Monthly Archives: July 2012

French Wines with Style Blogger Challenge

Sorry for the hiatus guys! I’ve been working on something special though, so I hope you’ll forgive me.  I have not just a recipe today but a fantastic summer menu! I am taking part in the French Wines with Style Blogger Challenge.  For this challenge I was kindly sent a summer hamper with tasting notes for the wines and the challenge was to come up with some “perfect summer recipes paired with summer French wines with style”.


Now, you’ll never have to twist my arm to support French wines, having spent every summer in France as a kid, I have been on more tours of vinyards than I can remember. (Best one was where the dog peed on my dad but that’s 11 year olds for ya!) I have always prefered French wines over their new world compatriots.  There is just something classier about them! I love the history, the wealth of knowledge and the traditions of wine growing in France and for me that adds to the whole experience.  I also happen to think they’re just damned tasty! Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Do you enjoy drinking it? If the answer is yes, then you have a winner!  I will never be one for “notes of goosberry and a hint of sweaty sock” type wine drinking.  I either like something, or I don’t.


My stylish BBQ venue, complete with tableware handmade by my mother!

The notes that came with the wines were my starting place.  The words that caught my attention for the Emmanuel Delaille – Le Petit Salvard Cheverny 2010 were “goosberry and lime characters” and the suggestion that it would be a good match for “Chinese and other exotic dishes”.  I immediately thought that a recipe I’d seen for fish with lime, chilli, corriander, ginger and garlic was probably a winner there.  As for the Gabriel Meffre Le Cirque – Vin de France Chardonnay Gros Manseng 2011 the “peach and ginger spice” and “honey and floral notes” immediately made my mouth start watering at the thought of sticky marinated pork with peaches.

For stylish summer eating you’ve got to be outdoors and if you’re luckly enough to be outdoors then you’ve got to fire up the BBQ!  (Although, being British, this whole menu can be prepared inside in the oven, or even, in desparation when the gas runs out on the BBQ, on a health grill… ahem.)


For the first course I prepared sticky ribs with grilled nectarines.  This recipe and the recipe for the fish came from a Jamie Olive BBQ special in the Daily Mail but I’ve tweaked them and added my own notes here.

I found that this recipe did not work at all as it said it would.  It was tasty, but instead of a paste/rub this was definitely a liquid marinade.  Slowcooking the ribs first was a great innovation though, and one I’ve been toying with the idea of for a while.  While you can cook ribs on the grillstraight after marinading they always have a bit of a “crunch” to them.  After slowcooking the meat is incredibly soft and tender and the flavour goes right through the meat.

Slow Cooked BBQ Sticky Ribs with Grilled Nectarine

1 large rack of ribs (or 2 if you need to feed a large group)
1 nectarine per person, sliced into 8ths

1 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp five spice

1 tbsp olive oil
3tbsp/ a few squidges honey
1cm grated ginger
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 small chilli, finely chopped

– In a large baking dish or roasting tray big enough to fit all of the ribs, mix all of the marinade ingredients together.  Just dump it in then whisk it up to combine.
– Add the rack of ribs and coat well with the marinade.
– Cover the tray with foil and seal tightly.
– Pop it in the fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
– Heat your oven to gas mark 3 and then cook the ribs, still tightly covered for 2 hours.
– Make a glaze by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisking together.
– When you’re ready to cook the ribs on the BBQ simply uncover them, brush all over with the glaze and pop on the hot BBQ.
– Turn after about 5 minutes and keep brushing with the glaze turning to cook evenly.
– In the meantime place your sliced nectarines on the BBQ.
– Cook until everything is just a bit blackened with all of that great BBQ flavour.


Now for the fish!  I love cooking a whole fish.  It’s just so much more fun, and it is just so easy.  One of my favourite ways to cook any fish is en papilotte, wrapped in a paper parcel.  My mum has been cooking salmon this way for as long as I can remember and it always seemed so stylish and grow up to me when I’d see her preparing it when I was a child.  The advantages of cooking a fish this way are that you can impart a lot of flavour to the fish, it keeps it nice and moist, keeps the fish from falling apart and you get a lot of lovely juices full of flavour.

I have made this dish with rainbow trout and mackrel and I think I prefered the mackrel.  (We named him Malcolm.)  It seemed to me that the flesh of the mackrel took on a lot more of the flavours where as the trout seemed more perfumed than flavoured.  Mackrel is a meatier fish and oilier too but the trout was lovely and delicate.  Either way this recipe worked brilliantly with both fish, so really, just get whatever whole fish your fishmonger has that you fancy.  Just remember to get your fish gutted as we forgot to get the mackrel gutted and there was some delay while I YouTubed how to gut a fish, wimped out, and then had to wait for my dad to do it for me! I think I’d give it a go next time but let it never be said that I am not a wimp at heart, let the fishmonger do it!20120726-212132.jpg

BBQ Whole Fish En Papilotte

Serves 1

1 trout or mackrel or other whole fish, gutted.
1 lime, halved and sliced
1 small birds eye chilli
1 stick lemongrass
1/2″ root ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch coriander stalks (if making for 4 then just get a whole bunch of coriander and divide into 4, no need to stick to just the stalks)
Salt, pepper and olive oil

