A symphony of whales, swaying palms & dessert pastries

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As I sit here under the sway of the palms planning the last bits and pieces for Christmas, I have a splendid display before me. In the smooth as glass Atlantic Ocean, are loads and loads of whales, blowing streams of white spray into the air. The performance, seemingly synchronised among the different pods; it is for me like a symphony playing out to the sounds of nature, just so wonderful to observe.

Back to planning; every good meal deserves a happy ending and this French Raspberry Tart will do just that. What is nice about this tart is that most of the preparation can be done the day before and quickly assembled when needed.

French Raspberry tart

Ingredients

1 x 23cm pastry case (see recipe below)

Fresh raspberries, to cover

1 recipe crème pâtissière (see recipe below)

1 recipe raspberry fruit glaze (see recipe below)

Icing sugar to dust over tart

Method

1. Bake prepared pastry case

2. Make the crème pâtissière

3. Make the raspberry fruit glaze

To assemble the tart: half fill balked pastry case with crème pâtissière and arrange raspberries in circles on top; coat with raspberry fruit glaze. Dust with icing sugar (optional) Serve chilled.

Pâté Sablée

For the pastry you will need

225g sifted plain flour

180g diced cold unsalted butter

1 tablespoon icing sugar (level measure)

A pinch of salt

1 egg yolk

A little ice water (equal to the egg yolk)

Method

Place the butter, flour, sugar and salt in the food processor and blend briefly until the mixture resembles coarse sand.

Combine the egg yolk with an equal amount of iced water; mix together and add to the pastry in the bowl. Blend briefly until the ingredients just start forming a ball. Remove and roll gently into a ball, wrap and put in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Flour a working surface as well as the rolling pin. Roll out pastry and try not to stretch it, rather gently roll out from the centre until large enough to fit the pastry tin. Should the pastry break while handling it, don’t be concerned, this pastry is so rich, that you can patch it up by pressing torn edges together with your fingers.

When sufficiently large enough, roll the pastry gently over the rolling pin and lift it over the tin, gently drop the pastry in and ease and press it loosely down into the tin, press it against the sides until it is an even thickness all round. Roll the rolling pin across the top of the tin to cut off the excess pastry. Prick the base and sides of the pastry shell with the prongs of a fork, chill pastry for 30 minutes.

Blind bake the pastry in a hot oven 230C for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C and bake for 30 minutes. Should the crust start to brown at the edges, cover with foil.

Crème Pâtissière

450ml milk

1 vanilla pod, split

5 egg yolks

100g castor sugar

2 level tablespoons cornflour

1 level tablespoon Butter

Method

Pour the milk in a medium sized pan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil over low heat. Once up to heat remove, cover and leave to infuse until needed.

In a bowl whisk egg yolks with sugar until thick and light in colour; gradually whisk in the cornflour. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and gradually pour milk into egg mixture, whisking until blended.

Pour mixture back into the pan and bring to the boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly. Once up to the boil, simmer for about 3 minutes, beating vigorously.

Remove pan from heat; beat in 1 level tablespoon butter and continue beating for a little longer to cool the pastry cream slightly.

Put the cream in a bowl and cover with a sheet of lightly buttered paper to prevent a skin from forming on top. Allow to become quite cold then chill until required.

Fruit glaze

300ml apricot, raspberry or red currant jam

Kirsch, a splash

4-6 tablespoons Water

Method

Add 4-6 tablespoons water to apricot jam and heat, stirring constantly until liquid; flavour to taste with kirsch.

Festive Christmas Starter

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A tasty and visually pleasing starter to brighten the Christmas table and very easy to prepare. For vegetarians you could exchange the Bresaola for a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and capers starter IMG_3108

Insalata Bresaola

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 fennel bulbs; rinsed and trimmed

1 granny smith apple, washed and dried, keep skin on.

100g thinly sliced Bresaola

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons water

100g natural yoghurt

4 tablespoons Grapeseed or olive oil

a gentle splash of Pernod anise or Ricard Pastis (optional)

Salt and pepper

Dill or fennel fronds to garnish

Method

In bowl, mix the lemon juice with 2 tablespoons water set aside.

Cut the fennel into thin slices. Cut the apple into thin slices, then briefly dip the apple slices in the lemon juice water to keep the pulp from darkening. Toss the apple and fennel together, season to taste with salt and pepper and place a portion on each plate. Arrange the Bresaola slices in the middle and drizzle with the dressing.

