Line the baking tray with baking parchment. Roll out the dough, transfer onto the parchment and into the tray.
Whip up a medium-sized jar of Blackberry jam and spread evenly across the top, then let the dough with topping recover for half an hour.
Heat the oven to 180 C.
Whip up half a pint of double cream with 2 or 3 free range egg yolks and a tablespoon of vanilla-infused sugar, then gently pour on top. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon, then bake until it looks right, approximately half an hour if memory serves me right.
Take it out a few minutes before it becomes as dark as the one in the picture.
Let cool down on a rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting.
Everybody loves these, and most people usually say “oh! I remember we used to make those, too!”
Everybody used to make devilled eggs for all occasions some time during the past century. Not so for us. We still make them and still love them and whenever we offer some, at most one is left over if nobody dares take the last one. Otherwise none.
Hard-boil half a dozen of medium-size free range eggs, then shock in very cold water and peel. Cut right through the middle, arrange the egg white halves on a serving plate and collect the yolks in a small mixing bowl. Add the devil in the form of a very generous amount of mustard, and perhaps a small amount of soured cream to make the mix lighter. Mix well with a fork or a hand mixer, fill into a piping bag and into the waiting egg whites.
Optionally decorate with a caper or a sliver of red peppers, although I find this is taking the retro look too far. For a more refined look and for far more fiddly preparations consider using Quail eggs.
This is a lovely vegetarian option for when you feel like saving the planet: a pan-roasted ginger and pumpkin soup with fresh spinach, seared feta cheese, pine kernels and toasted pumpkin seeds.
It’s fairly quickly made, looks good, tastes great and helps save the planet!
Remove skin and seed from a nice squash or pumpkin, then dice the flesh and dry roast it in a non-sticking frying pan until is is nicely caramelized. I include a dried red chilly, two large gloves of garlic, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, two star anise and a few twigs ot thyme for flavour.
Add a pint of water, a pinch of salt and a large thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated. Stir, turn the heat down and let simmer gently for a few minutes.
Toast a handful of pine kernels and set aside.
Toast a handful of pumpkin seeds until they are popping nicely, set aside.
Wash and drain the fresh spinach.
Now return to the soup. Remove chilly, anise and twigs, then blizz the rest in a blender, adding a little more water if necessary. Season to taste and keep warm.
Heat some olive oil with a glove of garlic, then add the fresh spinach to moderate heat. Close the lid to let steam gently.
Cut a generous piece of feta chesse per portion and put in a non-sticking frying pan and reasonably high heat. The idea is to heat it up, partially melt it and, if your feta is sufficiently dry, lightly caramelize it around the edges.
Finally, the assembly:
Mix the pine kernels with the spinach and build a nest in the middle of each plate, then put the feta on top. Surround it with the soup. Try to marble the soup with soured cream or double cream, which looks good and rounds the flavour, then sprinkle the toasted pumpkin seeds around the perimeter. Add a drizzle of chilly oil or pumpkin seed oil.
Not everyone’s thing but I don’t want to go long without: Steak Tartare, a spiced preparation of raw beef that goes well with fresh bread, French fries or Bretzeln. The leftover makes my favourite breakfast.
I use 150 to 200 g Beef Sirloin per portion, allowing some off-cuts for the cat and some left-overs for tomorrow’s breakfast.
Carefully clean the meat by removing all sinew, fat and skin, then mince it.
Add one fresh, organic, free-range medium-sized egg yolk per portion, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of mustard, a very small and very finely diced onion and two teaspoons of capers, drained and chopped slightly.
Mix with a fork, adding a drizzle of good olive oil as you go along.
Form into a ball, cover with clingfilm and keep chilled until supper time. Eat within a few hours.
We eat it with French fries and a side salad, or on a buttered slice of bread, and of course with fresh Bretzeln.
This is another one of those concept dishes rather than an actual recipe.
The concept here is to go over the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning or stumble into the local butcher’s shop, then prepare a meal for slow cooking based on whatever was available or discovered in the fridge or larder.
Preparation takes about an hour, followed by an afternoon free for frolicking. Return hours later to a satisfying stew, on the table and ready to eat within minutes if you plan it right.
You’ll need a slow cooker or an oven with a low temperature cooking programme, or simply an oven which can hold 65 to 75 C for a couple of hours. You could even dig a traditional cooking pit! The trick is to stay below 80 C and leave the dish in peace for a couple of hours.
