Category Archives: Starters

Aspara-bacon Quiche

Ah, Quiche!  The poor quiche has a bit of a bad rep simple because it has a bit of a funny sounding name!  But we should not mock the quiche for it is delicious!  Throughout the summer months I will frequently have one in the fridge just waiting to be grabbed for causal lunches, a picnic, a light supper.  It’s a very versatile dish and once you have the basics down you can whip one up in no time!

Asparabacon Quiche

This little quiche is an asparabacon quiche.  Asparabacon is one of the finest flavour combinations so adding it to a quiche seemed like a brilliantly obvious step!

Asparabacon Quiche

I’m not going to lie though, I think I’ve had it with pastry!  I CAN make pastry, sure.  It’s not that hard… but I hate it.  It’s just one of those fiddly jobs that I just don’t really enjoy.  I think that these days you can get some good ready made pastry at a decent price in any supermarket so I may just throw the towel in and go for an easy life!  We shall see!

Asparabacon Quiche

There’s an entire bundle of asparagus in this small quiche, which is a lot, yes, but ASPARAGUS! Fresh, British Asparagus too!  If you want to dial back the asparagus that’s cool, but why not indulge yourself a bit?

Asparabacon Quiche

 

Serves 4 / Makes 1x 8″ quiche

150g plain flour
50g butter
25g trex (or just 75g butter)
1-2 tbsp cold water

6 large eggs
200 ml milk
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 bungle asparagus spears, trimmed of the woody end
125g smoked bacon lardons
25g grated cheese

– Put the flour, butter and trex in a mixing bowl and rub together with your hands until it forms a breadcrumb consistency.
– Add the water a little at a time mixing until it comes together into a dough.
– Shape into a flat round, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
– Heat the oven to gas mark 5.
– Roll out the pastry on a floured worksurface into a rough circle.  It should be about the thickness of a £1 coin and large enough to cover an 8″ sandwich tin with a little overhang.
– Gently pick the dough up using the rolling pin and drape it gently into the 8″ sandwich tin, lightly press down into the edges and smooth up the sides and over the lip making sure there are no trapped air bubbles.
– Cover the pastry with foil and fill with baking beans.
– Place on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.
– Remove from the oven and gently remove the foil and baking beans.  If it won’t release evenly put it back in the oven for 5 minutes.
– Bake uncovered for a further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is just cooked and has lost that sickly pale look!
-Prepare your filling: Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together in a jug.
– Scatter the bacon and asparagus evenly over the pastry shell.
– Pour the egg mixture into the pastry shell.  If you’ve got it right and there are no holes this is where your filling should stay.  If you’ve got it wrong, well, that why it’s on a baking tray!
– Scatter the grated cheese on top.
– Pop it back into the oven (if it’s leaking get it back in as quickly as you can so that egg seals the hole!)
– Bake at gas mark 5 for 45 minutes until the egg is set in the centre and the top is a golden brown.
– Leave to cool completely before running a sharp knife around the edge of the tin to loosen the pastry.
– Place the bottom on a sturdy bowl smaller than the tin and press down evenly to unmould it.
– Run a sharp knife between the pastry and the tin base to separate it.
– Serve and enjoy!

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Filed under Easy, Mains, Moderately easy, Starters, Teatime Treats

Wild Mushroom Soup

 

Happy New Year!

I know I’m not the only one who has been feeling the effects after the excesses of Christmas but I have resolved this year not to go diving straight into a “Chicken and Steamed Veg” phase that will last all of a week.  I still want to eat great tasting food and I refuse to feel guilty for it!  If I can make my food taste great AND be healthy well, great, but I’m not going to beat myself up about relishing one of the great pleasures in life: Good Food!  With that in mind this year I hope to be sharing with you a good mix of fresh, healthy ideas and some slightly more indulgent recipes for you to enjoy!

Wild Mushroom Soup

First up is this delightful Wild Mushroom Soup Recipe.  Mushroom Soup always has a bit of an unfortunate aesthetic but, my goodness, does it taste good!  This soup is so simple to whip up and pairs brilliantly with my Bacon, Liver and Porcini Mushroom Pate as a fancy starter (soup shots are my new favourite thing!) or a light lunch.

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Serves 2 for lunch

200g wild mushrooms / chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion
1 vegetable stock cube
~ 400ml boiling water
100ml cream

– Heat a splash of oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat.
– Add the onion and gently saute until soft.
– Add the mushrooms and stir about until cooked.
– Add salt and pepper to taste.
– Add the stock cube and the water (I basically just fill up the pan leaving about 1″ at the top, you can always add more water later to thin the soup if you want)
– Give everything a good stir and make sure the stock cube has dissolved.
– Turn off the heat and put your pan on a stable heatproof surface.
– Use a stick blender to puree the soup until smooth.  (Or pour into a food processor)
– Serve immediately or leave to cool completely and refrigerate until needed then reheat until piping hot on the stove or microwave.

