everything together gently with a metal spoon.
- Add the milk and mustard to the beaten egg, and pour this into the flour mixture. Bring it together into a loose, sticky dough using the metal spoon.
- Place the dough on the baking sheet and shape it into a rough 6 inch round.
- Gently press the remaining goats cheese into the top of the bread and dust with about half a handful of flour. Scatter over a few more thyme leaves if you have them. It should look something like this:

- Bake in the oven for approx 40 minutes until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when rapped on the underside.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack. Use within 2 days.

Feta and tomato quiche

Light on the belly and easy on the eye

After a rather epic Christmas, I was absolutely sick of rich foods, and really just wanted a nice simple dinner which wouldn't leave me feeling enormous and incapacitated. My lovely wonderful friend Kate was coming over for dinner so I wanted something delicious but not heavy. Quiche was the winning solution. To me, making a quiche is a healthier version of a pizza, as you can pick whatever toppings you like and lash them all in there. I had a serious craving for feta cheese, and couldn't face the prospect of any more meat, so this is a veggie option. If you want to add in meat, try some smoked bacon or cooked chicken.


For the pastry:
6 oz flour
3 oz margarine
Herbes de provence

For the filling:
4 or 5 eggs
Splash milk
1 onion, diced
A few tomatoes, sliced
A handful of mushrooms, sliced
Half a block of nice crumbley feta


- Preheat to the oven to 180 degrees and grease your flan tin well.
- Put the flour and margarine into a food processor and blend. Add in a good teaspoon of herbes de provence (or any herbs you like really) and mix.
- With the food processor switched on, slowly add in cold water until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
- Chuck some flour on your countertop and turn out the dough. Flour your hands and knead it lightly.
- Roll out the dough, pick it up carefully and place it into the flan dish. Press it into the edges, and using a fork, prick a few holes in the base.
- Cover the pastry with some tinfoil or greaseproof paper and weigh it down with some rices or dry beans. Bake it like this in the oven for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove from the oven and discard the foil and beans/rice. Brush the top of the hot pastry with a thin layer of beaten egg and return to the oven for 1 minute. This will create a seal to stop your pastry going soggy when you add the filling.
- Remove from the oven and scatter over the chopped onion, mushrooms and tomatoes. Top with the feta, which you can either crumble over (as I did) or chop into small blocks.
- In a small bowl, beat together the eggs with a splash of milk and some salt and pepper. Pour this into the flan dish.
- Place in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes until turning golden and cooked all the way through.
- Serve with either a mixed salad or some homemade chips.

Monday 21 December 2009

Oat & banana flapjacks

Sweet, sticky, crunchy coffee time snacks

I was craving something sweet today, but didn't want to start splurging on chocolate and cakes as it's quite not Christmas yet. I opted to bake these flapjacks instead of gorging on store-bought junk, and they really hit the spot. The dark brown sugar and the banana are perfect together, and this is definitely the best flapjack recipe I've ever used.

2.5 oz brown sugar
1.5 oz butter
2 oz marg
8 oz oats
1 banana
3 tbsp honey

- Chop up the butter and margarine and put them in a big bowl. Whack this in the microwave on high until they are almost melted. Remove from the microwave and mix well until completely liquid.
- Add the sugar and honey and mix well.
- Stir in the oats. Don't worry if it seems a bit dry at this point as the banana will add wetness.
- Mash up the banana really well and add it to the mixture.
- Tip the mixture into a well-greased baking tray and pack it down quite well.
- Bake in a moderate oven (180 for a fan oven) for 15 minutes. If you like your flapjacks really hard and crunchy, cook them for another 5 minutes. I like them to be crunchy yet also slightly chewy and sticky; 15 minutes for this is perfect, until they are just starting to turn golden brown on top.
- Remove from the oven and cut with a knife while they are still warm; it's much easier to do it before they have cooled.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Chocolate orange cake

Moist citrus sponge with lovely dark chocolate chunks

It was my niece's birthday recently, and she couldn't celebrate properly as she was suffering a nasty bout of flu. I thought she definitely deserved a decadent treat, and what better way to say 'sorry your birthday was shit' than to bring her a lovely big delicious cake? I used a sort of bundt-style cake tin for this, but you could also just split the batter between two circular sponge tins and then sandwich them together with some cream or ganache to make a more conventional two-tiered cake.

