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

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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

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

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

Italia Calling

italy book

“If you ate pasta and antipasti, would you still be hungry ?”

-Anonymous

This week has certainly been one of culinary note. The arrival of two long lost friends, a catering proposal and a free kitchen spurred on what only could be described as a ‘cookathon’ in my London home. Below lies a smattering of sweetened delights to amuse your bouche this Halloween and a few winter inspired stomach pleasers. Much to your amusement, I have yet to put to bed my love of sweetened meat. I am quite frankly obsessed and for this I apologise. Family, friends and followers please bear with my mutterings as I have a few surprises coming your way!

Aside from Easter Sunday, 31st October acts as a sugar free for all for everyone aged thirteen and under. In suitable tooth decaying fashion, I have spent this week busying myself with an array of scrumptious, ice cream flavours. On the blog menu today we have; salted caramel, nutella and peanut butter swirl. I can guarantee you that the ice cream machine has never seen so much action in one week! Rumoured to be quite a challenge to make, homemade ice cream is one of the easiest things in the world whether you have an ice cream maker or not, plus it keeps for months. Ahh…the beauty of frozen food!

photo (2)

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3

If you’re without an ice cream maker fear not! It sounds rather fancy but all an ice cream maker is, is an icy bowl with a churning spatula! Homemade ice cream can be made just as well without one. All you do is place the mixture into a tupperware box and put in the freezer. For the first three hours, take out the box on the hour and bash the mixture up a bit. This breaks up the big crystals and makes it the consistency of proper ice cream. The salted caramel recipe is sensational. From experience it is an absolute hit with both adults and children!

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Rule #1 when making the caramel: do NOT stir. Swirl the mixture by holding the handle.

Last week I talked a little about different types of pesto. Since then, a friend from a former life in Italy visited me in London and brought with him a fair few cooking tips. I may as well call him the ‘il re della pasta’ because every time I see him, he cooks up a delicious pasta based treat. This time he made basil pesto with pistachios instead of pine nuts (inspired and tasty) and a lemon zest and mushroom sauce made up of three different types of mushrooms. I really recommend both sauces, although perhaps the mushroom sauce is better for a more formal occasion with a nice glass of red wine. Here are the recipes straight from the heart of Italia:

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Pistachio Pesto:

300g Pistachio (shell them before using)

Glug of olive oil

Handful of basil leaves

Salt and Pepper

Two cloves of garlic

Combine all the ingredients together in a blender. Check for taste and serve with a hefty helping of parmesan cheese!

4

Three Mushroom Pasta Sauce:

One box of button mushrooms

One box of chestnut mushrooms

Two Portobello mushrooms

Two/three cloves of garlic

Glug of oil

A glass of the cooking pasta water

Zest and juice of one lemon

Finely chop all the mushrooms and add to a saucepan on a medium heat with the oil and pressed garlic. Stir the mushrooms until soft. They will produce a lot of water but don’t worry as the water will evaporate fairly quickly. Add the lemons zest and juice and then take half of the mixture out of the saucepan and blizz. With the other half of the mushrooms (in the pan) add a glass of water from your cooking pasta. This gives a little more flavour, prevents any last minutes burning and keeps them soft. Return the mushrooms to the pan and season. Serve once again with parmesan cheese over a bed of pasta. For this dish I prefer to use a more interesting shaped pasta. I could be pretentious here and list off a few Italian pasta types however, I’ll refrain and simply say, anything tube-like or with a flowery swirl. How intelligent am I right now!?

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pasta

I would also like to mention something extra about pesto. It may sound obvious but pesto isn’t just good on pasta. I sometimes mix it into vegetable broths and stews or even use it as a fish marinade. For my other European guest this week, a talented musician who plays in the Finnish band Beastmilk, I made a classic pesto with pine nuts and spread it upon two salmon fillets. It was incredibly easy to make (see last blog for the pesto recipe), and salmon is so quick to cook in the oven or grill (10-12 mins at 180ºC) that the food was served within minutes of walking into the kitchen and getting started. Equally, the sundried tomato pesto would be gorgeous with chicken or as a pizza base sauce. And with these wonderful ideas swimming about your heads, I say ‘Go! Get creative and get down with pesto!’ God, I’m awkward…

http://www.beastmilk.bandcamp.com

Oh, I mustn’t forget my last pasta recipe of the day. A lovely slow cooked beef ragu that is a wonderfully warming treat at the end of a winter’s day.  No passata necessary, just love and a big ol’ bottle of red wine. Same difference really!

