Cooking for Christmas week 5, Desserts

Our final week at New College Stamford and we are cooking again for Christmas – desserts.  It’s been a bit of a crush at times but I do hope you all managed to glean some useful tips and tricks with the odd recipe thrown in as well.

Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Semi-Freddo

This is a great dessert to make a few days ahead and a perfect alternative dessert to Christmas pudding. The rose water gives a delightful perfume and the raspberries and pistachio nuts make this a very pretty dessert. Remember – we’ve talked a lot about variations on pretty much everything we’ve made and this is no exception. Different fruits, flavourings etc. Finally, remember to transfer from the freezer to the fridge about 30-40 minutes before turning out and slicing.


Serves 10

Line a loaf tin or terrine with a double layer of cling film.

200g caster sugar, 90g honey, 5 egg whites, 600ml double cream, 100g chopped pistachio nuts, 2 tablespoons rosewater, 250g raspberries and mint sprigs to serve.

Heat the sugar with 125ml water. Bring to a simmer and add the honey.

Whisk the egg whites to a soft peak, add the hot syrup and whisk until cold.

Whisk the cream until it holds a soft peak and fold into the egg whites with half the raspberries, the pistachio nuts and rosewater.

Freeze. Serve decorated with the remaining raspberries and sprigs of mint.


 Orange Crème Caramel

A favourite dessert, I love the silky texture of these traditional baked milk puddings. Larger ones can be made too, rather than individual desserts.


Makes between 4 – 6 ramekins.

 2 oranges, 3 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks, 500ml milk, 2 tablespoons orange liquor, 200g sugar, vanilla.

Heat 100g of the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water until a caramel colour is reached.  Add 3 more tablespoons of water and divide the caramel between the ramekins.

Heat the milk with 50g sugar and a touch of vanilla pod – don’t boil.

Whisk the eggs with 50g sugar and the zest of the 2 oranges. Add the orange liquor. (Don’t over-whisk, you don’t want to make the eggs frothy).

Add a thin slice of peeled orange to each ramekin, mix the eggs and milk together and strain into the ramekins.

Cook in a bain marie (water-bath) in a pre-heated oven 150°C for 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely before turning out.

Run the blade of a sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin and invert a plate over each. Flip the right way up and with a little shake and jiggle the Crème Caramel should plop out.



 For Graham and Sally – that was a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, thank you!




Cooking for Christmas week 4 Vegetables

This week is all about vegetables at New College Stamford; three dishes that deliver on taste and looks, yet are easy to prepare in advance and pop in the micro-wave to re-heat before serving. Yes, you did read that right, the micro-wave. Like a lot of chefs I know the main function of a micro-wave in a kitchen is for re-heating mugs of tea that have gone cold through pressures of work. In a busy professional kitchen so much eating and drinking is done on the hoof, it can be hard to stop. My wife complained for ages that I did as much eating standing up as sitting down!  Suffice to say the micro-wave can be your friend – especially at Christmas or when entertaining.

little stuffed Savoy cabbagesThe benefit of cooking vegetables at least in the morning, if not the day before, is that time can be taken to ensure everything is cooked and seasoned to perfection, placed into serving dishes, and cling-filmed ready to spend a few minutes in the micro-wave just before you want to serve them.  The cling film will balloon and then shrink over the vegetables keeping them snug and warm whilst you re-heat the next ones. Take the cling film off just before serving (beware hot steam) and only the absence of a stove top cluttered with steaming saucepans will give you away. Enjoy your moment of glory as your guests marvel at your calm efficiency and organisation!

mixed vegetablesLet’s start with red cabbage, it’s seasonal, colourful and cheap. Usually it will be shredded and braised in the oven. I prefer to shred it really finely and then cook it etuvee – as we have with leeks recently – with a little oil, butter and water / red wine. I find this keeps a gorgeous deep red colour that is often leached out when braised for an hour or more in the oven.  Vinegar and sugar give a glossy sweet and sour coating that goes so well with red cabbage and the addition of dates and walnuts make this a truly festive accompaniment that goes well with so many dishes – game and beef casseroles in particular, but turkey too.