I like a piece of meat. Lamb shanks or leg slices, goat, mutton, high rib of beef or venison leg are my preferred choices. Clean the meat from sinew and remove skin, perhaps remove some of the fat.
Then clean a curiosity shop of vegetables. You will need onions and lots of garlic no matter what, also peeled waxy potatoes unless you wish to serve the meal with bread or other carbs, or no carbs at all!
Pretty much all vegetables that are in season are fine by me. Fennel, parsnips, savoy cabbage. Tomotoes, beans, peas. I’d stay away from courgettes or aubergines on this occasion but even cauliflower works thanks to the low temperatures.
Clean, peal, dice.
I caramelise the meat by searing in clarified butter on the cooker, using the same casserole dish that I plan to use for the whole process.
Remove the meat, then lightly caramelise the vegetables in the same pot with the help of olive oil or clarified butter.
Season to taste with salt, black pepper, red chillies, thyme, rosemary, lovage, star anise and cinnamon. Bring the meat back, add 75 ml of wine and 75 ml of water. Close the lid, put into the oven and forget about it for a couple of hours, four hours at least, five or six won’t give you trouble.
Allow for even longer if you are using tough meat such as ox tail, but for the types of meat listed earlier, four to six hours are just fine.
Pretty quick and easy to prepare and very satisfying on a cold day: Poached smoked Haddock with a poached egg, served on a bed of green lentil ragout.
For the lentil ragout, finely dice a medium-sized onion, half a fennel bulb, 2 cloves of garlic and one medium sized carrot. Melt a walnut-sized piece of butter and an equivalent amount of olive oil in a pan, then fry the diced vegetables until they begin to caramelise. Add one cup of green (“french”) lentils, two cups of cold water and one chicken stock cube.
(Really, a stock cube. It helps cook the lentils much faster than you’d think.)
Add a twig of thyme or lovage, cover and let simmer very gently. This takes about 30 minutes from now.
Meanwhile, clean the undied smoked haddock but leave the skin on, cutting portions of about 220 g per person. Heat a pint of milk in a pan, add three bay leaves and half a dozen of crushed juniper berries. Check the temperature; you want the milk hot but well below the boiling point. Gently add the fish, skin side down, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. When it is boiling, add a generous splash of vinegar and let the temperature drop to just below the boiling point. Crack one egg per portion into a cup, then gently drop the egg into the hot water. Let them float for 5 minutes.
Sample the lentils ragout. Season to taste with salt, mustard, and balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze.
Plate a good portion of the lentils ragout, topped with the fish, skin now removed, and a poached egg on top. Chilly oil, pumpkin oil or more balsamic vinegar make for a decorative splash.
A lovely little winter warmer dish, quick and easy to make with winter vegetables:
Parsnip and potato mash with seared Duck breast, served with mixed cabbage stir-fry and sage butter.
Begin by getting the mash under way: peal and clean the potatoes, peal one to 1 1/2 parsnip per diner. Remember to remove the fibrous parsnip core. Dice and put into a pot, add one finger’s width of water and a pinch of salt. Close the lid and steam for approximately 25 minutes until tender. The exact time depends on the size of your dice and potato variety, so check with a spoon or kitchen knife.
Meanwhile, prepare the duck breasts. I use smaller fillets, one per diner: trim the skin by cutting away excess, leaving a nice rectangular piece, which I cut crosswise every 5 mm. Trim remaining fat, sinew or blood vessels.
Clean and cut the cabbage into large pieces. I find a mixture of Savoy Cabbage and Red Cabbage works well, but some Chinese Cabbage left-overs or Cavolo Negro also fit in well enough.
Peel and crush two large gloves of garlic, cut one small bulb of fennel into shavings.
Pre-heat the oven to 160 C.
Meanwhile, finish the mash: drain the excess water, then add a cup of hot milk and a two-walnut sized piece of butter. Whisk with an electric mixer or mash it in the good old way using a masher, then set aside.
Heat a frying pan (one with a fire-proof handle) with a small amount of clarified butter (ghee). Salt the duck skin and sear the breast, skin-side down at moderate heat until the fat is rendered out well and the skin has a nice honey colour. Take your time for this. Now turn the breasts skin side up, transfer the pan into the oven and set your timer for 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven after 5 minutes, place the breasts on a board to rest for another 5 minutes at least. Meanwhile…
Heat another frying pan to medium-to-high heat. Melt a spoon full of clarified butter, then add the garlic, fennel shavings and cabbage. Stir occasionally to achieve light caramelization throughout. Add salt to taste when your’ done frying, and never add water.
