Tuesday Treat

Brown Sugar Pavlova with Strawberries and Rhubarb (Serve 6)

I adore Pavlova and this recipe for ‘Brown Sugar Pavlova’ is a new favourite. I discovered it just recently in Sally Clarke’s cookbook , ‘First Put on Your Apron’. The brown sugar gives the meringue a subtle caramel flavour and a sweetness that cuts the tart rhubarb beautifully. It doesn’t like to sit around, so assemble it at the last minute in order to keep the meringue as crisp as possible. Having said that, in the past I’ve keep the leftovers in the fridge and enjoyed them the following day; even if the meringue is a little ‘soggy’ it’s still delicious!..

4 egg whites

Pinch of salt

160g caster sugar

90g brown sugar

4 drops of vanilla essence

For the Rhubarb and Strawberry topping:

400g rhubarb stalks

1 orange, juiced

1 tablespoon caster sugar

400g strawberries

500g Double cream, stiffly whipped

Mint leaves to decorate

  1. Using an electric whisk, whisk the whites with the salt until they are stiff. Add the caster sugar and whisk for a further minute or two until the meringue is glossy and very stiff. Carefully fold in the brown sugar and vanilla essence until smooth.
  2. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment, draw a circle, roughly 22cm in diameter – you can draw around a plate. Scoop the meringue mixture onto the circle, spreading it out to create a crater by making the sides a little higher than the middle.
  3. Place in a preheated oven, 120’c fan, for 1 hour 10 minutes, then turn off the oven and allow to cool completely in the oven or overnight.
  4. Meanwhile, trim the rhubarb and cut the stalks slightly at an angle into 2 cm lengths and place in a wide-based saucepan, ideally in one layer. Add the orange juice and caster sugar, cover with a lid and bring slowly to a simmer and cook until barely soft, approximately 3 minutes. Check often as you don’t want the rhubarb to overcook, you want it to be a little ‘al dente’ so that it keeps its shape. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down in the covered pan.
  5. About an hour before you are ready to serve the pavlova, hull the strawberries and cut each into 2 or 3 depending on the size and place in a bowl. Carefully pour over the cooled rhubarb and its juices. Do not mix the fruit together at this stage as the rhubarb is very delicate. Leave for up to an hour in the fridge to macerate.
  6. To serve, spoon the whipped cream into the well of the pavlova and carefully arrange the rhubarb and strawberries, without the juices, on top and decorate with sprigs of mint. Serve the juices in a small jug to go alongside.

June 2023

June is off to a good start – I’ve just returned from a gastronomic getaway that was truly inspiring!… Nick and I spent the long bank holiday weekend in the Lake District at L’Enclume. L’Enclume is one of only eight restaurants in the UK that hold three Michelin stars. I have been fortunate to eat at a few of these three-star restaurants which are close to home in London, but I must say the opportunity of staying the weekend at L’Enclume, gave us the chance to immerse ourselves in the full foodie experience and really appreciate the talent of 3-star chefs, it was a top treat! (I will be posting my full review soon – watch this space!..) I have hence returned home with lots of flavours spinning around my head and a revived attitude to cooking. Admittedly I will not be cooking to a Michelin star level, but I have been looking through my cookery books with a fresh eye. I am also keen to go shopping for some new cookbooks, yes, I know I have far too many already, but what can I say, it’s not the worst addiction I could have, is it?!.. I love any bookshop that has a good cookery section, one of my favourites is in Hatchards on Piccadilly. It’s tucked away on its second floor, one can easily while away an hour or two, undisturbed. I usually make sure I’m with Nick so I have someone to remind me I’ve outstayed my welcome – I send him off to nearby ‘Bury Brothers’ to peruse the wine (his weakness!) and arrange for him to come and collect me after an hour…

Visiting L’Enclume has reignited my desire to cook which is just as well as with all the bank holidays that we’ve been having in the UK over the past month my cooking routine has been rather spoilt. Fortunately, I had decided back in April which recipes I would be sharing this month, so everything is on track for Menu Mistress!…