red cabbageThe third vegetable dish is a panache of vegetables. Panache is French for a flamboyant manner and reckless courage! I quite like this term, I’m not sure about the reckless courage bit, but the radishes and spring onions I think are flamboyant as well as inexpensive. If you struggle with this idea then think of the spring onions as baby leeks at a fraction of the cost and the radishes as baby pink turnips – which is exactly what they taste like when cooked. Vary the vegetables depending on availability  and price. Cook them separately to ensure each vegetable is cooked just so and think about colour combinations too. There isn’t a recipe for this dish – select your vegetables according to colour, texture and availability. Cut accordingly so they are all of a similar size. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook each variety of vegetable individually. Cook the green vegetables first – ensure the water is boiling rapidly and don’t cook too many vegetables at once. Cook in batches if necessary.  Keep slightly under cooked and remove with a slotted spoon or ‘spider‘ to a bowl of icy water to stop them cooking immediately. This will preserve nice, bright greens. Cook root vegetables next – in the same pan – cooked how you like them (take one out and taste). Remove and refresh as before. Cook radishes last (they turn the water pink) and don’t over cook, they lose colour and don’t taste so nice. Drain everything together, season lightly and place in a serving dish.  Put a knob of butter on top and cling film. Residual water on the vegetables will help them ‘steam’ in the microwave. Remember, all three vegetable dishes can be re-heated this way.

mixed vegetablesBlanching the outer leaves of Savoy cabbage and then stuffing them with the shredded heart is very simple and looks so effective.  Different ingredients can be added to make them an attractive vegetarian option too; toasted pine nuts and feta cheese for example. Once made these keep very well in the fridge for a couple of days and re-heat in the micro-wave perfectly. If fridge space is a problem, store in tubs and transfer to their serving dishes on the day – they’ll be fine for a few hours and will re-heat quicker at room temperature than cold from the fridge. This applies to all three vegetable dishes.

hasselback potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes

Created at a restaurant in Stockholm these potatoes can be made with main-crop or new. When entertaining I like to use medium size main-crop and use a round pastry cutter so each potato is the same size – they look great served next to the little stuffed Savoy cabbages.  For the last 10 minutes of cooking sprinkle with Parmesan or Grana Padano breadcrumbs mixed with a little smoked paprika. Note: as Sue suggested, a few slivers of garlic would make a great addition popped between the slices, a little lemon zest is good too.

Vegetables for Christmas
Red Cabbage serves 6-8
  1. 1 small red cabbage about 450g
  2. 40g sunflower oil
  3. 85g water (approximately)
  4. 60g golden caster sugar
  5. 60g balsamic vinegar
  6. 100g pitted dates
  7. 50g walnut halves
  8. sea salt and freshly milled pepper
Stuffed Savoy Cabbage - serves 6 - 8
  1. 1 small savoy cabbage with lots of dark outer leaves - about 600g
  2. 36g (2 rashers) dry cure smoked streaky bacon
  3. 25g unsalted butter
  4. 25g pine nuts
Hasselback Potatoes - serves 6 - 8
  1. 6-8 medium size potatoes
  2. Sunflower oil
  3. 25g + 25g unsalted butter
  4. 10g breadcrumbs
  5. 15g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
  6. 1g smoked paprika
Red Cabbage
  1. finely shred the cabbage
  2. heat the oil with a little butter in a pan
  3. add the cabbage and stir fry over a medium heat until the cabbage starts to wilt
  4. add the water (or red wine), vinegar, sugar, dates and walnuts
  5. continue to stir fry until the cabbage is just soft
  6. the liquid should have reduced to a sweet-sour glaze
  7. if the liquid evaporates before the cabbage is cooked, add a little more water
  8. season to taste
Stuffed Savoy Cabbage
  1. remove 6-8 of the largest outer leaves and cook in a large pan of boiling water
  2. don't overcook, but they must be more than just blanched
  3. when cooked remove with a slotted spoon (keep the water) and refresh in icy water. drain
  4. finely shred the heart and cook in the same pan of water until just soft
  5. drain in a colander and spread the cabbage on a tray to cool down
  6. finely slice the bacon and fry gently in the butter until crisp and golden, add the pine nuts
  7. add the bacon mixed to the shredded cabbage, season to taste and mix well
  8. take one of the outer leaves and cut out the thick part of the mid-rib, but don't cut the leaf in half!
  9. place the leaf outside surface facing down, onto a clean tea towel
  10. place a generous tablespoon of the shredded cabbage mix on top and fold over the outer leaf
  11. gather the tea towel around the leaf and gently 'wring' into a ball
  12. carefully unfold the towel and repeat with the next leaf
Hasselback Potatoes
  1. pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  2. peel the potatoes and stamp out large rounds with a pastry cutter (or leave as they are for larger Hasselbacks). New potatoes don't need peeling
  3. cut a slice off the bottom of each potato and place two wooden chopsticks on either side
  4. cut thin slices down to these which will leave about 5mm of potato holding the slices together.
  5. place on a well oiled baking tray
  6. brush the potatoes with 25g melted butter and season
  7. cook for about 30 minutes by which time they should be nearly cooked (check by inserting a skewer) and golden
  8. melt the 2nd 25g butter in a pan and add the breadcrumbs, paprika and cheese
  9. scatter over the potatoes and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes until golden and crispy
  10. serve immediately
  1. although the potatoes need to be cooked and served immediately, they can be peeled and cut the day before - just keep them in cold water
  2. the breadcrumb mix can be made the day before too

