Monday 17 June 2013

Asparagus and Mushroom Stir-fry with Tamari

A simple little dish that can be a side or you can add some protein for a complete dish - prawns, tofu, chicken, beef, duck - all would work I am sure.  For two, take a good-sized bunch of asparagus and snap off the woody ends.  Slice each stem on the diagonal or into inch long chunks.  Slice about 200g of mushrooms - shittake if you have them or I used just chestnut mushrooms.  Crush a clove of garlic (or two....) and finely dice a 'thumb' of peeled ginger.  In a bowl, combine 100ml of veg stock (Marigold powder, as always, is fine) with 2 dessertspoons of Tamari (or just regular soy sauce, but Tamari has a nicer flavour I think.)  Season with black pepper and a dash of toasted sesame oil.  Now heat a wok or non-stick frying pan until really hot, pour in a tablespoon of rape seed or other vegetable oil, and then add the asparagus.  Spread into a single layer and then....leave them!  Don't stir-fry yet, let them sizzle and pop and take on some golden colour for a minute or two.  Turn them over and fry for a further minute, then add the mushrooms.  Let them cook for a minute until satarting to soften, then throw in the garlic and chilli.  Stir and toss everything in the pan for another minute, then pour over the stock/Tamari mix.  Stir and allow to sizzle and reduce, covering the veg in a light, savoury umami-ish glaze and then serve straight away.  Simply delicious.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Magic Key Lime Pie

'Magic' because it sets without the need for egg yolks and baking, harnessing the power of acid reacting with fat (lots of fat....) to set, like a lemon posset.  There are so many recipes for Key Lime Pie, some using eggs, some with gelatine, some with a meringue topping, but this is my favourite.  It has the added virtue of being suitable for veggies.  Rich and creamy, yes, but also refreshing and tangy with the zest and juice of 6 limes.  A little goes a long way.  Mind you, so does a lot, ha!  To make: crush 200g Hobnob biscuits in a processor, or a plastic bag and a rolling pin.  Stir into 75g melted butter, and press firmly into the base of a loose-bottomed cake or flan tin.  Leave to set in the fridge, while you prepare the filling.  Into a large bowl, put a tin of sweetened condensed milk (you can use the 'Light' version if you want), a medium carton of double cream (about 228ml, usually) and the finely-grated zest of 6 limes.  Stir, and watch the cream turn an amazing green from the zest.  Now, squeeze the juice from the limes (rolling them under your flattened palm or heating them for 5 seconds in the microwave helps release the juice), and stir into the milk/cream mixture.  Like magic (hence the title), the creamy mixture will thicken before your very eyes.  When the juice is well incorporated, turn it onto the chilled biscuit base and spread out evenly.  Lick the bowl.  And spoon.  Dig out a little spoonful from the mix and eat.  Patch up the top again, erasing the evidence. Repeat. Now, leave to set for a good couple of hours or overnight if possible.  Run a knife round the edge and push up the base, to serve.  This is rich, so should serve 8-10 people.  Allegedly.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Flammkuchen with Bacon and Mushroom

Flammkuchen is a kind of Northern European pizza - or perhaps pizza is an Italian Flammkuchen, who knows?  What makes it different is the absence of tomato and the use of dairy, and it appears to be popular in Alsace, parts of Western Germany and even in Austria.  As with pizza, the variations for the toppings are endless.  Thhe bread dough is simple and quick and doesn't need to prove for ages, so it is perfectly feasible for a weeknight supper.  We loved it.  For 2 people, make a bread dough out of 200g plain flour (ordinary plain flour is actually better here, as you get a softer finish), 5g of dried instant yeast, 1/4 teaspoon salt, glug of rapeseed or olive oil, about 100ml of cold water and a heaped teaspoon of creme fraiche.  I mixed it in a stand mixer with a dough hook for 6 or 7 minutes.  You want a wet dough, so add a little more water if needed.  Cover and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place.  Prep your chosen topping - not too much - in our case, another heaped teaspoon of creme fraiche, two rashers of chopped smoked bacon, a handful of sliced mushrooms and a couple of tablespoons of grated cheddar, Parmesan or other hard cheese.  Saute the bacon and mushroom for a few minutes first.  Heat the oven to 220C and put a heavy baking sheet in to warm.  Tip the risen dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper and use your finger tips to flatten and shape it into a thin rectangle about 12" by 9" or thereabouts - try to build up a little rim round the edges.  Spread the surface thinly with the creme fraiche, add the toppings and transfer, on the paper, to the hot baking sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes until nicely browned and golden.  Slice and devour!

