Poor Pumpkins!!

Halloween is upon us once again, this brings trick or treaters to our doors, scary tales and Halloween parties.

This also means an abundance of pumpkins that are grown and produced specifically for Halloween; I watched a program last night that showed one of the big four supermarkets in 2012 sold over 2 million pumpkins and that is just 1 of the supermarkets, it saddens me to think that potentially over 8 million pumpkins are produced just for carving and throwing away on the 1st November.  What a waste!!  Poor Pumpkins.  I wonder how many people use the delicious flesh or seeds that get scraped out and discarded??

Here are some recipes to ensure that the pumpkin gets used to its full potential.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds,
A tasty halloween snack

Pumpkin Seeds
Maldon Sea Salt
Groundnut Oil

Remove the seeds from the pumpkin, separate from the flesh and wash clean.
Pat dry with paper towel.
Pre heat oven to 180ºC.
Lay the pumpkin seeds onto a baking tray as a single layer, lightly brush with groundnut oil, then season with sea salt. You can use other flavourings to season here, a sprinkle of celery salt, paprika, cayenne pepper & curry powder would all work well.
Bake in the oven for 10-20 minutes until the seeds are a golden brown roasted colour. Leave to cool completely before eating.

Pumpkin Soup
1 Kg Pumpkin Flesh
2 sprigs Thyme
2 sprigs Rosemary
1 Onion, peeled & finely chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, peeled & chopped
500 ml Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock
100 ml Double Cream
White Truffle Oil
Parmesan Shavings
Cracked Black Pepper

Place the pumpkin flesh onto a roasting tray and scatter the thyme and rosemary sprigs on top with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoning, roast in the oven @ 160ºC until the flesh is tender, check after 20 minutes and every 10 after that.
In a sauce pan sweat off the onions in a little oil, once transparent add the garlic cloves and sweat off for a further minute. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and discard the herb sprigs, add the pumpkin to the pan along with the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and liquidise, pass through a sieve and return to the pan, heat gently stirring in the cream. Season to taste. To serve place into soup bowls and garnish with freshly cracked black pepper, a shaving of parmesan and a drizzle of white truffle oil.

Cheese & Chutney

Two things that I really love to eat, cheese and chutney, they go together like peas in a pod; at the end of a meal with a port or as a supper snack cheese plays a big part in a lot of peoples eating habits.   The great thing here is that you can experiment with all different kinds of chutney depending on your taste, mood and what is left in the cupboards. Different chutneys would suit different cheeses for example a Brie would stand up well to a sweeter less acidic chutney like an apple & grape chutney (see recipe below), a blue cheese such as Stilton could take on a fig chutney and a robust Goats Cheese could handle the heat and intensity of a chilli or spiced chutney.

We get our cheese from a specialist dairy supplier that has a wide range of English and Continental cheeses, luckily now for home consumption a lot of the supermarkets have a good to excellent range of cheese to choose from with the number of varieties becoming vast so why not try a new one and have a go at matching it with chutney.

I have no preference on what I eat with my cheese; some say bread, some say savoury cheese biscuits, I love and eat both.  A fresh crunchy apple like a Granny Smith adds some crunch, acidity and sharpness to the cheese board, celery is also a popular addition  although raw celery is not to my personal taste.

Cheeses left to right - Shropshire Blue, Fowlers Sage Derby, Oxford Isis, Cornish Brie

Cheeses left to right – Shropshire Blue, Fowlers Sage Derby, Oxford Isis, Cornish Brie

The following recipe is for a Grape & Apple Chutney this is a versatile chutney that will endure virtually every cheese you can throw at it.  Once the chutney is made it can be stored in jam or kilner jars.

When making any preserve, chutney, jam or pickle the one thing you have to do is make sure that the jar we are going to be storing them in is 100% sterile, this is the single most important thing to do and is also very simple. There are many methods of sterilising your jars, this is my preferred method, firstly give your jars a good wash in hot soapy water (this is important if re-using old jam or pickle jars) to get rid of any taint of old smells and flavours. Once you have washed then rinse out with clean plain hot water. Next boil a kettle and fill each jar with boiling water and leave to stand for 5-6 minutes. Remove the water and then place the jars in the oven at 100oC for 10 minutes to dry by doing this it keeps them at the hot temperature to stop bacteria and drys them at the same time. Do this just as your chutney is ready as you will want to put your hot chutney straight into hot jars.  Once in the jar with the lid on and a seal is created you can store you chutney in a cupboard unopened for up to 6 months.  Once opened consume within two weeks and keep refrigerated.

