A Touch of Spice in Spring

chilli

She turned to the sunlight
    And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
    “Winter is dead.” 

-A.A Milne

Hello ample darlings! What a wonderful start to spring we’ve had so far. All these sunny starts and tepid to pleasant temperatures warrant a celebration, a culinary celebration that is! Prepare for this weeks’ double helping of Thai cuisine inspired from an ex-professional chef and Good Food Guide critic’s cookery class and some ideas on how to celebrate pancake day in health and style! Fortunately for us all, not only has this week permitted me ample time in the kitchen (see what I did there?), but I was lucky enough to enjoy the wonderful company of Miss Grace Jenkins in my kitchen which can only mean one thing….some excellent photos! Let the spicy, spring games commence!

photo 2

Chef Margaret

Sometime ago, a friend of mine put me in contact with the food critic mentioned above and after a few emails, chef Margaret invited me to help her out in one of her cookery classes. With a professional kitchen installed in her home not far from Richmond Park’s Ham Gate, Margaret has taught cookery lessons to all ages and levels for the past three years. She cooks everything from French patisserie to Iranian cuisine and is the absolute star of the show. The class that I attended was in fact specifically tailored for a client’s wishes, which was Asian style cooking class. Sat round a cooking ‘island’ with five mothers from the local area we spent just over four hours swapping culinary techniques, drinking white wine and eating the food prepared by both Margaret and ourselves. It is from this class that I would like to share two brilliant tried and tested recipes straight from a professional kitchen! You lucky buggers!

photo 4

The first dish is an absolute classic, chicken satay. However, this has to be the best I’ve EVER tried and I mean it. The recipe may be a little longer than your average satay recipe but trust me, it’s worth it. This includes not just peanuts but cashews too, in the words of Hal, this is delish.

Chicken Satay

Marinade:

1tbsp coriander seeds

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2.5cm piece of ginger, finely chopped

500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs

3 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped

2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded

1tbsp vegetable oil

1tbsp kecap manis

1tsp soy sauce

Peanut and cashew dipping sauce:

2 bird’s eye chillies, seeded and finely chopped

5 shallots, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ shrimp paste

1tbsp vegetable oil

150ml coconut milk

1tbsp cashew nut butter

2tbsp sugar

100g unsalted peanuts, roasted and whizzed

50g roasted cashews and whizzed

2tsp kecap manis

Juice of 1 lime

First make the marinade. Toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, and then grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and pound to a rough paste along with a generous grinding of black pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the oil, kecap manis and soy sauce.

Cut the chicken into long strips about 3cm wide and stir into the marinade, mixing well. Cover, refrigerate and leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes if you’ve got it, and up to 12 hours. Soak skewers in cold water until ready to use.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the chillies, shallots, garlic and shrimp paste in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan, and then fry the paste until it smells cooked. Add the coconut milk and palm sugar and simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the peanuts and simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in the kecap manis and lime juice, add a little water or coconut milk if it’s too thick, then taste to check the balance of flavours; add more lime juice, sugar or soy sauce if you think it’s lacking. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thread the strips of meat onto the skewers. Cook the skewers on a barbecue or a griddle pan over a medium-high heat, for about 20 minutes until cooked through, turning regularly. You can turn the heat down to medium on the griddle after all are well charred. Don’t worry about black bits, they add flavour.

 The next delectable dish all the way from Thailand is a gorgeous Kung Po Prawn curry. Honestly, this is a winner of meal. You would be foolish not to make this! Get yourself down to your local Thai Supermarket or even Waitrose (they do everything) and stock up on supplies such as peanut oil, kaffir leaves and different types of soy.

photo 1

Kung Po Prawns

 200g raw king prawns

3tbsp roasted peanuts

5-10 dried red chillies

3tbsp peanut oil

5 slices peeled fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic

1 spring onion

100g water chestnuts, sliced

Marinade:

1tbsp corn flour

2 tsp soy sauce

Glug of Shaoxing wine

1tsp peanut oil

1 egg white, broken up with a fork (this “velvets” your prawns meaning it makes them lovely and smooth)

Sauce:

2tbsp light soy sauce

1tsp dark soy sauce

1tsp sugar

A drop or two of black vinegar

2tbsp water

1tsp corn flour

Cut the prawns along their backs to butterfly them. Mix the marinade ingredients, add the prawns and set aside for 30 mins. Meanwhile mix the sauce ingredients together.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a wok with a splash of cooking oil and stir-fry the prawns till they just begin to go pink, but don’t cook them all the way through. Scoop them into their bowl again.

Add another splash of oil. Heat till it smokes. Add in the ginger and garlic slices and do a quick stir fry before adding in the dried red chillies. Stir fry until aromatic and they smell spicy, them put the prawns back in.

Stir through before adding in the roasted peanuts and continue to stir a few times, until the nuts start to colour.

Add the sauce and stir continuously until it looks like a dish. Add the spring onion and water chestnuts stir round and serve.

mixing

Now, seeing as it’s pancake day, I feel that I must contribute a few ideas your way! I recommend Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s classic French crêpe recipe if you’re a thin pancake kinda’ gal/guy. I found this recipe on the channel four website. A word of caution, make sure you have hot oil in your pan before you pour in the batter otherwise the pancake won’t work at all!

Flour weighing

Good fillings include;

Sweet

  • Lemon juice, sugar and fresh blueberries
  • Nutella and strawberries
  • Double cream, dulche de leche and sliced bananas

pancake

finished pancake

Savoury

  • Emmental and ham
  • Creamy mushrooms and spinach
  • Chorizo and chedder cheese

http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall/pancakes-recipe

If you like a more American style pancake hit up Jamie Oliver. Nothing beats these fluffy clouds of yum. Yes, I did just say something utterly ridiculous.

Add to the batter:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Fresh corn
  • Fruit purée
  • Chocolate drops

xy

Add to serve:

  • Maple syrup and bacon
  • Yoghurt, fruit and honey
  • Chocolate or toffee sauce and ice cream

photo (9)

Blueberry pancakes served with bananas, raspberries, natural yoghurt, bacon and maple syrup.

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/eggs-recipes/pancakes-usa-stylie

Until next week ample folk! I have some wonderful stories and of course, some fantastic recipes from my time spent at an Organic Butchers.

Love and pancakes to all!