7

Slow cooked beef ragu:

Two shallots

One onion

Glug of oil

Two cloves of garlic

500g of beef mince

A few glugs of balsamic vinegar

One and half glasses of red wine

Two sweet peppers (yellow, orange or red)

Approx. 14 cherry tomatoes

A good handful of basil leaves

Salt and Pepper

Combine the oil, shallots, onions and garlic together in a big saucepan over a low heat. Make sure the onions and shallots are finely chopped. Once the onions become soft and see-through, add the mince and brown. Then, add the peppers, balsamic vinegar, wine and a cup of pasta water and stir. When the moisture has absorbed a little, place the tomatoes on top of the mince and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the dish with the basil leaves, lower the heat and put the lid on the pot. The tomatoes will begin to steam and the basil leaves will infuse the meat. After fifteen minutes, take off the lid and stir. The tomatoes will be very soft and the basil leaves will have wilted. Taste the meat, add a little more vinegar or wine if necessary and leave to simmer for another ten minutes. Serve immediately on pasta with a glass of red at hand. If there is any left at the end, keep for lunch the next day. It’s great cold too…. This is an example of slightly sweetened meat. Taste it and you’ll see why.

Finally, after some token savoury recipes we march backwards to the sound of the sweetened drum. Today we finish with something quite special. Its direct translation from French is chocolate lava and well, with a name like that you know that it sounds a little more than promising. This devilish delight is a glorified chocolate fondant. Within its chocolate-y centre lies a gooey layer of salted caramel…..(insert Homer Simpson gurgle noise).

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I discovered this recipe a while ago in Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen but hadn’t the time to make these beauties as there are a few elements to prepare. Firstly, the caramel needs to be made and cooled before any other preparation has begun, allowing you to pipe it into the fondants just before the go into the oven. Secondly, the fondants must sit in the fridge for an hour (or the freezer for half an hour) before you cook them in order for the middle to remain a liquid when cooking. This dessert is a big, sexy hug if ever there was one. These lava desserts are very naughty so, sod the diet and try these moelleux au chocolat asap. I promise you, these little treats will silence even the most persistent of chatterboxes and the most strict diet observers!

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Until next week followers. All my love and happy Halloween!

E. Wells x

When in Bristol, eat sweetened meat!

books

“…he is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”

-Shakespeare

Before I began this blog, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to say each week. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! If anything, there are far too many delicious treats to discuss in such a small period of time. What is a poor aspiring chef to do?! This week I’ve been focusing on infused oils, spices and sweetened meat. Prepare yourselves for a chapter that will tantalise your taste buds and make you question why you haven’t tried these wonderful recipes before. I guarantee that you’ll never look twice at supermarket bought pesto once you’ve made your own!

Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook, ‘Save with Jamie’ points out the importance of a decent store cupboard or if you’re really lucky, a pantry! Good things to have in stock are; vinegars, oils and selection of dried herbs and spices. You never know when you might need to add a little heat or spiced flavouring to a dish. A few years ago, I discovered chilli oil in lovely, pizza restaurant called The Actress in South East London. A dash of the stuff can really add a bit of life to anything you want! It’s not only great on pizza but brilliant for dipping bread into, marinating meat and even sautéing onions in for a hot chilli con carne or a tasty homemade curry. Now, I’m sure you’re now thinking the same as me, could I infuse other oils? The answer is YES! You can make almost any infused oil you like using both fresh and dried ingredients. Why not try garlic and chilli, rosemary and lemon or even saffron for something really special.

chilli

Having done some research, there appears to be some discrepancy between fresh and dried herbs. If you want to make a lot of oil and keep it for some time, you must use dried herbs. Fresh herbs hold a stronger flavour, but can produce unpleasant bacteria if left to sit in the oil for too long, so don’t say you haven’t been warned. Freshly infused oils should be kept in the fridge and must be used within 10-12 days. For dried infused oils, they can be left out. To get the flavour out of the herbs, break them up with a pestle and combine with your desired oil (extra virgin is the best, but sunflower will do nicely) in a saucepan over a low heat. After a few minutes, strain the herbs and decant the now flavoured oil into a pretty glass bottle. You can always add a few strands of said herb into the end product. Personally, I like to keep a small amount of the dried chilli flakes in my oil because I just LOVE chilli but it makes quite a pretty aesthetic too. These oils make a great gift especially at dinner parties or for a thoughtful Christmas present. Stick on a delicately inscribed label and you’re good to go.

chilli bottle

Infused oil guideline:

240ml of oil

4tbsp of chilli flakes (or any herb you like!)

2 crushed garlic cloves (optional)

Oils aside, let’s check out the pesto! For a few years now, my mum has been making her own jars of herby, oily goodness and honestly, they’re to die for. Below are the recipes for basil and sundried tomato pesto but once again, you can use the recipe as a framework for whatever flavour you want. Rocket works quite well too. Perhaps you could try a chilli tomato pesto? Oh gosh, I’m off again! Apologies. This is my mother’s own recipe. Keep it secret, keep it safe. This recipe makes one big jar of the good stuff.

pesto

Basil Pesto Recipe:

A bag of fresh basil leaves (or a hefty bunch)

50g pine nuts

Half a triangle of grated parmesan cheese

Two garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

¼ pint of good quality oil

After lightly toasting the pine nuts in a saucepan (without any oil), put all the ingredients into a blender and blizz. Check for taste and add a little more salt and pepper if need be. The garlic has a real kick in this, so this isn’t ideal first date food but then again, if you’re both eating it, it shouldn’t be a problem! If you want to try sundried tomato pesto, exchange the bunch of basil for a small tub of sundried tomatoes which you can buy at any deli counter. Jars of sundried tomatoes would work here too if on a tighter budget. Mix the pesto with some cooked pasta and sprinkle with parmesan to serve. Buon appetito!