Cooking for Christmas week 3, Chicken & Salmon

It’s incredible how quickly the weeks go by on these courses at New College Stamford! In actual fact two hours a week over five weeks is really just a one day course – so all things considered I think we manage to pack quite a lot in. Not turkey though which is just too big to enable everyone to have a go. In fact 19 whole chickens would be quite a lot too, but I hope you all enjoyed the butchery demonstration on the chicken and remember – removing the wishbone first makes carving a lot easier and you’ll get a slice of stuffing and breast meat all in one go. What you won’t get of course is the wishbone to make a wish with – a small price to pay for the added convenience!

chickenWe are going to start with quite a simple chicken dish that uses a couple of neat little techniques that I hope the group will find interesting, easy and time saving – which I hope sums up the course! Guinea fowl, pheasant or pork fillet could be easily substituted for the chicken and the real benefit of this dish is that it can be prepared and have its first cook the day before. The leeks for the filling are cooked étuvée which we discussed last week. This technique is ideal for leeks, carrots, swede, fennel etc, preserving maximum flavour and colour. However it doesn’t really work for green beans and leafy vegetables which generally cook more evenly and with greater retention of colour in plenty of boiling water.


chickenThe second dish was a simple baked salmon with a sun-dried tomato and parsley crust served with a roasted red pepper dressing. Place a skinned side of salmon on an oiled baking tray and season with sea salt and freshly milled black pepper. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and check the temperature in the middle of the thickest bit. I should be about 40°C. Cover with the breadcrumb crust and return to the oven for a further 6 minutes to brown the crust. Check the temperature again – 65-70°C is what you are aiming for. Bacteria stop growing at this temperature and above this temperature start to die.  Serve warm or cold, remember to allow food from the fridge to reach room temperature before serving. Food should not be held at room temperature for more than two hours and should be discarded after this time and not returned to the fridge.

salmonThe dressing was red peppers roasted in a hot oven until the skin blackens.  Allow to cool and remove the skin and seeds.  Liquidize with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (some roast garlic is good too) until you have a nice dressing consistency. Season to taste.

That’s it – remember peelers and chopsticks next week.