E. Wells

The Log of love

cutlery

The voice of Love seemed to call to me, but it was a wrong number

-P.G. Wodehouse

Good afternoon food lovies and welcome to ample servings’ pink and fluffy Valentine’s Day edition. Oh yes indeedy, it’s that time of the year again when one can show their affection for friends, lovers, partners and anything in between by means of a miniature teddy bear clutching a soft, red heart. Eurgh I hear some of you mutter and feel free to do so! As you can probably tell the awkward, forced romance doesn’t quite float my boat either and yet, deep down I know I’m not alone in thinking that a handful of beautiful flowers wouldn’t sink my ship either! Therefore, today I have a smattering of affectionate based ideas that can be forged in your kitchen because as we all know, one way to a person’s heart is through their stomach! So, whether you fancy making a batch of heart-shaped biscuits for your best friend, a few pistachio macaroons for your mum and dad or slow roasted skirt of pork for your boyfriend, you are in the right place. I quite feel like embracing the love this week and it just so happens I have a lot to give! Prepare yourself for a foodie fiesta as I’ve been up to a lot of culinary good this week.

In preparation for attending cooking school, I’m trying to gain as much experience by means of cooking technique and specialising in different areas (such as; fish, meat etc) so that I am fully prepared for the task ahead. You fortunate souls have so far seen it all from successful patisserie to not so successful pasta….and back again to some very impressive latte art! And yet this week I have something even more exciting, drumroll please…food styling! Last Wednesday I took part as an assistant chef on a food photo shoot for a broadsheet weekend newspaper in Peckham. Head chef Dagmar and I, cooked from morning to night from a long list of recipes created by Gizzi Erskine and boy, it was fun! The themes of the day were cheap cuts of meat (and what to do with them) and British classics with a twist. Until the recipes are officially released I mustn’t say too much about how we cooked the dishes but I can certainly point you in the right direction.

another kitchen

Serving props and equipment

kitchen

The working kitchen mid shoot

beef

Four packs of beef fat. Vegetarians looks away! We were making chips…

Things to consider when cooking meat and classic dishes:

1. Always try to buy your meat from a butcher. It’s commonly thought that this means your meat will be ten times more expensive than a supermarket, that’s just not true. The thing is, your butcher knows meat and can advise you what cut to choose depending on what you would like to do with it. The meat is often not any more expensive and to be honest, you’re getting your money’s worth in more ways than one. An example of a cheap cut are chicken thighs. In my opinion they are far more delicious than chicken breasts but few people realise this! Thighs are a lot cheaper too. Most cheap cuts taste gorgeous marinated and cooked on a low heat for a good few hours such as pork knuckle or shins but if in doubt ask the man with the meat cutter what he does at home. They really do know their stuff plus, they know where your meat comes from which IS important. If you find yourself in South East London I recommend; Flock and Herd and Willliam Rose and if you find yourself in SW6 hit up the infamous organic Randalls Butchers. In the words of the man himself Brian Randall, he got ‘a lifetimes worth of knowledge’ about meat.

meat

2. It seems to me that classic English dishes are often slated for their simplicity with comments such as, ‘oh I just made some boring mince for supper’ or ‘we’ve made a pretty standard pudding, don’t get too excited’ which is quite simply unfair. Classic dishes such as lasagne (not originally English but hey ho), sausages and mash and rice pudding can be made just as exciting, nutritious and most certainly delicious with some very easy twists. For example, mustard grain mash makes everything taste better! Try using different types of meat in your mince such as chicken livers, pork or even veal mince. Be adventurous with your herbs, season well and keep checking to taste. In my winter rice pudding I like using rose water and sprinkle with toasted pistachios and yet, a dollop of raspberry jam does the trick just as well. Why not try using stewed fruits such as apricots? The list is endless. The key message here is, in order to make our food more interesting, we have to be open to new ideas and ingredients.

Inspired by both my stepmother’s love of satay chicken and the idea of using cheap cuts from the shoot, feel free to try this very easy and yet absolutely delicious peanut curry made with chicken thighs.

curry

Chilli Satay Curry

A box of four organic chicken thighs

One small jar of organic peanut butter

2 tins of coconut milk

One red chilli (add more if you like it hot, hot, hot)

One big onion

Two cloves of garlic, crushed

One box of stir fry vegetables (includes beansprouts, water chestnuts etc)

Tsp of cumin, one of ground coriander and one of turmeric

A small piece of lemongrass

One kaffir lime leaf

Splash of oil

Place a saucepan on a medium heat and place the oil,  all the spices including the kaffir lime, lemongrass stick and chopped chillies and gently stir. After a few minutes, add the garlic and then the finely sliced onions  and continue to stir them until they are translucent. Next add the chicken which should be cut into small pieces.  Once the chicken is almost cooked through, add the vegetables. Once the chicken is cooked (juices run clear), empty in the peanut butter and two tins of coconut milk. Season the curry and mix well. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes and serve with basmati rice.

Last week I had a little adventure to Christ Church College in Oxford. On the Friday evening a big guest dinner was held for all the undergraduate students and oh my, there were some delightful dishes served. As I have been out and about this past week, I’m going to direct you to some wonderful tried and tested recipes that I often prepare for a dinner party at mine (sans images) inspired by the meal I heartily consumed with my red haired partner, the lovely Flora.

menu

The menu

scallops

Scallops. Delicious.

I do believe we should move on to some desserts now. I have no problem admitting that the past two days in the kitchen has left me very frustrated. Note to all cooks, French macaroons are not meant to be cooked in an aga. Not being able to see them rise, smell them baking or even control the temperature makes them a bit of a bugger to make. I’ve successfully made some pistachio macaroons from the goddess Nigella way back when but today, I made two batches (because the first were an absolute flop!) of pink almond macaroons with a chocolate ganache filling. My lovely photographer, Grace is hard at work organising a new exhibition so unfortunately you will have to succumb to my instagram snaps instead. The only thing I will say with French macaroons is, take your time reading the recipe. Oh, and keep extra supplies of ground almonds. Oops! That’s two things…hehe. Follow the link below to see the recipe I used which is from the Great British Bake Off!

macaroons

Very mediocre in presentation but they did taste rather nice.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/macaroons_16105

Another treat that has given me a bit o’ jip this week are my love buns (matron!). I saw this excellent picture of a cake cut in half with a heart shape inside of it and wanted to make my own. The process isn’t all that difficult and yet, when I practiced the technique with pink food colouring, the heart disappeared completely and I have no idea why! When I used cocoa to make a chocolate heart, the process worked. I am confodelled followers…..and quite miffed. For the blonde buns with a chocolate heart I used a simple Victoria Sponge foundation and cocoa for the heart and for the batch with the MISSING HEART (how sad!!) I made a lovely lemon and blueberry cake. I will continue to pursue my internal heart shaped cakes until perfect but until then, amuse yourself with my heartbreak!