 

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Filed under Easy, Starters

Bacon, Liver and Porcini Mushroom Pâté

Pâté is one of my favourite foods. Liver Pâté is awesome, but liver is not!  I love that something so gross can become something so delicious!  It makes an excellent starter or a delicious light lunch, and gets some much needed iron into my diet!

Bacon, Liver and Porcini Mushroom Pâté

I have made these in preparation for Christmas entertaining and also, for personal indulgence!  Making the mini ones make such an easy starter option.  They can be frozen and defrosted the day before you have guests, which makes them a brilliant make ahead option.  The recipe itself is so so easy, no faffy cooking and water bathing, you use the microwave to cook this, making it the quickest, easiest Pâté ever! You can make it the day before or even the morning of your event leaving you to focus on other things, like having fun!

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I have to admit that making pate is pretty gross… like, really gross, from a visual perspective!  But you don’t need to touch anything, it’s all bunged in the microwave and out of sight for the really gross bits, but fair warning for the squeamish amongst us!

The three stages of pate making

Makes ~ 4 ramekins (I did 2 small terrines and 5 little pots for starters)

30g dried porcini mushrooms
125g smoked bacon lardons
225g chicken livers (Defrosted)
100g butter (can use salted or unsalted, just be cautious on adding extra salt if using salted)
1 clove garlic, crushed (I use garlic puree, about 1 tsp)
2 tbsp cream
2 tbsp marsala wine
1 tsp herbes de provence
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch salt
~100g salted butter (If you are making lots of smaller portions then you may need more butter, if you are making one large dish then you may need less.)
sage leaves to decorate

– Put the dried porcini in a small bowl and just cover with boiling water.  Set aside.
– Put the bacon in a medium sized microwavable bowl.
– Microwave on full for 1 minute.
– Add the livers, the butter and the garlic.
– Microwave for 2 1/2 minutes.
– Drain off the mushrooms and add to the bowl, give everything a good stir.
– Microwave for a further 2 1/2 minutes.
– Add the cream, marsala, herbes, pepper and salt.
– Using a stick blender (or decanting into a food processor) blend everything together, I like to leave it a little coarse but you can puree until utterly smooth if you prefer.
– Pour into your chosen serving dishes.
– Melt the salted butter and pour over the pate.
– Press a fresh sage leaf into the butter to decorate.
– Leave to cool until the butter is completely set, then refrigerate until needed.  You can also wrap and freeze it at this point.

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Mushroom, Asparagus and Spinach Bruschetta / Frittata

 

 

 

As a busy single gal with a job, a home, a garden and puppy to tend to these days my cooking choices are dictated mostly by time.  I am a big fan of batch cooking, my freezer is worth its weight in gold, and if I can make a dish do double duty and provide me with not one but two meals I am all over that!  This is a perfect example of multipurpose cooking.  I had a light supper for 2 and breakfast for 4 days out of this one quick session in the kitchen.  If that’s not efficient I don’t know what is!

Crispy crunchy bruschetta!

 

I started with the bruschetta.  I had visited York’s Food Festival on Sunday and grabbed a Haxby Bakehouse baguette.  After having some with roast chicken and salad on Sunday night, and another hunk for Monday lunch’s sandwich I was still left with about half a baguette day old baguette.  Perfect for bruschetta!  Once you’re done these will also keep well for an extra few days so don’t worry if you don’t want to eat them all at once, they’ll keep!

For the Bruschetta:

– Heat your oven to Gas 6 / 200C.
– Slice a baguette about 1/2″ thick.
– Place on a baking tray and spray both sides lightly with olive oil.
(- Cut open a clove of garlic and rub over the surface of the bread. )
– Place in the oven and bake for ~15-20 minutes.  The longer they’re in the crunchier they get!  It’s up to you how dark and crispy you want them to be.  You can stop when they’re just lightly browning and more toast like or keep going until they’re totally crisp and a deep, even brown!
– Keep warm if desired or allow to cool and then they can be boxed up to keep for a few days.
– TURN DOWN THE OVEN TEMPERATURE TO GAS 4 /180C *

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Now for the Topping!  Basically, I grabbed what I had on hand, which was mushrooms, asparagus and spinach, but the possibilities are just about endless!