Cooking for Christmas Week 2 Starters

Last night was another more than full house at New College Stamford – 19 learners, a record! However, thanks to the help of Nicola and the use of a second kitchen we managed ok I think. Feel free to leave a comment, what you liked / didn’t like and click the ‘like’ button too if you wish – that way I know someone’s reading this!  Thanks also to Tracey for signing people in this week and of course Joan who did the same last week – I appreciate it. So, week two Cooking for Christmas – starters.

startersWe prepared three simple but effective starters that I hope you enjoyed and will make again. Let’s start with the soup, and remember these recipes are guidelines – have a bit of fun and play around with different flavour / ingredient combinations to your own taste. The soup was Roast Tomato with Sweet Potato and Thyme. Grab a large baking sheet or roasting tray, lightly grease with olive oil and add halved tomatoes, small sweet potatoes in their skins, whole shallots or small onions – once again in their skins and half a head of garlic. Scatter with sea salt and drizzle with more olive oil. The picture above is a roast onion squash soup I made the other week – same principal.

startersRoast until the potatoes a soft when a skewer is inserted and the tomatoes have that nice golden around the edges roasted look.  Scrap the flesh from the sweet potato, shallots and garlic. Liquidise with the tomatoes, roasted thyme leaves (not stalks) and add water to thin to the required consistancy. Pass through a strainer and season to taste.  Serve hot or chilled with Crème fraîche , or pesto, or a drizzle of good olive oil, scatter with fresh herbs…you get the idea.

startersNext we made a warm chicken salad with an orange and walnut slaw (white cabbage shaved on a mandolin, spring onions, parsley, orange segments and walnuts / pecans). We made two honey and mustard dressings and hopefully you now know how easy it is to make fresh mayonnaise (egg yolk, mustard, vinegar / citrus, oil, season). We added honey afterwards and thinned with water to make a light dressing. Remember the theory – the lecithin in the egg yolk provides stability and aids emulsion. The flour in mustard helps too. Add the oil slowly, whisking quickly…Think about variations – different mustards, vinegars, citrus, herbs, roast garlic, different oils etc. Always consider the complimentary characteristic of your ingredients. Use a light hand and add more ingredients / seasoning to taste – you can always add more, but you can’t take it out!

startersThe smoked mackerel rillette recipe is below. It goes very well with a shaved fennel and celery salad with a few capers and lightly dressed with fresh lemon and exra virgin olive oil.

Smoked Mackerel Rillettes
  1. smoked mackerel fillets, skin and bones removed
  2. spring onions, finely sliced
  3. chopped flat leaf parsley
  4. hot horseradish sauce
  5. lemon zest and juice
  6. Crème fraîche or sour cream
  1. combine all the ingredients together, folding in rather than beating which will create a paste
  2. season to taste
  3. this will keep for two or three days in the fridge but is best made as fresh as possible

Cooking for Christmas week 1 Canapés

An interesting first night with rather more learners than usual! Thank you all for your patience and I hope you took something away that will help you with your entertaining.

The French started offering canapés to their guests at the end of the 18th Century and the English adopted the practice about a hundred years later. The word canapé translates roughly as ‘couch’ and refers to the way a small piece of food was draped over a small piece of stale bread – much as a person would lounge on a couch.

Canapé Kiwi on rye

A  canapé is designed to be eaten in one bite and traditionally are highly decorative – and salty, to encourage guests to drink; fine if you have a horse and carriage waiting to take you home! Today a  canapé is an ideal way to greet guests as soon as they arrive and should be designed to complement the drinks that are being served as well as complementing each other.

Canapé savoury muffins

Generally speaking, assuming they are preceding a meal, varieties should be limited to three or four – six at the most. They should also offer a balance of meat, fish and vegetarian and be prepared with a light and healthy touch whilst being visually appealing. The traditional savoury butters spread on stale white bread are probably not the best way to go any more!


Literally ‘mouth amuser’, similar to a canapé but may be slightly larger and served on a plate with cutlery. An example would be a little ‘cappuccino’ soup served in an espresso cup. Amuse-bouche are served at the Chef’s discretion, free of charge, as a little appetiser.  

Stamford College

One of the canapés we will be making tonight at Stamford College is kiwi fruit on rye bread. The photograph above serves as a recipe; it is what you see! Use a small pastry cutter to stamp rounds of black rye bread and butter lightly – this serves to ‘waterproof’ the bread. Peel and slice a kiwi fruit and using the same size cutter place on top of the bread. Using two teaspoons shape a little quenelle of cream cheese, place on top of the kiwi fruit and finish with a little ‘tongue’ of tomato and a sprig of dill. This canapé is fresh, light, colourful and vegetarian; it is important to have a balance of meat, fish and vegetarian to cater for all tastes.  Four to five pieces per person one bite size, should be plenty; assuming they are preceding a meal. They should stimulate your guests appetite, not fill them up!


