Horseradish Sauce

You can easily grow horseradish in your garden. It’s a bit like mint, it can be invasive and difficult to eradicate. You can grow it in a tub or pot. It really needs a deep loamy soil to allow the huge taproot to develop.

Ingredients

  • 15g horseradish root, that’s probably about thumb size and thickness.
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp English mustard powder
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 150ml of lightly whipped double cream. Or some creme fraiche or soured cream if you prefer.

Method

  1. Peel the horseradish root and finely grate into a bowl, I use a microplane for this. Be very careful of the fumes. It can be painfully hot and will really hurt if you breathe it in.
  2. Add the hot water to the bowl and let the horseradish sit for 10 minutes
  3. Meanwhile mix all the wine vinegar, mustard powder and sugar in another bowl
  4. Strain the water from the horseradish and add to the vinegar mix.
  5. Now add the cream and season with salt and pepper.
You can vary the amount of cream depending on how hot your root is, and how fierce you like the sauce.
Serve it with roast beef, or other roasts. Also good with pickled herring, smoked mackerel, smoked salmon. Works well with beetroot too.

Blueberry Muffins

Making blueberry muffins is quick and easy. This recipe makes about 8-12 depending on how large you make them. They are best made on an easy morning and enjoyed still warm with a coffee. I find they are best eaten on the day they are made. If eaten later, 10-20 seconds in the microwave can revive that just cooked experience.

Ingredients

Dry

  • 280g plain flour
  • 10ml (2 tsp) baking powder
  • 2.5ml (½tsp) salt
  • 110g sugar

Wet

  • 1 egg
  • 240ml milk
  • 85g butter (melted)
  • 2.5ml (½tsp) vanilla extract
Fruit
  • Up to 200g of berries (can be blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or any other soft fruit; keep some frozen and use them straight from the freezer out of season)

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (180°C fan)
  2. Prepare the tray and put in 9 – 12 muffin cases. I prefer 9 larger muffins but if making for kids you may want smaller portions.
  3. The trick is keeping the wet and dry ingredients separate until the last moment. Sieve the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
  4. Beat the egg and then add the wet ingredients into a different jug or bowl.
  5. Now add the wet to the dry and mix quickly with a wooden spoon. Don’t be too fussy it will look a bit lumpy and uneven – it’s fine. Just mix them briefly to wet the dry ingredients.
  6. Now add the fruit and stir in. Using frozen fruit works well as it doesn’t break up into the mix and cooks fine from frozen.
  7. Spoon into the cases and put in the oven.
  8. Should be cooked in about 20-35 minutes depending on what size they are and how much frozen fruit is in them.

Tips

Makes about 8-12 muffins blueberry muffins – lay out the tray and cases in advance of making up the mix.
Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in a jug. Add the wet to the dry just before you do the final mix.
Melt the butter till its just melted – don’t heat it up. I use a small warm saucepan on the cooker for this. If you microwave it then it will splatter all over the inside of your microwave.
Add the blueberries (or whatever fruit you choose) after you mix the wet and dry and just quickly stir them in – don’t break them up.
Be as quick as possible once you mix wet and dry ingredients to get them into the cases and in the oven.
To check if cooked press the top of a muffin gently with your finger – it should spring back. Or use a thin metal skewer to check there’s no uncooked gloop.

Creme Brûlée

Creme Brulee is always a winner for a dessert.  It is also much easier to make using this technique then most people imagine.
Great for a dinner party because they can be made a day in advance and chilled in the fridge leaving just the sugar topping to do just before serving.
If you don’t own a blowtorch, you can try to caramelise them under the grill, but I think that rarely works as it takes too long and heats up the custard. My advice is – get a blowtorch.
This makes about 6-8 depending on the size of your ramekins.

