Tom Kerridge’s Amazing Christmas Carrots – But Don’t Wait Til Christmas to Make Them

Tom Kerridge - Star Anise Braised Carrots

It’s hard to make a plate of carrots look enticing but believe me these are incredible tasting carrots. Tom Kerridge is a British chef who owns the Hand & Flowers pub,  the only 2 Michelin starred pub in the UK. This recipe featured on one of his recent television programmes and whilst these carrots are indeed worthy of the holiday table they’re too good to keep for just once a year. These have become my go to vegetable for any roast dinner, in fact for any grilled meat or poultry, hell I’d have them on their own and make a meal of it! This dish is a little more time consuming than most side dishes with the carrots braising for a good 45 minutes in a rich, buttery, star anise flavoured sauce. The long cooking time allows the carrots to soak up all the flavour from the cooking liquid and become incredibly tender. One change I do make from the original is the amount of butter. Tom calls for a whopping 250g which I find very excessive – I cut the butter down by more than half and it’s  just as good.

Ingredients – Serves 4 as a side dish  Adapted from Tom Kerridge

6 large or 9 medium carrots peeled, topped and tailed
100g butter (original recipe calls for 250g)
100g sugar (original recipe calls for 150g)
2 teaspoons salt (original recipe calls for 3 teaspoons)
4 star anise

Method

Use a clean scourer to smooth the carrots and remove any peel marks (optional). In a pan combine 300ml of water, the butter, sugar, salt and star anise. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and add the carrots.

Tom Kerridge's Amazing Carrots Tom Kerridge's Amazing Carrots Tom Kerridge's Amazing Carrots

Cook until the carrots are tender (approximately 45 minutes) and the volume of liquid has reduced by half. Carefully remove the carrots to a serving platter, they are very tender and can fall apart easily, and serve with the reduced cooking liquid poured over.

Tom Keridge's Star Anise Braised Carrots

Sausage Hot-Pot

Perfect Winter Meal - Sausage Hot Pot

This may not be the most glamorous of dishes but it’s certainly one of the most comforting, especially on  cold winter nights when you really crave something hearty for dinner. A sausage hot-pot, or any hot-pot for that matter, is basically a one dish casserole of sorts and they’re extremely easy to throw together which makes them great for busy mid-week meals. Using good quality sausages is essential but the type of sausage meat you choose is up to you. I prefer organic beef sausages but in this instance I used a mixture of organic beef and free range pork as that’s what I had on hand. You can accompany this meal with just some crusty bread or really go to town and serve it with mashed potatoes. If you have any leftovers they make great sandwiches the next day.

Ingredients – Serves 2-3, with enough left over for sandwiches

6-7 best quality beef or pork sausages – organic if possible
1 red pepper, cut into long strips
3 red onions, sliced
3 large flat cap mushrooms, halved and cut into thick slices
Olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Scant teaspoon plain flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups best quality beef stock
Salt & pepper

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Heat a large non stick fry pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. When the oil is hot add the sausages and cook until browned on all sides, they don’t need to be cooked through at this stage. Remove and place into a shallow oven proof baking dish or tray that is just large enough to hold the sausages snuggly.

  

To the same fry pan add the red pepper along with a pinch of salt and a little more oil, if required, and cook until softened. Set aside with the sausages. Cook the onions in the same way until very soft, again adding more oil as needed. Add these to the sausages and cook the mushrooms until they are nicely browned and add to the other vegetables.

  

Reduce the heat slightly and add the tomato paste and flour to the pan and let it cook and caramelise for a couple of minutes then add the thyme, bay leaves, a pinch of salt, some ground black pepper, Worcestershire sauce and stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes until it is reduced by about a third. Add the sauce to the sausages and move everything around so as the sausages are siting on top and evenly spaced out. Bake for 30-40 minutes and serve with crusty bread or mash.

