Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Well the weekend was another rainy time, and I had to try and find something to take away the rain blues with my son. My wife said why don’t you make a Pavlova with him. What a great idea.

So I checked the fridge to make sure we had everything and we set to work. There is nothing as frustrating as trying to separate eggs with a two and a half year old.

We managed to make it and he had some with his dinner, then lunch the next day and then dinner and then wanted some before bed.

A complete success I think.

Anyway here is the recipe: -

Ingredients: -
4-5 egg whites - dependent on how big the eggs are.
250g caster sugar
1 teaspoon of corn flour
2 teaspoons of vinegar
2-3 drops of good quality vanilla extract
300 ml of Whipped cream and sliced fruit for the topping

Method: -
1 – Preheat the oven to 180 deg C / 350 ºF / Gas Mark 4.

2 – Beat the eggs until stiff peaks. (Until you can hold the bowl upside down without the beaten eggs falling out.) Remember not to show off doing this as many times I have ended up with the eggs on the floor and the dog eating them.

3 – Add the sugar and beat in. now add the corn flour, vanilla and vinegar, and mix together for about 20-30 secs. Not too much or you will release the air from the eggs and the Pavlova will be flat...

4 – Place greaseproof paper on a baking tray or flat oven proof dish, and pour the mix onto the tray / dish till about 1 high and the diameter of a diner plate.

5 – Place in the oven and immediately turn it down to 150 deg C / 300 ºF / Gas Mark 2. and cook for 1hr 20 mins. (Do not check on the Pavlova until about 1 hr and 15 mins or it will collapse and be ruined)

6 – Turn off the oven and leave the Pavlova in the oven to cool for about an hour.

7 – Remove from the oven and turn over onto a plate, so the top is now the base. Peel off the greaseproof paper carefully so not to take the Pavlova with it, use a knife to scrap it off if necessary.

8 – Cover in fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit such as pineapple or strawberries or raspberries.

The Pavlova is all lovely and crispy meringue on the outside and like marshmallow on the inside. I grew up eating this when my Gran and my Mum made it for every occasion like Christmas. No one could ever make it as good as they could. Every time I tried it was flat and rubbish.

But when my mum died a few years ago I tried to make it again and I seem to have picked up the knack. Maybe my Mum and Gran were watching down on me giving me that helping hand.

Now when I make it for Christmas dinner, it brings a tear to my Dad’s eye.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Great Real Gravy for Roast Beef or Chicken

This is a recipe that I got when talking to an old lady in a hotel when I was away with work. She described it in such detail then went away and wrote it down for me. She was really sweet. This can be used for any roast meat Beef, Chicken, Pork, Venison, you choose.

Step 1 – lay sticks of celery, quartered pealed onions and large peeled halved carrots on a roasting tray. Add a touch of water. Place the meat you want to roast on top of the veg. and roast your meat as normal using the juices to baste.

Step 2 – When the meat is cooked to your desired taste, remove the meat from the pan and remove the veg to a bowl. Now put the roasting pan over a low heat and deglaze with either a few glasses of red wine for beef or venison, and white wine for pork or chicken. Number of glasses of wine will be dependent on the size of the meat roasted. I say about 1 glass for every 1 kg. use a whisk to deglaze it’s much better.

Step 3 – As a great touch now add a few teaspoons of horseradish sauce if it’s beef gravy, or fresh sage for either chicken or Pork. Now add a few teaspoon of corn flour to thicken the mixture till it’s a sort of rue.

Step 4 – As the mix starts to bubble, ensure it is not burning, add about a litre of stock. Chicken stock if the meat is chicken, Ham stock if the meat is Pork, or beef stock if the meat is Beef or Venison. Mix well and add the veg again. Allow it to thicken.

Step 5 – Remove from the heat drain the gravy into a large jug. (you can use the vegetables as a base for a soup by liquidising them, have them with your meal as an accompaniment or just throw them away. Sometimes I actually liquidise the whole lot and have that as my gravy, but it’s not really smooth when you do that, more rustic and hearty than

Step 6 - Now into the jug of gravy add a few tea spoons of gravy granules and whisk until the gravy is thick. This may sound like sacrilege after all the work you have done, but it works really well and makes nice thick tasty gravy.

Step 7 – Enjoy this with your traditional roast dinner. It is really nice and well worth all the effort.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chicken and Leek Pie

A few weeks ago I was given some leeks by a neighbour who had grown them in her garden, and she had too many to use. When I got them I tried to think what to do? Maybe make soup?