Ingredients

  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 100g caster sugar (you will need extra for the topping)
  • 6 free-range egg yolks

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
  2. Pour the cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream. Then add the vanilla pod (halved if too long)
  3. Warm the cream to boiling point, then turn off the heat. It’s best if you can let it get quite cool.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until pale.
  5. Pour the cream over the egg mixture, whisking continuously while you pour until well mixed. I find this makes enough for about 6-8 ramekins, the variation in quantity comes from the egg sizes and the ramekin sizes.
  6. Fill the ramekins leaving a few millimetres for it to expand slightly when cooking.
  7. Boil a kettle full of water.
  8. Place the filled ramekins into a large roasting tray and carefully put the tray into the opened oven. It’s easier if you don’t add the water till you set the tray in the oven.
  9. Before closing the oven pour in enough hot water from the kettle to come two-thirds of the way up their outsides. (This is called a bain-marie.)
  10. Close the oven door and the custards will cook in the warm bain marie. I find this takes about 15-25 minutes. It can depend on the shape and size of your ramekin.
  11. When they are ready they should still have a nice wobble if gently shaken, they will set further when they cool. If you cook them too long they become too firm and may crack on top. I find 15-20 minutes gives them a lovely soft texture when cooled. Take them out of the oven and out of the bain marie to cool. Once cooled they can go into the fridge to chill further. (I find a pair of tongs ideal for removing the ramekins from the hot water. Take care not to drop them. A fish lift might slide under them and be helpful too.)
  12. When ready to serve, sprinkle one level teaspoon of caster sugar evenly over the surface of each crème brûlée, then caramelise with a chefs’ blow-torch. Don’t add too much sugar to the top or you will create a thick layer that’s hard to eat. To be at their best this must be done in the 60 minutes before serving or the crisp sugar top will go soft. I find it only takes a few minutes.

Variants

Fruit

Creme Brulee is especially nice with a thin layer of fruit at the bottom of the ramekin. Ideally, you want to have a contrast, not too sweet. You can make it seasonal almost anything will work. My personal favourites are Rhubarb, and Raspberry. You want to just gently cook the fruit with a little water and sugar to make a very light fruit compote. For me, the fruit has to keep its general shape. Rhubarb must be cooked but still hold together as pieces of stalk. Otherwise, it’s just a mush. Raspberries are also very delicate. I find you can add a handful and cook till they dissolve to give a base, then add the whole fruits just warming and removing from heat before they dissolve. Spoon a small amount into the base of the ramekin before you add the custard. It brings a sharp balance to the dessert and is eaten up through the layers of creamy sweet custard.

Rose Water

I’ve made this with rose water before and it was faint but tasty. I’d increase the quantity if doing again. For the above quantities I’d suggest 2 tbsp rose water. You could do more but it can be a quite overpowering flavour if too strong. I tried 1 tbsp and it was barely discernible. I think some trial and error is required. Actually, rose water goes well with rhubarb. I will try that when the rhubarb is in season. Also, if doing just rose flavour I would reduce the vanilla, you could even omit it completely.

Baba Ganoush

Great recipe which makes a really nice smoky Baba Ganoush. It’s a fabulous roasted aubergine dip that is best eaten with freshly made pitta bread. As with all these things you can flex the quantities to make it more lemony, or garlicky, or whatever you prefer.
The quantities make about a decent pasta bowl sized serving.
For me, a blowtorch is essential for this recipe. But you might find a very hot grill or BBQ could do the trick. A gas hob might work but it could get messy. A real scorching of the aubergine skin is needed to get a good strong smoky flavour. When I use the blowtorch approach the skin glows red and smokes, it then goes black and carbonised as it cools.
The other essential is draining the aubergine liquids. Otherwise, the dish will be too wet and sloppy.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 medium to large aubergines
  • 1 garlic clove, more or less as you prefer
  • ½ Lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp good Tahini (I always use Al Arz)
  • 2-3 tsp pomegranate molasses (optional, but can give a brighter, fruitier, flavour)
  • Chopped mint or parsley for mixing through
  • Good olive oil for serving
  • Toppings as preferred – parsley, oregano, pomegranate, dukkah

Method

  1. Roast the aubergines in a hot oven at 200C for about 1 hour, more if you think they need it.
  2. I then take them out to the cooker top and set about them with the blowtorch. They are so hot the skin instantly chars and glows red, releasing smoke. (Put the vent on and shut the kitchen door or the fire detectors will go nuts.) Scorch all round.
  3. Now slice each in half lengthwise and scrape out the flesh, trying to avoid getting too much carbonised skin. Put the flesh in a colander over a bowl to cool thoroughly, this drains all the liquid.
  4. Meanwhile, add the tahini and the lemon juice to a bowl with the crushed garlic. Mix them and the tahini/lemon combo will thicken up. If you are using the blender or food processor approach just put everything in, it will be fine.
  5. Once the aubergines have drained, put the flesh into the tahini/lemon mix.
  6. You can either just chop and mix it up for a coarse texture or blend in a food processor it for a smooth texture.
  7. Stir in any herbs you are using.