The other four canapés we will make are little savoury muffins, chicken teriyaki, salmon tartare and little filo pastry nests with creamed leeks . The muffins freeze well and can be made well in advance – do serve warm though, not cold. The chicken can be marinated a couple of days in advance and grilled at the last moment – serve warm if possible. The salmon needs to be prepared within an hour of being served.

The chicken marinade for the chicken teriyaki was garlic, ginger, honey, saki and soy sauce. Although we only marinated these for 20 minutes, this can be done several hours in advance. Drain, pan fry and when golden pour over the marinade, reducing to a glossy glaze. Alternatively, grill, reduce the marinade in a pan and brush the glaze over the chicken.

Little filo nests were a strip of filo brushed with melted butter and ‘scrunched’ into a little nest. Baked for 10 minutes until crisp and golden with some blue cheese. Leeks (green only) were finely shredded and cooked ‘etuvee’ – in a little water and butter and cooked until just dry. Add a little crème fraîche and season. Mound on top of the filo nests and decorate with a little red pepper triangle.

For the salmon tartare finely dice very fresh salmon.  Squeeze over fresh lemon juice and leave to ‘cure’ – not longer than 2 hours. Drain and gently fold in a little crème fraîche, some chopped chives and season. Mound onto little toasts – we baked this crisp in the oven first and then lightly buttered them to create a ‘waterproof’ barrier between the salmon and toast.

The muffin recipe is below.

Remember also the alternative ingredient combinations we discussed – the recipes above are guides only!


Savoury Muffins
  1. Savoury Muffins - makes 30 small muffins
  2. 50g streaky bacon cut into fine strips
  3. 50g unsalted butter
  4. 25g button mushrooms, chopped
  5. 150g self raising flour
  6. 1 tbsp fresh chopped herbs - chives, parsley etc
  7. 25g skinned, chopped tomato
  8. 50g Gruyère, grated
  9. 1 egg, beaten
  10. 100g milk
  11. salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Savoury Muffins
  2. blanch the bacon in boiling water, drain thoroughly and fry in 5g of the butter until crisp
  3. add the diced mushrooms and fry with the bacon until the mushrooms are golden
  4. sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the remaining butter
  5. add the bacon/mushroom mixture, the herbs, tomato and cheese
  6. combine the egg with the milk and season
  7. stir into the flour mixture until evenly combined
  8. fill greased miniature muffin tins and fill ¾ full
  9. bake in a pre-heated oven 220°C for 10 minutes until risen and golden
  1. the bacon can be left out of the muffins to make them vegetarian
  2. generally speaking, different herbs, cheese, citrus, spices can be substituted with all three recipes - play around!

Pheasant Shoot Photography

Images taken from a recent pheasant shoot at Morkery Wood.  The first one I’ve been on and some great photography opportunities.  I learnt the hard way that the best shots are with the guns – not getting tangled in brambles with the beaters!  I would normally use my Nikon D7000 for something like this but I was aware that I might want to crop quite hard on some images and the greater resolution of the D800 would be useful. I used a Tamron 24-70 f2.8 lens with vibration control.  It’s a good solid, fast lens and I used it mostly wide open at 2.8, occasionally stopping down to 5.6 for a bit more detail and balancing the ISO to keep a fast shutter speed.  

On the wish list – a fast 70-200!  Nikon do a f4 which looks good – the equivalent Tamron and Sigma models have a faster fixed aperture of 2.8 (Nikon do one too) but are quite a bit more expensive and I think f4 will be fast enough whilst still giving a nice shallow depth of field when required.  Best buy last month? A Case Logic camera strap from Fotosense.  This great (and inexpensive) strap fixes to the side of the camera enabling safe and comfortable hand holding.  It makes it easy to switch between landscape and portrait too.  With kit as heavy as a Nikon D800 and Tamron 24-70 f2.8 the standard neck strap is useless – worse than useless in fact as it really can’t be used and continuously gets in the way. 