Then I remembered my Grandpa making Chicken and Leek pie. So I decided to have a bash on making my own version.

First you start off by making the short crust pastry, then the filling.

Make the short crust pastry as described in a previous post.


250g of chopped boned chicken. (you can use whatever part of the chicken you want, breast, thigh, or leg but the brown meat has more flavour.
2 roughly chopped leeks.
2 cloves finely chopped garlic.
1 glass of white wine.
½ pint of chicken stock.
A little corn flour to thicken / or alternatively use a little chicken gravy granules.
50ml of double cream
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Egg wash to glaze the pie.

Method: -
1 – Take the chicken and brown it with a little oil in a saucepan. Remove and put in a bowl once done.

2 – Add the chopped leeks and garlic to the pan and sweat them done till the leaks are just starting to soften.

3 – Add the glass of white wine, and chicken stock and allow to it reduce for 15-20 mins.

4 – Now add the chicken gravy granules or corn flour to thicken the sauce.

5 – Add the cream, and salt and pepper to taste.

6 – Allow the mix to cool while you make the pie shell.

7 – Take the short crust pastry out of the fridge, and take a 10” fluted deep pastry tin.

8 – Line the dish by slicing 5mm discs from the short crust party, and make a sort of patch work effect on the pastry tin. Push them together to till all the tin is covered with pastry. This is much easier to cover the dish than rolling it out.

9 – Place a sheet of greaseproof paper in the pie case, fill with beans or coins and blind bake the pie case to 10-12 mins at 190°C: 375°F: Gas 5.

10 – Take the case out the oven remove the beans or coins and bake for a further 5 mins.

11 – Remove the case from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 mins. Now add the pie filling but not too much that you are overfilling it (you should have some filling left) and roll out the remaining pastry to 5mm thick. Using the rolling pin roll up the pastry and place it on the top of the pie.

12 – Cut the pastry round the tin, and using a fork, crimp the edges of the top pastry onto the base, cut two breathing holes in the centre of the pie top and apply an egg wash to glaze the top of the pie, and put into a preheated oven at 190°C: 375°F: Gas 5, for 30-40 mins until the top is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and serve with crushed potatoes with plenty of butter and pepper.

Note - You should have some filling and pastry left over, what I do is make small chicken and leek parcels and precook then freeze them. Then I can have them as snacks or lunches another day
Short Crust Pastry: -

Ingredients –
225g (8oz) Plain Flour
50g (2oz) Lard
50g (2oz) Butter
½ tsp Salt
2 tbsp Cold Water

Note – the type of fat you use for short crust pastry is really up to you. Butter, Lard, Vegetable fat, Margarine, whatever. I remember my grandpa using half butter and half lard, so I stuck to that.

Method –
1 – Sieve the flour and salt together into a bowl. Tip – always sieve the flour, as you need to make it fluffy when making pastry.
2 - Cut the butter and lard into small cubes approx 1cm in size and add to the flour.
3 – Rub the fats lightly into flour, use the tips of you fingers and lift the mix up as you go. This puts air into the mix. Do this until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Once it gets to this stage stop. The flour contains gluten, and over mixing does something to the gluten so it becomes chewy and not short and crisp. It’s like making shortbread, to much mixing and the shortbread will become chewy when cooked.
4 - Make a small well in the middle of the mixture and add a little cold water, mix using a knife, do this until the mix is a nice dough similar in texture to play-dough or modelling clay. Do not have the party sticky. If it does add a little more flour.
5 – Wrap the pastry in Clingfilm and put in the fridge for al least half an hour. Or freeze it for another day.

To cook the pastry bake in a preheated oven at between 190°C: 375°F: Gas 5 or 220°C: 425°F: Gas 7 depending on thickness and use.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Venison Pie

This was a recipe of my grandmothers and I have made a few small tweaks to make it better. I made it for my Mother-in-law on Sunday night and she was well impressed, so a few points for me on the old ladies score pad.

Ingredients: -
0.5 kg of diced venison
150g button Mushrooms cut to the same size as the meat, (it is better to use wild mushrooms but these are not always available).
150g of chopped mixed peppers, (roughly chop them to about 1 to 1 1/2" pieces)
A little sunflower oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 bottle of red wine
2 tea spoons Chinese 5 spice
2 tea spoons of English Mustard
2 tea spoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of corn flour
Knob of butter
1 large pack of Puff Pastry (I never make my own, it's better to buy it)
1 beaten egg to glaze the pastry

Method: -
1 - Heat the oil in a pan, and brown the meat, remove and drain.