Serve the Baba Ganoush at room temperature with some good olive oil and whatever dressings or herbs you fancy. Make your own homemade pitta bread to get the best from this delicious smoky wonderfulness.

Pitta Bread

If you’ve only used shop bought Pitta Bread then you have missed out on a real treat. Fresh homemade pitta bread is both easy to do and much tastier than the packet stuff. It’s also a great barbeque side and is easy to cook on a hot barbeque. They can also be cooked under your cooker’s grill.

They are best cooked as they are about to be used. You need to start about 90 minutes before you want to make and eat them. It’s only about a 20 minute effort, the rest of the time is just waiting and … drinking wine?
I’m always surprised how long the dough can sit around. Put it in the fridge under a damp tea towel or cling film and it will easily keep 24 hours. I once used some I had left in a bowl in the kitchen for 24 hours and the pitta bread was delicious.
Use them to make pitta pockets to fill with grilled meats and salad. Or to tear and dip in homemade Baba Ganoush, Taramasalata, or Hummus.
My preferred cooking method is on our gas barbeque. It needs to be fully hot for the pittas cook properly and to steam internally and it’s this that makes them puff up and form the pocket that is so good for stuffing. They really only take a minute or so. The second side usually needs even less. Try one as an experiment before you load the barbeque up with many.

Ingredients

  • 7g dried yeast (the little sachets are 7g or if you have a teaspoon measure that’s about 1¾ tsp measures)
  • 150ml lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 100ml lukewarm milk

Method

  1. Dissolve the yeast in a jug with 45ml of the water and the honey. Leave it for about 15 minutes for the yeast to begin growing. The quantity of water can be an estimate and doesn’t need to be deadly accurate.
  2. Put the salt and flour in a big bowl, I don’t bother sieving
  3. Add the yeast mixture and the remaining liquids
  4. Mix to form a workable dough
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured (or oiled if you prefer) surface and knead it for 10 minutes (set a timer)
  6. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover, and allow it to rest and rise for about 1 hour
  7. Then tip it out and divide into 6-8 portions
  8. Roll each out to whatever disc or oval shape you like. About 3mm thick is fine but you will quickly learn what you prefer. If left lying around then cover them with some clingfilm or a damp tea towel.
  9. I leave them all lying on flour dusted non-stick baking sheets for about 10 minutes
  10. Take them out to your very hot barbecue. It needs to be very hot to make them puff up, which forms the pocket inside. Cook them till they puff and then flip them with tongs to the other side. It literally takes about a minute depending on the temperature.
  11. Alternatively, cook them under a very hot grill. I find they can sit a few inches from the grill. You need to do that because when they puff up they can touch the grill and catch fire. So be very careful.
Serve them warm in a basket.

Harissa Lamb Meatballs

These tasty harissa lamb meatballs are easily prepared in advance and can be reheated after cooking. Make it spicy or not, as you prefer, by adjusting or omitting the harissa.
You don’t need to have Rose Harissa, ordinary Harissa is fine. Or even just a pinch or two of chilli powder.

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 500g minced lamb
  • 1 white onion finely grated (I usually blitz with the food processor)
  • 4 tbsp white breadcrumbs
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1-2 tsp rose harissa to taste
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp (or less if you prefer) Rose Harissa
  • Some thyme sprigs
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to season
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped and added at the end to serve

Method

  1. First, make the meatballs as these need to chill to keep their shape
  2. Add all the meatball ingredients to a bowl and mix with your hands till well mixed
  3. Now make golf ball sized meatballs and rest them in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Make the sauce in a suitable pan.
  5. Cook off the onion till soft and translucent, probably taking about 15 minutes
  6. Add the garlic and harissa and cook these gently for a minute or two
  7. Add the everything else except the parsley and bring to a gentle simmer
  8. When the meatballs are ready you can either simmer them gently for 45-60 minutes in the sauce or put them in the oven in a suitable casserole for about the same time at say 160C fan.
  9. Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving
Serve the harissa lamb meatballs with couscous, salad or pitta bread. Some yoghurt on the side can be a nice cooling element.

I’ve made these a day in advance and just reheated them for 30-40 minutes in a low oven. Works very well.