I think many of these images work particularly well in black and white, adding drama and tension.  The crisp sunny weather created lots of contrast too between sunlight and shadow which adds real depth.  I just about got the shot I really wanted – a dog retrieving a bird but I’m saving that one to enter into a competition!

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

pheasant shoot

Partridge Pie with Sweet Chestnuts

Now fish cookery at Stamford College has finished my thoughts have turned Autumnal. The colour as the leaves have turned has been spectacular and the sweet chestnut tree in the park has been laden with fruit this year. A few well-informed locals (myself included) have been making the most of this free bounty. The walnut tree in my road has also been very generous with its harvest, but I haven’t decided what to do with them yet.

Partridge Pie


A serendipitous moment arrived in the form of my neighbour bearing a brace of partridge – he beats for a local shoot. I decided to make a pie with them because, well, that was what Karen said she would like – so of course I did!

Partridge Pie

I think it best to part roast game birds for a pie, it keeps the meat moist and tender. For partridge this means about 12 minutes in a hot oven (180°C). Let them rest (10 minutes) and then remove the breasts and legs. Both breast and legs must still be pink.

Partridge Pie

Separate thigh from drumstick and remove the thigh bone. Chop the drumsticks and carcasses and use to make stock and then gravy. The breast meat can be thickly sliced and this helps to keep it tender when cooked again in the pie.

Partridge Pie

I’ve forgotten how much fun what a chore it is peeling chestnuts, the slitting, roasting and peeling, but they had a wonderful taste; sweet and mealy. I put quite a few in each pie (I made three individual ones) and covered them with spelt flour rough puff. This was an experiment and not completely successful. The flour was a little to heavy to make a light flaky pastry, but I love the flavour of Nigel’s spelt flour from Whissendine windmill and wanted to try. The taste was really good. 

Partridge Pie


My neighbour turned up again on Friday – this time with a brace of pheasant – happy autumnal days!

Partridge Pie


Fish Cookery Stamford College Week Five

Over the last four weeks we have poached, steamed, pan-fried, braised, skinned, trimmed, gutted and filleted round and flat fish. For this last session at New College Stamford we are going to be baking fish – a smoked haddock souffle in fact.


A sweet soufflé is usually made with a pastry cream base, although fruit puree can be used too. We are making a savoury soufflé because I think it is more versatile – the sort of dish that actually you could make for a light supper; which Karen and I did :). We also had a few boiled potatoes and a tomato and chive salad on the side.



A savoury soufflé has a Béchamel base and in this case has natural smoked haddock lightly poached in the milk first.  Many people find the idea of making a soufflé a daunting prospect and whilst many chefs will tell you how easy it is, I actually fall somewhere in the middle. It is easy, provided a few guidelines are followed.  The first one is to line the mold or ramekin properly – this called to ‘chemise‘. I’ve added a link to save you googling through lots of lingerie sites – the culinary term is not the first option but you’ll understand where the term originates!


Butter carefully twice, chilling in the fridge between coats. Use soft butter, not melted, and use upwards brush strokes. Don’t neglect the rim – an unevenly risen soufflé means the mold has been greased unevenly – simple! Dust the buttered ramekins with fine polenta, very fine breadcrumbs or finely grated Parmesan cheese; tap out any excess.

The egg whites must be whipped to a soft peak – no further, they become grainy and difficult to fold in smoothly. Fill the dishes to the top, level with a palette knife if the mix is thick enough and very gently run a finger around the inside of the dish to separate the mix from the edge of the dish. Do not scrape away the butter!


Oven temperature must be precise – I checked mine with a separate thermometer.  Stick to the time in the recipe and do not open the door until the correct time has elapsed.  The soufflé should have a slight ‘wobble’ when risen indicating that it is not over-cooked. Serve ‘tout de suite’ an expression I have had shouted at me more than once in a busy kitchen; it means ‘immediately’! A soufflé waits for no man, women or child!

Provided these simple rules are followed, it is easy.  Bon courage :).

And a special thanks to Graham – I think the Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice and just what I would have recommended :-)

PS – I’ve amended the recipe slightly – the quantities here are correct for 3 ramekins.

