Spinning Saucepans on Sticks

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‘Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.’

-William Shakespeare

Dearest ample friends! What a pleasure it is to finally, be sitting down and detailing my culinary adventures to you wonderful people once again. These past two weeks have been mightily busy, as I have had an awful lot of kitchen work on all over London. Don’t get me wrong, it was utterly brilliant but quite exhausting! Thankfully, this week is a little quieter so I can write all my experiences down for you to peruse! This week’s blog has an array of foodie tips, professional advice not to mention recipes and oodles of culinary lovin’.

Video Kitchen Aid

Learn all about the importance of mise en place in a professional kitchen. Knife handling tips, chopping and keeping your work top clear are a must!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxCx2FcCKZ0&feature=youtu.be

Seemingly Seasonal

Fruit and Vegetables;

  • Aubergine
  • Beetroot
  • Courgette
  • Cucumber
  • Fennel
  • Globe Artichokes
  • Kohlrabi
  • Broad Beans
  • Chicory
  • Mangetout
  • Peas
  • Nectarines
  • Redcurrants
  • Raspberries
  • Apricots
  • Blackcurrants
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Greengages

Meat and Fish;

  • Lamb
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Crab

Culinary Query

Alex, Herne Hill

When I crack my eggs, a little bit of shell always falls into the mixing bowl. Do you have a way to stop this from happening?

A little bit of egg shell in your batter is never going to ruin a meal but I understand it is a real nuisance. I find that with one confident crack of an egg against a strong bowl should produce no fallen shell. However, if it does I like to use one of the halves to scoop the shell out. The more you tap an egg, the more likely bits of shell will crack off into the bowl. Happy baking!

 First on this week’s agenda is to get to grips with some good quality meat. As I’ve previously mentioned, the delightful Brian Randall from Randall’s butchers in Fulham has allowed me to spend some time at his shop in order to develop my knowledge of meat and improve my knife skills. On my third trip two weeks ago, I was shown how to make an array of sausages and oh my, was it fun! A colleague of Brian, Roberto from Turin, Italy walked me through the best way to make a sausage filling, how to use the machine and finally, how to tie the sausages ready to sell in the shop. Here are a few suggestions of fillings if you wish to make your own sausages; Pork & Apricot, Lamb & Thyme and Beef & Caramalised onion. You can buy already minced meat from a supermarket and the intestine skins from a butcher! Have a go at making your own at home using your hands. As Chef Margaret says, ‘they’re your best wooden spoons’.

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Fillet Steak

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Mincing organic beef. Look at that fantastic colour!

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Lamb bottoms….aka the rump!

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Roberto making chipolatas!

According to Roberto, the best ratio for sausage filling is 80% meat to 20% fat. All the meat in a sausage is from different parts of the animal (rump, chop, chuck etc) in question. Interestingly, a bit of beef is added to lamb sausages to give it a better colour. This is because lamb mince when combined with breadcrumbs and herbs can look a little grey and unattractive so, a little beef makes it look and taste much better. Together, Roberto and I made lots of plain pork sausages using very few extra ingredients (a few herbs and seasoned with salt and pepper) as they are the most popular in the shop. The process is as follows; first the pork meat and fat is minced together in a frightening machine and placed into a large bowl with all the seasoning and herbs then, using your bare hands you mix it all together pushing the mince away from you twice, then towards yourself once. The mixture is then placed in another machine which sucks the mince through a long tube, where it is forced into an intestine skin! Unsurprisingly it looks a bit rude but obviously tastes delicious. Once the skin is filled with the minced meat filling, it is twisted and hung up in the shop to buy! My pork sausages where sold in the shop that very day, along with a variety of other flavours and sizes such as merguez chipolatas and lamb cocktail sausages.

 

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Intestines and sausage meat. It’s hard not to grimace but it’s how they’re made!

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My pork sausages ready to sell in the shop! Brian let me take a dozen home too. Such a lovely man!

This Weeks’ Recipes

The second food related job that I’ve been doing recently is helping a wonderfully talented South African chef named Angie, to prepare her delicious  seasonal lunch platters to the South West London masses! Cordon Bleu trained, Chef Angie has worked in some of the toughest London kitchens around, working primarily under Gordon Ramsay but now, she owns her own business, ‘Angie’s Little Food Shop’ offering wholesome, healthy and frightfully tasty lunch platters delivered  all over town. Her clients range from high fashion houses, to A-list celebrities and beyond and she was kind enough to let me do a few days’ work alongside her! Initially I practiced my knife skills and learnt the value of mise en place (putting things into place), which was incredibly helpful. Angie taught me how to work quickly and efficiently in the kitchen without causing myself any harm, which I teach you in my kitchen aid video this week! After two days fruit and vegetable prepping, Angie let me in her kitchen where I was showed the art of sealing meat, food combinations and how to put together her scrumptious platters. I learnt an awful lot in just three days, not only in actions but also in theory. I would recommend anyone and everyone to order a food platter from this talented chef and even more so, to attend a cooking lesson. She is passionate about what she does, incredibly talented and a real laugh. She didn’t shout at me at all, promise! Check out her website for more details here: http://www.angieslittlefoodshop.com/

 

angie

Chef Angie.