cakee

(What they should look like)

Victoria/Vanilla Cupcakes 

4oz self-raising flour

4oz butter

4oz caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp bicarbonate soda

tsp vanilla essence

2 tbsp of cocoa powder

Cream the butter and the sugar with a wooden spoon. When the mixture looks light and cream in colour add the flour, eggs and vanilla essence. Separate a little of the mixture, say three tablespoons worth and add the cocoa powder to it. Place the chocolate mixture in a small, rectangle tray lined with grease proof paper and bake in the oven at 180C for around 10-15 minutes. Once the sponge bounces back against your touch, it should be ready. Place on a cooling rack until cold. Then, cut little heart shaped shapes out of the chocolate sponge using a biscuit cutter. You could use any shape cutter here, I just chose hearts as it’s Valentine’s Day soon! Next, some papercases and pop them in a cupcake tin. Put a little victoria sponge mixture in the bottom and place the chocolate heart on top, standing tall. Cover the heart with your remaining vanilla mixture and bake again in the oven for 10-15 minutes further. Once cooked through, let them go cold on a cooling rack and choose whether you would like to put any icing on top. Butter icing is good here but so is a chocolate ganache or even icing sugar and lemon juice. You decide!

cupcakes

Lemon and Blueberry Cupcakes

4oz self-raising flour

4oz butter

4oz caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp bicarbonate soda

Two handfuls of blueberries

Zest of one lemon

Tbsp of lemon juice

Similar to above, cream butter and the sugar and then add all the ingredients. Share out the mixture into paper cases and bake in the oven at 180C for 10-15 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack and then cover the top with a lemon and icing sugar topping. I used pink colouring in my icing mixture (as you can see) which actually made it look like a Valentine’s Day bear sneezed all over it. I was trying to cover up the fact I used golden icing sugar…never again. Always use normal white icing sugar for cupcakes as it is a much nicer colour! I didn’t include the heart technique here because it didn’t work. I promise to revisit this idea in the future.

Let’s move onto something a little more successful eh?! Next we have some homemade custard cream biscuits. My siblings scoffed these little hearts in an instant. I would recommend these highly, again another Nigella! A great recipe to make as a gift or with family and friends.

Custard cream recipe

biscuits cutting

biscuits

Lastly, I have something a little naughty for all you chocolate lovers! A raspberry, chocolate roulade from The Aga Bible. Yes, I decided to bake something Aga friendly just to be safe!

rasp

Chocolate and Raspberry Roulade

Serves 6

6 eggs

100g golden caster sugar

35g self-raising flour

35g cocoa powder

icing sugar for dusting

For the filling:

200ml creme fraiche

200ml double cream

150g white chocolate

250g raspberries

roulade recipe

Right, that’s it this week you lovely people. I’ll be back next week with stories from my trip to the meat market with Brian Randall!

Love to all and eat well,

emily

oh, and don’t forget to buy that bear! I found mine on the haribo packet..

I was clearly delighted.

E. Wells Xx

Kitchen Terms Only

black jumper

Mark Antony: All right, look here Marcus…
Spencius: No, no, I’m Spencius. ‘S my brother what’s Marcus.We’re in partnership now, you know. Marcus & Spencius.

-Carry on Cleo

Welcome back ample lovelies! What a dreary day we do find our-selves in this grey January morning. The clouds are low, the sky is bleak and yet, the glowing light of the ample servings kitchen never ceases to falter! It may be icy cold outside but boy, I’ve got some naughty nibbles, sweet roasted peppers and a smattering of coffee techniques to keep you burning this winter. January blues is not a term used in my kitchen. I much prefer words such as, blanche or flambé. Food is seasonal and therefore infinitely wonderful and exciting even during a grey season such as janvier. So, pull on your deliciously warm, although perhaps not the most stylish jumper, jump under a duvet and let your eyes feast on this week’s recipes from yours truly.

To start us off, I wish to share with you a lovely and ever so simple dish that works particularly well for dinner parties. Earlier, I called them sweet roasted peppers but they are also stuffed! Inspired by classic Spanish cuisine, these peppers are slow cooked with a good dash of olive oil, cherry tomatoes, a few pieces of garlic and a sneaky anchovy. Anchovy haters, please do not hate in this instance as they work tremendously well in this dish. Their saltiness works wonders against the sweetness of the pepper skins. With a little bit of seasoning, these little gems go down an utter treat with a little rocket on the side.

peppers

Sweet Roasted (and stuffed) Red Peppers

(serves 2)

Two red peppers

Four tbsp. of olive oil

Six cherry tomatoes

Four anchovies (from a jar is best)

Two cloves of garlic finely sliced

This recipe is pretty much an assembly of ingredients popped into the oven for 15 minutes or so. Turn your oven to 180-200ºC and split your red peppers in half and lie  them on a baking tray. Fill each half with three halves of cherry tomatoes, a few slices of garlic, one anchovy fillet and a tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven. Once the peppers turn a little darker and the tomatoes are nicely cooked pull the tray out and leave the peppers to rest a few minutes. A perfect treat when warm but equally tasty to eat cold the next day.

cooked peppers

There is a lovely little café not far from me called ‘Tried and True’ whom are notorious in South West London for their delicious brunches and tasty coffee. Not long ago, I ordered their glorious creamy mushrooms with basil pesto served on homemade soda bread and it was to die for. I thought I should give this recipe a go myself. This takes minutes to make and is bound to warrant some admirers when you settle down at the breakfast table on a Saturday morning with this on your plate.

mush in a pan

Creamed Mushrooms with Basil Pesto

(serves 1)

Knob of butter

Five chestnut mushrooms

Tbsp double cream

Homemade basil pesto (see previous posts for recipe)

Soda or challah bread

Salt and pepper

Rocket

Place toast under the grill for two minutes (or toaster). In a saucepan, melt a knob of butter and throw in the sliced mushrooms.  Cook them slows until they look almost wilted and are soft to touch. Season with salt and pepper and add the double cream and take off the heat. Thinly spread your pesto onto the toasted bread and place on a plate with a few rocket leaves. Arrange the toast neatly and pour on the creamy mushroom liquid. A few basil leaves on top make great presentation but aren’t necessary. This is one quick and easy weekend breakfast.