Smoked Haddock Souffle
  1. Makes 3 X No 1 ramekins - this is a first course size
  2. 12g butter (+ extra for greasing the ramekins)
  3. 125g natural smoked haddock
  4. 1 bay leaf
  5. 150g whole milk
  6. 12g plain flour
  7. 25g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
  8. 3g English mustard
  9. 2 eggs
  10. freshly milled pepper - you may not need salt, taste first
  1. Pre-heat the oven (assuming fan-assisted) to 160° C
  2. butter the ramekins twice with softened butter, chilling in the fridge between coats
  3. half fill with fine polenta and turn to evenly coat the sides and base, then tip the excess into the next ramekin and repeat - keep the ramekins in the fridge
  4. place the milk, haddock fillet and bay leaf in a pan and bring to the boil
  5. remove from the heat immediately, cover, and allow to cool - the fish will cook as it cools
  6. melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour - stir to make a roux
  7. strain the milk gradually onto the roux stirring, and then whisking to produce a smooth sauce
  8. add the cheese and mustard
  9. cook the sauce very gently for about 10 minutes and remove from the heat
  10. season to taste
  11. flake the smoked haddock discarding the skin and any bones
  12. separate the eggs - ensure the bowl for the egg whites is clean - a squeeze of lemon juice and dry with a kitchen towel is a good idea - any grease and the egg whites will not whisk up
  13. add the egg yolks and flaked haddock to the sauce, stirring well
  14. whisk the egg whites to soft peaks
  15. add a ¼ of the whisked whites to the sauce, stirring them in (this helps to loosen the mix making it easier to fold in the rest
  16. fold the rest of the egg whites into the sauce using a gentle 'up and over' motion - it's essential to keep all the air in the egg whites
  17. Fill the ramekins to the top ensuring the mix is just free of the edge
  18. Bake for 16 minutes - do not open the oven door during this time!


Fish Cookery Stamford College Week Four

A lack of plaice at the weekend means that the photographs will be from tonight’s lesson at New College Stamford should be fun, I’m not the best multi tasker in the world!


Whole plaice will be the first flat fish we have worked with and the skills we will be learning are trimming, skinning, leaving one half whole to braise in the oven and filleting the other half.


The half to be braised will be placed in a buttered dish with chopped shallots and cider. Covered with buttered grease-proof paper the fish will take about 10 minutes to cook in an oven at 180°C. We can tell when the fish is cooked by carefully inserting a small knife at the head end and gently easing the fish away from the bone.  If it still clings a little, that’s fine – we need to keep it warm whilst we finish the sauce and it will carry on cooking as we complete the dish.


The sauce is a simple reduction of the cooking liquor by about half.  Single cream is added along with a little chopped parsley (or tarragon, chives etc), a little wholegrain mustard and seasoned to taste.  Don’t forget to add the juices that will have come out of the resting plaice.  We are aiming for a quite thin, light sauce (which is why we are using single cream, Crème fraîche  would be a good alternative) that doesn’t overwhelm the mild flavour of the fish.


We are serving leeks étuvée with the fish – cream and mustard go well with leeks too and cooking them gently in a little water and butter does wonders for the taste. It’s also worth mentioning a good tip for washing leeks. Once sliced, immerse them in a bowl of warm water – this helps to loosen the dirt from the leaves much more easily than cold water.  Don’t tip into a colander to drain – instead, carefully lift the leeks out into a colander leaving the dirt behind at the bottom of the bowl.

It’ll be interesting to see how the photographs turn out – teaching, cooking and photographing at the same time? Mmmm, we’ll see!

Market Harborough Living Magazine Cover

I was delighted to have my autumnal image of hedgerow fruits used as this months cover for Market Harborough Living magazine.  The fruits were all picked within a seven mile cycle through Rutland’s bucolic lanes.

The berries are: wild plum, crab-apple, sloes, hawthorn, guelder, rowan, rose-hips, bramble and elder.  They all have a culinary use – but some are better than others! Wild Food School has some useful information here.

Although this looks like a large bowl of fruit, I actually used a cereal bowl. The crab-apples in particular were tiny, not much bigger than the blackberries!

 Market Harborough

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