25 Jan 2009


I always plan dessert first and then the main course. A light dessert means we can have a more substantial dinner and vice versa!

Clouds of meringue were piled high over the fruit filling, and then cooked slowly until the outside is crisp and the meringue underneath still soft. After cooking meringue topping made this way, there is definitely no turning back to the soft-topped meringue of old.

Delia Smith put me on the right track with her meringue topping many years ago, basically, all you have to do is make the meringue in the usual way, but the secret is then to cook the meringue topping for 45 minutes at Gas Mark 2/300°F/150°C.

The fruit combination was a glorious match, the plums were poached in a light stock syrup with a cinnamon stick. Frozen raspberries were then added to the cinnamon infused plums.

A layer of crushed amaretti biscuits were added to the base of the dish before spooning over the poached fruit.

Next time I make this, I will poach my plums for a shorter time. They continued cooking whilst the meringue was getting nice and crispy on top. The original recipe cooks the meringue for only 5 minutes and obviously the fruit underneath the meringue isn't going to cook anymore.

The inspiration for this dessert came from a January 2009 Waitrose recipe card.

If you can't get into a Waitrose store, they have just brought out Waitrose Live online, which is the current issue of their free Seasons Winter Cookbook 2009. I always look forward to picking up my copy at the checkout, but now everyone can get to look at it. Hope you enjoy turning the pages online!

18 Jan 2009


According to Google, in 2008 meatballs come in at No 2, on their list of the fastest rising recipes for the UK. I couldn't help smiling when I saw this - I had no idea they were so popular.

In last weekends Times Magazine, Gordon Ramsay tells us, out of all the recipe requests he gets, meatballs is still the most popular.

I didn't have these as a child, I didn't feed these to my children, and it's very rare for me to even consider making them.

I've only ever made meatballs occasionally - Nigella's recipe, Jo Pratt's and now Gordon's. All of them went beautifully with pasta. I am forgetting, of course, that I have made lamb kofta meatballs to go with curry a few times.

The quantity of meat used in the original recipe was reduced, Gordon uses 500g each of beef and pork mince to feed 6 people. I used 250g each of beef and pork mince, this made 24 meatballs (enough for two people for two meals). I made the full quantity of tomato sauce though. We had half of the tomato sauce and meatballs for diiner and I froze the other half for a rainy day.

Sage and parsley was used for the meatballs, if I was to make this again, I would perhaps use rosemary and parsley or thyme and parsley. I wasn't too sure about the sage and parsley combo.

11 Jan 2009


In the February 2009 Olive Magazine on page 48, they are giving suggestions for, 7 meals for £35.00.

1. Chicken hotpot
2. Thai burgers with salsa and sweet potato wedges
3. Lamb dhansak
4. Beef, mushroom and red wine pies
5. Skinny pizza
6. Porcini and spinach risotto
7. Herb and pea fishcakes

All of the recipes read really well, and I have already lined up the lamb dhansak, to make this coming week.

I never feel the need to eat meat every day, and this vegetarian risotto was a winner. In fact, delicious.

It took about 20 minutes for the rice to absorb most of the stock. If you like your rice to absorb all of the stock, then another five minutes or so should take care of this.

If you don't have any dried porcini, it doesn't mean that you can't make this recipe - just leave it out!

I used Riso Gallo Organic Arborio Risotto Rice, which I bought from a large Tesco Supermarket.

To serve 2 people:

You will need:

25g dried porcini, 50g butter, 1 small finely chopped onion, 1 clove garlic crushed, 200g sliced chestnut mushrooms, 150g risotto rice, a glass white wine, 750ml vegetable stock (kept simmering), 100g washed spinach, a few shavings Parmesan.

1. Soak the porcini in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid through a sieve to remove any grit and keep for the risotto. Roughly chop the porcini.
2. Heat the butter in a wide shallow pan and cook the chopped onion and garlic until softened. Add the chestnut mushrooms to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, add the porcini and risotto rice and stir until coated.
3. Pour in the wine and bubble until it is all absorbed. Gradually add the simmering stock and porcini soaking liquid stirring until the rice is tender but still has a little bite. Stir through the spinach until just wilted.
4. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan shavings.

