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Elderflower bliss…

20 Jun

There’s something about the scent of Elderflower that delivers up summer sunshine even when it’s raining. The heady perfume is divine, quite literally bottled, as a cordial. Dilute for your small ones with sparkling water and for your big ones, dilute with Cava. This cordial is great for drinking outdoors with lots of barbecued chicken and thirsty friends. Alternatively, as we live in Blighty with the most unpredictable weather, serve indoors with grilled chicken Caesar salad and aforementioned friends!

Gather your flower heads, away from smelly roadsides if possible. This is a great excuse for some family foraging but hurry, because the flowers don’t hang around for long, especially with the very wet and windy weather we’ve had over the last few days. Once picked tap the heads gently as Elderflower is a favourite with creepy crawlies. (Do not do as I did, and shake the heads indoors, as I spent the rest of my evening gathering up spiders, beetles and some weird midgy things from all over my kitchen.)

You will need:

25-35 elderflower heads, strip off the large stems
1kg Caster sugar
50g Acetic acid (ask your pharmacist for this)
3/4 Lemons sliced
1.5 litres water
A large bowl to put everything in

  • Add your sugar to 1.5 litres boiling water, stir to dissolve thoroughly
  • Once this is cooled stir in the acetic acid
  • Add your elderflower heads, pushing into the syrup mix
  • Add your sliced lemons and again push ingredients down into the liquid so they are submerged.
  • Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool dark place for at least 2 days. If you can wait longer do as the flavour will intensify
  • When it’s ready strain the mixture through a fine tea towel or piece of muslin. Cover until you are ready to use
  • Prepare your bottles for the cordial by sterilizing
  • Heat oven to 100C/0.5 Gas mark
  • Wash bottles and rinse thoroughly, pour in boiling water, tip away and then lie on their side in oven
  • Leave in oven for 15mins.
  • Turn off oven and leave bottles until cold
  • Using a funnel pour the cordial into the bottles, seal, and ideally store in the fridge.

    Bottled nectar

True Taste Food and Drink Awards 2011

16 Jun

The other day I had the opportunity to do my bit for Wales. Granted this was not too arduous a task as it involved eating lots and lots of delicious food all day long.

As a judge for the celebrated True Taste Food and Drink Awards I sampled some of the very best food Wales has to offer. Some truly superb entries in all categories, it illustrated just how far Wales has come as a producer of top quality foodstuffs. With the odd bizarre exception, the entries were well prepared and of a very high standard. From salami to sirloins, and pies to preserves, it was a complete gastro-feast. These awards are an excellent opportunity for producers to showcase their talents and gain the recognition they deserve both locally, and UK wide.

This was a great experience with some very knowledgeable foodies and chefs making up the the judging panel. My entire day was spent smelling, savouring, indulging and discussing…heaven!

If you want to know more about the True Taste Food and Drink Awards please take a look at their site www.truetaste.tv

The winners of the True Taste Food and Drink Awards 2011-2012 will be announced later this year.

Perfect Pork

6 Jun

When a quick fix Sunday lunch is required this pork fillet is the easy way to make a special roast without fuss. The sage and juniper add great flavour and the sauce can be taken two ways. Either follow tradition with a quick reduction for gravy or add a little cream to make something more sophisticated. Serve with lots of scuffed roast potatoes and some steamed greens tossed in butter.

Pork fillet with sage and cider

You will need:

Pork fillet (allow 3 medallions per person)
Celery, Carrots, Onions roughly diced
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
50g Unsalted butter, cut intosmall cubes
3 rashers of Smoked bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
2 Cox’s apples sliced
Sage leaves
1 tbsp Juniper berries
I can Dry Cider

  • Preheat your oven to 180c
  • Arrange your carots, celery, onions and garlic in the bottom of a roasting tin
  • Place the pork medallions on top of the veg
  • Put a piece of bacon onto each medallion
  • Top with the butter and a sage leaf
  • Season the whole tin and sprinkle over your juniper berries
  • Pour your cider over the top
  • Cook for 25-30 mins
  • Once cooked place your medallions onto a serving dish and keep warm
  • Heat the remaining cooking liquor
  • Strain your liquor, return to a clean pan
  • Reduce to create a delicious gravy or if you want to go posh add a splash of cream.

Pesto-licious

31 Dec

Perhaps one of the quickest, and most popular, things I make is pesto. Once you have a batch whizzed up the possibilities are endless.The peppery basil combined with roasted pine nuts, pungent garlic and nutty parmesan, married with some great olive oil. It’s a combination made in heaven and one which can elevate your store cupboard essentials to something stunning.

You will need:

2 large bunches of basil
1 large handful of pine nuts
I large handful of coarsely grated parmesan
1/2 or 1 clove of garlic
A generous glug of olive oil
Salt and pepper

  • Lightly toast your pine nuts in a dry frying pan, leave to cool
  • Bash your garlic and pine nuts in a pestle and mortar or if you prefer use a food processer
  • Add your basil and bash/blend
  • Add the parmesan
  • Finally pour in the olive oil until you have rough sauce
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste then give it a final mix and taste
  • If not using immediately put the pesto into a jar and cover top with a thin layer of oil. This will keep in the fridge for at least a week if covered with oil.