Grape & Apple Chutney
1 x Onion, peeled and diced
350g Dark Brown Sugar
150g Red Grapes, picked off the vine
150g Green Grapes, picked off the vine
3 x Granny Smiths, peeled, cored & diced
7 floz White Wine
10 floz White Wine Vinegar
1 x Garlic Clove, peeled & crushed
150g Stem Ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp Curry Powder
2 x Cloves
¼ tsp Ground Tumeric
¼ tsp Dried Chilli Flakes

Place all of the ingredients into a large pan, bring up to the boil then reduce the heat to a rapid simmer, cook for 1 ½ – 2hrs until the mixture resembles chutney, do not reduce to a syrup other wise you will not be able to get it out of the jar as this will thicken as it cools.   Whilst the chutney is still hot poor into the prepared jars and seal immediately.

Print the recipe for Grape & Apple Chutney

Flavoured Butter

Butter is an indulgence especially with the ever rising cost, so why not make it a true indulgence by adding some different flavours to it that you could use on a nicely char-grilled steak or a simply pan fried piece of fish.  Nothing can compliment a steak more than a beautiful garlic and herb butter.

We call these compound butters and virtually any flavour can be added to them, the beauty of them is that you can make the butters up in advance and then keep the butters in the fridge or even freeze them and use as much and as often as you want to.  At the restaurant we always use unsalted butter as it gives us a lot more control over the seasoning of food; salted butter will work just becareful not to add to much seasoning.

I have given a basic compound butter recipe here, you can change the flavours as you like and experiment a little, I have given a few alternatives to get you started.

Basic Compound Parsley & Garlic Butter Recipe
Ideal on a grilled steak

8oz Unsalted Butter at room temperature
2 x Garlic Cloves, peeled & crushed
6 tbsp Flat Leaf Parsley, picked & chopped
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
Maldon Sea Salt & freshly cracked Black Pepper

Cream all of the ingredients together, place into the fridge to firm a little, not enough to set but enough so that it is workable, approx 10-15 minutes. Lay a long piece of clingfilm on a work surface and place the butter at one end, form into a roll like a large sausage shape. Now tie a knot at either end and place the butter back into the fridge to set fully. When required remove from the fridge, take a slice off and use, place the remaining roll back into the fridge or freezer.

Coriander Butter – As above, omit parsley & replace with coriander

Dill Butter – As above, omit parsley & garlic & replace with dill

Mixed Herb Butter – omit the garlic and replace with 1 tbsp finely diced shallot, exchange the parsley for 1 tbsp of each Chervil, Chives, Dill, Mint, Tarragon & Parsley

Paprika Butter – Omit the parsley and replace with 1 tbsp Paprika

Chilli Butter – add 2 tbsp chilli flakes to basic recipe, if you like it really fiery then add more chilli flakes and a few dashes of tobasco

Try the mixed herb butter over a pan fried fillet of seabass with some steamed new potatoes; try the chilli butter which can add a nice kick to a grilled Rib Eye steak or simply just perk up your boiled new potatoes by tossing in some Parsley Butter.

Print off the compound butter recipe here.

Spuds!! What is your favourite?

The humble spud, something us brits take for granted, a lot of us cannot have a meal without the appearance of a potato or two on the plate; what sunday lunch would be complete without a golden cripsy roast tatty or two!! The potato is probably the most versatile of all vegetables, not only are there many many different side dishes of potato like a roast, mash or a dauphinoise the spud can also be the dominant ingredient of many a main course, a jacket spud smothered with buttered, black pepper, cheese and beans or how about a spanish omelette.

Worldwide there are literally thousands of varieties of potato, in the uk we have around 80 different varieties, sadly for the consumer the supermarkets on stock a very small selection of maybe 5-10 different varieties.  New Potatoes include Charlotte, Rocket, Premiere, Maris Bard & Maris Peer.  Old Potatoes or Main Crop include King Edward, Desiree, Rooster, Saxon, Wilja, Estima and Maris Piper.

At the restaurant we use the Charlotte variety for our new potatoes, these are a good all round new potato, they are a pale yellow skinned salad potato with yellow flesh, has a firm texture and is excellent for boiling, steaming and for use in hot and cold salads.  As for main crop spuds we use Maris Piper these are an excellent all rounder that make our fantastic hand cut chips as well as a creamy mash, due to its floury texture.

