Monthly Archives: March 2008

The Perfect Roast Chicken and Chocolate Mousse

This weekend has been busy with cooking. With beautiful ingredients coming into season and the spring sunshine (even if it was interspersed with hail showers!) we both found it quite inspirational.

A few months back I brought a copy of The River Cottage Meat Book. Until this weekend I hadn’t really read it properly. I though it was just going to be a book full of meat recipes, but in reality it’s an insightful book with the understanding of meat and various ways of cooking it. I’m not a huge meat eater, but found it really interesting. Thanks to this book Hubby has come over all Hugh F-W (minus the curls) and decided to have a go at curing pork. We now have a belly of pork coated in salt living in a Tupperware box under the sink. He’s then planning on smoking half of it in the chimney. After this he wants to try making chorizo.

With the duck eggs we picked up yesterday we also managed to get a beautiful local free-range chicken. With my planning quite a few chicken based dishes this week I decided it was the most economical way of buying and cooking chicken. I’ve never cooked a full chicken before, I guess I found it a bit scary. Last July I did cook a crown of chicken, it was nice, but not perfect and it knocked my confidence.

Well Hugh installed my confidence and I managed to cook a perfect, tasty, succulent roast chicken with a delicious non-greasy gravy to go with it (a serious achievement for me!) We had the chicken with garlic & herb stuffing, creamed leeks, carrots, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puds made with a duck egg. The duck egg made a really good Yorkie pud batter.

The Perfect Roast Chicken – thanks to Hugh!
for a 2.5kg chicken

2.5kg free-range chicken
100g butter, softened
handful of parsley, rosemary and thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
salt & pepper
100ml white wine

1) Preheat oven to 210oc. Mix butter, herbs, garlic and seasoning. Rub all over chicken. Cook for 20 min

2) Turn oven down to 180oc, baste chicken then pour wine into roasting tray (don’t pour over the chicken.) Cook for a further 50 min. The chicken is done when the juices run clear.

3) Cover in foil and allow to rest for 20 min.

My rule on Sundays is always to make a dessert, just in case the roast goes wrong (once in a blue moon it does when I’m experimenting). For the dessert I was looking for Nigellas help. When sorting the kitchen cupboards I found some dark chocolate Hubby had bought back from Italy and it needed using up. In Nigella Express she makes an egg less chocolate mousse. I have to say it turned out as a beautiful, dense, rich chocolate mousse. very much an adult chocolate mousse. I took the original recipe and divided it by 3 to give enough for just the 2 of us. It was so rich we only managed to eat half of it…not that I’m complaining as it means some for Monday! Next time rather than serving it in ramekins I may make it in shot glasses.

Chocolate Mousse
Makes 2 ramekins or 4 shot glasses

50g marshmallows, chopped into small pieces
15g unsalted butter
80g dark chocolate, broken up
20ml hot water from a recently boiled kettle
95ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1) In a heavy saucepan gently heat marshmallows, butter, dark chocolate and hot water. Stir occasionally until everything has melted and is smooth. Remove from the heat.

2) Whip cream with vanilla extract until thick. Gently fold in chocolate until well combined. Pour into ramekins/shot glasses, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Duck eggs

Today we managed to get our hands on some huge duck eggs. I’m never used or eaten them before and was really drawn to their beautiful colours. All of them appeared to be different hues of blue. The photo doesn’t show how fabulous the colours were.

For lunch Hubby used some of the duck eggs to make scrambled eggs with purple sprouting broccoli as inspired by a dish A Slice of Cherry Pie. The only difference was that hubby flash fried the PSB in butter for a minute rather then boiling. The duck eggs are slightly richer than hen eggs and Hubby was really impressed on how the duck eggs complimented the PSB so well.

From what I can gather you can more of less use duck eggs where you use hen eggs, but just take into account they are bigger. I’m thinking of using them to make Yorkshire puds to go with tomorrows roast chicken.

Does anyone else have any other fab ideas for duck eggs?

Thank you so much to Sylvie at the wonderfulA Pot of Tea and a Biscuit for her Excellent Blog award. I’m truly flattered. Now I’m meant to pass this onto bloggers whose blogs I believe to be excellent, but there are so many fab blogs out there I’m struggling to narrow it down!

Sticky Pork & Purple Sprouting Broccoli Stirfry

This months In The Bag event is to cook with purple sprouting broccoli (PSB). I’ve eaten this veg in various forms over the last few weeks and tonight wanted to try something a bit different with it.

As Hubby has gone to the local beer festival I wanted to cook something quick, tasty and easy giving me the longest time to watch cheesy Saturday evening tv. This recipe is loosly based on my sticky pork recipe. I meant to add sesame seeds, but totally forgot!

Sticky Pork and Broccoli Stirfry
Serves 1

1 pork steak, sliced into strips
handful of purple sprouting brocolli
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp soft dark sugar
1 sheet of noodles

1) Mix rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and sugar in shallow bowl. Marinade steak for up to 24 hours.