Menu One is ‘Chicken Miso’ from Ottolenghi’s cookbook ‘Simple’, what’s not to like from a cookbook with a name like that? And yes, naturally this recipe for chicken thighs is super simple and perfect on a summer’s evening with a good green salad. Menu Two is actually from Delia Smiths ‘Winter Collection Cookbook’, yes I know it’s the summer(!), but trust me, this recipe is just as delicious alfresco as it is on a cold evening in the midst of winter! Finally, Menu Three is a vegetarian option from the team behind the London restaurant Moro. This recipe is from their original book, ‘Moro; The Cookbook’; perusing through it reminds me that I need to return soon to their restaurant in Exmouth Market to write a review! .. ‘Vegetable Turlu Turlu’ has Turkish origins, it’s rather like an exotically spiced ratatouille; served with a rocket salad and a yoghurt sauce it makes a delicious vegetarian supper alternatively, you could easily serve it as a side to grilled meat or fish.

I hope the weather in June will be kind to us and we’ll be able to eat at least one of these ‘menus’ al fresco! Remember to keep an eye out for my ‘l’Enclume’ restaurant review – in the meantime why not take a look at my reviews of other restaurants… here!

P.S. I’ve been listening to a new playlist in my kitchen which has an upbeat ’90s groove, perfect for that al fresco supper! (listen to ‘Music to Cook to…MenuMusic Twenty-Six’ here!..)

Menu One

Chicken with Miso, Ginger and Lime (Serves 6)

As the photo suggests, this recipe is a lovely sticky, unctuous affair. Taken from Ottolenghi’s cookbook ‘Simple’, it’s super easy all it needs is a good green salad and some rice – simple!..

6 Chicken legs (skin and bone in), skin scored a few times

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

2½ tablespoons mirin

2½ tablespoons maple syrup

2½ tablespoons soy sauce

80g white miso

4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (30g)

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 lime, skin shaved into fine strips then juiced

40g coriander stems cut into 6cm lengths (reserve the leaves for a garnish)

2 red chillies, sliced in half lengthways and deseeded

10 spring onions, 8 sliced in half lengthways and 2 finely chopped (to serve)

Sea salt

  1. Place the chicken legs in a large bowl with the oil and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Mix together.
  2. Place a large frying pan on a medium/high heat. Once hot add half the chicken legs, skin side down and sear for 4-5 minutes. Then remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining chicken, discarding the fat as you go, and set aside.
  3. Place the mirin, maple syrup, soy sauce, miso, ginger, garlic, lime strips and juice in a large bowl. Whisk to combine, then add the chicken and stir well so that everything is coated.
  4. Put the coriander stems, chillies and 8 halved spring onions in to a high-sided baking dish and place the chicken on top, skin side up (along with any residue dressing). Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the foil and turn the chicken legs over (skin side down) and return to the oven for 30 minutes uncovered, turning the legs back over halfway through (skin side up) and basting a couple of times. The chicken will be golden brown, sticky and tender and the chillies and spring onions will be soft.
  6. To serve, place a chicken leg on each plate and surround it with coriander, chilli and halved spring onions. Finally, drizzle the with sauce and sprinkle over the finely sliced spring onions and garnish with the reserved coriander leaves. Serve with sticky white rice and a good green salad.

Menu Two

Seared Spiced Salmon Steaks with Black Bean Salsa (Serves 4-6)

This recipe is from Delia Smith’s ‘Winter Collection Cookbook’, but trust me, this recipe is just as delicious alfresco in the summer as it is on a cold evening in the midst of winter. It’s a year-round winner! (The original recipe uses dried black beans, but to save time I use tinned – so no overnight soaking!)