Sunday 14 April 2013

Saketini cocktail

To celebrate my return to blogging, here is a recipe for tonight's cocktail, the wonderful 'Saketini'.  This blend of Sake, Vodka and Orange Triple Sec makes for an elegant accompaniment to the Umami flavours of Tamari and Black Sesame Rice Cakes.  Take 1 portion of vodka (just good old Stoly will do), 2.5 of Sake (don't use premier quality, we use the widely-available Sawanotsuru brand), 0.5 of Orange Curacao, and (if you have any) a dash or two of orange bitters.  Stir well over ice (shaking would make it go cloudy) and serve in a Martini glass with a thin slice of cucumber. (Again, optional, but it does add another layer of flavour).  So, future blogs will be about various things: seasonal fruit and veg, as always, along with some classic recipes that peopl have asked for, some more Under a Fiver, and (a particulare favourite of mine in these cash-strapped times) using up leftovers.  Let me know if there is anythng in particular you want.  It won't be as frequent as before, as I have other projects on the go, but whenever something good comes along, I'll share it with you!

Sunday 16 December 2012

Potato and Mushroom Gratin

This nice little recipe is from Nigella's 'Express' cookbook, and is a good accompaniment to roast chicken or, in our case tonight, a proper veal saltimbocca.  Not too creamy, it uses milk rather than cream and not very much butter, so not too naughty - deeply mushroomy, too.  For 4 people, you need to peel and thinly slice 3 medium-ish potatoes - go for Maris Piper or King Edward's.  Heat 360ml of milk in a pan, along with 3 tablespoons of white wine (don't miss this bit out, it really lifts the flavour).  Season well with salt and pepper.  Add the sliced potatoes and simmer gently whilst getting on with the mushrooms: slice 250g of chestnut mushrooms and saute in a frying pan in 25g of butter and a grated or crushed clove of garlic.  I added some fresh thyme at this stage, because I had some, along with a grating of nutmeg because - well, life is better with nutmeg!  Once the mushrooms have sauteed for a few minutes and given off some of their liquid, tip the contents into the pan with the milk and potatoes and stir well.  Pour all of this into a buttered shallow gratin dish, smooth the top, grate over a little parmesan and bake at 180 for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender, most of the milk has been absorbed and the top is lovely and crusty brown.   As there were only 2 of us we have some leftover, but I think they will reheat well tomorrow - if I can stop picking at the dish in the kitchen.......oh dear!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Chickpea, Chard and Porcini Soup

Another lovely winter warmer from Hugh F-W's 'Veg Everyday' book, although I varied it by adding some shredded ham hock which turned it into a real rib sticker.  Even though you have to splash out on a packet of dried porcini (two quid from Tesco!) this still comes in well under a fiver and is so rich, mushroomy and warming.  If you don't have chard, kale or spinach or savoy cabbage would do just as well - just make sure it is dark green and full of iron!  Start the usual way by sweating a large chopped onion in a tablespoon or so of oil over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.  Whilst this is happening, soak a 25g pack of dried porcini in 800mls boiling water in a jug.  Prep your chard by stripping the leaves from the stalks, slicing the stalks finely and then shredding the leaves.  When the onion is done, add a couple of stalks of rosemary and 2 cloves of crushed garlic, and cook for a couple of minutes.  Fish out the soaked porcini using a draining spoon and put on a wodge of kitchen paper - keep the soaking liquid.  Chop the porcini on a board, as finely as you can, then add to the pot.  Empty in a tin of drained, rinsed chickpeas, half a tin of chopped tomatoes and the chard stalks.  Stir well.  Now, place a sheet of kitchen paper in a sieve and carefully strain the mushroom liquid into the pan, to filter out any grit.  Bring to the boil, add a teaspoon of tomato puree and some marigold veg stock powder or a veg stock cube, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Return to just under the boil and add the chard leaves. Add the shredded ham hock (or some cooked chicken, maybe, or cooked chorizo). Simmer for about 8 minutes until the leaves are cooked but still lovely and green.  Adjust the seasoning, fish out the rosemary stalks and serve piping hot in big bowls with crusty bread and some cheese slices on the side.