Dressing

In a bowl mix the yoghurt with oil, Pernod, salt and pepper. Set aside

Garnish

With dill or fennel fronds.

Note

Bresaola is dried salted beef available from delicatessens.

Pernod Anise and Ricard Pastis, are both anise-flavoured liqueurs and are often referred to simply as Pernod or Ricard.

A Christmas treat – Spiced Cinnamon Shortbread

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The flavour and fragrance of this shortbread is just so ‘Christmassy’ and I love to have tins of it in the pantry; some pieces beautifully packed for little home-made gifts and some for sharing with friends who pop in over the festive season. What’s more it is very easy to make. 

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Serves 8

Ingredients

2 cups cake flour

¼ cup caster sugar

2 tbsp. corn flour

¼ tsp. cinnamon powder

A pinch of Allspice powder

Pinch of salt

250g unsalted butter, slightly softened

Extra caster sugar for sprinkling once baked

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Method

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until the ingredients are combined and just coming together. It is important to not over-process. If you don’t have a food processor, work the mixture lightly with your hands until combined.

Press the mixture as evenly as possible into a 20cm round pie dish and smooth the top. Using a fork, prick the dough evenly all over.

Place the shortbread in a preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until it turns a light golden brown.

Remove from the oven and slice into serving portions then sprinkle with some caster sugar while still hot. Leave to cool before serving.

spice options

ground star anise; ground dried ginger; ground cardamom, ground cloves

Buttery prawns with tomato, olives, capers and a splash of Pernod

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When it gets closer and closer to spring I start craving bright summery flavours, fresh greens and salads. Last evening although very cold gave way to this lovely dinner which has had everyone calling for the recipe, so here it is.

Buttery prawns with tomato, olives, capers and a splash of Pernod

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This is dead easy and utterly delicious. The flavour of the Pernod liquor complements but also mellows the intensity of the tomato and olives, coating the prawns in a heavenly buttery sauce.

Served as soon as it is made, accompanied by pieces of wholesome bread or rice to soak up the sauce.

Serves 4

Ingredients

6 plum tomatoes

20 tiger prawns

70g softened unsalted butter

1 tbsp. finely chopped capers

½ tsp. dried chilli flakes

70g Kalamata olives, stoned

25ml or Pernod

3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Sea salt

Method

If you object to tomato skins then by all means skin them; I choose not to do so. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and set aside.

Peel the prawns, keeping the tail segment of the shell on. Cut a shallow slit along the back of each prawn and remove the dark vein using the tip of a small knife.

Place a frying pan over a high heat. When very hot, add 35gm of the butter and sauté the prawns quickly for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan as you go. Add the tomatoes, chilli and olives and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the prawns are nearly cooked through; then add the Pernod. Do this carefully as it may catch fire. Let the alcohol evaporate for a minute then quickly add the remaining butter, the garlic, the parsley and a little salt. Toss for a second or two to enable the juices to come together in a runny sauce.

Serve immediately, with good crispy bread or rice.

Cucumber, radish, peppers and poppy seed salad

Halve the cucumber along its centre and scoop out the seedy core, which is full of water, and will dilute the dressing and make the salad watery.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large cucumber

4-6 radishes, sliced

I red pepper finely sliced

2 mild red chillies, thinly sliced

3 tbsp. roughly chopped coriander

60ml white wine vinegar or rice vinegar

125ml sunflower oil

1 1/2 tbsp. poppy seeds

2 tbsp. caster sugar

Salt and black pepper

Method

Gently and quickly toast the poppy seeds in a hot, dry pan for a few seconds; semi cover with a lid during the process to prevent the seeds from popping out of the pan.

Slice off and discard the ends of the cucumber. Slice the cucumber down the middle and remove the seeds. Slice the cucumber so you end up with pieces 1cm thick and about 3 cm long. Slice the radishes.

Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste and adjust the amount of sugar and salt if needed. The salad should have a sharp and sweet tang.

I find it best to have all the ingredients for this salad ready and to assemble this salad just before I start cooking the prawns. This prevents the liquid which the cucumber tends to release, from diluting the dressing.

Note

Adding a few capers also adds another lovely flavour dimension to this salad.