4-6 Salmon steaks

3 fat cloves garlic

2 level teaspoons rock salt

4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Grated zest of 2 limes (reserve the juice for the salsa)

A good pinch of ground cinnamon

A good pinch of ground cumin

15g pack fresh coriander leaves (reserve 6 sprigs and finely chop the remainder)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly milled black pepper

For the Salsa:

110g tinned black beans, rinsed and drained

350g ripe but firm tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

15g pack of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of 2 limes (reserved from the salmon recipe)

½ teaspoon salt

  1. A few hours before you want to cook the salmon, crush the garlic cloves and rock salt together with a pestle and mortar until you have a creamy purée. Then add the grated ginger, lime zest, cinnamon and cumin, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped coriander and a good grind of black pepper. Mix everything together and spread a little of this mixture on each salmon steak. Cover with clingfilm and set aside for the flavours to develop and permeate the salmon.
  2. To make the salsa simply combine the black beans with the chopped tomatoes, red onion, chilli, coriander, olive oil, lime juice and salt. Leave covered for a several hours to allow the flavours to develop.
  3. When you’re ready to cook the salmon, preheat the grill to its highest setting. Brush a baking try with the olive oil and put it under the grill to heat up. When the grill is really hot, remove the baking tray and place the salmon steaks on it. Position the tray about 3 inches front the heat and grill them for 7 minutes exactly.
  4. Remove them when the time is up and use a sharp knife to ease the skins off. Transfer to plates and garnish with the sprigs of coriander. Serve immediately with the black bean salsa.

Menu Three

Turlu Turlu with Yoghurt & Cumin Sauce (Serves 4)

Taken from the cookbook ‘Moro’, Turlu Turlu has Turkish origins and is rather like a spiced and exotically herbed ratatouille. The vegetables are roasted so are super sweet; it makes a delicious vegetarian main course served with a yoghurt & cumin sauce and a simple rocket salad.

500-600g courgettes, trimmed and cut into 2cm discs

1 aubergine, halved lengthways and each half cut into 4 wedges lengthways

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, thickly sliced

2 green peppers, halved, seeded and thickly sliced

3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthways and each half cut into 3 lengthways

200g kohlrabi or turnips, cut into wedges about 2cm thick

2 medium potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

60g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

150ml tomato passata

1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped

1 small bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

Yoghurt & Cumin Sauce:

200g Greek yoghurt

½ – 1 garlic clove

A good pinch of sea salt

1½ teaspoons cumin seeds, roughly ground

  1. For the yoghurt sauce: use a pestle and mortar to crush the garlic with the salt to form a paste, then stir in the yoghurt and roughly ground cumin, and season with salt and pepper. Put to one side.
  2. In a large bowl toss the aubergine, onion, garlic, peppers, carrots, kohlrabi (or turnips) and potatoes with the olive oil, allspice, coriander seeds and a little salt and pepper.
  3. Spread out the vegetable mixture in a large roasting tray, no more than a layer deep and place in a preheated oven, 220’c fan, for 45 minutes turning every 15 minutes to encourage them to colour and caramelise all over. Now gently stir in the courgettes and cook for a further 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile heat up the chickpeas with the passata and check for seasoning. Finally, add to the vegetables along with the chopped herbs and stir well. Serve with the yoghurt sauce and a rocket salad.

Tuesday Treat

Coupe de Roulis Cocktail (Serves 1)

This is an unusual French cocktail which has delicate, fruity flavours – a touch of cherry and a twist of orange. It’s particularly good on a warm spring or summer evening – very sophisticated and very drinkable!..

30ml gin

30ml dry vermouth

15ml Cointrieau

20ml Maraschino (cherry) liqueur

A dash of Angostura bitters

A handful of ice cubes

A orange twist

  1. Combine the gin, vermouth, Cointreau, Maraschino liquer and bitters in a cocktail mixing glass (or a tall glass/ small jug). Add the ice cubes and stir well, until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass.
  2. Hold the orange twist over the glass and squeeze the zest so that the oils spray into the drink, then drop it into the glass as a garnish.
  3. Enjoy!