- 8 oz butter
- 7 oz sugar
- 5 eggs
- zest of 3 oranges
- 7.5 oz flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bread soda
- 125 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 6 fluid oz buttermilk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (not essence)
- Bar of dark chocolate, preferably 70% cocoa

For the syrup:
- 250 ml orange juice
- 1.5 oz sugar

- Using an electric beater (you really need one for this recipe, unless you have the patience of a saint and the arm muscles of a professional lifter man... that's a profession, right?), cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until it is pale in colour (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at the time, and chuck in the orange zest. If it looks a bit curdled, don't worry, it won't last.
- In a bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder and bread soda.
- In another bowl, mix together the orange juice, buttermilk and vanilla extract.
- Turn on the electric beater again and add 1/3 of the flour mixture into the creamed butter, then add 1/2 the buttermilk mixture. Still mixing all the time, add half of the remaining flour, then all of the buttermilk, then the remainder of the flour.
- Chop up the chocolate into rough chunks and coat them in a handful of flour; this is to stop them all sinking to the bottom of the cake as it bakes.
- Turn off the electric beater and fold in the chocolate chunks with a spatula.
- Pour the batter (it will be quite wet for a sponge batter) into a well-greased tin (or two tins, if using round cake tins) and smooth the top with the spatula.
- Bake in a low-moderate oven (160 celcius for a fan oven) for 30 - 35 minutes until the top of the cake is slightly springy and a skewer comes out clean.
- Let it cool for a few minutes while you prepare the syrup.
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and orange juice and heat gently until the sugar melts and is completely dissolved.
- Turn out the cake from the tin (gently!) and slowly spoon the syrup over the cake while it is still warm. The syrup will be absorbed by the sponge to give the most incredibly moist and melty sponge.
- Leave to cool entirely and serve with a glass of wine or a nice coffee.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Sticky barbeque spare ribs

Like having a really good take-away that you happened to have cooked yourself.

Martin got me a lovely new cookbook for my birthday this year; Mrs. Beeton's Easy Entertaining. I was keen to get cracking on trying out some recipes, so I had a go at making these ribs for my sister and her family. They turned out incredibly good; really sticky and sweet and slightly sour all at once. I will definitely be making these again. They take a while to make, but are not very labour intensive so you can relax and have a glass of wine while they cook away in the oven. The spice mixture and sauce quantities in this recipe will be enough for about 8 ribs - double both quantities if you're making more than this to make sure you have enough.


- Pork spare ribs - 2 per person if they are big juicy ribs from the butcher

For the spice mixture:
- 6 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp grated lemon rind
- 1 tbsp paprika
- Salt and pepper

For the barbeque sauce:
- 7 fluid oz tomato juice
- 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 fresh red chilli, as finely choppped as you can manage


- Heat the oven to about 160 degrees celcius.
- Cut the ribs into individual portions (you can get the butcher to do this for you) and place them in a baking dish in a single layer.
- Mix together all the ingredients for the spice mixture and rub into the ribs.
- Meanwhile, make the barbeque sauce. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and add about 3 or 4 fluid oz water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until it starts to thicken.
- Pour the sauce over the ribs, coating them evenly, and put them in the oven.
- After 30 minutes, remove them from the oven and turn the heat up to 180. You will see that the barbeque sauce has thinned as the fat has melted out of the ribs. Pour the sauce carefully into a saucepan and return the ribs to the oven.
- Boil the sauce like mad for about five minutes, then turn it down and let it simmer until it turns into a nice sticky sauce.
- Get the ribs out of the oven again and dab the sticky sauce over the top of them.
- At this point you have two options: either put the oven up on full blast and put the ribs back in for 10 - 15 minutes until they start to char nicely, or put them until a hot grill for the same effect. Grilling would be preferable but we did them in the oven and it worked out fine.
- Remove from oven and serve immediately.
- We served with a nice big pile of homemade chips, which were made very thusly: chop up some peeled white potatoes to the thickness/ size of your choosing (I like a fat chip, me) and toss the chips in a healthy glug of olive oil and paprika until they are all coated and glistening. The chips will take 30 - 40 minutes in a hot oven (about 190 or 200), depending on their thickness.