Perfect Winter Meal - Sausage Hop Pot

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ultimate Red velvet Cake

I’ve never really understood the fuss about red velvet cakes and couldn’t figure out what could be so special about a normal cake batter that has some red colouring added to it. Hence, I’ve never been inspired to bake a red velvet cake, but my niece recently turned sixteen and  asked for a batch of red velvet cupcakes to take to school on her birthday, so I started to do some research and to my surprise there’s a lot more to red velvet cakes than meets the eye. First of all the chocolate used is always cocoa powder which I love for its deep chocolate intensity and the addition of buttermilk and vinegar give this cake a lovely tangy moistness and density that’s unlike any other cake I’ve tried. As for the red colour I think it somehow tricks the mind when eating the cake to expect something other than a normal chocolate cake and it works. After trolling through a lot of recipes I decided to try Martha Stewart’s and I really hit the jackpot – these red velvet cakes were incredibly moist and had a wonderful crumb and just the right amount of sweetness. I’m not a fan of adding artificial colouring to food and suggest you try to find a high quality food colour gel if possible as you’ll use a lot less of a paste/gel than a cheap liquid food dye. I am now a red velvet convert and I can see myself making this batter again, next time in a normal cake tin or bundt tin for a fabulous dessert.

Ingredients – makes 24 cupcakes  Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 ½ cups plain cake flour, sifted (to make cake flour you can use normal plain flour and remove 2 ½ tablespoons of flour and replace with cornflour)
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon red gel-paste food colour – if you use normal liquid food colour you will need more
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Cream Cheese Icing
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
180g cream cheese, room temperature
250g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food colour and vanilla.

  

Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.

 Red Velvet Cupcakes 

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centres comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before icing. To make the icing, beat the butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, a little at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth.

Martha Stewart's Red Velvet Cupcake

The Standard Grill’s Million Dollar Chicken – The Best Bread, I mean Chicken, You’ll Ever Eat

Barefoot Contessa Million Dollar Chicken

The Standard Grill is a restaurant in Manhattan but there is nothing “standard” about their signature dish, Million Dollar Chicken. I saw this being made on a recent Barefoot Contessa episode and it looked amazing. On the surface it may look like an ordinary roast chicken but there are a few additions and tweaks that really take this roast chicken to new heights. The first is that the bird is given a liberal smear of creme fraiche towards the end of the cooking time. This glaze gives the chicken a wonderful crust and really boosts the flavour, especially of the skin. The next and most important addition is that the chicken is roasted on thick slices of sour dough bread. The bread soaks up all the juices from the chicken and gets wonderfully crisp on the underside and incredibly luscious and moist on the surface the chicken sits on – we’re talking chicken drippings here people. I could have easily eaten just the bread and left the chicken – it’s very good, very naughty and very rich, hence the name of the dish I presume. Whoever came up with the idea of roasting a whole bird on bread is a genius, and whilst the bread is incredible, the chicken is pretty amazing too. You won’t need anything in the way of carbs to go alongside the chicken as the bread does the job and to be honest even the best roast spuds would pale in comparison to the roasted bread, did I mention I love the bread!

Ingredients    Adapted from Ina Garten and the Standard Grill in NYC

1.8kg whole chicken, preferably organic or free range
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 lemon, cut in half
1 bay leaf
5 sprigs fresh thyme
Olive oil
2-3 thick (about 1 inch) cut slices sour dough bread – day old bread is perfect
For the Creme Fraiche Glaze:
½ cup creme fraiche
½ a lemon, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon grated shallots, grated on a fine zester
½ teaspoon paprika

Method

Season the chicken well inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the garlic, the lemon, the bay leaf and thyme. If you can manage to do this the day before, even better. If you like you can truss the chicken but it’s not really necessary.

On the day/night you plan to cook the bird, take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before you plan to roast it. Preheat the oven to 220C.