For me the one potato that I could eat over and over is a good quality mashed potato, done right this could be the king of all potato dishes, of course everyone’s opinion on this is different but for me it is number one because of its mere versatility.  Mash is probably the most versatile of all potato dishes, it can be a stand alone side and served plain, herbed or garlicky; it can be used to top a fish or cottage pie; french classic mash derivatives like the duchess or marquis; shaped and crumbed like a croquette or mixed with fish and seasoning to make a fishcake, the possibilities of mashed potato are endless.

In the restaurant kitchen we use a Mouli to get a lump free and completely smooth mash, I would recommend the investment in a mouli or in a good potato ricer.

Mash Potato
Approx 4 portions
900g-1Kg Maris Piper Potatoes or another main crop floury variety
6-8 tbsp Warmed Milk
80g-120g Unsalted Butter

Most people have made mashed potato before so I am not going to try to teach you to suck eggs, my guide is to help you get the best mash possible.  To get a good mash you must make sure that you follow a few simple tips to get the best results, make sure that the potato is cooked correctly, if under cooked you will get lumps of uncooked potato (even if put through a mouli), if over cooked you will have a very watery sloppy and frankly unpleasant mash, to test stick a small knife into the potato, when the potato falls off on its own it is cooked enough.  Cut your potato into even slices so that it cooks evenly, I cut them into 1cm thick slices.  Once the potatoes are cooked drain them into a colander and then place the colander over the cooking pan to drain fully and to let the heat almost steam dry the potatoes in the colander, this is an especially important stage if you are going to use your mash for a croquette potato or fishcakes, they need to be as dry as possible.  When it comes to mashing the potato you must make sure that the potato is still hot especially when using a mouli or potato ricer, if your potato is left to go cold there is a chance it will go lumpy even through a ricer or mouli.  Once you have riced your potato dice the butter and add it cold, stir in until the butter is incorporated fully; do not be tempted to melt your butter and add it as this can give a greasy mash as it is harder to incorporate once melted, finally add your milk and seasoning.  You will also notice that I have not given exact amounts of butter and milk, this is to your taste, I personally add the full amount of butter and milk and sometimes a hint more, the choice is yours.

Roasted Tomato, Pepper & Cumin Soup

There are few things as satisfying as a home made, warming soup on a cool autumnal day; often soups can take very little effort but can pack a punch if executed correctly.  Soups can come in many forms from a light & delicate meaty consommé to a rustic chunky minestrone or a smooth puréed tomato and basil.  The humble soup can take on many flavours, I am pretty sure that there is a soup flavour combination for everyone.

The soup can be a smaller portion to start off a meal or a larger bowl as a comforting lunchtime meal complete with crusty baguette and slightly salted butter; delicious!!

I often have an abundance of tomatoes and peppers not only from my green house but also donated from my neighbours green house too.  This soup costs very little to produce and even less if you are fortunate enough to have surplus ingredients growing just outside the back door like me.  This recipe is easy to make and takes little time but the result is much finer than buying soup in a can.

A warming hearty soup, ideal for a cool autumn lunch!

A warming hearty soup, ideal for a cool autumn lunch!

Roasted Tomato, Pepper & Cumin Soup
1 x Cooking Onion, peeled & chopped
2 x Red Peppers, roughly chopped, stalk & seeds removed
1 x Garlic Clove, peeled
1 tbsp Tomato Purée,
500g x Ripe Tomatoes, sliced in half
250-500ml x Vegetable Stock
1 tsp Cumin Seeds, ground in a pestle & mortar
50ml Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp Demerara Sugar
2 x Thyme Sprigs

Pre-heat your oven to its hottest setting, once to temperature place the tomatoes and peppers onto a tray and drizzle with a little rapeseed or olive oil.  Place into the oven and roast until the peppers start to colour.

Meanwhile heat 1 tbsp oil in a large sauce pan on a medium heat, add the onion and start to sweat off without colouring and cook until translucent.  Now add the garlic clove and the 2 thyme sprigs, now turn up the heat.  Once the pan is hot add the cumin and toast for a minute be careful not to burn the onion and the garlic at this point.

Carefully remove the tomatoes and peppers from the oven and place into the saucepan along with the tomato purée, stir and cook for 1 minute to cook out the purée, now add 200ml of the vegetable stock and leave to simmer for approximately 10 minutes.  If your soup starts to look to thick then add more stock as needed.

