Tuesday, 11 December 2012

the Best Chicken Tikka Masala

The Best Chicken Tikka Masala
A great British favourite, this chicken tikka masala is full of tantalising fragrant flavours.  It is even better when made a day ahead, so the flavours can develop all the more – delicious!

Serves 2 large portions/4 small portions
Prep time:  20 minutes (plus up to 24 hours to marinade)
Cooking time:  40-45 minutes

For the tikka marinade
4 tsp lemon juice
110g Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, peeled & grated
2cm fresh root ginger, peeled & grated
½ tsp chilli powder
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized portions

For the curry
4cm fresh root ginger, peeled & roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp vegetable oil
50g butter
6 green cardamom pods
2cm cinnamon stick
4 cloves
250g vine tomatoes, blended to a fine puree
1 tbsp tomato puree
250 ml water
Salt, to taste
100ml single cream
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala

To serve
1 small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Basmati rice cooked as per packet instructions or Indian breads

Preparation method

1.  For the marinade, mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and add the chicken.  Cover the dish and place in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours).

2.  For the curry, in a food processor blend the garlic and ginger with a splash of water to make a paste, set aside.

3.  In a large pan or wok heat the oil with half of the butter and add the cardamom pods, cinnamon and cloves.  Allow the whole spices to sizzle for 15-30 seconds and then add the ginger and garlic paste.  Cook until the moisture begins to evaporate.  Now add the tomatoes and tomato puree and cook for 20 minutes until the paste releases the oil. 

4.  Preheat the oven to 240°C/Gas mark 9.

5.  Cook the paste for a further 6-8 minutes until the paste begins to deepen in colour, stirring often.  Pour in the water, bring to the boil.  Now pass the sauce through a sieve to release as much liquid as possible.  Discard the solids and set aside.

6.  Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the fridge and place on a foil lined baking tray.  Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is slightly charred.  Remove from the oven, the chicken will finish cooking in the sauce.

7.  Heat the remaining butter in a pan and add the sauce, salt and a good splash of water simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Now add the chicken, cream, sugar, chilli powder, paprika and garam masala.  Allow the sauce to simmer for 4-5 minutes until the sauce is lovely and creamy adding more water if necessary.  Taste the curry and adjust the flavour with more salt, sugar or cream.

8.  Serve with basmati rice or Indian bread and a sprinkling of coriander.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Chocolate, Vanilla & Caramel Layer Cake

Chocolate, Vanilla & Caramel Layer Cake
The perfect celebration cake with the WOW factor!! 

Serves 12
Prep time:  1 hour
Cooking time:  1 hour

For the vanilla & chocolate sponges:
225g golden caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
85g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
3 eggs
150ml pot natural yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp cocoa powder
For the caramel & choc-caramel sponges:
175g light muscovado sugar
50g dark muscovado sugar
175g self-raising flour
85g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
3 eggs
150ml pot natural yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cocoa
For the layers & topping:
397g tin of caramel
140g dark chocolate
140g milk chocolate
300ml double cream

Preparation method

1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.  Prepare two 20cm cake tins by greasing and lining the base with baking parchment.  For the vanilla and chocolate sponges, mix all the ingredients except the cocoa powder in a large bowl with an electric whisk.  Place half of the mixture into a cake tin and add the cocoa powder to the remaining cake mixture and blend with an electric whisk.  Place into the remaining cake tin and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Repeat stage one for the caramel and choc-caramel sponges, again leave the cocoa powder for the second cake tin.  Bake as above instructions.

3.  Meanwhile prepare the chocolate topping, melt the dark and milk chocolate together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Remove the bowl from the pan and stir in the cream, set aside to cool and become spreadable.

4.  To assemble, spread a third of the caramel over the vanilla sponge and top with the caramel sponge.  Spread another third of the caramel over this layer and cover with the choc-caramel sponge.  Cover with the remaining caramel and top with the chocolate sponge.  Spread the chocolate topping all over the cake and place in the fridge to chill until you are ready to serve.

5.  The cake will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

the Best Millionaire's Shortbread

the Best Millionaire’s Shortbread
Decadent, delicious and delectable bring back memories of childhood with this favourite.  Sweet heaven in a square!  