Finely chop a handful of fresh Sage leaves. Melt a generous amount of butter (say, 50 g per diner), heat it up until it is foaming but not yet browning. Quickly fry the sage leaves and remove from the heat.
Assemble with the mash in the centre of the plate, the sliced breast on top, surrounded with cabbage stir-fry. Drizzle the sage butter generously over the cabbage. Done!
So rewarding, and so simple to make. No need for mysterious powder or ominously yellow stuff from a tetra pack; just make your own. It’s quick and easy to make, delicious, and free from artificial stabilisers, preservatives, colouring, other E-numbers and whatnots. You don’t even have to faff about with the Bain-Marie if you are careful.
Follow these steps:
Have 5 fresh medium sized free-range eggs ready at room temperature.
Mix half a pint of double cream with half a pint of whole milk and gently heat the mix in a saucepan. Use one with a heavy bottom so that it retains some heat when taken off the fire.
Meanwhile, separate the five eggs. Keep the whites for something useful; we only need the yolks for custard. Whisk the yolks with four to five generous tablespoons of sugar (80 to 100 g) until foamy. Add the seeds from one vanilla pod, or an equivalent amount of vanilla essence.
When the milk-cream-mix reaches boiling point, remove it from the heat, then whisk in the egg mix. Whisk vigorously for one minute more than you think necessary. The residual heat is enough to cook the egg but you must avoid scrambled egg, especially near the bottom and the edges of the pan.
Pour into a suitable jug or container and let cool down to room temperature, then chill in the fridge until it is time to serve it, perhaps with a fruit crumble.
Well that’s a very simple recipe, but it has a place here because I keep forgetting the correct proportions. For the record:
To make four portions of fruit-crumble-and-custard, mix
50 g butter, soft but not runny,
50 g ground almonds,
50 g white wheat flour and
50 g caster sugar.
Its 1 : 1 : 1 : 1, how hard can it be to remember?
I make this hours before the meal. Bring the four ingredients together with an electric mixer, add a handful chopped toasted hazelnuts at the end, and put in the fridge until it is time to bake the fruit crumble for approximately 18 minutes at 180 C.
Following on with the theme and tone set by the Sexy Salads article, this is about Sexy Soups. Soups which surprise, which take you on a journey of discovery through different colours, textures and tastes, soups for more than just to stain your shirtfront.
They can be vegetarian, but I confess that pork belly with crisp skin, or a juicy chicken breast, a pink seared duck breast, some prawns or at least a poached egg or a poached egg yolk are normally my very personal star of the show.
I usually begin with chicken stock, nice and easy to make and less overpowering when compared to a beef stock. I get a whole chicken, fill it with plenty of grated fresh ginger and garlic, then add enough cold water for the soup I need. This will gently simmer for 90 minutes, after which I remove the pot from the heat but leave everything to cool down as is.
One idea is to remove the breast before the cooking. They don’t really add to the soup but can be seared with rosemary butter, then served with the soup. It all depends on your plans for the soup and tomorrow’s meal.
When the soup has cooled down, remove the meat and discard the bones. The meat should make for a fabulous Chicken Fricassee on the next day, or perhaps a quick Coq au Moutarde or a sexy chicken salad with the remaining fennel, apples, oranges and bitter chicory.
A little extra effort pays dividends: whisk up one or two egg whites until they are just foamy, then add to the cold soup. Gently bring it back to the boil, occasionally lifting the egg white very gently off the pot’s bottom in the beginning to prevent it from sticking. Once the soup is at the boiling point and all the egg whites are floating on the surface, drain through a mousseline sheet or at least a very, very fine sieve to complete the clarification.
The rest is up to you, your imagination and whatever you’ll find in the back of the fridge or kitchen larder: croutons from garlic bread are always nice with a broth, and so are mustard greens, skinned cherry tomatoes or charred little Gem lettuce. Mushrooms and egg noodles perhaps, or fresh garden peas and a poached duck egg yolk?
It always pays to heat some clarified butter and crisp fresh Sage leaves to top the soup, but young pea shoots, cress, radish or mustard shoots are also nice for visual appeal, a bit of a spicy bite and a fresh taste.