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A perfect pudding for a wintery day. Comfort food at it’s stodgiest, this is a really traditional British pud that we all remember from our school dinners.

P1030708

Ingredients

  • 8-10 slices of day-old white bread
  • spread with butter – about 50g in total
  • 350ml milk
  • 50ml double cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g sultanas
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • cinnamon and nutmeg

Set the oven to 200C.

Butter a small baking dish.

Cut the crusts off the bread. Spread butter on one side of each slice.

Arrange a layer of bread, butter-side up on the bottom of the dish. Add a sprinkling of sultanas, and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Cut the rest of the bread slices into triangles. Arrange beautifully on top of the sultanas/spices. Put sultanas and spices between each layer.

Then, put about half of the sugar into a large bowl. Whisk the eggs into the sugar.

Heat the milk and cream together in a small pan, until just under boiling point. Pour it onto the eggy sugary mix and whisk it well.

Pour the custard over the bread, grate a little nutmeg and sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top and leave it to sit and soak for about half an hour.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Serve hot with cream, or cold from the ‘fridge the next day.

Serves 6

Feed the crusts to the birds.

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P1030375

It occurred to me recently that blini are the twenty-first-century equivalent of vol-au-vents. I love them anyway. To me they are the perfect party nibble. I like them with taramasalata and caviar, or sour cream with horseradish and smoked salmon.

I would definitely advise you to make these in advance and freeze. They can be a little smokey to cook, and quite time consuming, so you want them done well before guests arrive. They keep very well in the freezer and take just five minutes to heat in the oven.

Before you start, make sure that you are not in a hurry – you will need plenty of time for the batter to rest, and the blini need to be cooked in batches.

Ingredients:

  • 165g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5g easy-blend dried yeast
  • 150ml creme fraiche
  • 175ml milk
  • 2 eggs, separated

Sieve the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl.

Heat the milk and creme fraiche in a small pan. Do not allow it to get too hot. It needs to be luke-warm/blood temperature – any hotter, you kill the yeast.

Whisk the milk into the dry ingredients. Add the egg yolks and whisk again. Cover with a tea-towel. Put the bowl in a warm place for about an hour.

After an hour, the mixture should have started to bubble up.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and fold into your batter. Cover with a tea towel. Put the bowl in a warm place for about an hour.

Now you are ready to cook the blini. If you have a good thick-bottomed, non-stick frying pan you should need hardly any butter. Indeed, after my first batch I didn’t use any butter at all. Fry up the blini, about a teaspoon at a time. You might need to experiment a little, but I find it helps not to have the hob at it’s highest temperature.

I freeze these on trays overnight, wrapped in cling-film. Then throw them into a ziplock bag.

Hint: To serve, put the blini on a baking tray in the oven at 200C for just five minutes.

Hint: For the sour cream and horseradish topping, I find that 250ml sour cream to 2 tsp horseradish sauce is just about perfect. Don’t forget lots of black pepper.

MAKES ABOUT 80

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P1030642

I probably make banana bread once a fortnight, and I’ve posted some fancy schmantzy pansty banana breads here. But the recipe I turn to over and over again is this one: simple, basic, no booze, no nuts, no figs, no frosting. You can adapt it as you wish, add choc chips, cocoa, nuts or alcohol. We like this one just as it comes.

Ingredients

  • 3-5 ripe bananas
  • 50g melted butter
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 125g self-raising flour

Pre-heat the oven to 170C/150C fan.

Line a baking tray with tin-foil. Lay the bananas out on the prepared baking sheet. Make pricks with a fork, about 1 inch apart. Bake for twenty minutes. The skin of the banana will turn black and a lot of liquid will come out of the bananas. The idea is that this will intensify the flavour and sweetness of the banana. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile grease and line a loaf-tin.

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and whisk through.

Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking constantly, then add the vanilla.

Whisk in the bananas.

Fold the flour into the mixture.

Once all the ingredients have been fully mixed together, spoon into your loaf tin.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (at 150C), depending on the skewer test.