Makes 16 
Prep time:  2 hours (including chilling time)
Cooking time:  30 minutes

For the base:
175g plain flour
50g caster sugar
125g butter, at room temperature
For the topping:
400g tin of condensed milk
50g butter
50g soft brown sugar
150g milk chocolate (or your favourite)

Preparation method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5.

2.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar and butter to form a dough.  Press the dough into a 23cm square tin and bake for 20 minutes, set aside to cool.

3.  Meanwhile make the topping, place the condensed milk, butter and sugar into a large pan and bring to the boil.  Bring the pan to a gentle boil for 5 minutes stirring continuously so that the mixture dies not stick.

4.  Pour the topping over the shortbread and place in the fridge to set.

5.  When the topping is set prepare the chocolate.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and pour over the topping.

6.  Place in the fridge to set and cut into square, enjoy!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Steak and Kidney Pie

Steak and Kidney Pie
A traditional British pie at its best – meltingly tender after long slow cooking!

Serves 4-6
Prep time:  20 minutes
Cooking time:  3 hours

500g braising steak, cut into 2.5cm
175g kidney, sinew removed & cut into small pieces
25g plain flour
Sea salt & black pepper
75g butter, diced
250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 large onions, peeled & chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
350ml Newcastle Brown Ale
300ml beef stock
2 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp HP brown sauce, to taste
500g ready-made puff pastry
1 egg, beaten to glaze

Preparation method

1.  Place the steak into a bowl and toss in seasoned flour, do the same with the kidney using a separate bowl and set aside.

2.  Add a few cubes of the butter into a large pan or wok and fry the mushrooms with a little seasoning for 2-3 minutes.  Add the onions and garlic, cook until the onion has softened.  Place in a bowl and set aside.

3.  Add a few more cubes of butter to the pan and fry the kidney for 1 minute each side until evenly browned.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Add some more butter to the pan and brown the steak in batches, this should take about 5 minutes until browned all over.  

4.  Return all the steak, kidney and vegetables to the pan and pour in the brown ale, simmer until it has reduced by one-third.

5.  Pour in the stock and add the bay leaves, thyme, tomato puree and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring to a simmer, partially covered and cook gently for 1 ½ - 2 hours until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick.

6.  Stir through the HP sauce and season to taste, leave to cool.

7.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.  Spoon all the contents of the pan into a 1.2 litre pie dish.

8.  Roll out the pastry on a well-floured board and brush the edge of the pie dish with egg.  Place the pastry gently over the filling and press the edges firmly to seal.  Trim the pastry neatly and decorate the top with the excess pastry and brush with the beaten egg to glaze.

9.  Place the dish in the centre of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

Christmas Mince Pies

Christmas Mince Pies
This crumbly, fruity mince pie recipe is a Christmas classic. Serve warm with lashings of brandy butter

Makes 12 (but enough mincemeat for many, many more)
Prep time:  2 hours (including chilling time)
Cooking time:  20 minutes

200g raisins
200g sultanas
1 Bramley apple, peeled & chopped
100g mixed peel
75g glace cherries
75g stem ginger in syrup, drained & chopped
1 lemon, zest & juice only
200g suet
200g dark brown muscovado sugar
200g currants
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
100ml brandy
100ml sherry

For the pastry
200g plain flour, sifted
40g golden caster sugar
75g ground almonds
125g unsalted butter, cubed
1 large free-range egg, beaten
Milk to glaze

Preparation method

1.  Place the raisins, sultanas, apple, mixed fruit, mixed peel and lemon zest into a blender a blitz to a paste.  Place in a bowl and add the suet, sugar, currants, cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, ground ginger, brandy and sherry.  Mix together well and set aside.  This mincemeat can be stored in a dark, cool cupboard for up to a year.

2.  For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, almonds and butter into a food processor.  Blend until it resembles breadcrumbs and slowly add the egg.

3.  Bring the mixture together with your hands, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour or so.

4.  Lightly butter a 12-hole pie or patty tin.

5.  Thinly roll out the pastry onto a floured surface.  Cut out 12 circles with a fluted pastry cutter, large enough to fill the base of the prepared tin. Press gently into each hole, then fill with the mincemeat.