Now you have your excellent homemade pesto here are a just a few ideas of what you can create.

Green Spaghetti

Number one favourite with kids and adults alike, it is pesto in it’s most simple form. Stirred through hot pasta, loosened with a little olive oil and garnished with a few parmesan shavings, this is fast food at it’s best. If you feel the need, add some pan-fried smoked bacon, or a handful of fresh spinach leaves which will wilt with your hot pasta. This is excellent comfort food and perfect for those days when you want something quick but satisfying.

Pesto Tart

This is a complete cheat but I love it, and so does everyone who eats it. It is quick, simple and you can adapt the toppings to suit any occasion. I have made one large tart here but you can divide the pastry into six or more to create individual tarts if you’re having a party for New Year.

You will need:

I block puff pastry
3-4 tbsps of your very scrummy pesto
A handful of cherry or plum tomatoes halved
I ball of mozzarella
A few basil leaves
A drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper

  • Preheat your oven to 200c/Gas mark 6
  • Grease a baking tray
  • Roll out your puff pastry on a floured board to about 4mm thick and rectangular in shape
  • Place your rolled out pastry on the tray
  • Spoon on your precious pesto and spread out leaving a one inch edge
  • Scatter your tomatoes evenly
  • Tear your mozzarella into chunks and place across tart
  • Take your basil leaves and rip into shreds and scatter
  • Drizzle the olive oil over the tart and season well.
  • Brush the edges of your pastry with a beaten egg or milk
  • Place in your oven for approx. 20 minutes or until edges are risen and golden and the cheese is bubbling
  • Serve as a starter or with green salad for a superb lunch or supper
  • Feeds 6 as a starter or four as main

Haddock love?

27 Oct

Okay, I’ll admit I have never been a huge fan of fish. Give me prawns, langoustines, mussels, oysters, clams or any other crawly from the sea and I’m there. Langoustine marinated and grilled on the barbecue, meaty mussels nestling with spaghetti, fresh tomatoes and basil, shucked oysters with a tart lemon dressing, delicious every one. However…cod, plaice, salmon, haddock etc. have always left me a bit cold in the fish sense. But I am determined to rectify this as I know (or at least people keep telling me) there is great joy to be had from eating truly fresh and fabulous fish.

So last night I tried a quick and easy fish supper. Some great haddock fillets from the excellent, Ashton’s Fishmongers in Cardiff market. This is super simple. Preheat your oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.  Just arrange your fillets on an oiled baking tray, season well, then scatter fresh mozzarella, parmesan, cherry tomatoes and basil over the fish. A squeeze of fresh lemon over the top and a generous swirl of olive oil and it’s ready for the oven. 20mins is all you need. So grab some salad, dress it, and your supper is served. The verdict… these fish lovers might just have a point, next step salmon folks!

Pizza baby…

23 Oct

Getting kids cooking from an early age is not just fun, it shows them just how fantastic home-made food can be. For my son’s 4th birthday we had a pizza party. I made a big pile of dough, handed out mini rolling pins, bowls of cheese, tomato sauce, pineapple, sweetcorn, ham and peppers and stood back. The twenty, four year olds had the best time ever creating their own mini-pizza masterpieces complete with lots of squidging, nibbling and finger-licking.

Pizza-making is still a regular occurence in our house, and one which both my son and daughter love to be a part of. Last weekend, Joe and I decided to make some dough and use up the fresh tomato sauce I had made earlier. This recipe is simple and can be used to make bread or rolls, as well.

You will need:

1kg strong white or wholemeal bread flour
3 sachets dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 pint warm water

Homemade tomato sauce
Mozzarella
Basil

Any toppings you fancy.

Making your dough is easy. Place your flour into a bowl, create a well in the centre, pour in your yeast, sugar and salt. Gradually pour in some of your water. Using a fork stir the contents together, keep stirring and adding your water until everything is nicely mixed.

By now you have the beginnings of a stretchy dough. Time to get messy, get your hands in and work the dough until it becomes smooth and round. Get it out on to a floured surface and work out your anxiety with lots of pulling, stretching, kneading, pulling and pushing. Once it feels smooth and almost silky it’s ready to prove. Leave in a bowl in a warm space.

After about an hour your dough will have doubled in size. Preheat your oven to 220 C/ Gas mark 7.

Divide the dough into large fist-sized balls. Each ball will make one large pizza. We tend to make a selection of sizes suited to whoever is going to eat the end result. Flour you work surface and start rolling out your dough. Thick or thin it’s personal preference. Once you have a rough circle the fun begins. Place your pizza base on a baking sheet (a bit of flour or oil will stop it sticking during cooking).

Bring on the toppings! Tomato sauce and mozzarella are your staples, but from there on you choose…

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