In a pan juts large enough to accommodate the chicken, oil the pan lightly with olive oil, place the pieces of sourdough in the center of the pan and then put the chicken on top of the bread (I also poured a little olive oil on the bread before I placed the chicken on top). Try to only have the bread under the chicken, if there is too much poking out then it may burn. Drizzle the bird with olive oil or brush with butter (they use olive oil at the Grill).

 Standard Grill's Million Dollar Roast Chicken Standard Grill's Million Dollar Roast Chicken

Place the pan in the oven and roast for 40 to 50 minutes, basting it every 12 to 15 minutes with the fat and drippings that render from the bird. I didn’t find there was much fat or drippings as happily the bread was soaking it all up. While the chicken roasts, assemble the glaze by combining all of the ingredients and whisking them together.

Standard Grill's Million Dollar Roast Chicken Standard Grill's Million Dollar Roast Chicken

When the chicken is almost done, which should be at around the 45 minute mark, take a pastry brush and slather on a bit of the creme fraiche glaze all over the top of the chicken. Place the chicken back in the oven to let it caramelise. After about 5 minutes brush on another layer and let this last glazing caramelise too for another 5 – 10 minutes. If you find that your skin isn’t caramelising enough you can turn the grill on but watch the chicken carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Standard Grill's Million Dollar Roast Chicken Ina Garten's Million Dollar Chicken Standard Grill's Million Dollar Roast Chicken

At this point the chicken should be cooked through and nicely golden brown. The sourdough underneath the chicken will be brown and crisped on the side in contact with the pan, and moist and juicy on the side in contact with the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting it into serving pieces. Cut the sourdough into 2 to 4 pieces and serve with the chicken.

Standard Grill's Million Dollar Roast Chicken

Baghali Polow – Persian Broad Bean & Dill Rice with Braised Lamb Shanks

Persian Dill & Broad Bean Polow with Braised Lamb Shanks

This is a classic Persian meal and one of my all time favourites. Perfectly cooked basmati rice that is flecked with lots of fragrant dill and broad beans. It’s a fantastic combination of flavours and textures which only gets better when paired with slow braised lamb. Some people like to add rose water and other spices to baghali polow but I don’t think it needs any further embellishment. The lamb can also be braised in a variety of different ways and whilst you could certainly use leg or shoulder of lamb, the more traditional cut is lamb shanks. I like to simmer them very simply in just water, salt and lots of whole garlic cloves (not traditional but it tastes wonderful). The end result after four hours of gentle simmering is incredibly tender meat, gorgeous mellow cloves of garlic and a rich jus. I also add a large bunch of coriander, tied up in string for easy removal, which along with the garlic gives the meat a lovely aroma. One thing to note is that baghali polow needs a lot of dill, about two large bunches per cup of rice. Even if you are not a fan of dill I urge you to try this recipe as the fragrance and flavour of the dill becomes very subtle after the long steaming time.

Note: The pictures of the rice above and below are made with only half the dill that is noted in the recipe as that is all I had on hand. If you follow the recipe below, which you should for optional results, your rice will have a lot more dill through it.

Ingredients – Serves 4

2 heaped cups basmati rice
4 large bunches dill
1.2kg frozen broad beans, defrosted – this is the unpodded weight. Once they are skinned the weight will be roughly half
Ghee or neutral flavoured vegetable oil
2 large all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ cm slices
½ teaspoon saffron
Salt

For the Lamb
4-6 lamb shanks – depending on size. I like to use French trimmed lamb shanks
Salt
20 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
1 large bunch coriander, washed well and tied up with cooking string

Method

For the rice: Wash the rice well in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Place the rice in a bowl and cover with enough cold water to cover by an inch. Stir in a heaped tablespoon of salt. Leave the rice to soak for about 3 hours. This is an important step and shouldn’t be missed. Whilst the rice is soaking de-pod the broad beans and set aside. Wash the dill well, remove the dill sprigs from the stem and finely chop, set aside. Place the saffron in a small jar with a screw top lid and cover with about ½ a cup of boiling water. Stir and screw on the lid and set aside to infuse.