Monday 10 December 2012

Five Hour Roast Lamb Shoulder

There are loads of recipes on the web for this dish - I didn't follow a particular recipe, rather than a set of basic principles: good meat, lots of aromatic seasonings, a little liquid, good covering and long, slow cooking!  I started with a whole shoulder of lamb, either on the bone or boned and rolled, whichever you prefer.  Season well with salt and pepper, make some slits in the meaty bits and shove slivers of garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary in them.  Now, take a solid roasting tin, put a little oil in the bottom (a tablespoon or so) and then strew (lovely word!) 2 peeled and thickly sliced onions over the bottom.  Peel and roughly chop 4 or 5 garlic cloves and add to the onions, along with a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a couple of bay leaves.  Now pour in 120mls of wine (whatever you have, but I prefer white for this dish) and a further 120mls of water.  Place the lamb on top, then cover the roasting tin really well with foil, tucking it tightly around the rim to make it as good a seal as possible.  Put in an oven heated to 150C or the gas equivalent and then leave to cook.  After 3 hours, carefully check under the foil (watch out! It will be hot and steamy!) just to check that there is still liquid - there should be lots as the meat will shed loads of juice.  But add a little more hot water from the kettle if it is at all dry.  Reseal the foil and return to the oven for another 2 hours, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown the meat if it needs it.  Now, remove the lamb to a board and cover well with foil then a tea towel to keep warm.  Spoon the copious amounts of liquid fat from the surface of the juices in the roasting tin.  If the liquid is at all watery, boil over a high heat for a few minutes until reduced to the intensity you want - taste and adjust the seasoning.  You can either sieve the onions out of the gravy or not, your choice (I quite like the soft onions left in).  Now serve the lamb - it will be falling off the bone and you should be able to cut it and pull it apart with a fork and spoon.  Pour over the hot juice and serve with mash to mop it all up. Any leftovers make a sublime Shepherd's Pie or (as we did tonight), a Moussaka.  It is rich meat and serves a lot!

Monday 26 November 2012

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Now HERE is a new one!  Making a wheat-free pizza crust from cauliflower, egg and cheese.  If you are gluten-intolerant or just have a cauli to use up, this is an intriguing idea.  You won't get the same texture as a bread crust but it is worth trying.  My sister makes a flour-free souffle using pureed cauliflower, so this is on the same lines.  First, you have to blitz a raw cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like rice - you can include some of the stalk, too, which is a bonus.  Steam the cauli over a little water for about 6 to 8 minutes, then cool.  Now, for each 10" base, you need a cup of cooled cauliflower, half a cup of grated cheddar and an egg.  Mix together well and season with lots of pepper - you don't need salt because of the cheese.  Line a baking sheet with baking parchment, and set the oven to a high 220C.  Spread the cauli mix out to a rough 10" circle and spray with a little olive oil (or brush lightly with oil using a pastry brush).  Bake for 20 minutes until brown and set.  Now top with your favourite pizza toppings (don't go mad, and be stingy with the cheese, given the amount in the crust) and bake again until the topping is done to your liking.  Serve asap.  This isn't a low-fat option but is a good way to get loads more veg into kids - don't tell them it is cauliflower!  Tasty too, and certainly a novelty.  I found you can make the base in advance and it reheats really quickly with the toppings on, but it is a bit more fragile than a wheat base, so not easy to pick up in large wedges - hence my advice to not over-load it with toppings.

Sausage, Cannellini Bean and Pumpkin Stew

Sometimes, when it is cold and rainy and you feel under the weather, it HAS to be a stew - or soup - or something in between the two, as this is.  Essentially, this is good pork sausages, browned, then braised in herby stock with cannellini beans, carrots and chunks of squash and potato.  Lovely served in a big bowl with crusty bread, and under a fiver if you are careful with your shopping - don't skimp on the bangers, though, they should be the best quality you can afford.  For 4, take a pack of 6 or 8 bangers, halving them if you like, and brown a little in a tablespoon of olive oil in a casserole or ovenproof pot.  Remove, then add an onion, chopped, 2 cloves of garlic, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, a large potato, cut into chunks (peel if you like), a couple of carrots, also cut into chunks and a wedge of pumpkin or squash of similar quantity to the potato and carrots, peeled and cut into chunks.  Stir this all together in the fat in the pan.  Whilst this is happening, dissolve a chicken stock cube in a pint of boiling water with a tablespoon of tomato puree and a good splosh of Worcesterrrrrshire Sauce and pour over the veg.  Bring to the boil, then tip in a tin of drained cannellini beans (or any other tinned bean of preference, rinsed too) and then place the bangers back on top.  Cover, and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or so until the veg is soft and the liquid has reduced a little - a temperature of about 180C should do nicely.  Sprinkle over some chopped fresh parsley and dish up the soupy beany stew with thick hunks of crusty bread to dip into the herby broth.  Then go back to bed and feel sorry for yourself, albeit on a full tum.  That's what I did.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Mexican Shepherd's Pie