Pasta dish

Now, let us talk of Bristol! This week I spent a little time in this wonderfully historic city and needless to say, I visited some delicious establishments. Honestly, my Instagram was near to breaking point! Tapas is known to be pretty spectacular and I can confidently say, that Bristol’s Bravas is a great little spot to find reasonably priced, intelligent food. The iberico pork was gorgeously succulent, the pedro ximenez (south American sherry) marinated liver with caramelized onions was sensational and the fried aubergines with molasses was a bargain at £2.50 a go. I thoroughly recommend a trip here to anyone looking for some good grub. Oh and try not to stuff yourself silly (unlike myself, classic Emily) as the salted chocolate desert truffles are divine (yes, I managed one in the end!).  I must mention here that the only real expense is the alcohol but the house red, described as ‘perfectly gluggable’ goes down swimmingly. If you’re going T-total, order a sparkling elderflower as it’s homemade and so refreshing.

Tapas

Another place I discovered was the newly opened Grillstock on the triangle. As you can probably guess, there is some serious meat involved in this restaurant. The place is relatively small, and the room is mainly taken up by a long wooden table. Food is ordered at the counter and served on a tray. The food is so tasty and the portion size can only be described as worthy of an episode on man vs. food! I had the pulled pork barbeque plate and oh boy, it was scrumptious. The pork was probably the best I’ve ever eaten. It was so moist and sweet. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I must find out what they used to produce such sweetness! The meat came with homemade slaw, cornbread and fries. Scattered over the tables were the following; BBQ sauce, chilli BBQ sauce and chilli sauce so, I was in heaven! A few friends of mine took on a Grillstock challenge. One wolfed down a tray holding three types of meat which was entitled the smokehouse challenge and the other engulfed an enormous, “lockjaw” burger held together with a carving knife! The evidence of food combat and defeat of such dishes lies below and oh, what proud chaps they were indeed.

grills 2 burger   Grills grills 4

I feel it’s time for something light, a light snack that is! As the nights have drawn in closer, it’s almost time to prepare for the frightful (see what I did there) all hallows eve. I’m a big fan of scary films, even more so when the food is good. A while back, Nigella produced a few flavoured popcorn recipes and I really believe they need to be resurfaced. I will be providing both sweet and savoury suggestions to smooth out any controversy amongst popcorn lovers. The latter recipe is from another fellow food blogger and is a solid, sweet toothed choice. Once again, use these recipes as a template. You can add anything you fancy. I might have a go next week making my own, so stay tuned.

  • Savoury:

Nigella’s Party Popcorn:

I suggest that you use half the amount of salt stated in this recipe. It was a tad too salty for little old me.

www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/party-popcorn-recipe/index.html

savoury sauce savoury

  • Sweet:

Not quite Nigella:

http://www.notquitenigella.com/2010/02/25/nutty-caramel-popcorn-better-then-bought/

toasted nuts sweet pop

Finally, we reach the grand finale and a cheeky cocktail is in order! As far as I am concerned, all cocktails should be cheeky so this badboy (kill yourself, I know) is perfect. I first sampled this in a pizza restaurant called The Hill in Bristol, once again. It’s called a gingerbread martini and is ideally consumed in number, by a fire and with a group of merry friends. This recipe serves two martini glass servings.

Martini

Gingerbread Martini:

1/2 shot of vodka (Russian standard is the best)

One shot of baileys

One shot of Kahlua

A dash of gingerbread syrup

A little milk

Sprinkling of cinnamon for presentation

That’s all for this week folks! I hope these recipes have got you thinking about your next culinary adventure. A note to close friends of mine, you’re all getting infused oil for the foreseeable gift giving future. You lucky, lucky people! I know there was quite a bit of reading this week but I just couldn’t help myself. I’m most definitely on a mission to test some meat sweetening recipes now. Expect more cake next week and a detailed blog on the moment I met Miss Rachel Khoo at her newest book signing at Harrods this Thursday. She was truly wonderful.

book

Before I go, I must reference a few people (the old university student in me eh?). Firstly, a BIG thank you to the lovely Grace Jenkins who has been taking some wonderful foodie snaps for this blog. She took the main cover image which stands hands and feet over my Instagram photos! If you would like to get hold of Grace for photography here is her website: www.gracejenkins.co.uk. I’ve known her for over fifteen years and she’s great with a lens. Secondly, the restaurants I’ve mentioned are all on twitter and have their own sites. Click on the links below to get to them. Lastly, if you fancy looking at my Instagram which is regularly updated with food and furry animals, add me on EKCWELLS and if that’s simply not enough, my twitter is @BlitheringTwit.

www.theactresseastlondon.com

http://www.pizzakitchenbars.co.uk/location/the-hill

http://www.bravas.co.uk

http://www.grillstock.co.uk

Lots of love,

E.Wells X