“Mr Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.”
“Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests.”
Call me English but by jove, it’s bloomin’ cold these days! We’ve barely begun November and I am quite certain that I’ll have to start digging around for my long johns within the week. Yes, I do own long, thermal underwear and I’m proud of it. Ho! ho! I hear you say! Ultimately, I will have the last laugh while you sniggering lot, shift from side to side in order to retain an inch of warmth. However, as I’m feeling generous today I’ve decided to assign this blog towards warming the culinary nation. As promised, the following recipes are here to heat up your cockles in the coldest of times. Remember the more people in a room, the warmer it gets! Any excuse for a dinner party eh?!
We begin our menu with a spiced pomegranate cordial and honestly, it tastes just as good as it sounds. This is a recipe forged together by yours truly and it works perfectly for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Originally, I wanted it to be a syrup acting as a base of a refreshing fizzy cooler and yet, I have found that heated up over the stove, the pomegranate syrup works well as a hot toddy. A drop of rum works a real treat for something a little more special and festive. This cordial is Christmas in a glass and is incredibly easy to make. Similar to my infused vodkas, this would make a lovely gift.
Spiced Pomegranate Cordial
2 ½ tablespoons of caster sugar
one tsp of cinnamon
¼ tsp of mixed spice
cup of boiling water
Remove all the pomegranate seeds from its shell and push through a juicer. If you don’t have a juicer, don’t panic! Put all the seeds into a blender and push the liquid and seeds through a sieve to get all the juice. The actual amount of juice that is produced from one pomegranate is shocking but it will be enough. In a saucepan, pour the freshly pressed pomegranate juice and place over a low heat. Add the sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice and stir well. Keep the heat low as you don’t want the sugar to burn. Check for taste and squeeze in the juice of one orange. The smell is divine! Finally, add the hot cup of water and let the syrup simmer for a few minutes. Take off the heat and push through a sieve once more. Pour the syrup into a nice glass bottle and store in the fridge.
It is at this point that you have all the power! If you want something fizzy and light, decant a small amount of syrup to the bottom of a glass (as you would with say Robinsons squash) and top up with some sparkling water or tonic. But, if you’re in the mood for some a little more fruity and festive, pour some syrup into a pan and add your desired amount of water (a cup of water for each person should be enough). Once the mixture is heated up, serve in a cup or pretty glass. Oh, and if you want to be really naughty, pour a little rum into the hot liquid before serving. Rum works wonders in this fragrant concoction.
Let’s move on to something more…solid? The other day I found myself in and amongst the cookery section at Waterstones. Quelle surprise! I found a book entitled ‘À la mere de famille’. I think it retails for £28 and it is SO worth it. The illustrations are ever so sweet on the front cover and the recipes within are brilliant. It specialises in classic French bonbons and chocolate recipes however, there were a fair few biscuit, macaroon and meringues recipes too. My eyes fell upon a beautiful picture of pistachio and chocolate biscuits and I couldn’t resist. It sounds utterly ridiculous but the difference of colour between the brown of the cocoa and green of the nuts looks stunning. They are almost too pretty to eat. I said almost….
Pistachio and Chocolate Biscuits
220g unsalted butter
80g icing sugar
280 plain flour
70g crushed, unsalted pistachios
Pinch of salt
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon. Once mixed well, cover the mixture in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour. Sixty minutes later, take out the mixture and place on a floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll out the mixture to an inch thick and use any biscuit cutter you desire. Place the biscuits in the oven for 10-12 minutes at a temperature of 180ºC. When ready, place on a cooling rack and enjoy! The recommended time above should be right. Don’t overdo as the first I made them, I cooked them for longer and they were so hard and for once, inedible. Shock horror!
Now, not too long ago I discussed a smattering of restaurants in Bristol that had prepared food which was more than edible, if such a thing exists! This week I was in Richmond and I happend to visit two establishments that are well worth mentioning to a foodie crowd. The first was a little restaurant (gasp! it was a chain..) however, the food was gorgeous, the staff were great and there was a superb prix fixe menu of which is very reasonable. My friend Rebecca and I ate heartily and left with contented smiles upon our faces. If you find yourself in Richmond, do try out Cȏte Brasserie. Oh, I recommend the endive salad with goats cheese and pear to start!! It was divine I tell you.