I have no ide whether a Mexican Shepherd would eat this!  It just seemed like the best name for an improvised dish that will be cooked again and again, it was so delicious (and simple and cheap, other qualities to recommend it by).  It is, essentially, chickpeas, tomato and spinach or kale cooked with chilli, cumin and paprika, then topped with a coriander and Parmesan mash - great for veggies if you use a suitable cheese alternative.  All you do is saute an onion, chopped (I used a red one, but go with whatever you have) in a tablespoon of oil until softening, then add 2 cloves of crushed garlic, a finely chopped red chilli, a heaped teaspoon each of ground cumin, sweet paprika (not the smoked kind) and dried oregano.  Stir for a moment then add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of drained, rinsed chickpeas.  Season,, bring to a simmer and let it cook and reduce a little until thick - around 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, boil or steam about 750g to 1K of mashing potatoes (Maris Piper of King Edward's for me).  When the chickpea mix has reduced, cram in either a 200g bag of spinach or in my case, a head of Cavalo Nero kale that had just arrived in the Riverford box, well washed and thinly shredded.  Allow this to cook and wilt - a matter of moments for spinach but for around 5 minutes if you use the kale.  Tip the saucy mixture into a pie dish (see photo).  Now, mash the spuds, and mix in about 30g of butter and a couple of tablespoons of milk, and season well with salt and pepper.  Grate 50g of Parmesan or veggie equivalent, and stir 30g into the potato, along with some chopped coriander leaf - about 20g should do.  Don't miss this bit out, the flavour combo is divine!  Spread over the chickpea mix.  Now, mix the remaining Parmesan with a tablespoon or so of breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top.  Bake at 180 for 25-30 minutes until piping hot, crisp and bubbling.  This was soooooo good and would easily feed four with a salad, some extra veggies on the side or even some crusty bread and butter for a carb overload!  Qualifies for Under a Fiver easily.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Persimmon Pudding

I am sorry.  I have been very lazy about both cooking and blogging and a ticking-off from a friend last week made me get back to both.  It isn't that I haven't been cooking, just not doing anything particularly spectacular.  But let's kick off November's entries with a new dessert for me - Persimmon Pudding.  This pud is very popular in the States, where the persimmon tree is often found in people's back yards.  For this pudding, you need the Hachiya Persimmon variety, also known in Europe as kaki - NOT the Fuyu or Sharon fruit, which will never ripen to the correct jellied pulp that is needed for this pud.  Luckily, Riverford have been supplying the Hachiya variety, and careful nurturing to bring them to just the right stage of readiness (borderline suppurating foetidity) meant we were ready to try this dessert, a favourite of the peerless Alice Waters in her Berkeley, CA restaurant, Chez Panisse.  Essentially, you puree the fruit, mix it with flour, milk, eggs, nuts and spices and bake into a sticky pudding, and serve with Cognac-flavoured cream.  The easiest thing is to link to a recipe on the Bojon Gourmet blog.  A really interesting flavour, sweet, honeyed but with a hint of tannin from the fruit - if you like pumpkin pie, you'll like this one, an early nod to Thanksgiving.

Wednesday 31 October 2012


Do you like to dunk your bread in some soup? Do you like beans on toast?  If so, this is the meal for you, combining, as it does, both those culinary textural delights.  I had a head of Cavalo Nero in the fridge, it is cold and drizzly and dark outside, so this Tuscan speciality was just crying out to be eaten.  It is a thick - REALLY thick - bean and vegetable soup that is ladled over a slice of chargrilled country bread, and is totally scrummy.  Cheap too, so it qualifies for the Under a Fiver challenge and will feed 4 people handsomely.  In a large pot, sweat 2 large onions, 2 sticks of celery and 2 carrots - all peeled and finely-chopped (I peel the celery by running the potato peeler from top to bottom to remove the stringy filaments).  Use a good couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  After 10 minutes, tip in a drained 400g can of borlotti beans, a 200g tin of Chair de Tomate or really good tinned chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary and the leaves picked from a branch of thyme.  Pour over about a litre of boiling water from the kettle.  Add some Marigold veg stock or just salt and pepper, cover and simmer for a good half-an-hour.  Stir from time to time, and mash the beans against the side of the pot to thicken the soup.  Take a head of Cavalo Nero (or the big outer green leaves of a Savoy cabbage) and cut across the head into thin ribbons.  Simmer in the soup for 10 minutes, then drizzzle over a further 2 tablespoons of olive oil and leave, covered, to one side for a few minutes.  Whilst this is happening, cut 4 big pieces of good country bread - sourdough or a French Pain de Campagne or equivalent.  Drizzle with oil and toast on a chargrill pan or under the grill, then rub each side with a cut clove of garlic.  Place a slice of toast in the bottom of shallow bowls and ladle over the thick beany soup.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan and drizzle on a little more olive oil - your best, green, peppery one - and eat, feeling the central heating effect filter through your blood vessels!

