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Biscotti February 21, 2010

Posted by Helen in cookies.

What good is coffee without biscotti?

This delicious magazine recipe is great! I didn’t have any pistachios, so I used all almonds and the biscotti are still very nice. But I think the pistachios would have pushed them from nice to stupendous. Next time.












50g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
50g whole blanched almonds
115g caster sugar
1 egg
15ml Grand Marnier liqueur
Finely grated zest of 1 small orange
175g plain flour, plus extra for kneading
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground coriander
40g polenta
50g shelled unsalted pistachio nuts

Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan150°C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Roast the almonds in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until golden. Cool and chop roughly.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the egg, Grand Marnier and orange zest. Add the flour, baking powder, coriander and polenta. Mix until it forms a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the almonds and pistachios throughout. Halve the mix and shape each half into a 2-inch wide, ¾-inch deep sausage.

Place on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until just firm. Cool for 10 minutes, then cut into slices. Lay the biscotti flat on the baking sheet and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, until crisp. Cool.


Tiramisu February 19, 2010

Posted by Helen in dessert.
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Another recipe from good old Gordon. This is an easy (i.e., cheat) tiramisu recipe, but it still tastes positively decadent and is definitely not light on calories either. But I think it’s well worth it.













250g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp Marsala (or brandy or Tia Maria)
150ml strong coffee or espresso, cooled to room temperature
150ml single cream
4 tbsp icing sugar
16 sponge fingers (savoiardi) 
Chocolate (at least 70%), to grate
Cocoa powder, to dust

Whisk the mascarpone with the vanilla and Marsala and 50ml coffee, until everything is thoroughly mixed together.

Whisk the cream with the icing sugar until smooth, then fold in the mascarpone mix.

Pour the remaining coffee into a bowl (sweeten with more icing sugar if you like). Take one sponge finger at a time and dip it in to the coffee. Set it to one side and continue with the remaining biscuits

Line 4 serving glasses or bowls with 4 sponge fingers, breaking them in half if you need to. Spoon the mascarpone mix in until you reach the top of the glass. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.

Remove the tiramisu from the fridge. Grate a little chocolate over the top of each one. Finally, dust with sifted cocoa powder to serve.

Potatoes dauphinoise February 17, 2010

Posted by Helen in potatoes, side dishes.

These potatoes gave me a chance to try out my new mandolin, which was loads of fun! I’m now searching for recipes that involve slicing things thinly. Suggestions are welcome. This was also an incredibly easy recipe, though the results looked (and tasted) really impressive. It’s definitely one I’ll be using again. Thank you, Good Food.










1 clove garlic, halved
50g butter
500g waxy potatoes, thinly sliced
Grated nutmeg
300ml milk
300ml double cream
Grated Gruyère cheese for sprinkling (optional)

Set the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Rub the cut sides of the garlic all over the insides of an ovenproof dish, then grease the dish with butter.

Put a layer of potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and grated nutmeg. Add another layer of potato, season again and press down on the potatoes (the dauphinoise should be dense). Continue building up the layers until you reach the top of the dish, patting down each time.

Mix the milk and cream together and pour over the potatoes, making sure the liquid just covers the surface. Sprinkle the top with cheese, if liked.

Bake for 2 hours. Serve when the potatoes have softened and turned golden brown on top, while the cream is still bubbling.

Sticky lemon chicken with champ February 2, 2010

Posted by Helen in chicken, Uncategorized.
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As much as I hate to admit it, Gordon Ramsay is pretty good. This was a perfect weeknight supper. Not too heavy (unless, of course, you eat as much champ as my husband does), and lovely served with steamed green beans. The recipe below serves 4, so I halved it. Rather than using a whole chicken, I used a breast and two thighs (something that seems to work well for us since I prefer white meat).











Lemon chicken:
1 large chicken, jointed into 8-10 pieces
Salt and pepper
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
A few thyme sprigs
A splash of sherry vinegar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
1 lemon, finely sliced
Bunch of flatleaf parsley, chopped

1 kg floury potatoes (e.g., King Edward), peeled
Salt and pepper
30g butter
Bunch of spring onions (8-10), trimmed and chopped
100ml double cream
100ml whole milk

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) over a high heat with the garlic and thyme for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Return all the chicken to the pan, add the sherry vinegar and bubble until reduced by half. Drizzle over the soy sauce and honey and shake the pan to mix.

Pour in a good splash of hot water and add the lemon slices. Let the liquid bubble and reduce down until syrupy, which will take about 10 minutes or so. By now the chicken should be cooked through.

Cut the potatoes into similar-sized chunks and boil in salted water for about 10 minutes, until tender when pierced with a small sharp knife. Drain well.

Mash the potatoes while still hot, using a potato ricer if you have one, then stir through the butter and spring onions.

Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Take off the heat and gradually pour on to the potatoes, mixing well. If the mash is too thick, add a little extra milk. Season generously.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and sprinkle over the chopped parsley, serve with the champ and green beans.