6.  Cut out another 12 slightly smaller discs and use to cover the mincemeat. Press the edges together to seal. Make a small slit in the top of each, then brush lightly with milk. Chill for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

7.  Bake the pies for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and serve warm with brandy butter.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Toad in the Hole with Onion Gravy

Toad in the Hole with Onion Gravy
A British classic perfect for a mid-week supper on a winters evening!  Serve with mashed potato and roasted vegetables.
Serves 4
Prep time:  15 minutes
Cooking time:  45 minutes

2 tbsp olive oil
8-10 good quality pork sausages
150g plain flour
½ tsp fine sea salt
2 large free-range eggs
150ml milk

For the onion gravy:
20g butter
2 red onions, peeled & finely sliced
Freshly ground salt & pepper
1 ½ tbsp plain flour
300ml chicken stock
1 tsp English mustard
2 tbsp redcurrant jam
Few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Preparation method

1.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.  Place the oil into a 1.5 litre ovenproof dish making sure the oil evenly covers the base.  Add the sausage and cover in the oil.  Put in the oven for 10 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile prepare the batter, place the flour, salt, eggs and milk into a large bowl and whisk until the mixture is fully combined and there are no lumps.

3.  Remove the sausages from the oven and pour the batter all over the baking dish.  Return the dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the batter has risen and is golden brown.

4.  Meanwhile make the onion gravy.  In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the onion, season with salt and pepper.  Over a medium heat cook for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally until the onions are soft.  Add the flor and stir through for a couple of minutes.

4.  Stir through the stock a bit at a time and bring to a simmer.  Now add the mustard, jam and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer until the gravy has thickened and season to taste.

5.  Remove the Toad in the Hole from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.  Serve with mashed potato and roasted vegetables.

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Toast

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Toast
A classic soup - superbly warming and satisfying for a wintry evening

Serves 4
Prep time:  15 minutes
Cooking time:  1 ½ hours

60g butter
700g medium white onions, peeled & sliced
2 tsp caster sugar
2 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
1 tbsp flour
1.5 litres beef stock
1 bouquet garni (bay leaves, thyme & parsley)
275 ml dry white wine
2 tbsp cognac
Freshly ground salt & pepper

For the Gruyere Toast
4 slices of baguette, 2cm thick
2 garlic cloves, peeled 
225g gruyere cheese, coarsely grated

Preparation method

1.  Heat the butter in a large pan, when melted add the onions, garlic and sugar and cook over a medium heat.  Stir regularly for 20-30 minutes until the onions are really soft and well caramelized.

2.  Now add the flour, mix well and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the wine and leave to simmer until it has reduced by half.

3.  Add the beef stock, cognac and bouquet garni, cover and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the bouquet garni and season the soup to taste.

4.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2.  Place the slices of bread onto a baking tray and leave them to dry out but not brown.  Remove from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

5.  Rub ½ a clove of garlic over each piece of bread.

6.  To serve, place a slice of bread at the bottom of an ovenproof soup bowl and ladle the soup on top, making sure the onions and soup are evening distributed.  Cover the soup with the cheese, place the bowls onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Spiced Potted Beef

Spiced Potted Beef
This is a great starter that can be made ahead as it will keep in the fridge for up to three days. Delicious served spread onto fresh, crusty bread or hot toast.
Serves 4-6
Prep time:  10 minutes
Cooking time:  3 ½ - 4 hours

100g butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
300g braising steak, cut into large chunks
Freshly ground pepper

For the topping:
25g butter
4 sprinklings of peppercorns

Preparation method

1.  Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas mark 2.  Place the butter, garlic, salt, nutmeg, ginger and cayenne pepper into a small saucepan and season with pepper.  On a low heat slowly melt the butter, stir occasionally.

2.  Place the beef into an ovenproof dish and pour over the melted butter, covering the beef.

3.  Place in the centre of the oven and cover with foil or a lid and cook for 3 ½ hours or until the beef falls apart.  Halfway through the cooking time turn over the beef, cover again and return to the oven.

4.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.  Place the beef and all the juices into a bowl, shred and mash until the mixture is as smooth as possible.  Transfer to a small preserving jar or ramekins and spread evenly.