Sunday 28 October 2012

Spiced Roast Parsnip and Carrot Soup

It has suddenly turned a bit nippy in the south of England (snow and blizzards in Scotland - brrrrr!) so a good soup is what is needed to warm you from the tip of your nose to the ends of your toes, and this one certainly did.  If you like Curried Parsnip Soup, if you like Carrot and Coriander soup, and if you like a bit of a warm chilli kick in your food, then this is just the ticket.  You need to peel and dice 2 large parsnips (and I mean large - the mud-encrusted ones in our veg-box probably weighed 250g each) and you then need to peel and dice the equivalent weight of carrots.  Also peel a couple of garlic cloves, but keep them whole.  Now, toss them all in a tablespoon of oil (I like English cold-pressed rape seed oil, but then again, I am a food snob!) and roast on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes until nearly tender and tinged with a little brown here and there.  Whilst this is happening, peel and chop a large onion and also a leek, if you have one (white part only).  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pot over a medium heat and allow the onion and leek to sweat and soften - don't colour them.  Trim and de-seed a red chilli (we had some wonderful Devon-grown hot little ones delivered in the veg box) and add to the onions too.  Now, assemble the following in a little bowl: 1 heaped teaspoon of ground coriander, 1 level teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 level teaspoon of ground ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric.  Boil the kettle.  When the veg have roasted, remove from the oven.  Add the spices and veg to the onions and leek in the pan and stir well for a minute or two - don't let the spices catch, but allow them to release their fragrance in the oil.  Pour over boiled water from the kettle to cover the veg by about half-an-inch, then add a couple of teaspoons of Marigold stock powder or your preferred brand of veggie stock (or make your own!).  Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, then blend in your usual way (I use a stick blender).  Thin with a little more stock if it is too thick.  Reheat and serve with a little natural yoghurt swirled in, and fresh coriander leaf if you have any.  Spme naan bread to dunk is good, too.   Lovely, and there is plenty for hubby to take to the rugby tomorrow evening to keep the chill out.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Pears Poached in Caramel with Toasted Brioche and Creme Fraiche

This lovely dessert is simpler than it sounds, and is a variation on a rather more elaborate recipe by Raymond Blanc, where he encases the poached pears in a 'charlotte' of brioche and bakes it.  He suggests the simpler version of poaching the pears in caramel sauce and serving it with a slice of toasted brioche with a spoonful of creme fraiche, so this is the route I took.  We had more of the perfect little baby Williams Pears from Riverford this week, so peeled them and poached them in the rich caramel sauce which is made thus: dissolve 5 tablespoons of caster sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy pan over a low heat.  Turn up the heat, and cook to a good golden caramel, not quite as dark as you would for a creme caramel but a good dark colour all the same.  DON'T stir it whilst this is happening, else the sugar will crystallise and be ruined.  If necessary, just swish the pan occasionally.  When the correct colour is attained, take off the heat and immediately add 100ml of double cream - take care as it will spatter.  When it has all subsided, return to a low heat, add 25g of butter and a tablespoon each of lemon juice and either Calvados, Cognac or Poires William if you have it.  Now submerge 8 small or 4 larger peeled pears in the sauce, cover, and simmer until tender.  This depends on size and ripeness, but our baby pears were done in about 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool with the lid on, then transfer the pears with all their delicious caramel sauce to a bowl and refrigerate.  You can eat them as they are with vanilla ice cream, toasted nuts, shortbread, whatever floats your boat.  Or, if you have some brioche knocking about (as you do), toast a small slice per person, and serve the sweet bread with the pear, some sauce and ice cream or creme fraiche.  Perfect.