2) Cook steaks in saute pan (minus the extra marinade) for about 3 min each side until cooked. Remove steaks from pan and allow to rest. Cook noodles then drain. Add broccoli remaining marinade to pan, boil until sticky.

3) Add noodles to broccoli and mix until coated in sauce. Stir in pork. Serve.

Chocolate Caramel Nuggets

I’ve meaning to try these chocolate caramel nuggets for a while, but with seasonal baking, then the fact I gave biscuits up for lent I never got around to them until today. I originally came across the recipe on Cherrapeno’s blog, then I realised I have a the same Cookie & Biscuit Bible cookbook.

Like Nic, I found this particular cookbook in a book section of a gardening centre. It was the best £5 I’ve ever spent. It’s such a great cookbook, just a shame it’s now out of print. I wish I had picked up other copies at the time to give to friends.

I don’t have a food processor big enough to make these biscuits so did the first part of the recipe in my mini food processor then finished it off by hand. The eggs I was using were small so ended up using an additional small egg yolk and a splash of milk to get the dough to combine.

The result was a lovely, not too rich, biscuit with the texture and slight taste of shortbread. It was very much like an inside out Millionaire’s Shortbread. Perfect with a cuppa. One problem, they are very moreish. One just isn’t enough!

Quest for the perfect coffee

I’m known for my love of coffee, be it an ingredient in a cake or drinking it, I’m a huge fan. However I’m very fussy when it comes to coffee. For me a perfect coffee as to be so smooth I don’t need sugar to take away the bitterness.

While at Chantry on Saturday, Adrian from Azurieblue was there offering samples of his espresso. Not one to turn down a sample I gave it a go. I have to say it was one of the best coffees I have ever had. It was so smooth. Even Hubby who doesn’t usually drink coffee thought it was good.

The coffee is ground from ethically sourced Brazilian arabica beans (something that is important to me) and I found it rich, without being bitter and overpowering, with a hint of nutty chocolate. Naturally I was so impressed with the sample I bought some for myself, even better that the coffee tin matches my kitchen perfectly…I’m such a girl!

Over the last few days I’ve tried different ways of using the coffee. As an espresso, latte and mocha and each time it was delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a coffee that is so versatile.

Azorieblue are due to have a stand at the Real Food Festival in April and I seriously recommend you visit them to taste their wonderful coffee.

Ragu of Tiny Meatballs

The Easter weekend is nearly over and I can’t believe how fast it’s gone. My Simnel Loaf went down really well, I’ll be making it again next Easter. At least I’m now on a 2 week holiday before going back to work (one of the few advantages of working in a school). As I gave up biscuits for lent I can see a surge of biscuit baking ahead!

Saturday night we camped out with Hubby’s cousins. It was the first camping trip of the year. I admit I was a bit apprehensive at first, when we settled in for the night frost was beginning to form on the tent. However once we snuggled into our sleeping bags we were soon warm. At 6am I had to get up to shake an inch of snow off the tent, just a shame it had all melted by 8am.

A few weeks back I stumbled upon Katie at Other People’s Foods post on Jamie Olivers Ragu of Tiny Meatballs. I’ve made various meatballs before, but they have always been really disappointing. However these look so delicious I decided to give meatballs another go.

Both of us really enjoyed them and to make it even better we have another portion for tomorrow night. The only slight alteration I would make to it in the future is to only put zest of 1/2 a lemon in.

Congratulations to Niri who won the Hotel Chocolat Easter egg.

Simnel loaf and cupcakes

In England it is traditional to make a simnel cake to celebrate Easter. Similar to a Christmas cake in that it is a spiced fruit cake. It features 11 balls of marzipan which represent the 12 apostles excluding Judas. The cake is thought to have been around since Medieval times and the name comes from the Latin simila meaning fine wheat flour.

Tradition dictates that it should be baked on Mothering Sunday by a daughter. If it is still moist when cut open on Easter Sunday it is a sign of a good cook (and potential wife!) As I only found this information out yesterday, and had missed Mothering Sunday I still decided to go ahead with it.

The original recipe for this Simnel Loaf cake featured in this months GFM, I made some alterations due to ingredients I had available. I also made my own marzipan, which is far better than any shop bought version. It is meant to make 1 2lb loaf, but I was left with loads of extra cake batter so made some simnel cupcakes to go with the loaf. It turned out beautifully moist, I’m glad it did or I would have been proved to be a shocking wife and cook! Method wise it is very similar to a Boiled Fruit Cake. Rather than the important 11 marzipan balls being on the top of the cake they are distributed throughout the cake, a bit like a stollen. You can use this recipe to make just simnel cupcakes (I guess this recipe will make about 18), use the same amounts. The cooking times for the cupcakes are below. I’ve entered the cakes in to Julia’s Easter Cake Bake.

It’s snowing here at the moment and we’ve been predicted heavy snow for tomorrow so we could be in for a white Easter.

Simnel Loaf and Cupcakes
Makes 1 2lb loaf and around 6 cupcakes

Makes 250g

125g ground almonds
60g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 egg, beaten well (you won’t use all of it)

1) Sift sugar into bowl then mix in almonds.