Dill & Fava Beans for Baghali Polow  Potatoes for Tah Dig

Once the rice has soaked, fill a very large saucepan with water (I like to use a stock pot and it helps enormously if it’s non- stick). Salt the water as you would for pasta and bring to the boil. When the water is boiling rapidly, drain the rice and add it to the saucepan. Using a large slotted spoon gently stir the rice around. You need to be very gentle to avoid the rice breaking. Bring back to the boil as soon as possible and cook uncovered for about 10-12 minutes or until the rice is almost cooked through but still has a little resistance. When the rice is a few minutes away from reaching this stage add the chopped dill and the broad beans and stir them through the rice. When the rice is ready, drain it in a very fine mesh colander. If your colander is not fine enough you risk losing a lot of the dill. Again be gentle when you are draining the rice. Fill the saucepan up with some tepid water, just a few cupfuls is enough, and gently pour this water over the rice in the colander.

  Baghali Polow - Step by Step Guide    Tah Dig Baghali Polow

Place the saucepan back on the heat and when it is hot add a few tablespoons of ghee or oil and a couple of tablespoons of the infused saffron liquid (if your pot is not non-stick you will need to be more generous with the oil). Swirl the two together and add a single layer of potatoes over the base of the pan. These will cook and become golden and crunchy and are absolutely delicious and much fought over, so fit in as many as you can. If you have any potato slices leftover that won’t fit on the bottom I like to put them around the edges of the pan once the rice has been added – they won’t get crunchy but they will be nice and soft and fragrant. Gently spoon the rice into the pan on top of the potatoes, shaping the rice up into a pyramid. Take a chop stick and poke about 6 holes in the rice, going almost to the bottom, this will help the rice to steam.

Drizzle another couple of tablespoons of ghee or oil over the rice – I like to do it through the holes of a large slotted spoon so as it distributes evenly. Pour the rest of the saffron infused water in a small section at the top of the rice. Turn the heat to medium and place a lid on the pot. Leave to cook for 10 minutes then take the lid off and cover with a clean tea cloth and place the lid back on and reduce the heat to low. Cook the rice for 1½ hours turning the pan around every 20 minutes or so to ensure the bottom of the pan gets evenly heated. If your stove is very fierce, use a simmer pad. When the rice has finished cooking remove the lid and gently remove the section that has the saffron on it and set aside. Spoon the rice onto a platter and surround it with the golden potato slices (tah dig). Scatter the saffron coloured rice over the rest of the rice on the platter and serve with the lamb shanks.

For the lamb: Trim the lamb shanks well of any excess fat and wash throughly. Place in a large saucepan with 2 teaspoons of salt, the garlic cloves and the coriander. Cover with enough cold water to just cover the meat. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil uncovered. You will need to constantly skim any impurities that rise to the surface. When it comes to a boil lower the heat to a gentle simmer and place the lid on slightly askew and cook until all but about ¾ of a cup of the water has evaporated by which time the shanks will be falling off the bone.

Persian Braised Lamb Shanks for Bhagali Polow

This normally takes around 4 hours but it will depend on how high your heat is and how much water is in your pan. You don’t want the water to evaporate too quickly though so moderate your heat accordingly. Half way through the cooking time you can remove the coriander and discard. When the lamb is ready place it on a platter (if the meat has fallen away from the bones, just discard the bones and place the meat on the platter) and pour over the pan juices and garlic cloves, which will be very tender.

baghali Polow - Persian Broad Bean & Dill Rice with Braised Lamb Shanks

Sri Lankan Coconut Roti

Sri Lankan Coconut Roti

I love a good curry and we probably indulge in one a week be it homemade or at one of our local favourite restaurants. I normally pair our homemade Indian curries with rice but that can get a bit boring so when I feel like a change of carb I make these delicious coconut roti. I really enjoy the texture of these roti which are crisper and more chewy than say Malaysian Roti or Indian Naans and are perfect for mopping up sauces.  These roti are quick and easy to make and don’t really take much more effort than cooking rice. The green chilli is optional and you can leave them out if you don’t want any heat at all, or you could divide your dough in half and only put the diced chilli into one portion of the dough which is a good way to please everyone.