Moroccan baked chicken with chickpeas and rice January 23, 2010

Posted by Helen in chicken.
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Another delicious dish, courtesy of Delia, which I loved but which didn’t impress my husband. Ah, well. All the more for me! I also love this recipe because everything cooks in one dish, making my life much easier. The recipe, as written, serves 4, so I halved it. Also, rather than using a whole chicken, I used a breast for me and a couple of thighs for the husband. I also substituted tinned chickpeas for dried since I had them on hand.











1 x 1½-2 kg chicken, jointed into 8 pieces; or use a pack of 8 drumsticks and thighs
11og dried chickpeas
175g brown basmati rice
1 level tsp cumin seeds
1 level tbsp coriander seeds
½ level tsp saffron stamens
2 small lemons
2 yellow peppers
2 onions
2 tbsp olive oil
15g fresh coriander
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 fresh chillies,  halved, de-seeded and finely chopped
275ml chicken stock
150ml dry white wine
50g pitted black olives
50g pitted green olives
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).

If you’re using dried (rather than tinned) chickpeas, there are two ways to deal with them. The easiest is to pop them into a bowl, cover them with cold water and leave them overnight or for a minimum of 8 hours. But, if it slips your mind, what you can do is place them in a saucepan, cover them with cold water and bring them up to the boil for 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let them soak for 3 hours. Either way, when you want to start making this recipe, the chickpeas need to be simmered for 20 minutes or until tender. Honestly, I found it much easier using tinned chickpeas, and the dish still tasted lovely.

Place a small frying pan over direct medium heat, add the cumin and coriander seeds and toss them around in a hot pan for about 2-3 minutes or until they start to dance and change colour. Then remove the seeds to a pestle and mortar and crush them coarsely and transfer them to a plate. Next, crush the saffron stamens to a powder with the pestle and mortar, then squeeze out the juice of one of the lemons and add it to the saffron, stirring well.

Then season your chicken pieces well with salt and pepper. Slice the peppers in half, remove the seeds and pith and cut each half into 4 large pieces. The onions should be sliced roughly the same size as the peppers. Now heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in the flameproof casserole and, when it’s really hot, brown the chicken pieces on all sides – don’t overcrowd the pan; it’s best to do it in 2 batches, 4 pieces at a time.

After that, remove the chicken pieces to a plate, then add the second tablespoon of oil and turn the heat to its highest setting. When the oil is really hot, add the peppers and onions and cook them in the hot oil, moving them around until their edges are slightly blackened – this should take about 5 minutes – then turn the heat down. Strip the coriander leaves from the stalks, wrap them in a piece of clingfilm and keep them in the fridge. Then chop the coriander stalks finely and add these to the peppers and onions, along with the garlic, chillies, crushed spices, the chickpeas and rice, then give everything a good stir to distribute all the ingredients.

Season well with salt and pepper, then combine the lemon and saffron mixture with the stock and wine, pour it all in to the casserole and stir well. Cut the remaining lemon into thin slices and push these well into the liquid. Now scatter the olives in and, finally, place the pieces of chicken on top of everything. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in the pre-heated oven for 1 hour or until the rice and chickpeas are tender. Then, just before serving, scatter the coriander leaves on top and serve straight away.

Lemon drizzle cake January 17, 2010

Posted by Helen in cakes, dessert.
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I love anything with lemon in it, and this cake from Olive magazine didn’t disappoint.  With its soft crumbly inside and sugary crunchy lemony topping … just heavenly with a big mug of coffee on a chilly afternoon.










225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
Lemons, 3 zested, 2 juiced
4 medium eggs, lightly whisked
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
Icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Butter and line the base of a 20cm cake tin. 

Beat the butter and caster sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the lemon zest (reserving some for the topping) and mix well. Whisk the eggs gradually into the butter mixture, beating well between each addition – don’t worry if it curdles.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and fold into the cake mixture using a large metal spoon or spatula. Add the ground almonds and ¾ of the lemon juice, and fold until thoroughly combined. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out without any raw mix on it.

Put the cake tin on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile mix together the remaining lemon juice and zest and enough icing sugar to make a runny icing and then drizzle over the top of the cake. Cool in the tin for a further 30 minutes and then remove from the tin and cool completely before serving.

Serve as a pudding, dressed up with a dollop of crème fraîche.

The world’s best brownies December 30, 2009

Posted by Helen in cakes, chocolate, cookies, dessert.

