Tittle tattle and a little tipple

ample top

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

– Dr Seuss

Good morrow ample followers! I hope this latest blog finds you all most well and contented on this cold but bright Friday afternoon. I feel that an apology is an order before I begin listing my weekly plethora of culinary delights. Indeed I am sorry to admit this blog is a little overdue however, I believe I have a valid excuse. As you may be aware I am a ‘chef in training’ hoping to gain a place at the esteemed centre of excellence, The Cordon Bleu London. In order to apply for the scholarship programme 2013 resulting in a fully paid course worth £30,000 and an apprenticeship at The Ritz at the end of the nine month course, I have to submit an application video lasting one minute and a half in length. Despite its short length, the video itself took an awfully long time to put together and I’m afraid I had to put my ample cooking on the back burner (aka stove) for a few days. If you wish to see for yourself what kept me so busy this past week, click on the link below. And if you’re feeling very generous you can even vote for my video by clicking the thumbs up button on the top left hand corner. You see, fifteen candidates for the scholarship go through to the next round by choice of the Cordon Bleu board and the sixteenth goes through by gaining the highest number of votes on their video. I’m currently on 680 votes and would be grateful of your vote. Thank you.

em vid

Moving swiftly on! Let’s talk about tarts, baileys infused cupcakes and stewed figs. Over the past two days, I have been scurrying about the kitchen putting various dishes and desserts together in order to soothe your appetite. Today we shall begin with a little treat, a tart in fact but not just any old tart, a Portuguese one. I first tried this recipe when Jamie’s 30 minutes meals aired our screens in 2010.  For many years now, my mother has bought home the most divine Portuguese custard tarts from a little café in Vauxhall and I fancied making my own. If made from scratch, I’m sure the taste would be just that little more sweet and yet, the pre-bought puff pastry does the job if you’re in a hurry. These little darlings are simply delightful with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. The orange flavoured caramel is delicious. Enjoy!

portuguese tarts

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Plain flour, for dusting

1 x 375g pack of pre-rolled puff pastry

Ground cinnamon

125g crème fraiche

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract

5 tbsp golden caster sugar

1 orange

Dust a clean surface with flour. Unroll the sheet of pastry, then cut it in half so you end up with two 20 x 20cm squares of pastry (put one in the fridge for another day). Sprinkle over a few good pinches of ground cinnamon, then roll the pastry into a Swiss roll shape and cut into 6 rounds. Put these into 6 of the holes in a muffin tin, and use your thumbs to stretch and mould the pastry into the holes so the bottom is flat and the pastry comes up to the top. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for around 8 to 10 minutes (set the timer), or until lightly golden. Spoon the crème fraîche into a small bowl. Add the egg, vanilla paste or extract, 1 tablespoon of golden caster sugar and the zest of 1 orange. Mix well. Take the muffin tin out of the oven, and use a teaspoon to press the puffed up pastry back to the sides and make room for the filling. Spoon the crème fraîche mixture into the tart cases, and return to the top shelf of the oven. Set the timer for 8 minutes. Put a small saucepan on a high heat. Squeeze in the juice from the zested orange and add 4 tablespoons of golden caster sugar. Stir and keep a good eye on it, but remember caramel can burn badly so don’t touch or taste.  Pour some caramel over each tart (they’ll still be wobbly, but that’s good). Put aside to set.


Yesterday, a lovely young lady named Milly joined me in the kitchen for an afternoon of baking. She told me about a family friend who brought round some homemade baileys cupcakes to her house at Christmas and needless to say, I was quite taken with this idea. Cupcake fans around the world, if you haven’t made these before, do so. In fact, do it NOW. I am often of the opinion that cupcakes are overrated but I promise you, these are gorgeous and very quick to make. Not only is the icing heavenly but the sponge is as light as a feather. Click on the link below to take you to the best recipe to date. Perfect for a naughty after dinner treat, or in my case breakfast….

Going back a fair few years ago, my mother and stepfather held a dinner party in which my mother cooked ‘pistou’ a warming French stew with homemade pesto sitting on the top and a family friend, Mark made baked figs in port for dessert. The meal was wonderful and my mother raved about the fig dish for some time afterwards. It was effortlessly delicious and so, I attempted to recreate this dish on my own. Mark definitely baked his figs in the oven and they were notably fresh. In an ovenproof dish he placed figs, doused them in alcohol and threw in a vanilla pod and a little honey. For my recreation I used dried figs, just because they were at hand and I wanted to see if they would work. In a saucepan over a low heat, I placed three dried figs and decanted a lug of port. Next, I placed a cinnamon stick and a vanilla pod into the liquid and sprinkled a little ginger. The syrupy port softened the dried figs quite quickly and then, I placed the figs on a tower of crème fraiche and poured a little of the liquid. I then consumed it instantly. This would work very well for a quick fix dessert as it incorporates many ingredients found in a kitchen just after a gluttonous time of the year.


Now, the last thing recipe I wish to share with you today is something a ‘spin off’ dish from Jamie Oliver’s Indian salad. Everyone likes fajitas because they’re quick and tasty but far too often do we extend a hand to old el paso’s packets of instant flavour. If you fancy taking a stroll down health conscious lane I have a solution, curry paste. This dish is ideal for students as it’s fairly cheap to make and satisfies the needs of both boys and girls.

fajitas one

Spiced Fajitas

(For Two)

Four wraps

Two chicken thighs, cut into thin strips

One red pepper

Two onions, chopped lengthways

Tikka masala paste (patak’s will do nicely!)

A bag of spinach

Greek yoghurt

Mango chutney

Rub two tablespoons of paste into the chicken thighs and leave for five minutes. Then, place a pan on a medium heat with a little oil and throw in the chicken which is now cut into thin strips. Cook for a few minutes then add the onions and season. After a further few minutes add the red pepper which is also sliced lengthways and stir till the chicken is cooked through. Finally, add the spinach which should wilt very quickly. Heat the wraps in the oven for a couple of minutes at 180ºC and then lie two wraps on each plate. Place a little chicken mixture in the centre, add a dollop of Greek yoghurt and a teaspoon of mango chutney. Wrap up the wrap and consume.

 fajita two

Until next week ample followers!

E. Wells


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