Rebecca’s three bean risotto
My steak frites
Secondly, en route to the bus stop home I caught site of the new Whole Foods and oh my, it was beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different varieties of chocolate in my life! If any of you are a chocolate snob, go to Whole Foods now! The pastries, cakes and lunchtime offerings looked great but little did I know the real gems of the shop were downstairs….I’m going to call it a Cheese Cave because it describes how exciting and mysterious the different range of cheeses made me feel. It was simply, magical. The Whole Foods in South Kensington actually has a room doted to cheese (heaven!) and yet, because I wasn’t expected this number of cheeses, it was even better. Cheese lovers, go! Be free and roam this cave of delectable dairy! This brings us on to our next recipe or two….
The next little treat that I wish to share with you is in fact a family recipe. My grandmother on my father’s side, who is unfortunately no longer with us, was a wonderful cook. When I was a young, my dad and I would visit her by either taking the train to York or driving in the family car listening intently to Stephen Fry’s reading of Harry Potter. When we arrived, it would usually be cold and dark (that’s up North for you!) and I’d run up to her door and be welcomed with a cuddle and a cheese scone. To this day I still remember sitting on her sofa, curled up in a blanket opposite her electric fire, tucking into these divine cheesy, mustard tasting snacks. I suggest that you slice the scones in half and spread a good helping of salted butter on both sides. A cup of tea helps it all go down rather nicely. This special recipe has been used for three generations of the Wells family, and it never fails. Look after our secret well.
Nana Mole’s Cheese Scones
6oz self-rising flour
3oz grated mature cheese
1oz margarine (or butter)
2 good tsp of mustard powder
1 egg and enough milk to make up ¼ pint when beaten
Pinch of salt and pepper
Sieve the flour and mustard powder into a bowl and add the margarine. Rub the margarine into the flour mixture to make small, soft breadcrumbs. Add the salt and pepper, almost all of the cheese (save a little for the tops of scones at the end) and a little of the milk and eggs mixture. You want the breadcrumbs to turn into dough. Add a little milk at a time and when it’s at the right consistency to cut into shapes, mould into a ball shape. Place the dough onto a floured surface and using your hands push the dough about its ½ inch thick, cut into circular shapes. Place the scones on a buttered tray and brush the tops with the left over milk and egg mixture. Finally, sprinkle over the remaining cheese and place in an oven at 220ºC for 10-15 minutes. In my experience, it is best to check the scones at 10 minutes, they should be a light golden brown colour. Serve immediately with salted butter or keep in an air tight container for an afternoon snack.
Joyce, my paternal grandmother nicknamed ‘nana mole’.
We both shared a love of cooking, roast pork and as you can see, wine.
Me, third generation scone baker.
While I was looking into my family recipe book written by the now infamous Nana Mole, I came across her sticky gingerbread cake. The recipe uses nutural yoghurt and I remember my grandmother being really perplexed. The cake was delicious and so, I decided to make one myself. However, a major problem was presented to me….I had no ginger preserve which is core to this cake. “Good heavens!” I exclaimed, “what is young aspiring chef to do?”. Then it hit me, I could use another jam such as apricot and make a spiced apricot cake instead. “Oh, I’m good” I whispered. Third person arrogance aside, feast your curious eyes upon this little Babylon and eat to your heart’s content!
Sticky Ginger and Apricot Cake
8oz plain flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4oz butter or margarine
4oz soft light brown sugar
4oz golden syrup
3tbsp plain yoghurt
2 tbsp apricot jam
Line and grease a 9 inch square tin and set the oven to 160ºC. Sift the flour, salt, spices and bicarbonate into a bowl. Heat the butter, sugar and syrup gently in a pan until the butter melts. Beat the egg and yoghurt in a separate bowl and then mix into the dry mixture with the butter and syrup. Stir in the jam (you could put in ginger preserve to make the original recipe) and pour into the tin. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes and rest on a cooling rack. This cake is ideal for a wet, Sunday afternoon.
For today’s finale, we will close on something rather indulgent, a twice baked cheese soufflé. During the summer, I had my ‘drinking gang’ over for supper. The theme that was decided upon was French and yet, it swiftly became a night of cheese and wine- nothing else! I’m surprised none of us were seriously ill at the end of the night because we certainly consumed more than our fair share of dairy for an entire month….and grapes. One of the highlights of the evening were my friend Susie’s soufflés. These little gems go very nicely with a crisp green salad and a little pear or apple as it cuts through the creaminess. Susie used Delia’s vegetarian recipe which is to die for!
Once again, I want to say a BIG BIG thank you to the gorgeous Grace Jenkins who took all the wonderful photos on this blog. If you want to get hold of her for personal work email her on: firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next week folks. Have a lovely week and happy cooking!