Allow to cool and enjoy each slice with or without butter. (Butter’s better.) Great for school lunchboxes.

My favorite banana bread is this one, with figs and ginger. You might also like this one with rum and walnuts, but my children definitely prefer it plain.

P1030637

This is a quick and easy supper I put together for myself the other evening when my husband was out. I had some left-over quinoa from the previous evening and just wanted to scramble something together fast.

Ingredients

  • quinoa, about two cups (cooked)
  • a splash of olive oil, some salt and pepper
  • 1 courgette, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper (capsicum)
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 leek
  • 4-5  leaves of cavolo nero
  • a good handful of parsley, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 200C

My  quinoa was pre-cooked. But here is what to do if you don’t have the luxury of leftovers:

Cook the quinoa on the hob over a low temperature. In general with quinoa, you use double the amount of water to grain. In this recipe I used 1 cup of quinoa, to two cups of water, adding a little vegetable bouillon for flavour. Cook for about twenty minutes until the kernels begin to separate.

Put the chopped courgette, red pepper,  tomatoes and garlic in a small oven-proof dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for around fifteen-twenty minutes.

In the meantime, very gently fry the onion and leek together in a non-stick frying pan. Add the cavolo nero and chopped parsley. Add the quinoa, and finally the roasted vegetables.

You could serve with some grated cheese on top. Delicious.

SERVES 1.

 

 

 

P1030629

I was in my local fishmonger‘s a couple of weeks ago, and my eyes were caught by some skate cheeks. These are something I have never cooked with. They look a little like scallops, and I have learnt since that you can treat them in the same way. But the fishmonger recommended a fish curry. I turned to Nigella as my inspiration, and this is what I came up with:

Ingredients

  • Skate cheeks (I’m not sure what the weight was, I asked the fishmonger for enough for two people, she gave me perhaps 10-12 pieces)
  • a little salt
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • chilli
  • 1 inch or so of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 400ml can of coconut milk
  • 3 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 fish-stock cube
  • chopped coriander

As instructed by Nigella, sprinkle the fish with a little salt, and a teaspoon of turmeric. Return it to the ‘fridge whilst you get on with the sauce.

Gently fry the onion, garlic, chilli, and garlic until softened. Add the cumin and remaining turmeric.

Add the coconut milk, tamarind paste, fish stock cube and a little boiling water to the mix.

Allow to simmer for ten minutes or so.

Cool slightly. Then, using a hand-blender, whizz the sauce to a smooth consistency.

If you are making the sauce ahead of time, this is a good time to stop.

Otherwise, if you are just about ready to eat, add the fish to the sauce and simmer for five minutes or so. Skate cheeks have a single bone, which you can (in a very sophisticated manner) spit out whilst eating.

Serve with rice, and a sprinkling of coriander.

SERVES 2.

P1030609

This has been my breakfast of choice over the past few weeks. These lovely dark-skinned figs have been in the shops for about 25 pence each, and I’m making the most of them whilst they are still in season. I love the preserved ginger – a delightful little kick first thing in the morning.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 stoneless, partially rehydrated prunes 
  • the zest and juice of half an orange
  • 1 ball of stem ginger (the kind you buy preserved in a jar with ginger syrup), sliced
  • a drizzle of ginger syrup
  • 2 fresh figs, sliced

Ideally, this should  be prepared the night before, to allow the prunes to soak up the lovely juices: simply add the figs just before eating.

SERVES 1 (no-one else in my family will even consider eating this).

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P1030575

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is take part in my local Parkrun; a free, timed, 5k run around our hilly park. It has a great community, and for some reason there is always a lot of cake. Each week over 70,000 runners take part in various Parkrun events across the world.  A few Saturdays ago it was my home Parkrun’s second Birthday, so we celebrated with… cake. My contribution was these lovely little carrot and orange cakes.