mush on toast

Now, that your sitting comfortably let’s move onto to this week’s sweet delights. A key lime pie is always something I rather fancied making and to be quite honest I have no idea why. I didn’t actually know what a key lime pie involved exactly but I can tell you now that in the recipe I used there was only lime, no kiwis….bizarre indeed. I think the name attracted me as it sounds a tad exotic and after all my baileys cupcakes, I wanted a fresh and zingy dessert to in the words of my younger brother Henry, ‘take the taste away’. And so, I give you just that. A very zingy and delicious pie (more like a cheesecake let’s me honest) which will please all around the dinner table after a heavy meal. However, don’t be fooled in thinking it’s healthier because it involves fruit. I promise you that this dessert is in a similar vein as my others, it’s quite filthy. Ooh err…

limes

blender shot

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2155644/key-lime-pie

lime pie

Finally, we move on to something very special and just a little bit sexy. Ladies and gentlemen this is my most requested birthday dessert  since I began baking, Nigella’s chocolate pavlova. I cannot stress enough how easy this dessert is to make! The taste to speed to make ratio is beyond comprehension. This recipe never, ever fails to provoke wails of happiness and twinkling smiles. If you want to make someone feel loved, serve this for dessert or even better, for breakfast! Nigella suggests you serve this meringue with double cream and raspberries but usually I mix up the soft fruit a bit. Don’t get me wrong, raspberries are wonderful but there is no harm in throwing in a few strawberries and blueberries too.  This dessert is utterly gorgeous and a real treat. Enjoy.

photo (4)

Chocolate Pavlova

(for the chocolate meringue base)

6 large egg whites

300 grams caster sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (sieved)

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

50 grams dark chocolate (finely chopped)

(for the topping)

500 ml double cream

200 grams raspberries

200 grams strawberries

100 grams blueberries

3 tablespoons dark chocolate (coarsely grated)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound on to a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 23cm / 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C/gas mark 2/300ºF and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue disc cool completely.

When you’re ready to serve, invert on to a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble, as you don’t want the raspberries’ luscious colour and form to be obscured, and sprinkle haphazardly over the top, letting some fall, as it will, on the plate’s rim.

Before I love you and leave you dear friends, I have promised to pass over some coffee making tips! Coffee has become a BIG DEAL in recent years particularly, in London town and I feel it’s my duty to tell you of all I have learnt. Having worked in a coffee shop and now a pizzeria which sells anything from a cappuccino to a irish latte I have a fairly good idea on how to make a decent mug of joe (shout out to Mr. Joseph Silverman here!). And yet, I am pleased to tell you all that I learnt further technique and knowledge about those little beans of energy at a coffee training earlier this week. Here are my five steps to make great coffee with the help of my Australian teacher-

photo (3)

1. Where is your coffee from?

Arabica is the slightly rarer and most sort after coffee bean which we use at work. Grown at high altitudes and hand-picked. Incredibly tasty coffee found in Indonesia. I am of the hippy dippy mind-set that if your food was grown well and cared for, it will taste better. These beans are well nurtured!

 2. Grind your beans well

Your grind setting is the key to the type of coffee you will ultimately receive. A shot of espresso should take between 27-30 seconds to filter through the machine and produce a small layer of crema. If the shot takes a shorter amount of time that stated above, the grind was too big and if the shot took much longer, the grind was too small. Fiddle with your grind until your espresso time is perfect.

3. Level off your coffee

When you pull the lever to release the coffee, be confident. One pull should be enough for one shot. If you think it isn’t enough, throw the ground beans back into the machine and start again. One pull of the leaver should produce a little mound in the hand filter which comes up to the line inside of it. Placing the filter on a hard surface, tamp the grind. Hit the left and right side gently and then push down on the grind. Tamp left and right again and wipe off the excess coffee grind on the edges with your hand. Then fix the filter into the coffee machine after releasing a little water to clear the coffee machine’s filter by pressing the one shot button.

4. Be quick!

The longer you leave your shot sitting in the coffee machine, the more your coffee will be ruined. The heat from the coffee machine can actually burn your shot of coffee so, as soon as you place your shot in the machine and your coffee cup is placed underneath, press the one shot button!

5. Milk technique

After you beans, your milk is the most important ingredient to get right in your coffee. There are two types of milk; foam for a cappuccino or macchiato and latte milk for everything else.

-For foam, use fresh milk in a metal jug and use a thermometer. You do not want your milk to heat up above 140ºC. Place the steam nozzle just below the surface of the milk and once it starts to get warmer, place the nozzle slightly deeper into to milk and circulate. At 140ºC remove the foam and pour into the cappuccino cup sideways thus using the maximum amount of foam and only a little liquid milk onto your one shot.

-For latte milk, use fresh milk when possible to reduce the risk of growing bacteria and hold the jug at a 45º angle. Place the nozzle under the milk’s surface and once it begins to heat it up, place a little deeper. Once the milk reaches 140ºC, turn off the steamer and gently bang the bottom of the jug against a hard surface to remove any bubbles. Swirl the milk a little until it looks like glittery egg whites and pour over your coffee shots (two shots for latte).

Next week, I’ll tell you how to do latte art! Until then, you can be amazed by my little latte heart.

cofeee

Love to all and thank you Grace Jenkins for your brilliant photos. Oh and please keep voting for my Cordon Bleu application video. The closing deadline is in six days! Just click the THUMBS UP icon on the top left hand corner: http://ukscholarship.cordonbleu.edu/videos/all-videos/item/911-emily-wells#.UuI65RDFLIV

E. Wells

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.

cupcakes

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.

figs

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

A Stuffed Bird

FINISHED MOUSE

MAÎTRE D: And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint.

MR. CREOSOTE: Nah.

MAÎTRE D: Oh, sir, it’s only a tiny, little, thin one.

-Monty Python

Dearest ample followers, I pray this belated Christmas blog finds you comfortably full and content this December. As per usual this past week couldn’t have shot by any quicker if it had tried! The festive lead up to the 25th has come and gone and has left a fair few turkey carcases along the way. However, fear not! There is much more to be done and to be enjoyed. Firstly, I have a few recipes from 19th December when I had my beloved drinking gang over (and a few extras!) which could come in handy for a New Year’s party or even a little soirée for the sake of seeing friends and family. Secondly, I plan on trialling a few cocktail recipes this week so we can all tick into the 2014 with ease. I do warn those readers who wish to go on a ‘super healthy’ detox that the following text does not support these wishes in neither mind, nor body so I suggest you stop here, have a lemon and hot water and lower the laptop screen….

detox

Detox juice? I’d rather not.

va

Carol Vorderman’s detox for life? Never.

