Well it’s been a while…I’m thinking ahead to a simple Sunday lunch or easy get together meal with the family and this roast chicken with sticky carrots fits the bill. Roast chicken is always a safe bet (and economical) so it’s my go to family, weekend, roast. My Christmas turkey always sits on top of a ‘trivet’ of vegetables & herbs to help keep it moist by raising it off the base of the roasting tin and adding extra flavour to the chicken. It also helps to make the best gravy ever so I have used this trick with the chicken. Try to get hold of to a higher welfare chicken if you can it is much better not just in terms of flavour but more because of the meaty texture-not the ‘cotton wooly’ texture of meat from many factory raised birds.
My bird is fragrant with rosemary, roasted garlic, juicy with lemon and sweet, sticky carrots AND roasted all in one pan so not much washing up-can you resist?
Here is my;
ROSEMARY AND LEMON ROAST CHICKEN WITH STICKY CARROTS
This delicious lemon curd is truly the the food of the gods and takes just 20 minutes to make. You could use it fill a light, fluffy sponge cake or lemon roulade, dollop onto freshly baked scones or use as a decadent filling for dainty sandwiches-white bread, no crusts of course. Personally, I found it very difficult not to eat the whole lot directly from the jar……not just me..I had to wrest it from my husband as well.
The curd is made in small jars as it doesn’t keep well although this is academic as you won’t be able to resist it for long
Try it and you will never look at a bought jar of bright yellow, gloopy lemon curd in quite the same way.
A special cake for a special day-what could be a nicer gift than a home baked one made with love? This is a rather special mother’s day cake which, ditching the bunting, you could use for all sorts of celebrations-the crystallized rose petals giving it a very pretty, vintage look.
I have a long history of making cakes for Mothering Sunday..with various degrees of success..for some reason my sisters and I thought it would be a good idea (and perfectly feasible) to get up very early in the morning bake a cake AND ice it….yes, you can imagine what happened but I’m sure my mum looked at the wonky cake with the icing sliding down the sides and thought it was the best present ever!
Nowadays we have ready made fondant icing which is very easy to use and gives a perfectly smooth professional looking finish -it’s as easy as child’s play to put it on just have a look at some You tube videos to show you how. I confess I am not a fan of eating it and I think that the synthetic, vanilla flavour is over sweet and spoils my lovely cake! It is a waste as I cut mine off before I eat it.. I could be harsh and say it often is used to cover up a poor quality cake and, from a business point of view, gives it a very long shelf life.
Home made marzipan is a revelation to convert even the most ardent ‘I hate marzipan’ brigade and I confess to being quite evangelical about singing it’s praises. It is easy peasy to make just stir the sugars together and bind with egg and it doesn’t have the sharp, chemical after taste of bought marzipan. Almonds are expensive so it makes commercial sense not to use too much and then to get the ‘almond’ flavour by adding a cheap, artificial flavour.
I made the bunting for a special Mother’s day message, it was a fiddle although you can buy the little paper flags from a craft shop. These I glued onto the ribbon (using a high tac glue that dries quickly and clear) and tied the ribbon onto some paper straws. Move them around to get the right ‘hanging effect’ before you sink them into the cake. also used crystallized fresh rose petals which look so..oooooooooooooooo pretty. You can also crystallise primroses, violets or forget me nots, the loveliness is endless. I did try it with snowdrops one year, they looked ok but are really too fleshy to do properly and you really need a flower with an ‘open’ face. Give it a go and you will be amazed at how easy it is.
Here is my mother’s day cake-appropriately for Mothering Sunday I have used my mother’s own recipe for it. I used a Madiera cake as it is quite firm so a good base if you want to cover it with marzipan and icing. The cake has a dense texture and lemony flavour and traditionally it was served topped with very thin slices of crystallized lemon peel.
If I’d known you were coming I would have baked you a cake…tra la la so it goes and what could be nicer to give to someone but a home made cake? This espresso coffee cake is a sophisticated marble cake with ‘Tia Maria’ liquer rather gorgeous and strictly for the grown ups. Hands off my little ones this is all mine. I’m not really one for the strict New Year resolutions viz a viz the ‘great cake eating/healthy eating debate’ so I’m going for the ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ standpoint. Much more successful with me at any rate-what about you?
I have decorated the cake with chocolate covered coffee beans – you can find them on the counter in some of the larger coffee shops or in Italian type delis etc. They are worth searching out to decorate this cake. Here is my recipe:
Let’s be honest a traditional Christmas pudding is not every one’s cup of tea and…………………….you are a tad late if you want to make one so here is a spectacular alternative. It is every bit as special (some would say more), much lighter and filled with brandy soaked fruit, juicy cranberries and ginger biscuits. In bid to show off (tick) I have decorated mine with shards of white chocolate, crystallised berries and a fair bit of edible sparkle. It looks gorgeous and there will definitely be a Tah ..da..moment when you carry it to the Christmas table.
Don’t be tempted to …….flame this pud…you have been warned..
LUSCIOUS CHRISTMAS ICE CREAM PUDDING WITH SPARKLY WHITE CHOCOLATE SHARDS AND CRANBERRIES
Brr it’s cold and blustery in Cumbria today and this beef bourguignon is a great warming dish on an almost wintery day. A classic French chef may shudder at the thought of adding the crispy baguette dumplings but they make a great topping and an ‘all in one’ meal. The dish uses cheaper cuts of meat which have lots of flavour (more so than expensive cuts) but slow cooking. These cuts are also cheaper so it’s win win for me. Shin beef in particular has a great flavour and almost melts down into a rich gravy, a piece popped into any beef stew takes it to a new delicious level. Trust me I know my shins from my steaks.