~6 largish closed cup or chestnut mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus
1 large handful spinach
75g cream cheese
1 tbsp creme fraiche

– Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan.
– Thinly slice the mushrooms.
– Sautee the mushrooms.
– Snap the woody stems off the asparagus and slice into bite-sized bits.
– Add the asparagus and stir while cooking for about 3 minutes.
– Add the spinach to the top of the pan and leave to wilt over a low heat giving a little poke to mix it if necessary.
– REMOVE HALF OF THE MIXTURE TO YOUR SKILLET.  *
– Add the cream cheese and creme  fraiche to the remaining mixture, stir until melted and well mixed.
– Add a sprinkle of salt and a good grind of pepper to taste.

*See below.

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Carefully spoon on top of your bruschetta and plate up.  A little shaving of parmesan is a delight too! (And spot the cheeky little cheese on toasts added to the plate, I had 2 spare bruschetta and some Monterey Jack in front of me, add a quick blow torch et voila! Cheesy Toasts!)  I suggest a nice chardonnay and a sunny evening to enjoy these but they would be just as good by the fire on a winter’s evening too I’m sure!

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Now, what were we doing with our mysterious other half of the veggie mixture? Well, this is where the Frittata comes in! Or you can call it an omelette or a crustless quiche or whatever you fancy, I kinda just like saying Frittata in a kinda Hakuna Matata fashion!

* For the Fritatta:

– While you are cooking your veggies in your first frying pan heat a little splash of oil in a cast iron skillet.  Make sure the oil has coated the pan nicely this will stop it sticking.  (Skillet seems like such an Americanism but it just feels right for this kind of pan, you know?)
– In a jug or bowl beat 4 eggs, a splash of milk (~50-75ml), a pinch of salt and a grind of fresh black pepper.
– Add the veggies to the pan and pour over the egg mix.
– Top with slices of cheese, I went with Monterey Jack but any cheddary cheese would work.
– Place in your preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes until set through.  It will puff up beautifully!
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool (it will sadly deflate but no matter!).
– Slice into 4 and place in a box in the fridge ready to grab a slice for breakfast each day.  You can eat this hot or cold, if you would like a hot breakfast simply heat in the microwave for 1 minute.

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So there you go, supper for 2 and breakfast for the next few days in one quick dash around the kitchen.  The fritatta can bake while you are eating your bruschetta, just remember to go back and get it out of the oven or bad things will happen!

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Filed under Breakfasts, Easy, Mains, Starters

Spicy Asian Butternut Squash Soup

As a part of my recent transformation into a healthy eater I have become a huge soup convert! I have soup for lunch every day at work and most of the time it’s home made. I discovered that bread really doesn’t sit right with me day in, day out. Now it’s more of a weekend treat. But this meant that sandwiches were off the menu. I will never, ever, be a salad loving girl… Or at least, the kinda of salads I will eat will never be considered healthy! (Bacon, avocado, DRESSING!)

Soup was my salvation. It’s hot, a life saver for those of us with body temperature issues, filling, especially for a liquid, and most of all healthy! I like to eat my soup with 2 rice cakes for a little bit of crunch. (There’s another dieting secret, rice cakes are freakin’ delicious! No one ever told me that!) There really is no end to the tricks you can play with a basic combination of vegetables and stock.

This soup started life as a plain old Butternut Squash Soup. It was good but when I tasted it I thought “This could do with some zing!” So I added some lime juice. Then I thought “This needs a little punch” so the fish sauce came out. And then the coconut milk was just a natural progression and while I was at it why not add some chilli and spices and really give it some pep? And so, Spicy Asian Butternut Soup was born. Enjoy!

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Serves ~6

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chunked
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 chicken stock cube (vegetable if vegetarian soup is desired)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp fish sauce
100ml coconut milk (or cream, or powder, whatever you have is fine!)
1/2 tsp dried ginger (2cm fresh grated ginger would be better but I didn’t have any)
1/2 tsp dried coriander

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200C while you prep your butternut squash.
– Toss the chunks of butternut with the olive oil on a large baking dish or tray and scatter with a pinch of sea salt.
– Roast the squash for 30 minutes until just starting to colour and crisp up a little bit.
– Heat a splash of olive oil in a large heavy pan.
– Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until just turning translucent.
– Add the butternut squash, the stock cube the chilli and ~1.5l of boiling water.
– Bring to a boil then turn off the heat.
– Use a handheld stick blended to blend the soup until smooth. (Dependent upon your squash you may find you have quite a thick soup at this point. Just add more water if you prefer a runnier consistency.)
– Add the lime juice, fish sauce, coconut milk, ginger and coriander and give a good stir to circulate everything properly.
– Make sure you taste it as you go! If you feel it needs a little something extra, go for it! This is your soup, tailor it to your preferences!