Roasted Squash with Merguez-Spiced Chickpeas

I am so in love with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "Veg Every Day" cookbook - a constant source of inspiration for using up the veg from my Riverford box.  We've eaten much more healthily (and cheaply) with the arrival of both these essentials in our lives!  The party last night gave us another opportunity to try out one of the recipes, and this was a delicious, cheap and filling dish to plonk on the table alongside all the other goodies.  I was so busy yesterday, I forgot to take pictures of most of the food, so I will simply link to the channel 4 website which gives both the recipe and a nice picture of the finished dish.  There is no meat in this - the reference to merguez relates to the classic seasoning for the North African sausage, which is put to use in a seasoned oil to dress the veg and pulses - a heady blend of garlic, caraway, fennel seed, cumin, smoked paprika, rosemary and Cayenne pepper.  I used tinned chickpeas rather than cook my own (I never seem to be able to get the chickpeas soft when I prep them from dry, and the 'East End' brand provides lovely soft, yielding peas) and I also cheated massively by using a bag of frozen butternut squash from Waitrose - what a BRILLIANT timesaver!  Anyway, a really nice dish, and one for the under a fiver thread too.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

So, a mammoth cookathon over the last 48 hours, starting with a cookery day hosted by Sophie Grigson on Moroccan and North African food - more on that later!  We were at a friend's for a party last night and we all contributed various dishes on the theme of mezze and tapas.  I have been wanting to try this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe for a while, so this was a perfect opportunity.  You start off by mixing a dessertspoon of honey in a bowl with 3 tablespoons olive oil, a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander and some salt and pepper.  Peel 4 cloves of garlic and add to the oil.  Peel 500g of carrots and cut into 5mm slices, then toss in the spicy oil.  Scrape all of this onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast for 35 minutes or so until the carrot is soft and slightly caramelised.  Cool a little, then scrape into a food processor.  Add the juice of half an orange and half a lemon, 3 tablespoons of tahini and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Blend until smooth, adding a little more juice if it needs thinning.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.  I have to admit that, straight after mixing, I wasn't impressed with this - it seemed too sweet.  However, 8 hours later at the party, it had mellowed into a mildly spiced, fruity, sweet and savoury whole and was delicious with crusty bread and pitta toasts.  One to make again, just follow my advice and make it in advance!

Sunday 7 October 2012

The Churchill Cocktail

My hubby made me laugh by saying "ah, those were the days, when you could be pissed and gaga and still be Prime Minister after three strokes".  Wonderful, and this is what's missing in national politics today, I think.  Anyway, this cocktail was named after the great man himself (although he apparently hated Scotch.....).  It consists of (for 1 person) 3 parts of Scotch, 1 part fresh lime juice, 1 part Sweet Vermouth, and 1 part Cointreau.  Sweeten if needed with a teaspoon of sugar syrup.  I'll leave you to decide how big your parts are, fnar, fnar! (forgive me, I'm drunk).  For those concerned with provenance, this is from the Savoy cocktail book, by Harry Craddock (no relation to Fanny!! Fnar, fnar!)

Red Wine Poached Pears

I love this time of year - with all the fabulous Autumnal fruit and veg, you are spoilt for choice.  In this week's Riverford delivery were 8 perfect baby Williams pears, just crying out to be peeled and poached, so how could I resist?  I use Alice Waters' recipe from the Chez Panisse Fruit book - a source of constant inspiration and reliable classics.  Prepare the poaching base which is an entire bottle of good red wine - nothing vintage but it must be drinkable - with the pared zest and juice of a lemon and a cinnamon stick, with a cup of caster sugar.  Bring to a simmer in a non-reactive pot (i.e. not aluminium or copper), whilst you wash and peel your pears, keeping the stalk on if you can.  Using the tip of your paring knife, dig out a little of the core on the bottom.  Immerse the pears in the simmering wine, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the pears are tender - this will depend on the size and ripeness of your pears so keep testing after 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave the pears to cool in the liquid.  An hour later, they will be buttery-tender and the most amazing colour.  Carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl.  Now, return the poaching liquor to a high heat and boil and reduce to about a cup/250ml, until thick and syrupy.  Your house will smell amazing!  Resist the temptation to drink this straight away and spoon carefully over the pears, leaving them glossy and glorious.  When cool, cover and refrigerate and serve just as they are or with creme fraiche, whipped cream, ice cream, Greek yoghurt, or - in our case - with some chilled creamy vanilla egg custard and sprinkled with toasted slivered almonds.