– Take your fish and rinse it under cold water.
– Pat it dry and lay on a sheet of baking paper with a row of lime slices underneath it.
– With the side of a large knife crush/bruise the lemongrass, ginger, and galic cloves.  Split the chilli in half lengthways.
– Stuff the cavity of the fish with the lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilli.
– Lay the remaining lime slices on top of the fish.
– Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
– Fold the baking paper around the fish to make a sealed packet.
– Place on a large sheet of newspaper and wrap this securely and tidily round the baking paper package.  Tie with string to secure.
– Soak the parcel for about 3 minutes in a sink/bucket of cold water.
– Place on a hot BBQ and cook for 45 minutes, turning halfway through.  Be careful though as the newspaper may disintegrate and make a mess!

20120726-212513.jpg 20120726-212451.jpg


As for the sides, a parcel of roasted summer vegetables, sweetcorn on the cob and South African BBQ breads (the actual name of which I totally forget, saw it on the Food Network) work a treat.  The roasted vegetable parcels create a lot of juices of their own and the bread is great to mop those and the fish juices up.  Sweetcorn on the cob is just a summer essential, I love grilling it, you don’t need to precook it, just pop it on the BBQ and cook until slightly charred.  You can brush it with soy sauce if you want to or simply serve with a sprinkle of salt.

Roast Summer Vegetable Parcels

1 stalk cherry tomatoes on the vine
1/2 courgette, cut into batons
1/2 lemon
olive oil, salt and pepper

– Take a large sheet of tinfoil.
– Place all of the vegetables in the lower half.
– Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
– Fold the top half over the lover half and fold up all of the open edges to make a sealed parcel.
– Place on the BBQ and cook for 20-30 minutes.
– Open the parcel by splitting the top open, being careful of all of the lovely juices inside.



250g strong bread flour
1 tsp fast action yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water

– Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
– Make a well and pour in the oil and water.
– Mix together to make a dough.
– Turn out onto a floured worksurface and knead by hand for 10 minutes until smooth and pliable.  It will be rather sticky but just keep it moving and try not to add too much extra flour.
– Place in an oiled bowl covered in a warm, draft free spot and leave to raise for 1 hour or until doubled.
– Knock down the dough and turn out onto a worksurface.
– Divide the dough into four and shape into rounds.
– Place on a board or plate and leave to rise for 20-30 minutes.
– Cook on the BBQ turning after 10 minutes and cook for 10 minutes more on the other side.
– Remove from the BBQ and tap.  If the bread sounds hollow then it’s cooked.



And now for dessert!  After all of that faffing about you need something that is simple, no cook and that you can prepare ahdead.  However, it still has to look great.  I give you, the summer fruit flan!  This is a wonderfully stylish cheat dessert.  You can buy all of the ingredients and simply assemble a few hours in advance.  It will even keep in the fridge for a few days if necessary (while you wait for that elusive sunshine, perhaps!) but you’d need to use very fresh fruit.

Cheat’s Summer Fruit Flan

1 large flan case.
1 sachet creme patissiere
Fresh fruits (I used frozen raspberries and blueberries, fresh strawberries and whole cherries with a few fresh raspberries fro the garden for good measure.)

– Place thr flan case on your serving plate.
– Drizzle with any available fruit juices or a few tbsp of Framboise liqueur if you have it.
– Spread the creme patissiere over the base of the flan.
– Cover the top with fresh fruit.
– Set aside for a few hours for the flan to soften, if you try eating it straight away it ca be a bit dry and crumbly.


So there we have my summer menu to go with my stylish French wines!  Hope you’re inspired to give some of them a go this summer.  There’s nothing like eating and cooking al fresco, no matter the size of your gathering be it close family or a crowd of friends a bit of sunshine is always the perfect excuse to crack open a few bottles of French wine and laze away a few golden hours in the back garden with a Barbie!  Bon appetit!


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Filed under Breads, Desserts, Drinks, Easy, Mains, Moderately easy, Sides, Starters

Chocolate Marmalade Loaf Cake

I saw this cake recipe in one of the Sunday Supplements a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately I can’t remember which one or who’s recipe it is coz I took a snap of the recipe on my phone and cooked from that.

It looked rather delicious though so, when I fancied a bit of baking, I thought I’d give it a go.  It’s an interesting recipe, quite different to ones I’ve tried before.  It does get a bit messy, using various bowls, jugs and cups so there’s more washing up involved than I would like but I think the results are well worth it.


This cake has a really nice texture.  It’s moist as a result of the marmalade drizzle but never gets soggy.  It has an almost chewy bite to it, in fact, and it’s nice and dense without being heavy.  The chunks of orange peel and the chocolate chips add some nice interesting bits inside.  It was a big hit with everyone at the office and gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up from me!