Ingredients – makes 6 roti

225g plain flour
85g desiccated coconut
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional, see above)
Salt
150-170ml tepid water
2 tablespoons coconut oil or vegetable oil

Method

In a bowl combine the flour, desiccated coconut, a large pinch of salt and the green chilli. Make a well in the centre and add sufficient water to mix into a stiff dough. If the dough seems too stiff to handle, add a little more water. Knead the dough well and divide into six equal portions.

Coconut Roti Dough

Grease your work surface using a little of the coconut oil and place one portion of the roti dough on the greased surface. Use your fingers to flatten the dough out to a circle the size of a small plate. Then use a rolling pin to flatten it out a little more. The thinner you make the dough, the crisper the roti will be. Some people  prefer not using a rolling pin to ensure the dough remains a little thicker but I quite like the slight crispness of a thinner roti.

Rolling Roti Sri Lankan Coconut Roti

Heat a small non stick frypan over a medium heat. Brush a small amount of coconut oil on the bottom and add a roti and cook until lightly browned on the bottom. Turn over and brown the other side, total cooking time will only be a couple of minutes per side. Remove and keep warm under foil until all the rotis are cooked.

Sri Lankan Coconut Roti

Lemongrass Coconut Cake

Rachel Allen's Lemongrass Coconut Cake

This is a lovely moist cake that is wonderful both as a dessert or a coffee cake. The moistness is due in part to the coconut but it’s mainly the lemongrass syrup that is poured over the cake once it’s cooled that makes it super soft and luscious. I love cakes that are doused with syrup, especially when the syrup is infused with some off the cake flavours, which in this case is lemongrass. This is a very simple cake to make. All the ingredients come together in a food processor and the only thing to note is the lemongrass needs to be finely chopped before it goes into the processor and to run your machine for as long as necessary to ensure the lemongrass and sugar form a very fine paste. I always struggle to find desserts to serve after an Asian meal but this cake with its subtle exotic Thai flavours has solved the problem and is new my go to dessert for such occasions.

Ingredients  Adapted from Rachel Allen’s Cake Diaries

4 lemongrass – base and tough upper tops trimmed and outer leaves removed but reserved for the syrup
250 g caster sugar
4 large eggs
200g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
125g desiccated coconut
125g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
Greek yogurt or crème fraiche, to serve – optional
Coconut shavings to decorate – optional

For the syrup
Reserved trimmings and outer leaves of the lemongrass
75g caster sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 170C (not fan forced). Butter the sides of a 22 or 23cm cake tin and dust with flour, then line the base with a disc of baking parchment. Thinly slice the lemongrass stalks into rounds about 3mm thick, then place in a food processor with the caster sugar and whiz until the lemongrass is finely puréed.

Add the eggs, butter and coconut and process again until combined. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the machine, whizzing very briefly just until the ingredients come together. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Rachel Allen's Lemongrass Coconut Cake

For the syrup: While the cake is cooking, make the syrup. Roughly chop the lemongrass trimmings, place in a saucepan with the sugar and 75ml of water and set over a high heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes before removing from the heat and leaving to infuse. When the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and let it sit in the tin for 10 minutes. Loosen around the edges using a small, sharp knife and carefully remove the cake from the tin before transferring to a serving plate.  Reheat the syrup, then pierce holes all over the cake with a skewer and pour the hot syrup through a sieve onto the cake, moving the pan and sieve around as you pour so that the syrup covers the top of the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.  Decorate with coconut shavings and serve with a dollop of natural Greek yoghurt or crème fraiche if desired.