2) Add the lemon juice then the egg a tiny bit at a time. Beat to a firm paste then knead. It will end up having the texture of grainy dough. If it is too sticky add a bit more sugar and almonds. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in fridge while you prepare the rest of the cake.


140g unsalted butter, cubed
175g golden caster sugar
250ml orange juice
75g dried apricots, quartered
275g mixed fruit
220g glace cherries
200g marzipan (see above)
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50g flaked almonds

1 egg white
250g icing sugar
50g marzipan

1) Preheat oven to 150oc. Line 2lb with baking parchment. Ensure it goes high up the sides as the cake will rise.

2) In a large saucepan slowly heat butter, sugar, orange juice, dried fruits until boiling. Simmer for 10 minutes then allow to cool for 15 min. While this is cooling shape the cake marzipan into 11 balls around 2cm across.

3) Sift flour, spice and baking powder into the pan, then stir in eggs and almonds until everything is well combined.

4) Spoon cake mix into tin until it is about half full. Arrange the marzipan balls evenly over the cake mix then cover with the remaining cake mix (don’t over fill the tin). Smooth over the top. Bake loaf for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 until a skewer will come out clean. Leave to cool in tin for 15 min, then remove and finish cooling on wire rack. Allow cake to cool fully before icing.

If cooking cupcakes bake for 30 minutes at 150oc.

5) Lightly whisk egg white then beat in icing sugar until you have thick spreadable icing. Spread over the top of cake. Roll remaining marzipan into balls and brown with a blow torch (you could do this under the grill). When the icing is almost set press the marzipan balls along the top.

Hot Cross Buns – 2nd attempt

These hot cross buns were the third thing I baked on Sunday during my marathon baking session; However they never got to work. I was so ashamed of them, I have a reputation to upkeep! The crosses went a great deal better than last year as I pipped the crosses on, but they still looked like something one of the kids in Foundation had made. I also didn’t leave long enough for the dough to rise so they ended up dry and quite heavy. The photo features the one bun that was remotely decent looking.

I wasn’t prepared to throw the whole batch away so was really glad when I came across Margaret’s post for Jamie Oliver’s Hot Cross Pudding. I made an individual portion tonight and it was lovely. A perfect antidote for the cold, frosty evening.

Don’t forget the Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg hunt finishes tonight. Enter now to have you chance of winning a fab easter egg.

Irish Mocha Cupcakes – Homage to the Baileys Blitz

The second item for my marathon “cheer up” baking session are Irish Mocha Cupcakes. These cupcakes are inspired by Sugar Plum’s St Paddy’s Day Pub Crawl Blogging Event and a coffee called a Baileys Blitz that fueled my university days. Baileys Blitz was a mocha coffee with a shot of Baileys topped with lashings of whipped cream and (rather randomly) maltesers….mmmmmmm..

In these cupcakes I’ve forgone the malteasers, but all the other ingredients are there in some form or another. I’m really pleased how well they turned out. Of course I had to “test” one of the cakes just to check they are fit for my workmates ;) The rich coffee chocolate sponge is complimented perfectly with the Baileys icing.

Irish Mocha Cupcakes
Makes 12

For the cupcakes
110g butter, softened
110g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
85g self-raising flour
30g cocoa
2-3 tbsp cold strong coffee

For the Baileys icing
210g icing sugar, sifted
95g butter, softened
2 tbsp Baileys

1) Preheat oven to 180oc. Cream butter and sugar together into light and fluffy. Stir in one egg at a time so they don’t curdle.

2) Fold in sifted flour and cocoa, then stir in the coffee one tbsp at a time.

3) Spoon into cupcake cases then bake for 15 min. Allow to thoroughly cool before icing.

4) Beat all of the icing ingredients together. If the icing it too stiff add some more baileys, if it is too runny add a tiny bit more icing sugar. Ice cakes using a piping bag.

Pea & Goat’s Cheese Risotto

I took a break from my marathon baking session to make my dinner. I’ve only had risotto once before and that was in a restaurant so when the local supermarket decided to get with the times and stock risotto rice I decided I would give it a go.

It made a huge portion and I only managed to eat half of it. I enjoyed it to start but was fed up of it by the end. That could be due to me having a low boredom threshold when it comes to food. I prefer to have lost of different flavours on the plate rather than everything mixed together, I’m an odd one me! However saying that the rest will probably be my lunch tomorrow.

Pea & Goat’s Cheese Risotto
Serves 1-2

1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
200g risotto rice
50ml white wine
300ml hot chicken stock
50g frozen peas
50g goat’s cheese
1 tbsp mint
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp butter

1) Gently fry shallots and garlic in the olive oil in a deep saucepan for 3 min. Add rice and stir for a further 2-3 until the rice is translucent.

2) Pour in the wine and turn up the heat until the wine is absorbed. Gradually add stock 1 ladle at a time, each time waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more.

3) Mix in peas, mint, half of the cheese, creme fraiche, butter and season. Leave for 2-3 min. Serve then garnish with the remaining cheese.

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