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 Asian inspired salad with a sesame dressing. I tried it and it was heavenly!

 

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Wild rice and celery lunch platter!

Roasted Cauliflower Salad inspired by Angie Steele and BBC Good Food

Ingredients:

1 cauliflower, broken into florets

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp raisins

small bunch dill, snipped

3 tbsp toasted, flaked almonds

50g baby spinach

Salt and pepper

Dressing:

3 tbsp sherry vinegar

1½ tbsp honey

Method:

Roast the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes at around 180ºC in the oven with the oil and plenty of salt and pepper. You want the edges of the cauliflower to catch but not burn. Once the cauliflower is out the oven, toast the almond flakes in a dry pan. Place the spinach into a big salad bowl, thrown in the raisins, cauliflower, almonds, dill. Combine the sherry vinegar and honey in a cup and pour over the salad. Eat immediately. A simple balsamic dressing works well here too.

As well as Angie’s savoury platters, she also makes a few sweet dishes for her lunchtime clients. A popular order is the classic rocky road and this week I decided to make a batch of my own for a troupe of talented actors touring the UK and beyond on their bicycles performing Shakespeare! If you fancy looking them up, they are called the HandleBards. Needless to say, the rocky road went down a treat so much so that I wasn’t quick enough to grab a photo opportunity! A sign of a good recipe.

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 The HandleBards’ Rocky Road inspired by Angie Steele & Nigella Lawson

Ingredients:

125 grams soft butter

300 grams best-quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids) broken into pieces

3 tablespoons golden syrup

200 grams rich tea biscuits

100 grams mini marshmallows

30g of dried cranberries

25g pistachios

2 teaspoons icing sugar (for dusting)

Method:

Melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy-based saucepan. Scoop out about 125ml / ½ cup of this melted mixture and put to one side. Put the biscuits into a freezer bag and then bash them with a rolling pin. You are aiming for both crumbs and pieces of biscuits. Fold the biscuit pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture in the saucepan, and then add the marshmallows, nuts and cranberries. Tip into a foil tray (24cm / 9 inch square); flatten as best you can with a spatula. Pour the reserved 125ml / ½ cup of melted chocolate mixture over the marshmallow mixture and smooth the top. Refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight. Cut into 24 fingers and dust with icing sugar by pushing it gently through a tea strainer or small sieve.

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 The HandleBards peforming at Hoghton Tower having gorged on rocky road!

Check out their website to see where they are going next: http://www.peculius.com/handlebards.html

 

Lastly, the other kitchen experience I have had this week is with our beloved Chef Margaret! I was permitted to act as her assistant while she taught a group of youngsters how to cook an array of dishes. Margaret was on fine form as usual and the star of the show. One particular recipe stood out to me on this occasion and that is the Moroccan Chicken Skewers! Delish for both adults and children. They can be thrown on the BBQ or turn out just as well in the oven or grilled. Look at Margaret website here: http://mashedandsmashed.com/

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Moroccan Kebabs

Ingredients:

5 chicken fillets (1 per person)

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

2 tbsp light olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

½ tsp each of ground cinnamon, coriander and cumin

Juice of one lemon

½ tsp of harissa

Method:

Cut the chicken into small chunks and place in a sizable bowl. Mix all the other ingredients together and pour over the chicken. Leave the chicken covered in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, overnight is even better! Soak the kebab sticks in water for 20 minutes before you need to thread the chicken on them. The water will stop the sticks from burning on the BBQ or in the oven. Thread the chicken on the sticks, slightly spaced out to quicken cooking time and cook through. Meanwhile if you want to re-use the marinade left over in the bowl, heat it up in a saucepan and add a little more olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar and a gloop of pomergranite molasses. Stir the marinade till thick and bubbling hard. Pour into a small bowl or directly over the kebabs.

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Primary School Tiffin

Another cheeky traybake  that I learnt at Primary school that still sends tongue wagging! I made this on a BBQ because my stove broke….dedication!

Ingredients:

8oz digestive biscuits

4oz margarine

2oz caster sugar

2tbsp drinking chocolate

1 egg

8oz plain chocolate

Method:

Lightly grease a swiss roll tin. Put crushed biscuits into a bowl and place sugar, margarine and coca into a saucepan and melt gently. Add the beaten egg and stir until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, combine with the crushed  biscuits and press into the tin. Melt the chocolate and pour over the top of the biscuits. Smooth it down and leave to set in the fridge. When cold, cut into little squares.

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That is all for this weeks ample folks! See you next week for more recipes, food styling and seasonal tips. I leave you with this picture of my father’s dog, Merlin the dachshund who won 1st prize in the local fair as the dog the judges most wanted to take home. Isn’t he adorable?

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Love 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.

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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-

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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

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

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