My veg patch is still producing salad leaves, spicy rocket, peppery mustard and frilly lettuce. Plus the beans are just starting to produce, picked when tiny-an ‘unbuyable’ late summer treat. These ‘White Lady’ runner beans are delicious and the white flowers very pretty, behind them you can just catch a glimpse of the sultry, dark ‘Purple Cascade’ French beans. Another good looker for the plot. Hmm..now what to make?
This fresh salmon nicoise would be lovely for a late summer evening perfect eaten in the garden with a glass of something cold and fizzy. Ok I know I’m getting carried away here. It is highly unlikely that this will take place in Cumbria in September but perhaps we really will get an Indian summer.
This is easily put together and then whipped out to impress.
FRESH SALMON NICOISE
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as main course with crusty bread.
Today I spied these wonderful, glistening redcurrants and I knew it was time to make…..Summer Pudding. Aptly named as it is made with lots of summer fruits that are at their best now.
This pudding is the quintessential taste of summer and all the more special for being made just once a year. Serve it in small slices, as the flavour is quite strong and lots of double cream. Don’t be tempted to go for a healthier option such as Crème Fraiche-this pudding needs cream and after all it is a once a year treat!
You can make one large pudding with this recipe or approx. 6 small ones. The small ones look lovely but are a bit of a fiddle to make.
I really enjoyed a pasta making demonstration by Carmela Sophia Sereno at the New Bookshop in Cockermouth and loved her book-Southern Italian Family Cooking.
Carmela is very engaging and amusing -a more down to earth sort of Nigella without the affectations and irritations of the latter.
From an Italian family she is influenced by her mother and grandmother’s cooking and has then developed her own style and recipes. Her business ‘Carmela’s kitchen’ has blossomed from teaching in her family kitchen to large scale demonstrations, radio shows and pop up kitchens as well as writing books. Happily, she is enjoying a whirl wind of activity at the moment despite having 4 bambinos at home. I was exhausted just listening to her.
We watched as Carmela made basic pasta, with the speed of someone who does it all the time and knows what she is doing even though she only had a tiny table to work on in the middle of a bookshop! She showed us how to cut all the different shapes and sizes with only some basic equipment. This was an impressive performance whilst keep up the constant chat, anecdotes and tales of her family’s cooking back home. Particularly impressive was the pretty, parsley lasagne-laying individual leaves on the pasta and them repeatedly passing it through the pasta machine until it stretched in situ. Holding the pasta sheet up to the light it did look like very pretty wall paper!
Carmela’s (first) book –SOUTHERN ITALIAN COOKING–simple, healthy and affordable food from Italy’s cucina povera is widely available. I liked it, not least, because it is a small paperback (A5 size) and simply printed, in fact just like a family recipe book. It doesn’t have the beautiful photographs you almost always see in cookery books nowadays and is all the better for it. These, dispiritingly, look nothing like the dishes that you will produce at home. Nowadays the camera, almost certainly, will lie. Her recipes are family friendly, easy to follow and you can really feel the echoes of home Italian cooking. I was intrigued by Carmela’s advice not to put cream in Spaghetti alla carbonara and tried her recipe to the letter (now that’s a first for me) and it was lovely and rich without it. It did remind me of when I travelled around the poorer regions of Italy many (many) years ago. I suppose over the time we have ‘anglicised’ Italian pasta dishes serving them with far too much sauce perhaps to disguise poorer quality pasta. Now I am going to try the lasagne without the béchamel sauce.
Also in the book are recipes for antipasti, homemade pizzas, soups, bread, risotto and biscotti, cakes and desserts including a special Tiramisu recipe from her grand-mother. I must give this a go, it must be one of the most popular Italian puddings made here probably incorrectly.
I like this family friendly, thrifty, and easy to make dish. There are a few, simple ingredients and you may have most of them already. It is much better with fresh thyme but you could use dried. Unfortunately this quickly loses it’s flavour as you only use a little at a time and the little jars can be hanging around in the kitchen for…a very long time!. Try growing your own. Thyme, like lots of herbs from warmer climes such as rosemary and sage ( I feel I should burst into song at this point), are very happy in pots. Buy small plants from a garden centre, which are cheap in summer, add some extra grit to make the compost free draining and site your pot in a sunny place-not too far from your door. Now you can pick as much as you need -fresh herbs make all the difference to your cooking.
I digress……the leeks, cooked slowly, go nice and creamy, make sure you keep stirring as leeks burn easily. I always make a white sauce in the microwave, I can hear ‘proper’ chefs tut, tutting but i find it a palaver making a proper roux with flour and butter etc etc. Not to mention the possible lumpiness, this way is so much easier and with the addition of some butter at the end I certainly can’t tell the difference. Add the cooked leeks and cheese and top with the breadcrumbs, thyme and grated lemon. I make the breadcrumbs from left over crusts of bread, if you have some and don’t want to use them straight away they freeze well.
Try this on a ‘Meat Free Monday’ – I’m sure you will want to make it any day of the week.