As a waitress at present, we are instructed to give party guests a drink almost instantly upon their arrival. It makes them feel welcome, gives them something to ponder over and acts as a social lubricant if their well, a little dry in the conversation department! No matter if you’re on a budget or not, a decent cocktail can be fabricated out of almost anything! For my dinner party I used elderflower cordial and cava. Using the elderflower as I would any syrup, I poured a small amount in the bottom of a champagne glass and topped with a good dose of cava. For presentation’s sake, I threw in a raspberry which sits on the surface just so. This drink is quick, easy and looks quite delicate. I recommend that to save you time, you nominate a party guest to be in charge of dishing out further liquid when your back is turned and your eyes firmly on the stove.

DRINKS

As much as we all enjoy a canapé, I decided against them this time round. I find I often run around like a headless chicken beforehand (more like a stuffed bird now), and I was concerned about the juiciness of my ham. I sound utterly pathetic don’t I?! Fancy crisps, nuts and fresh French bread with oils and balsamic work just as well instead of smoked salmon on blinis etc so you can spend more time on your main. For our main course I cooked Nigella’s infamous Coca cola (not COKE!) Christmas Ham, dauphinoise potatoes and green beans with almonds. I have heard for years that this ham is an absolute MUST and quite frankly, I agree. The ham simply sits in a vat of coca cola for three ½ hours with a sliced onion and is then glazed with black treacle, mustard powder, mascavado sugar and pierced with cloves et voilà! It was moist, rich in colour and most importantly rich in flavour. Potato wise, I believe that the Nigel Slater recipe below is the best ever. The garlic is merely rubbed against the baking tray to give a hue of flavour and it is just perfect. Before I forget, I had never heard of the cooking term ‘scalding’ before. All it means (in this case), is heat the cream to almost boiling point before pouring over the sliced potatoes. Lastly, the beans! I actually forgot my almonds when I did the meal however, it’s very simple to do. Boil the green beans to al dente and drizzle with a little oil, and season. Toss in a few broken up almonds, a rolling pin and a plastic food bag work well here and serve altogether on a HOT PLATE. Hot plates keep the food warmer for longer. No sauce is needed with this dish as the ham is just perfect.

HAM CUT

POT

Finally, the dessert aka Emily’s favourite part of the meal. Everyone always has more time to appreciate the look of a sweet I find. It always feels like a mini firework display with all the ooooohhhs and ahhhhhhs that can be heard. For the dinner party, I made two desserts; chocolate mousse and mini almond cakes. The mousse was a classic Raymond Blanc recipe and does not use any cream what so ever, just lots of egg whites! This recipe is almost fool proof and delicious. The little cakes I have written about the recipe on my blog before. It was the Nigella Almond cake, divided into small cases and covered with homemade chocolate frosting and adorable little hearts. Again, this is a must do for little treats.

MOUSE

MOUSE WARS

DESSERT

Having relived that dinner party I feel quite full again. I better stop here and stretch my legs! I will be back just after NYE with cocktails a plenty, I promise. Thank you to the wonderful Grace for all her lovely photos and oh, Father Christmas for my excellent new stamp!

stamp

Love to all,

E. Wells

An amusement of the mouth

aga

“Hey, Joe, what happened?”

“Oh, that Jim Williams went and shot somebody. Canapé?”

– Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Seasons’ greetings ample darlings! I hope this blog finds you all festive and well. As promised, this latest edition to the ample servings blog collection, samples a few canapé favourites in order to make sure you pick the right little nibbles for your Christmas party this year. Believe me when I say it was an absolute pleasure to act as a culinary Sherlock Holmes and sift through various recipes, the good, the bad and some just plain silly! The three recipes that I have chosen for today will hopefully be to your liking however, fret not if you detest the idea of fruit and cheese (food sacrilege!) because I have a few more coming your way next week. I have noticed that many canapés involve cheese so, vegans may want to look away!

strawberry

The Good.

bad taste

The bad. Found at a wake.

bad

The Silly. Who would want to eat these? Looks like a Bush Tucker Trial!

I can’t quite remember where I heard this but a canapé is supposed to be devoured in one bite. The idea is that a guest should be able to hold good conversation and a glass of something bubbly (could be seen as the same thing) and yet, still be able to pop a tasty morsel into ones mouth. As previously mentioned, a cocktail sausage is simply delightful. Nigella does an excellent sausage on a stick (why does her name always follow with a nudge, nudge, wink, wink comment!?) of which you can find in her Christmas cookbook. An excellent read if I do say so myself!

me with stick

One bite. Otherwise you look like this.

nigellaaa

Goose fat potatoes all the way!

Cocktail sausages aside, the following recipes are just as delicious and warming. Do note that all these canapés must be served hot from the oven! Figs are a fantastic fruit and made just that little bit better with a goats cheese filling, a parma ham jacket and a sprinkling of pine nuts and honey. Stuffed dates with manchago cheese, wrapped in bacon and brushed with a little maple syrup are perfect to eat in number and on a stick. Finally, a maple glazed camembert stuffed with a little rosemary and garlic served with homemade soda bread for dipping. This is ‘what I like to call’ cheese heaven. Unfasten your belts friends; it’s easier this way….

fig main

Stuffed Figs:

Two figs

Two pieces of parma ham

Tbsp. of pine nuts

Two tbsp. of honey

Two tsp. of goats’ cheese

This recipe is the easiest thing in the world to make. Cut off the stalk of the fig and cut a cross shape on the top, no more than half way down the fruit. Using your finger, push the bottom of the fig together so that the cuts you made sort of ‘open’. Place a tsp of cheese into each fig maybe a little more if you just LOVE goats’ cheese. Drizzle in a tbsp of honey and wrap around a piece of ham. Use a cocktail stick to keep the ham in place, place the figs on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Toast the pine nuts in a pan and sprinkle on top of the figs. Place in the oven for 10 minutes and 180ºC and serve immediately.

wrap fig

done fig

wrap date

A Christmas Date:

Ten stoned dates (a Christmas joke hoho)

Maple syrup

Small block of manchego cheese

Five rashers of bacon or serrano ham

Once again this is terribly simple. Cut a portion of cheese that is able to fit into the date with ease and wrap up with half a slice of bacon. Season with salt and pepper, brush with a little maple syrup and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 180ºC. Serve with cocktail stick and a cheeky smile.

cooked figs and dates

cam cheese

Glazed Camembert

One camembert

Maple syrup

A few sprigs of rosemary

One garlic clove

Homemade bread (see recipe link below)

Take the wrapper off the cheese but keep it in its wooden container and make very small incisions all over the surface. They should be no more than half way down. Into your incisions stuff tiny pieces of chopped garlic and bit of rosemary. Brush with a generous helping of maple syrup and pop in the oven at 180ºC for ten minutes of so. You want the surface to darken and the cheese to be wobbly and melting. Serve on a pretty board or plate with warm pieces of fresh bread.

cooked am

It’s quite nice with chorizo too.