Rachel Allen's Lemongrass Coconut Cake

Pörkölt – Hungarian Beef Paprika Stew

Paprika Beef Stew with Nokedli & Cucumber Salad

Pörkölt is a Hungarian stew that can be made with veal, pork or beef. It’s very similar to goulash with the only difference being that goulash is more soup like and often has potatoes added. There are versions of this type of paprika stew all over Europe with the other well known ones being from Austria and Germany. The main secret to a good Pörkölt is the amount of onions – you need a lot, and I mean A LOT. For one kilogram of meat you need a minimum of 4-5 large onions. As you can imagine this amount of onions will take a while to cook down so this is not a dish you can make in a hurry but it is one that you can make in advance as it just gets better with time and freezes very well. The other important ingredient is the paprika. You need a fair bit of it and it needs to be fresh and good quality, preferably Hungarian and you want the sweet kind, not the hot. Don’t use that old jar of paprika that’s been sitting in your store cupboard for years as it really will impact the flavour of the finished dish. I made the traditional accompaniments of nokedli (or spaetzle) which are delicious little boiled dumplings and a cucumber salad. I don’t own a spaetzle maker which meant I had to push the nokedli through the holes of a large flat grater which was a tad tedious but worth the effort. If you want a simpler pairing then you can’t go wrong with pasta, mashed potatoes or even rice. This is a totally delicious meal perfect for the cooler months when you want something hearty and comforting.

Ingredients – Serves 4 -6

1.2 kg beef stewing meat, cut into large cubes – I used chuck
4 -5 large onions (which should roughly weigh the same amount as the beef), diced
⅓ cup vegetable oil
3 heaped tablespoons best quality Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 green capsicum/pepper sliced – the long banana shape ones are best if you can find them

To Serve:
Nokedli/Spaetzle recipe can be found here

Method

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. I like to use a pan that is wide but not too deep. When the oil has heated add the onions along with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring regularly, until they are soft, but you don’t need to caramelise them. Add more oil if you feel the onions are catching.

Onions for Porkolt  

Take the pan off the heat (this is important otherwise you risk the paprika burning and getting bitter) and add the paprika, stir it into the cooked onions until well incorporated. Return to the heat and add the beef and caraway seeds. Stir well again, making sure all the pieces of meat are well coated with the paprika.

Nokedli or Spaetzle Dough Nokedli or Spaetzle Hungarian Porkolt

Add a teaspoon of salt, a good few grindings of black pepper and about half a cup of water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for at least 11/2 – 2 hours. Check the pan every now and then to make sure there is enough liquid. If you feel that the pan is too dry add a very small amount of water, only a tablespoon or two. At the end of the cooking time the meat should be fork tender with the sauce thick and just clinging to the meat. When it reaches this point add the green pepper, stir it into the sauce, turn off the heat and a let the Pörkölt sit covered for 15 minutes before serving. In that time the meat relaxes and the pepper softens into the sauce.

Porkolt - Hungarian Beef Paprika Stew

Chocolate & Coffee Semifreddo

Chocolate & Coffee Semifreddo

Semifreddo is an Italian ice cream dessert which literally translates as “half-cold” and is basically a partially frozen ice cream. I really enjoy the texture which is softer and more mousse like than normal ice creams and unlike traditional ice cream, semifreddos have the added advantage of not requiring an ice cream machine. Whilst I do own an ice cream attachment for my Kitchenaid I need to be quite organised to use it as the bowl, which takes up a fair amount of freezer space, needs to be frozen overnight which means traditional ice cream is not something I whip up on the spur of the moment so when I want to make ice cream pronto a semifreddo is what I choose. This is a great dessert for entertaining – it’s a cinch to make, can be prepared in advance and can stand on its own without the need for any extra accompaniments. This particular semifreddo is a favourite. You can’t really go wrong with anything that combines coffee and chocolate but the added crunch of the caramel peanuts (from a Snickers bar – told you it was easy) really makes it pop. If you’re serving this to children who enjoy coffee flavour just use decaffeinated coffee.