Ingredients

For the cakes

  • 150g unsalted butter, melted
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • a squeeze of orange juice
  • 200g self-raising flour, sieved

For the frosting

  • 300g cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia cheese)
  • a squeeze of orange juice
  • 50-60g icing sugar

The cakes

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and whisk together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, a little at a time and continue whisking.

Fold in the carrots and a little orange juice.

Fold in the flour. Make sure all the ingredients are full combined.

Divide the mixture between the  paper cases, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with a skewer.

Allow to cool.

The frosting

Whisk together all the ingredients until nice and smooth, you may need to add a little more icing sugar depending on how much orange juice you have squeezed in.

Spread a little over each cake.

Decorate as you like – I used these little coloured stars, but you could use orange zest, or a mini fondant carrot, or whatever.

The top tip

I made my cakes the night before the Big Event, but I was worried that if I iced them they would get soggy overnight. As an experiment I iced and decorated a couple of cakes the night before. The icing was fine but the colour in the decorations ran a little, so perhaps save the final touches until just before the big cake reveal.

Helen Walton & her picnic table

Photo: Lisa Power.

P1030571

I always feel a little sad at the end of the summer, especially as the nights start drawing in. However, I can console myself with all the lovely comforting foods that come with the beginning of autumn – soups and stews, and of course a return to home-baked bread. Soda bread is the easiest, and quickest to make of all. There is no kneading, or waiting to rise. Just quickly mix together the ingredients and it is ready in 40 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 250g spelt flour
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 250ml buttermilk or 250ml milk soured with the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sprinkling of seeds and dusting of flour to finish

Pre-heat the oven to 230C

Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Traditionally this recipe would use buttermilk. But if you can’t pick up buttermilk in your local store it is perfectly fine to improvise with the milk/lemon combination – just add the lemon juice to the milk and give it a good stir.

Mix together the flours, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.

Add the buttermilk/soured milk.

Work the mixture through with a knife until the ingredients are fully combined into a dough.

Roll the dough into a ball (you might need to flour your hands for this) and place onto your prepared baking tray.

If you like you can sprinkle some seeds, or a dusting of flour over the uncooked bread.

Using a sharp knife or a kneading blade, mark the bread with a cross.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Eat warm with plenty of butter.

P1030417

This is a companion piece to the clams, and made almost exactly the same way. What made these extra special to me, is that I made this dish whilst we were on holiday in the Vendée. The mussels couldn’t have been more local, and we ate them outdoors on a beautiful, sunny evening.

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • about 1kg mussels (in their shells)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • about 3 tablespoons of chopped, flat-leaved parsley

First of all, rinse and de-beard the mussels.

Melt the butter, add the onion and garlic and cook under a low heat until soft, not brown.

Throw in the wine and the mussles. Put a lid on the pan and steam for 5 minutes.

Add the parsley and stir.

Discard any mussels that do not open.

Enjoy with some crusty bread to soak up the juices.

 

 

P1030402

I often try to cook something special on a Friday night. We’ve been so busy recently that it has been a bit of a struggle, but you can’t get much better than this fantastic starter: fresh, simple, delicious.  A perfect start to the weekend.

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • about 1kg clams (in their shells)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • about 3 tablespoons of chopped, flat-leaved parsley

I’ve never cooked clams before so I asked the fishmonger at Soper’s what to do. She advised me to give the clams just a cursory rinse in cold water before cooking. So that is what I did:

Give the clams a cursory rinse in cold water.

Melt the butter, add the onion and garlic and cook under a low heat until soft, not brown.

Throw in the wine and the clams. Put a lid on the pan and steam for 5 minutes.

Add the parsley and stir.

Discard any clams that do not open.

Enjoy with some crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Serves 4 as a starter.

Here's one I made earlier

Here's one I made earlier

Hi, my name's Helen and I live in London with my husband and two children. When I started piping the potato on my shepherd's pies, my husband suggested that it might be a good idea for me to find an outlet for my creativity, so here we are. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the extra twist is that I don't eat meat (I do eat fish though) and Jim, who loves meat, is always on a diet. Here are a few recipes that I have enjoyed making for my family.

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