Brownie recipes are like men. You go through a lot of them in a lifetime, searching for that perfect one. Along the way, you find some that are quite good and some that are so dreadful you never want to see them again. Most fall somewhere in between – they’re pleasant enough, but you probably wouldn’t bring them home to your mother. No matter how many disasters you come across, you’re still willing to put yourself out there and search for the elusive “one.” You read coookbooks and surf the web in desperation – the cook’s equivalent of online dating. But then … then … all of a sudden one comes along that completely changes your life. That’s how it was for me when I encountered Nigel Slater’s Very Very Good Brownie recipe a few years ago. It was lust at first sight. How could I possibly resist a recipe which fed me such smoothly seductive lines as, “This isn’t just gastroporn, this is positively pay-per-view,” and “What I want is the mother of all brownies – pure, dense and unapologetically raunchy.” Swoon. I know now that I’ll never ever look at another brownie recipe again. I’m a changed woman. A one-recipe woman.











300g golden caster sugar
250g butter
250g chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
3 large eggs + 1 extra egg yolk
60g flour
60g finest quality cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder

You will need a baking tin, about 23cm x 23cm, preferably non-stick, or a small roasting tin.

Set the oven at 180°C/Gas 4. Line the bottom of the baking tin with baking parchment. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a food mixer and beat for several minutes till white and fluffy.

Meanwhile, break the chocolate into pieces, set 50g of it aside and melt the rest in a bowl suspended over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. As soon as the chocolate has melted remove it from the heat. Chop the remaining 50g into gravel-sized pieces.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix in a pinch of salt. With the food mixer running slowly, introduce the beaten egg a little at a time, speeding up in between additions. Remove the bowl from the mixer to the work surface, then mix in the melted and the chopped chocolate with a large metal spoon. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa, gently and firmly, without knocking any of the air out. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes. The top will have risen slightly and the cake will appear slightly softer in the middle than around the edges.Pierce the centre of the cake with a fork – it should come out sticky, but not with raw mixture attached to it. If it does, then return the brownie to the oven for three more minutes. It is worth remembering that it will solidify a little on cooling, so if it appears a bit wet, don’t worry.

I’m in love.

Pumpkin fillo triangles December 24, 2009

Posted by Helen in nibbles, Uncategorized.
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I normally make these little triangles with goat’s cheese and wild mushrooms, but as I was serving stuffed mushrooms alongside them this Christmas Eve, I decided to try a different filling. They’re called pumpkin triangles, but I cheated and used sweet potato instead. Actually, it wasn’t so much cheating as improvising as I was unable to find any pumpkin purée. I just baked one quite large sweet potato, and it yielded enough mashed contents for this recipe.











300g pumpkin or sweet potato purée
200g feta cheese, crumbled (next time, I think I’d add more feta for an extra zing)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp dried red chili flakes
Ground black pepper
Frozen or fresh fillo pastry
Lots of melted butter
Olive oil

Mix together the sweet potato, feta cheese, egg, salt, chili flakes and black pepper.

If using frozen fillo, make sure it’s thawed completely. Put one sheet of the pastry on your worktop with the long edges facing you. Brush it with melted butter. Top with a second sheet and brush with more butter, then top with a third. (Make sure that you keep the fillo you’re not working with covered with a damp teatowel so it doesn’t dry out!)

Cut the three-layered fillo into six strips the short way. Put a small spoonful of the sweet potato filling about half an inch from the top of each strip. Don’t overfill, or the triangles will split. Then the complicated folding begins. This is the fun part. Gently lift the pastry corner and fold it tightly diagonally over the filling to create a triangle (take care not to tear pastry). Continue folding, keeping the triangle shape. I’m probably not explaining it very well, but this website has some better instructions, along with photos to demonstrate the technique. It’s very easy once you get the hang of it.

Spray the triangles or brush them lightly with olive oil. Bake for about 30 minutes at 200C.

Smoked oyster puffs December 24, 2009

Posted by Helen in fish, nibbles.
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These were the easiest things in the world to put together, yet looked rather impressive and tasted wonderful! They were less about cooking and more about assembling!










100g cream cheese
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tin smoked oysters
10-12 frozen puff pastry vol-au-vent cases
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, pepper and one of the smoked oysters in either a blender or food processor. Bake the vol-au-vent cases according to the directions. Put a spoonful of the cream cheese mixture in each case and top with a whole smoked oyster.

Bourbon balls December 18, 2009

Posted by Helen in chocolate, confectionary, cookies.
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I’d forgotten all about bourbon balls until I was given a cookbook published by my old school in Louisiana. Then it all came back to me! Back then, you couldn’t go to a Christmas party anywhere (in Shreveport, at least) without seeing a huge platter of bourbon balls on the table. I think there was some sort of a rule about it. So, I give you – the bourbon ball.










1 cup (109 g) vanilla wafer crumbs (I used Marie biscuits)
1 cup pecans (109 g), finely chopped
1 cup (100 g) icing sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp (11 g) cocoa powder
1/8 cup (30 ml) bourbon
7 ½ Tbsp (111 ml) light corn syrup (I used golden syrup)
More icing sugar for rolling the balls in

Mix together the biscuit crumbs, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Blend in the bourbon and golden syrup. Shape into 1″ balls and roll in the icing sugar. Refrigerate and enjoy!