4 Jan 2009


On a very cold and frosty New Year's Eve, we went to a 'bit of a do' at a local 2 AA Rosette Award Hotel, where they were having a buffet and disco. I know we are all affected by the credit crunch, but the food wasn't great. I'm now thinking I should have stayed at home and cooked this meal on New Year's Eve instead of New Year's Day!!!

Pork fillet can be quite a dry meat because it is so lean but this was the perfect way to cook the fillets, swathed in a bandage of streaky bacon and filled with a mushroom and Parmesan cheese stuffing.

This made a perfect roast, the pork can be prepared the day before, sit happily in the fridge and cooked the next day. The roast cooks in just an hour, carves neatly (when my husband does the carving!) and any leftovers can be served with a salad the next day, which is exactly how we ate it. I know it's too late now to be thinking about buffets etc. but this is definitely a winner for the salad plate.

The stuffing could be made chunkier by not cutting the mushrooms as small as I did, but I had a new kitchen toy a few months ago and got a bit carried away!!

To make the roast you simply flatten two pork fillets, fill with the mushroom stuffing and wrap in streaky bacon.

I'm not sure whether the pork looks dry in the photograph, but it wasn't - promise.

Nearly forgot to say, I served the pork with potato dauphinoise, carrot batons and roasted cauliflower. I didn't make the cranberry and Madeira gravy because unfortunately I forgot to buy the cranberry juice. I made a brandy and mushroom sauce instead, which went surprising well with the meal.

I bought 450g of pork fillet and cut it into two pieces width ways. This was enough for two people with leftovers.

To make my potato dauphinoise, which is a lower in fat version of this classic, simply make in the usual way but to 900g of potatoes I use 300ml of half-fat creme fraiche mixed with 200ml of semi-skimmed milk, 50g Gruyere cheese or a reduced-fat Cheddar cheese coarsely grated and 15g unsalted butter.

Mary Berry is a prolific author of cookery books and you can visit her website here.


ISBN 0755315626 - Page 93

Serves: 6

You will need: 2 pork fillets of equal length, each about 450g in weight (trimmed of all fat), 10-12 long streaky bacon rashers, salt and ground black pepper.

For the stuffing: 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil, 1 finely chopped medium onion, 225g chopped chestnut mushrooms, 40g freshly grated Parmesan, 25g fresh white breadcrumbs, 3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, 1 egg yolk.

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas 7.
2. Make the stuffing. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the chopped onion and fry for a few minutes over a low heat until tender. Add the chopped mushrooms to the onion, and cook over a high heat to drive off any liquid from the mushrooms. When the pan is completely dry, take off the heat and add all the remaining stuffing ingredients and season. Set to one side to cool.
3. Split the pork fillets length ways halfway through (but not entirely in half), open out and cover with clingfilm. Beat out to flat. Stretch the bacon rashers with the back of a knife, and arrange overlapping on a chopping board.
4. Put one of the fillets on to the bacon, season with black pepper and spread with the stuffing. Cover with the other fillet, beaten side facing down. Roll up tightly, folding each piece of bacon over the roll. Lift onto a roasting tin with the bacon join underneath.
5. Bake in a preheated oven for about an hour until the bacon is crisp and the pork is cooked.
6. Let the pork rest for a minimum of 10 minutes before carving.

For the Cranberry and Madeira Gravy:

You will need: 25g butter, 100g sliced chestnut mushrooms, 300ml cranberry juice, 75ml Madeira, 1 rounded tablespoon plain flour, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the sliced mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Gradually pour in the cranberry juice. In a small bowl blend the Madeira with the flour until smooth, then add to the sauce. Bring to the boil, stirring, then add the balsamic vinegar. Season.

This was a fabulous meal and I will be making it again. After eating this, we soon forgot about the previous evenings meal. After all, we had moved on to 2009. Happy New Year everyone!