2 - Place the drained liquid from the venison back in the pan and add the onions and garlic to soften. As the onions go transparent add the meat again.

3 - Add the mushrooms, peppers, the red wine mustard and Chinese five spice, and simmer for 40-60 Min's. This will allow the meat to become tender.

4 - Add a little water if required and mix the corn flour with a little water and add to the stew, add the sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Allow the mix to cool.

5 - Place the filling into a pie dish and cover with the puff pastry. Apply an egg wash to the pastry. I find folding the pastry round the corners of the pie dish helps when the pastry starts to shrink while cooking, I also use a pie funnel as it stop the pastry falling into the filling and going soggy.

6 - Cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 deg C / 400 deg F /Gas Mark 6 for 30 - 40 Min's, until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve Immediately. I find that this goes really well with mashed sweet potato.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Easy Chocolate Moose

Chocolate Moose

320g (12oz) strong dark chocolate - 70% coco solids min
30g (1oz) unsalted butter
6 eggs
pinch of salt


1 - Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a large bowl.

2 - Break the chocolate into small pieces I like to use a chefs knife to cut it up as it helps with the melting,

3 - Put the chocolate in glass bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Add the butter and allow both to gently melt.

4 - Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk till they are just becoming stiff.

5 - Take the yolks and mix them up with a fork.

6 - When the chocolate and butter have melted allow them to cool for a couple of minutes then stir in the yolks.

7 - Fold in the egg whites with a metal spoon or spatula in three to four batches until fully mixed.

7 - Pour into ramekins or glasses and refrigerate for a couple of hours to set.

This is great topped with a little fresh whipped cream, or served with Amaretto Biscuits.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A great drinking wine - Rioja for under £10

I do not profess to be a wine buff, but I do know what I like and what taste good with food or on its own, and this is one of those on its own wines.

I few weeks back my wife and I went onto the Oddbins website and ordered 12 bottles of wine. I do not like to pay more than £10 a bottle so we chose carefully. We ordered three bottles of this Aradon Rioja and we were not disappointed. This wine is really easy drinking; I just sat down watched TV and enjoyed it.

I think it has a nice fruity flavour with just a little spice. It’s not too heavy either, as I find some red wines can be a little overpowering, but this one is not.

I would definitely recommend this wine as a bottle to enjoy on its own, and at the price of £6.99 tastes like a more expensive wine.

Why not do what we did and go to the Oddbins website and order a case of 12 bottles it's great value, or even take one of their 6 or 12 bottle cases. See link below for Oddbins.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Roast Duck - Oriental Style

This is a recipe that I tried a few years ago and it was so good that my wife and I started to have it nearly every month. we got a bit sick of it that I stopped making it, then at the weekend she went out and bought a duck, so I just had to make it all again. It is really easy and the flavours are superb.

Ingredients: -
1 duck - any size
Kettle full of boiling water.
Chinese Five spice powder.

Sauce: -
2 table spoons of shred-less marmalade
1 glass of red wine
1 tea-spoon of Chinese five spice
2 table spoons of gravy granules
200ml of boiled water.

Method: -

1 - Take the duck and prick it all over with a carving fork or skewer then place it in a large bowl. Pour over the kettle of boiling water. This helps to take some of the fat out from under the ducks skin. Remove and then dry with a tea towel, or paper towels.

2 - Rub the five spice into the skin of the duck, massaging it all over. Place on a plate and marinade in the fridge for at least 2 hours. (Better to leave it overnight if possible)

3 - Pre-heat the oven to Gas mark 6 / 400deg F / 200 deg C. Cook the duck in the middle of the oven until the juices run clear. Then turn the oven to it's highest for 5-10 mins to crisp the skin.

4 - Take out the oven and rest for 10 mins before cutting. Now cut the duck down the centre and remove the breasts whole. Shred the remaining meats off the legs and the rest of the bird.

5 - For the sauce place the glass of red wine, the marmalade and the five spice in a pan and bring to the boil to burn off the alcohol from the wine.

6 - Add the 200 ml of boiled water and the gravy granules. This should make a nice thick sauce, if not add a little more gravy granules.

7 - Serve this with roasted sweet potatoes, fresh spring greens and the shredded duck on the side.

These dishes is great with a nice rich red wine such as the Canti mentioned in an earlier post, or try a rich Rioja.