It’s the perfect morning to write – A Trio of Recipes

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I’m sitting in my kitchen warm and toasty looking out on the garden and the Atlantic Ocean beyond while contemplating the trees and bushes with the last of their autumn colours dropping gracefully to the ground; the leaves seem to have stayed around longer than usual which adds to the rich beauty of the morning as the air seems to dance with wisps of fog in the most magical way.

It’s the perfect morning to write, sitting here sipping on a soothing cup of coffee while my mind flits through the many recipes enjoyed by people past, and who recently stayed at Clifton House, and of their usual departing request to please send the recipe.

Most recently requested recipes are; Poached Egg on a bed of micro greens served with Carrot frits, Chilli spiced Autumn Pear salad, Smoked salmon & Spinach tart.

Poached Egg & Micro greens served with a side order of Carrot Frits

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Serves 2

For the eggs

2 large organic eggs

20 g micro leaf rocket

1 tsp. good quality aged balsamic vinegar

1 desert spoon walnut oil

For the carrot frits

500 g carrots cut into fries approximately 1cm thick

1 tbsp. cornflour

A few grindings black pepper

1 tbsp. olive oil

Salt to taste

Heat the oven to 200c

Method

Place the cornflour and black pepper in a plastic bag, add the carrot frits and toss to cover evenly. Remove carrots from bag, place on a baking sheet and gently toss through with olive oil. Spread out in a single layer and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until done. To prevent carrots from sticking it is best to turn them halfway through the cooking process. When the carrot frits are cooked, sprinkle with salt.

When the carrot frits are ready, place some micro greens on each plate. Mix together the balsamic vinegar and walnut oil, drizzle over the micro greens and set aside.

Place a small pan on the stove with sufficient water to almost cover the eggs; sprinkle in a little salt, add the eggs and poach gently until cooked to your liking.

Place a poached egg gently on top of the micro greens, season with a few salt flakes and some ground black pepper. Serve with the carrot frits on the side. The frits are delicious to dunk into the egg.

Chilli Spiced Pear Salad

This is nice to serve as a starter or to enjoy as a light lunch.

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large chilli deseeded and finely chopped

3 tbsp. Groundnut or olive oil

2 tsps. Soy sauce

1 tsp. Castor sugar

1 tsp. white wine vinegar

3 firm but sweet pears cut into medium thin slices

Mixture of salad greens

Salt flakes and ground black pepper

Method

Add the chopped chillies to the oil in a bowl. In a small pan, warm the soy sauce, sugar and vinegar together. Once the sugar has dissolved, whisk it into the olive and chilli mixture. Set aside.

Place some salad greens on each plate, top with some of the sliced pear and drizzle over the dressing, finish with a sprinkle of salt flakes and ground black pepper. Serve.

Smoked Salmon & Spinach tart

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Serves 4-6

Equipment

You will need a 25cm loose bottom tart tin, about 4cm deep.

Ingredients

Ready-made puff pastry

Olive oil

1 pack of baby spinach

1 onion finely diced

1 pack of smoked salmon

2 tbsp. capers

1 round of feta

5-6 eggs (large)

120 ml milk

A little salt and a good grinding of black pepper

Method

Heat the oven to 180C

Roll out the ready-made puff pastry and line the tart tin – set aside.

Wash the spinach. Heat a pan and add some oil to the pan followed by the spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Drain and press the spinach to remove all the excess water. Tear into bits and leave to cool

In the same pan drizzle a little more oil and add the onion; Sauté until soft and translucent. Set aside to cool.

Scatter the spinach over the base of the pastry, followed by the onions and then the salmon, torn into strips, then the capers and the feta.

In a bowl mix together the eggs and milk; season with salt and pepper, keep in mind the saltiness of the salmon, feta and capers.

Pour the egg mixture over the ingredients in the tart tin.

Place the tart tin on a tray and set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes.

Serve with a salad.

The Simple Dressing that Packs a Punch

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I use this dressing a lot; it serves as a sauce, a dressing and equally well as a marinade. I love it with fish, roast chicken, over asparagus and I have even tossed it through some pasta.

With autumn flapping around our heals it is a good time to increase the intake of Vitamin C. This dressing goes a long way toward ensuring I do and becomes a firm staple in my kitchen throughout the winter season. The dressing keeps well for about a week in the fridge.