Blast From the Past Recipe

Prawn Stir Fry with Basil, Chilli & Lime served with Rice and a Spiced Cucumber Salad (Serves 4)

Because I’m always trying new recipes, the old ones often get overlooked. This is one of those recipes which I hadn’t made for sometime. Then, just recently I was chatting with a friend who was telling me of her plans for a casual dinner for friends (yes, even my conversations revolve around food!)… she said she was thinking of serving ‘Prawn Stir Fry’. As I’m always on the look out for new recipes I immediately asked which recipe, to which she replied ‘yours!!’. Of course, it’s not actually my recipe – we have Diana Henry to thank for that – but I had shared it back in 2020. How can we forget this recipe?!… With it’s fresh flavours it’s perfect for dinner on any May evening…

It’s super easy to cook, just prepare all the ingredients so they can be quickly thrown in the pan, ready to cook in minutes. The cucumber salad is an important accompaniment as its subtle spice gives the whole dish more depth. Start by preparing the rice, I like long grain or sticky white rice with this stir fry. Whilst the rice is cooking prepare the cucumber salad and all of the ingredients for the stir fry, then start cooking it just as the rice is cooked. If you are gluten free, use gluten free soy sauce for the cucumber salad. The recipe is taken from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘How to Eat a Peach’, it is a beautiful book, the cover is textured like a peach skin!

*You can see the video of this dish being made by clicking on this link to my instagram page

Prawn Stir Fry with Basil, Chilli & Lime

350g raw, shelled king prawns (defrosted if frozen)

200g sugar snap peas

1 tablespoon groundnut oil

2 red chillies and 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced (use less according to taste)

4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons caster sugar

Juice of lime

20g basil leaves, picked

unsalted peanuts, chopped, to serve (optional)

  1. Dry the prawns on kitchen roll – the drier they are, the better they fry.
  2. Halve the sugar snap peas along their lengths, so that the peas peep out.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok, when hot, add the sugar snaps, fry for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the prawns, chillies and garlic, reduce the heat a little and cook until the prawns turn pink.
  5. Add the fish sauce, sugar and lime, stir it all around until the sugar has dissolved, finally throw in the basil leaves.
  6. Serve straight away with rice and the spiced cucumber salad (sprinkle with chopped peanuts if using).

Spiced Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon of caster sugar

1-2 teaspoons mild chilli powder (according to your taste)

4 spring onions, finely sliced

2 teaspoons of sesame oil (optional)

Black sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Cut the cucumber into wafer thin slices
  2. Mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and chilli powder in a bowl (depending on how spicy you would like it, you can add more or less chilli)
  3. Toss the cucumber into the bowl along with the spring onions, and if using, also add the sesame oil and seeds.

Tuesday Treat

Lemon Mousse Cake (Serves 4-6)

Although the days are trying to get lighter and brighter, it’s been a rather cold and wet Spring in the UK, so we definitely deserve a dessert that shouts ‘Summer’! This lemon mousse cake is definitely it; it has just the right balance of sweet and sour. It’s rather like a ‘lemon posset’ sandwiched between two chewy almond biscuits (macronades) – wonderful! The recipe is from Simon Hopkinson’s cookbook ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’, he suggests that it serves 4, but although I’m greedy, I found it could easily serve 6, as it is rich.

For the macaronades:

2 egg whites

125g icing sugar

50g ground almonds

Grated zest of 1 lemon

For the mousse:

2½ leaves of gelatine, pre-soaked in cold water until softened

200ml lemon juice

250ml double cream

100g caster sugar

A handful of fresh raspberries, plus more to serve

Icing sugar to sift over

*Baking parchment

  1. Draw two circles 12cm in diameter on a piece of baking parchment and place on a baking tray.
  2. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Sift the icing sugar and almonds together, gently fold them into the egg whites, together with the lemon zest.
  3. Spread the mixture onto the circles on the baking parchment.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 10 minutes, until pale golden. Remove, leave to cool for 5 minutes before carefully lifting from the paper to dry on a cooling rack.
  5. Melt the gelatine with a couple of tablespoons of the lemon juice over a low heat. Add the rest of the lemon juice and place the bowl over ice to chill stirring occasionally until just beginning to gel.
  6. Whip the cream with the sugar until thick then slowly incorporate the lemon-gelatine mixture while continuing to beat until the mixture is thick (you can thicken it more by placing it in the fridge for 30 minutes).
  7. To assemble, place one of the macaronades on a serving plate, smooth side up, and carefully spread the mousse right up to the edges, smoothing around the edge with a palette knife. Gently press the second marcaronade on top. To decorate place the raspberries at intervals around the edge of the mousse and sift a little icing sugar over the top of the cake. Put in the fridge to chill for up to 2 hours before serving.