I am slightly concerned that all I have offered you this week is savoury so, before I scamper off in search of further recipes I want to leave you with my gingerbread house recipe. The decoration side to this activity is well worth doing with little ones however, the construction side can be incredibly frustrating at times therefore, it should be left to the bigger ones. I once made a gingerbread house with my brother Henry when he was very small and when I wasn’t looking he ate part of the roof. Needless to say, the construction was a little trying! In the words of my stepfather, my finished version looked like a nuclear reaction had taken place. Unfortunately, I had to agree but hey, you can always say the kids did it. Laugh away at my decoration but respect my gingerbread.

golden syrup
gingerbread house

rolling pin

me and rolling

cut

great shot

makin my house

construction

gingebread done

cute

Far to go on the decoration front but I’m proud nonetheless!

Thank you Grace for all the wonderful pictures and thank you to all my lovely followers for reading my blog.

E. Wells X

The Indulgence List

main image

“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head. He jumped out from under it.
“Good thinking,” said Luna seriously. “It’s often infested with nargles.”

-J.K Rowling (5th Potter Book)

Hello all ye followers, joyful and terribly full of food- or soon to be! The lead up to the most gluttonous time of the year has begun and I promise to not let you down on the naughty front. Over the past few years, I’ve always felt like I’ve wished the days away until 25th, so in an attempt to pace myself and actually enjoy the big build up, I’m planning to make a selection of delicious Christmas inspired treats along the way. Expect maple glazed gammon, lots of juicy birds (nudge, nudge) and a variety of amuse bouche to entertain your winter palate. I should inform you now that, my December blogs are not for the food, faint-hearted. Fore, ample servings brings you a Christmas that spares no expense. There WILL be goose fat, there WILL be port and by God, there will be butter! Now, I suggest you pull on your trainers and go for a quick jog before you continue reading.

untitled

On 19th December I am due to have the infamous ‘Drinking Gang’ chez-moi for an evening of merriment. It’s been in the diary for some time now and I want to do my menu justice. I’ve already been caught leafing through Nigella’s Christmas cookbook (she is definitely on the naughty list this year!) and searching the web high and low for the best canapés recipes. Feel free to judge me all you like, but nothing gets me more excited than a cold glass of Prosecco and a honeyed cocktail sausage on a stick. Do stay tuned into my blog for a list of tried and tested delights to make you’re cocktail party or day of festivities a guaranteed success!

main

This weekend I was yet, again playing with some salted caramel, the most popular food fad to date. I’ve found that it not only makes lovely truffle centres but it also turns regular brownies into something a little more special. This recipe is terribly rich and therefore, suits the Christmas theme down to the ground. These are perfect with a cup of tea or with a dollop of vanilla ice on the side, homemade ice-cream of course!

salted brownie shot

Nigella’s naughty list brownies

375 g soft unsalted butter

375 g best quality dark chocolate

6 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

500 g caster sugar

225 g plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

300 g chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line your approximatley 33 x 23 x 5 1/2cm brownie pan with foil or baking paper. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based saucepan. In a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt. When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture, and then the nuts and flour. Beat to combine and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined brownie pan. Bake for about 25 minutes. When its’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark and dense and gooey. Keep checking the brownies as they cook; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.
pouring
dasd
Like I said before, I added salted caramel to the recipe above. The best advice I can give you is simply to ignore the sugar content. I used Rachel Khoo’s salted caramel recipe again (150g caster sugar melted in a pan, then add 150ml of double cream and a tsp of salt) and remember NOT to stir the caramel, swirl the pan to combine and shake the sugar about. I poured most of the salted caramel into the chocolate mixture before placing it into a baking tin and I kept a little to pour upon the top, making a nice pattern.
image 4

If you’re still able to function after the brownies, I have a slightly lighter option to keep your mouth preoccupied this winter. I consider this recipe a more interesting flapjack that incorporates oats, fruit and a few seeds to give it an extra crunch. Ideal for a four o’clock pick me up and lunch box snackettes. You can exchange the jam for any flavour you wish and feel free to add chopped nuts and dried fruit to spice it up a little.

image6

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-thornton/raspberry-crumble-bars-recipe/index.html

image 5

Finally, I have a little technique that I wish to share with you today. I am fully aware that salad takes a back seat during winter and yet, it’s always good to learn something new and to top up those long lost vitamins and minerals! This culinary technique is wonderfully easy and yet, looks beautiful. I call this ribboning as it does exactly what is says on the tin (or vegetable) and it works perfectly in making a fairly average salad look great. Often on Boxing Day, my family eat all the cold cuts left over from the day before alongside a big jacket potato and usually some greens. A few lettuce leaves, some raw carrot and cucumber with a honey mustard dressing may seem dull but I assure you, it comes as a welcomed gift to both you and your body. Plus, look how lovely this salad looks!

Salad

To use this technique, simply take a vegetable peeler and ‘peel’ said vegetable over and over again in the same place. I saw Jamie Oliver use this method in his fifteen minute meals and it truly works a treat. Then, arrange the ribbons on the plate similar to my salad above and huzzah! It’s ready. Until next week festive followers!

Love,

E. Wells

Plenty o’ food

CR

“That’s a nice walnut and date cake with buttercream filling and icing on the top – I’ll have that!”

-Burglar Bill

I can’t believe I’m saying this but in less than one month, it’s going to be Christmas day! Gee whizz that’s an exciting thought. For me, Christmas is my most treasured time of the year. It’s a wonderful occasion to spend time with family and friends, eat and drink a plenty and watch a good Poirot on television. Call me bias but personally, I believe that full tummies reap cheer and merriment in abundance and so, in the next few blogs I will offer a range of Christmassy delights, some more calorific than others!