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Filed under Dairy Free, Easy, Gluten Free, Low Fat, Starters

Dyed Eggs

A little bit of a late post here, but 12 hours late is better than never I think! I thought I’d do a post in anticipation of Easter Weekend being almost upon us and share the secret of fabulous brightly dyed eggs!

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These are simply hard boiled eggs that have been dyed with basic liquid food colourings. Since I know I’m not alone in having made the switch to gel colours for baking but still having a stash of liquid colours in the cupboard this is an ideal way to use them in a fun project.

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I used to love Easter Morning back home. My mum… I mean, the Easter Bunny…used to prepare an Easter egg hunt all around the house and garden and my sister and I would chase around trying to gather the most eggs. Not that it mattered in the end, they were always divided absolutely equally once we’d finished!

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Mum would always do a selection of dyed hard boiled eggs in amongst the chocolate and it was always so exciting how an ordinary, boring egg could be transformed into a jewel coloured wonder!

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The trick is ever such a simple one: Vinegar!

You take your eggs and put them in bowls of water each with a splash of vinegar and your food colour of choice in. The longer you leave them to soak the brighter and more vibrant your eggs will be. If you were to start with paler eggs and leave them for only a short time you would get more pastel colours. But if you want the bright, bold colours you see here then all you need to do is soak them for longer. It’s easy to check how your eggs are doing, all you do is fish them out and see how deep the colour is. If you want more colour, simply pop them back in for longer! Easy!

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My Pre-Christmas Dinner 2012

I held my annual Pre-Christmas Dinner at the beginning of December.  My aim was to have it posted by Christmas… then the New Year… then within a month of the dinner… and now I’ve reached the point where all of these deadlines have gleefully sailed by and I have finally managed to sit down and “put pen to paper” as it were.

This year I had a theme to follow.  Chocolate!  With the new year I have finally left my boring office job behind and have made a very exciting move to work at York Cocoa House.  This is, in part at least, why I have been so busy and have not managed to post my special Chocolate Themed Pre-Christmas Dinner before now.

Green Pasta 1

For a starter we had Christmas Tree Raviolli.  Green spinach pasta stuffed with a wild mushroom, ricotta and cocoa filling.  To make spinach pasta you follow the same method as for regular pasta but you start with 200g fresh spinach and rinse it with water.  Put it in a pan on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the spinach wilts.  Put the wilted spinach in a sieve over a bowl and leave to drain.  Give it a bit of a squidge with the back of a spoon to encourage it.  When it has drained you want to chop it into incredibly fine bits.  Just keep chopping at it.  You can practice your cheffy knife skills a bit!

Green Pasta 3

Then you take your wilted spinach, 1 egg and 250g pasta flour and mix it into a smooth dough with your hands.  Roll the dough, either by hand or using a pasta maker if you haev one.  Then you cut out Chritmas tree shapes from the dough and put a teaspoon of filling in the middle of one of your shapes.  Brush water round the edge and press another shape on top of the first to seal in the filling.  Repeat as necessary until all of your dough and filling is used up.

The filling was essentially finely chopped mushrooms and shallots sauteed and repeatedly reduced down with white wine, mushroom stock and eventually ricotta stirred through with 2 tbsp 100% cocoa grated in.  I was freestyling rather so I don’t have an exact recipe!

Turkey Roulade 1

For our main course we had Turkey Roulade.  I took a frozen butter basted turkey crown from Tescos and defrosted it, removed the skin and butterflied it.

I made a stuffing out of 400g italian sausage meat, 125g smoked bacon lardons, 100g bread crumbs, 75g dried cranberries, 3 tbsp cocoa nibs, 1 tbsp grated 100% cocoa, 1/2 tin of chopped chestnuts and 1 small egg.  Season well then mash it all together with your hands.

Spread it over the butterflied turkey crown.  Roll it up tightly.  Wrap the whole thing tightly with pancetta.  Roast the whole thing in an oven heated to gas mark 6 for 2 hours.   Slice and serve with seasonal vegetables of your choice.

Turkey Roulade 2

For dessert we had Black Forest Mousses.  I made Nigella’s Chocolate Mousse but with Cherry Liqueur instead of Cointreau.  Topped with a lick of whipped cream and scattered with cocoa nibs I spooned Amarena Cherries into the bottom of martini glasses before filling them.

Black Forest Mousse

It was a lovely evening with my mum, dad, sister and her new boyfriend, and let’s not forget the dog! I’m having fun experimenting with chocolate in a number of different ways now that I have discovered a whole range of possibilities that I never knew exited before.  This meal was a nice little way to dip my toe into those possibilities and I look forward to experimenting some more!

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Filed under Christmas, Desserts, Easy, Mains, Starters