5.  For the topping, melt the butter on a low heat.  Remove the white foam that rises with a spoon and then pour the remaining clarified butter over the potted beef and sprinkle the peppercorns on top.  Cover and chill.  Serve with crusty bread or warm toast. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Thai Green Curry with Beef

Thai Green Curry with Beef
This fantastic Thai green curry recipe features tender, thinly-sliced pieces of beef together with aubergine. The curry is very sumptuous - wonderful on a chilly night! The homemade green curry paste is what makes this dish sing, so don't be tempted to substitute the shop-bought variety. (You will have more curry paste than required but it will store in the fridge for one week).
Serves 4
Prep time:  20 minutes
Cooking time:  10-12 minutes

For the green curry paste:
10 long green chillies, roughly chopped
3 shallots, peeled & roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled & roughly chopped
4cm of fresh root ginger, peeled & roughly chopped
Bunch of coriander
2 lemongrass, trimmed & roughly chopped
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt 
1 tsp shrimp paste

For the beef curry:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
450g beef fillet or tenderloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
5 baby aubergines or 1 regular sized, chopped into bite-sized pieces
400ml tin of coconut milk
2 kaffir leaves
1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp palm sugar

To serve:
Roughly chopped coriander
Jasmine rice, cooked as packet instructions

Preparation method

1.  For the curry paste, place the chillies, shallots, garlic, ginger, coriander, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves into a food processor.  Blend to a fine paste adding the oil as necessary. 

2.  Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until fragrant.  Using a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder grind the spices, peppercorns and salt to a fine powder.  Add to the food processor with the shrimp paste and blitz to a fine paste.

3.  For the curry, heat the oil in a large pan or wok.  Add 4 tbsp of the curry paste and stir over a medium heat for 1 minute.  Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.  Now add the aubergines, lime leaves, fish sauce and sugar.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until the aubergine is tender and then add the beef.  Cook for another 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.

4.  To serve, ladle the curry into warm bowls and scatter with coriander.  Serve immediately with jasmine rice, enjoy!


This recipe for chewy, sticky Florentines is absolutely foolproof. Whip up a batch for a party or make as edible Christmas gifts.

Makes 20
Prep time:  15-20 minutes
Cooking time:  45 minutes

25g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
70g unrefined caster sugar
15g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
4 tbsp double cream
50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
50g flaked almonds, toasted
50g mixed peel, chopped
50g undyed glace cherries, chopped
50g preserved stem ginger, drained and chopped
70g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
70g white chocolate, broken into pieces

Preparation method

1.  Preheat oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.  Lightly grease 2 baking sheets with butter and dust with flour.

2.  Put the butter, sugar and flour into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring well, until the mixture has melted.  Gradually add the cream, stirring constantly, then add all the remaining ingredients, except the chocolate and stir thoroughly.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

3.  Drop 5 teaspoons of the mixture onto each of the prepared baking sheets, space well apart to allow for spreading, the flatten with the back of a spoon.

4.  Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes.  Leave the biscuits to harden on the sheets for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Repeat with the remaining mixture, again using the 2 baking sheets.

5.  When the biscuits are completely cool, put the plain chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until melted.  Using a teaspoon spread the base of 10 of the biscuits with the melted chocolate.  Repeat with the white chocolate for the 10 remaining biscuits.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas Spiced Loaf

Christmas Spiced Loaf
This festive bread can be made ahead and frozen and makes a lovely treat for breakfast on Christmas morning

Serves 6-8
Prep time:  2 hours 40 minutes
Cooking time:  1 hour 10 minutes

450g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
2 tsp mixed spice
115g unsalted butter, chilled & diced
7g sachet easy blend dried yeast
115g unrefined caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
115g currants
115g raisins
50g mixed peel, chopped
1 orange, zest only
1 egg, beaten
150ml milk, warmed
Vegetable oil, for oiling
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
½ tsp ground cinnamon 

Preparation method

1.  Sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the yeast, sugar, dried fruit, mixed peel and orange zest, then add the egg and the warm milk and bring together to form a soft dough.

2.  Knead the dough briefly on a floured work surface.  Flour a clean bowl and add the dough.  Cover the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

3.  Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and oil a 900g loaf tin.  Knead the dough again briefly then pace it in the tin, cover and leave to prove for 20 minutes.  Use a little egg wash to brush the loaf, and sprinkle with a little caster sugar and ground cinnamon.

4.  Bake in the oven for 1 hour 10 minutes, the loaf should be golden and well risen.  Leave to cool in the tin.