This week saw the 23rd birthday of a very close girlfriend of mine and in order to celebrate I decided to make Olivia, her favourite dessert, a gloriously, glutinous banoffee pie! Having scoured the internet high and low, I came across a fairly simple recipe on BBC Food and set about gathering the ingredients. This dessert is a real treat and should be eaten in moderation if you wish to fit into your slim fit jeans the next day! How could someone reject double cream, caramel, biscuits, grated chocolate and banana all at once!? Now, I am conscious that a fair few friends of mine have a serious aversion towards bananas in any capacity however, this phobia could be remedied by simply changing the fruit. No one should go without some form of banoffee so, why not exchange bananas for softened apple, juicy slices of pear or even some sweet strawberries….yum yum yum.

banof

For my sweet Libador (Olivia’s nickname, don’t ask!), I decided to make my little banoffee pies into fun shapes. This is very easily done using biscuit cutters and makes them look very sweet. I’m feeling very girly right now, can you tell!? I thoroughly recommend this recipe to anyone who fancies treating themselves or fellow friends. Yes, the sugar content of the caramel could be seen as a little sickly on its own and yet, the double cream cuts through it perfectly. Ideally, this dessert should be consumed while you’re wrapped up in a blanket watching a good thriller.

Recently, Yotam Ottolenghi has had a series called ‘Mediterranean Island Feast’ on channel four where he visits exciting islands such as Corsica, Crete and Sardinia, producing some wonderful food. Not only is he an exquisite chef with a fantastic eye for food combinations (and ex-cordon bleu!) but he is extremely amusing to watch. While sporting a pink linen shirt on the island of Corsica, claiming that it fitted into the ‘chi chi’ nature of the place, he drops a three month old cheese from a great height during the salting process, and royally messes up making doughnuts on a stand at the farmers market. Yotam’s culinary curiosity is one of note not to mention hilarious when he gets something wrong. It just goes to show, no matter how experienced you are in the kitchen, there is always something more to learn! In light of this, I think it’s important to mention to not give yourself such as hard time when you’re cooking and something doesn’t work, it happens to everyone. I burnt my second batch of croissants last week. Gosh, I feel like I’m in culinary confession….

Having watched Yotam lark about on the screen, I had a look in his cookbook Plenty in order to dig out a lovely recipe for stuffed onions. A vegetarian friend of mine made these little gems for me at university, and they were delicious. Yotam’s vegetarian dishes are quite simply exquisite and his books would make an ideal Christmas gift for cooking enthusiasts. I know the photo quality isn’t great, but Grace has been very busy this week resting her twisted ankle. She claims she wasn’t drunk when the incident occurred but we shall judge her harshly all the same! Try serving the stuffed onions with a green salad and a honey and mustard dressing.

stuffed

Stuffed Onions

500ml vegetable stock
350ml white wine
4 large onions
3 small tomatoes
120g fresh white breadcrumbs
90g feta, crumbled
80g parsley, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp salt and ground black pepper
Butter for greasing

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Have ready a small, buttered oven-proof dish. Put the stock and white wine into a medium-sized saucepan, bring up to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, trim half a centimetre off the top and bottom of the onions, then cut them in half lengthways. Remove the skin and carefully take out most of the insides, keeping only two or three layers of the outer skin of each onion intact (set aside the insides for other uses). Carefully separate the outer layers from each other and place, a few at a time, in the simmering stock. Cook for three to four minutes, until just tender, then drain well and leave to cool slightly. Repeat until all the onion has been blanched.

To make the stuffing, use a coarse cheese grater to grate the tomatoes into a large bowl (you will be left with most of the skin in your hand; discard it). Add breadcrumbs, feta, parsley, oil, garlic, spring onion, salt and pepper. Fill each onion skin with stuffing. Pull the sides together so that you end up with a fat cigar shape. Place seam-side down in the buttered dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft and lightly coloured, with the stuffing bubbling. Serve warm with a drizzle of oil.

Lastly, we come to our final dish of the day. This recipe is a winter warmer and created by yours truly. I won’t deny it, I have yet been able to make this stew look ‘pretty’ on a plate but my goodness, it tastes good and hits that wintry spot. I call this my French peasant stew because it’s the kind of one pot meal that incorporates all the leftover meat and vegetables in your fridge. Below is the recipe I put together, but treat it as a guideline and feel free to add your own ideas!

stew

Peasant Stew

500-600g Leftover pork from a roast

Oil

1 Onion

2 Shallots

2 Cloves of garlic

12 Cherry tomatoes

¼ Pack of green beans

3 Carrots

5 Rashers of bacon

500g Boiled, new potatoes

1 Chicken stock cube

200ml-300ml Hot water

½ Glass of white wine

Salt and pepper

A good sprinkling of thyme

 Slice the onions and shallots lengthways and throw into a big pot with a glug of oil. Once they are translucent, add the garlic, carrots (chopped very small) and the potatoes (also cut up) and stir for a few minutes. Using a pair of scissors, cut the bacon into small pieces and throw into the pan with the green beans, cooked meat and the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and thyme. After five minutes, crumble the stock cube over the pot and pour in the hot water. Add the wine here. Stir, check for seasoning and let it simmer with the lid on for half an hour. Serve with a hunk of bread and a glass of white wine.

That’s all for this week lovelies. Do come back next week for Christmas treats galore! It’s going to be…..GOOD.

Love,

E. Wells

Butter Armageddon

flour

“Cake or death?”

“Um, cake please”

-Eddie Izzard

Hello ample darlings! I hope this blog finds you happy and well. This week I’ve been fairly busy helping set up the new Spanish and South-American inspired café deli in Putney. What once was a little Italian café has now been revamped, repainted and installed with a new and improved menu. Huzzah! However, with all the dusting and polishing that I’ve been up to as of late, I haven’t had that much time to myself aka in the kitchen. Therefore, this week I have only three recipes to promote. As we’ve previously established that I’m an appalling individual, I can only hope that the quality of the following recipes will soothe this culinary blow.

Our short and sweet love affair begins with a tender piece of pork fillet marinated in a homemade teriyaki sauce. I found this recipe awhile back in the Yo Sushi cookbook and it never fails. I recommend serving the lemon and garlic crushed potato salad on the side. This teriyaki sauce is incredibly quick and easy to make and works well with salmon, chicken and beef too.

ter

Teriyaki Sauce

75ml Soy Sauce

75ml Mirin

25g Sake

25g White Sugar

Place all ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce until all the sugar has reduced. Poor the liquid over your raw meat but keep a little back to brush your meat before serving. Leave the meat to marinate for an hour minimum then, place the pork into a hot pan and fry on both sides for a few minutes. Once the pork is cooked all the way through (not pink) and the juices run clear, serve immediately with a fresh brushing of sauce and side of the crushed potatoes. Enjoy with a nice glass of crisp white wine!