Ingredients

lukewarm water

250 ml fruity extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 2 large lemons

A good handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 tsp. dried oregano

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Combine 70 ml lukewarm water and half the olive oil in a small saucepan. Whisk in the lemon juice, parsley, garlic and oregano; Season to taste.

Next, heat all the ingredients over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring gently and often; after about 5 minutes add the rest of the oil and combine until emulsified.

Place in a jar with a screw top lid and store in the fridge. Shake before use.

Options:

To change the flavour, you can add some of the following ingredients if you choose. Chilli fresh or dried, finely chopped sage, finely chopped mint, finely chopped basil, or finely chopped anchovy.

Autumn Snack for One

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It’s a quiet day; the stormy weather of yesterday gone. Today we have soft autumn sunshine, the air is crisp and chilly. I love the different seasons and the changes it brings. This evening will be perfect for cosy fireside natter while sipping some delicious port.

But back to lunch which is roasted vegetables and avocado on toasted whole wheat seed bread, followed by grilled peach served with goats cheese, a drizzle of Agave nectar and a sprig of mint. This is a very healthy snack, wonderful the skin, cholesterol, blood pressure and general circulation.

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For the roasted vegetables and avocado on toasted whole wheat seed bread you will need

½ red pepper cut into bite size chunks

1 small red onion cut into chunks

11/2 tablespoon olive oil

½ an avocado

1 garlic clove

1 small green chilli

2-3 basil leaves

A spritz or two of fresh lime juice

A slice of whole wheat seed bread or bread of your choice, toasted

Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 220C

Put the chopped pepper and onion in an oven proof dish, sprinkle with one tablespoon olive oil, season and toss the vegetables together. Place in the preheated oven for about 15minutes then turn the grill on high and continue to cook for about another 5 minutes, or until the vegetables take on some charred colour.

Place the avocado, garlic, chilli, basil, lime juice and ½ a tablespoon olive oil in a blender and blend to a rough or smooth consistency. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Spread the avocado mixture over the toast and top with the roasted vegetables. Serve.

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Oven grilled peach served with goat’s chees, agave nectar and mint

Ingredients

1 peach cut in half, stone removed

A little olive oil

A few slices of goat’s cheese

A few sprigs of mint

A drizzle of agave nectar

Method

Place the peach halves face up in an oven proof dish. Rub the cut side of each half with a little olive oil and place under a hot grill for about 5-8 minutes or until they start to take on colour.

Place each half on a plate or in a little bowl, top with some goat’s cheese, a sprig of mint and drizzle with a splash of agave nectar.

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Note:

if you don’t have agave nectar, use a good quality honey instead

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Mini Ham & Rocket Omelettes served with Balsamic Fig Jam

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The versatile egg once again becomes a platform for a delicious light lunch, brunch or dinner. In this recipe the omelette is used as a wrap, stuffed with beautiful Serrano Ham and peppery salad leaves. It works equally well using chopped cooked prawns in a mild curry dressing. The combinations are up to your imagination. 

 

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 onion finely chopped (about 80g) or finely chopped spring onions white part only

Salt, a pinch

15ml olive oil

10g butter

2 extra-large eggs, gently beaten and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper

8 slices of Serrano Ham or the equivalent

A hand full of peppery salad leaves such as rocket or watercress gently tossed through a dressing of 15 ml of olive oil, a little lemon juice and a grinding of black pepper

4 thin slivers of gruyere cheese (optional)

Balsamic fig jam to serve (optional)

Method

Melt the olive oil and butter in a pan, add the chopped onion, season lightly with some salt and cook gently until softened and golden in colour. Set aside to cool slightly then add the softened onions to the beaten egg mixture.

Heat up the smallest frying pan you have, such as a one egg pan or a blini pan; add a drop or two of olive oil to the pan. Place a thin layer of the omelette mix in the pan and let cook over gentle heat until the egg mixture is almost set about 2 minutes, flip over and cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Remove and place the omelette on some grease proof paper while you continue to cook the rest.

To assemble

Place 2 slices of Serrano ham on one half side of the omelette cover with a thin slice of gruyere cheese and top with the salad leaves. Fold the other half of the omelette over the filling, giving a gentle squeeze to keep it together. Plate and serve with some balsamic fig jam.

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