Serves 12

200g plain flour
30g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
200ml golden syrup (honey or brown sugar)
2 tbsp yogurt (I used vanilla, recipe says plain)
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder (or 1 shot espresso or strong coffee)
200g marmalade
(5 tbsp orange juice)
200ml boiling water
100g butter, melted
100g chocolate chips

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C and grease/line a 900g loaf tin.  (Which I have learned is not the very big one, or the little one, it’s the medium sized biggish one).
– In a large bowl mix the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
– In a large jug mix together the eggs, golden syrup, yogurt and vanilla extract.
– Put the cocoa and the coffee in a mug and add about 100ml boiling water.
– Put the marmalade in another mug and add about 5tbsp boiling water.  (You can also use orange juice, I didn’t have any so water it was!) If your marmalade has long strands of zest then use scissors to chop them up to more managable lengths.
– Add the egg mixture, the cocoa and half of the marmalade mixture to the dry ingredients.  Retain half the marmalade for glazing the cake later.
– Stir everythign together until it’s smooth with no lumps of flour.
– Add the chocolate chips and stir through.
– Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 40-60 minutes.  (Original recipe says 30-50, mine took 60 minutes.)
– It’s cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
– Allow to cool inthe tin for 20 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
– Place on the plate you want to serve it on and stab all over with a skewer, making sure you don’t go all the way to the bottom of the cake.
– Gently spoon the remaining marmalade glaze evenly over the cake.  It may puddle a bit but you can scoop it up and reapply it if there’s tonnes.
– Leave to stand for at least 1 hour before serving so it can soak up more of that glaze.


Filed under Cakes, Easy, Moderately easy

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Now, this isn’t the most thrilling post ever, I’ll grant you.  But I have been whipping up a batch of smoothies ever Sunday evening for a few weeks now so this is most definitley what’s happening in my kitchen!


I never manage to eat breakfast before I leave the house of a morning.  I will always, ALWAYS choose to have that extra 5 minutes sleep.  And when I get to York… well, those sausage sandwiches from Greggs are mighty tasty! By the time I’m at my desk it’s all systems go and I just don’t really have time to eat something.  Thus, smoothies!

They go in a bottle* so you only need one hand free to have them.  No chewing needed so you can still answer the phone, and they are made of fruit, milk and yogurt, all healthy, all breakfast foods! I favour the basic strawberry and banana but if there’s other fruit around, kiwis or peaches for example they they get thrown in there too!


Makes 5x 250ml

3 bananas, roughly chopped
200g strawberries, hulled
200ml vanilla yogurt
milk to top up

– Put the bananas, strawberries and yogurt in an upright blender.
– Top up with milk until around the 1250ml mark.  If there’s fruit piled up above that mark go below by a similar distance.
– Blitz until smooth.
– If you don’t have the 1250ml needed add more milk to get you there and blitz again.
– Pour into bottles and refrigerate until needed.
– Grab one each morning and you’re good to go! Just give a good shake before drinking to mix it all up again.

* I use the Starbucks Frappucino bottles.  They’re the perfect size and a nice thick glass, which keeps cool nicely during my commute.  Asda sell the Frappucinos for about £1 usually and I have a weakness for iced coffees so I have a collection now.  Just peel away the labels (they come away quite easily) and wash thoroughly after each use.

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Filed under Breakfasts, Drinks, Easy

Chicken Satay

I’m always a fan of satay.  Whether it’s the oddly dry sticks of party food or the oddly yellow chinese or, indeed, my mother’s oddly peanut free version.  If it’s called satay I’ll eat it and I’ll enjoy it.  However, until recently, I had never actually tried cooking it!

I had a few hit and miss experiments with this recipe (Do not use dark soy sauce unless you want dark chocolate coloured satay, for example!) but eventually I’ve hit upon this combo, which is pleasingly peanutty and a little spicy.


I serve it with either basmati rice or sesame noodles.  I don’t yet have a recipe for the sesame noodles coz I basically mix some tahini, some lime juice and some soy sauce until it makes a dressing, toss it with some soba noodles and scatter some toasted sesame seeds over the top.  Every time I do it I do it differently.  If I’m serving it with rice then I do think it needs the sauce as the rice is a little boring otherwise.

I also like to serve this along with some stirfried veggies, whatever’s in the fridge.  Because of the peanut butter and salt it can get a little claggy so something fresh and light really lifts it up and brightens your palate.


Serves 4

1 clove garlic
1 red chilli
1/2″ grated ginger
4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
3 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp light soy sauce
400g diced chicken breast (about 1″ cubes)
200ml coconut milk

– Put all of the ingredients except the chicken and coconut milk in a mini food processor (or a big one if that’s what you have!).
– Blitz until well combined and smooth (except for some lingering chunks of peanuts).
– Reserve about 1/3 of the mixture.
– Mix the rest with the cubed chicken breast.
– Leave to marinade for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
– Now to get messy! Skewer the chicken cubes on metal or bamboo skewers.  You should need 10-12 skewers.
– Slather any spare marinade over the skewers so they’re all evenly and well coated.
– Grill under the grill or on a bbq for about 8 minutes, turning after 4 minutes.
– To make a sauce take the reserved satay mixture and the coconut milk and mix in a small pan.  Stir until combined and hot throughout.
– Serve with basmati rice or noodles and stirfried vegetables.

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Filed under Easy, Mains