Moving on from savoury, let’s turn towards sweet. On Saturday I had a surge of baking desire and set upon two sweet recipes. The first is a gorgeous madeleine recipe by Rachel Khoo with piped lemon curd in the centre. I’ve made these little treats many times before and they’re perfect for afternoon tea. These cakes take a little while to make but they are utterly worth it. I’ve changed the lemon curd to a St Clemence curd as I think it tastes better but it’s only a difference of half an orange! Here is Miss Khoo’s recipe below with my small adjustment.

nov 4

Madeleines à la crème au St. Clemence:

3 free-range eggs

130g/4½oz sugar

200g/7oz plain flour

10g/¼oz baking powder

1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated zest only

20g/¾oz honey

4 tbsp milk

200g/7oz butter, melted and cooled

punnet of raspberries

icing sugar, for dusting

St Clemence Curd:

½  unwaxed lemon, finely grated zest and juice only

½ orange, finely grated zest and juice only

pinch of salt

40g/1½oz sugar

45g/1¾oz butter

2 free-range egg yolks

Beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and frothy. Put the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl and add the lemon zest. Mix the honey and milk with the cooled butter, then add to the eggs. In two batches, fold in the flour. Cover and leave to rest in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight.Meanwhile, make the lemon curd. Put the lemon and orange zest and juice, salt, sugar and butter into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar and butter have melted. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, then add to the pan and whisk vigorously. Return the pan to a low heat and whisk constantly as the curd starts to thicken. Don’t stop whisking or the eggs will curdle (if the curd starts to boil, take off the heat). Once the curd thickens and releases a bubble or two, remove from the heat and pass the curd through a sieve into a bowl. Place cling film in direct contact with the curd and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Butter and flour a 12-shell madeleine tin. Put the St Clemence curd into a piping bag fitted with a small, pointed nozzle and place in the fridge. Put a heaped tablespoon of batter into each madeleine shell and press a raspberry deep into the batter.

nov 10

Bake for five minutes and turn the oven off for one minute (the madeleines will get their signature peaks), then turn the oven on to 160C/325F/Gas 3 and bake for a further five minutes. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, wash and dry the tin, then repeat the baking as for the first batch.While the second batch is baking, pop the piping nozzle into the mound in each baked madeleine and squirt in a teaspoon’s worth of lemon curd. Repeat with the second batch, then dust with icing sugar and serve straightaway.

nove 6

My final recipe of the day was completely new territory for me. I decided that I wanted to get a head start on making pastry before I start at the Cordon Bleu and so, I got hold of a CB croissant recipe online and set about making my very own half-moons! Puff pastry is notoriously hard to get right and I must admit that I was a little worried that I would fail immediately. However, with a little time and effort it can be done. Once the pastry is made, you can make chocolate or even almond croissants as well as plain! Is it sad that this makes me really excited!? On second thoughts, don’t answer that.

nov 2

Croissant Recipe:

15g fresh yeast

180ml water

180ml milk

500g flour

10g salt

60g sugar

Sift the flour into a bowl and add all the other ingredients with the exception of the water and milk. Gradually add the milk bit by bit and mix in with your hands. Then, add a little bit of water to bind the mixture together. Once you feel that you can roll it out, sprinkle a little flour onto a surface and your rolling pin and transfer the dough to the surface. Knead the dough for the next ten minutes, pushing the dough away from you with your fists. When the dough stops being sticky, place it back in the mixing bowl with a cloth over the top and leave on the side for an hour and a half.

Take 250g of unsalted butter out of the fridge, remove the wrapper and place between two pieces of cling film. Using the rolling pin hit the butter into a square, around 12cm by 12cm. Roll out the dough to a slightly larger shape and size to the butter, place the butter on top of the dough like a diamond and fold the right and left side of the dough over the butter. The butter must be covered. Then, fold over the top and the bottom of the pastry and fold the whole thing into itself once more.

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Roll out the dough once more and repeat the same folding method, both sides and then the top and bottom. Clingfilm the dough and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, roll out the dough and repeat the folding process for the second time. Place in the fridge for a further 20 minutes and roll out the dough and fold for the final time.

Now is the fun bit! Roll out the dough on some sprinkled flour to half an inch thick. This will take some muscle power but must be done. With a sharp knife cut the dough into long triangles. With the greatest point away from you, roll the pastry towards the point and pull into a curve shape shown from the blog below:

triangles

If you want to add fillings into the croissants, place the almond paste or your chocolate on top of your triangle before you roll. Make sure to brush your croissants with egg wash and place in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes. Keep a close eye on them though! No one likes burnt croissants first thing in the morning!

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Now, I must you leave you here today. Next week I will be back with a little more flair! I’m about to send off my scholarship application to the Cordon Bleu so, there should be some funny stories coming way. If I get to the interview stage, I’m sure I’ll accidently slip out a culinary innuendo or two….oops! That wasn’t intentional!

Click on the link below to enjoy Eddie Izzard’s cake or death sketch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZVjKlBCvhg

Follow me on twitter (@blitheringtwit) and/or instagram (EKCWELLS) for more foodie  snaps.

Love to all and happy baking!

E.Wells Xx

The family secret

halves

“Mr Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.”
“Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests.”

-P.G Wodehouse

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.

pom

Spiced Pomegranate Cordial

(makes 300-400ml)

one pomegranate

2 ½ tablespoons of caster sugar

one tsp of cinnamon

¼ tsp of mixed spice

cup of boiling water

one orange

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.

half pomorange sqanother pour

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.

pom 1

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….

yum biscuits

Pistachio and Chocolate Biscuits

(makes 20)

220g unsalted butter

80g icing sugar

280 plain flour

30g cocoa

70g crushed, unsalted pistachios

1 egg

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!

bashing up pistaeggsgreat mixture shotbrowncutting bisbiscuits on a tray

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.

cheese 10

cheese 9

Rebecca’s three bean risotto

cheese 7

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….

cheese 8cheese 5

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.

cheese 4

Nana Mole’s Cheese Scones

(makes 6)

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.

nana mole

Joyce, my paternal grandmother nicknamed ‘nana mole’.

We both shared a love of cooking, roast pork and as you can see, wine.

cheese 3

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!

cheese 1

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

1 egg

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: gracejenkins@me.com. Until next week folks. Have a lovely week and happy cooking!

E.Wells X