Ingredients – Serves 4 -6 

1 egg
4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 ¼ cups cream
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon coffee or  chocolate liqueur (optional)
2 Snicker’s bars (you could also use Mars bars or Toblerone)
Grated dark chocolate or chocolate sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Method
Line a loaf tin with cling film. Chop the chocolate bars into small-medium size chunks and set aside. Put the coffee, liqueur (if using), egg, egg yolks and sugar in a heat proof bowl and mix to dissolve. Beat the mixture over a saucepan of gently simmering water until it is pale and thick. You can use a hand held electric whisk if you like. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until thick.


Gently fold in the egg and sugar mixture. Add the chopped chocolate bars and mix to combine. Pour into the prepared loaf tin, and cover carefully with clingfilm before putting it in the freezer for at least 2-3 hours. When ready to serve, turn out the semifreddo on to a suitably sized plate. You need to do this just prior to serving as semifreddos melt pretty quickly. Decorate with chocolate shavings, nuts, chocolate chunks or coffee beans.
Easy Chocolate & Coffee Semifreddo

Vietnamese Duck Braised in Spiced Orange Juice

Rick Stein's Vietnamese Braised Duck in Spiced Orange Juice

There have been times when dishes I’ve cooked have been blog worthy but never get posted because either in the rush of serving I forget to photograph the final dish or the pictures don’t turn out well, as was the case in this instance. But despite the dubious photo quality I decided it was too good a recipe not to share.  This is a great dish for entertaining – not only can it be made ahead of time but it’s also one of those great recipes where you get a lot of bang for very little effort. I saw Rick Stein make this dish on his Far Eastern Odyssey series and he was so enthusiastic about it that I knew it would have to be good. He describes it as a Vietnamese take on the classic French dish Canard à l’Orange and once you’ve tried it this way the original French version pales in comparison. Some people are put off by using duck in a braised dish as it can be quite fatty but if the duck is seared first, as it is here, all the fat is rendered and strained away resulting in a very clean and light sauce. All this needs is some rice and some steamed Asian greens to serve alongside.

Ingredients – Serves 4 – 6   Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey 

 1 x 2.5kg duck, jointed into 6 pieces – I used 4 duck marylands and 2 breasts
50g garlic cloves, sliced
50g peeled ginger, thinly sliced
1 litre freshly squeezed orange juice – good quality store bought is fine
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
5 star anise
4 red bird’s eye chillies – I found this number made the dish very spicy and will probably only use 2 next time. You could leave them out entirely if you wanted no heat at all
2 fat lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves discarded and bottom third finely chopped
8 spring onions, white part only chopped into 3 inch pieces
½ teaspoon cornflour

Method

Heat a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat. Add duck pieces, skin-side down, and cook for 5-6 minutes or until crisp and golden. Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to 
a plate and set aside.

Remove all but two tablespoons of the duck fat from the pan (don’t throw away the rest of the duck fat as it’s great to keep in the fridge for the next time you roast potatoes) turn the heat down slightly and add the garlic and ginger and cook gently for a two minutes or 
until lightly golden.

Add orange juice, fish sauce, sugar, star anise, chillies and lemongrass to pan and season with black pepper. Return duck to pan, increase heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 1½ hours, occasionally turning duck pieces. Add the spring onions to the duck and cook for a further 30 minutes or until duck is meltingly tender.

Vietnamese Duck Braised in Spiced Orange Juice

Transfer duck pieces 
to a warmed serving dish 
and set aside in a warm 
place. Skim excess fat off 
top of remaining liquid 
and simmer vigorously 
over medium-high heat or until reduced and concentrated in flavour. Mix cornflour with 
1 tsp water; stir into 
sauce and simmer for a further 1 minute. Pour 
sauce over duck and serve.