Remove the soup from the heat and carefully pour into a liquidiser and blend until smooth, whilst the soup is blending put the vinegar and sugar into a small pan and bring to the boil and reduce slightly. (Chef Tip – the process of reducing the vinegar and sugar is called a gastric and can be done with different variations of sugar and vinegars, this goes particularly well with tomato based sauces and soups)

At this point depending on how well you have blended your soup you can either pour it straight back into the pan or pass it through a sieve back into the pan.  At home I go straight into the pan, in the restaurant kitchen we pass it first, the choice is yours.

Once back into the pan add a little of the gastric and seasoning to taste, be careful when adding the gastric, a little goes a long way!!

Serve in a pre warmed bowl, drizzle a little of the gastric over the top and a fresh twist of cracked pepper on the top.

Click Here for a printable download of the recipe.

Jingle Bells – Christmas Dinner Part 2

In this instalment we will be looking at Sauces that can be made in preparation for Christmas Dinner. In part 1 we covered the Christmas pudding; mine is now cooked and maturing in the cupboard ready for Christmas Day.

To go with Christmas Pudding you need a good sauce or butter, I personally love Brandy Sauce not to say that I am not partial to a bit of Brandy or Rum Butter.  Brandy Sauce is very simple to make and this version is based on the French Classic Béchamel Sauce.

Brandy Sauce
50g Flour
55g Butter
450ml Milk
45-55g Caster Sugar – depending on how sweet you like your sauce
3-6 tbsp Brandy – depending on how boozy you like your sauce, i go for the full 6 tbsp

In a heavy based thick bottomed pan place the milk and the sugar and slowly bring to a simmer.

In a separate pan on a low heat, melt the butter, once the butter has melted and the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and flour have incorporated to make a thick paste.

Now slowly add a little of the hot milk to the paste a spoon full at a time, add a spoon then mix in thoroughly, then add a spoon more and mix until combined, repeat this until all the milk is mixed in to make a velvty sauce, you must mix a little at a time and it must be fully combined before you add more otherwise your sauce will be lumpy.

Now taste the sauce and add as much or as little brandy as you like, you may also add more sugar at this point if the sauce is not sweet enough for your taste.

Brandy/Rum Butter – This is really very simple to make and goes well with your Christmas Pudding, very simply cream equal amounts of Butter and Icing Sugar together and then add as much Rum or Brandy as you like.  Once made place back into the fridge until needed.

Cranberry Sauce
This sauce is the traditional accompaniment to a turkey dinner, yes you can buy it in a jar ready done but it will not compare to the taste of a homemade Cranberry Sauce, the beauty of this recipe is that you can make it up a week in advance, jar it and fridge it until you need it.
1 x Orange zest and juice
100ml Orange juice
175g Caster sugar
5 tbsp Port
400g Cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 x Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored & finely chopped

Finely grate the zest from the orange and squeeze the juice. Dissolve the sugar in a medium pan with 4 tbsp port and the orange juice.

Stir in the cranberries, apple and orange zest. Cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes (slightly longer if the cranberries are frozen) until the fruit is soft and the juices are slightly thickened.

Stir in the remaining 1 tbsp port.

Bread Sauce
This is also a roast poultry favourite, it is simple to do and uses up any bread that you have, it is delicious and takes only a few minutes to make.
1 x pint Milk
1 x onion, peeled, left whole studded with 3 cloves
15g Unsalted Butter
40g Fresh Breadcrumbs – do not use dried it will not be very nice
Pinch Salt
Pinch Cayenne Pepper

Place the milk into a thick bottomed heavy pan and add the studded onion, slowly bring up to a simmer, gently simmer the milk for 10 – 15 minutes so that the flavour infuses into the milk.
Remove the onion and discard, now add the breadcrumbs and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Season with the cayenne and salt and check, if you are not serving straight away melt the butter and pour on top of the sauce to help prevent a skin from forming, when ready to serve mix the butter in thoroughly, if you are going to use the sauce straight away then simple mix the butter in at the end.

Turkey Gravy
For this rich gravy I use a double stock almost triple stock method to get a real good turkey/poultry flavour, firstly make up 1 quantity of Brown Chicken Stock or take it out of the freezer if you have some ready made up.  Then use the following recipe.
1 Kg Turkey Bones or Chicken Carcasses
1.5 ltr Brown Chicken Stock
2 x Onions
2 x Carrots
2 x Celery sticks
1 x Bay Leaf

Roast the bones in the oven until golden brown, place the bones into a large pan with the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and skim the top of the stock removing any excess fat, scum or froth.
Gently fry the vegetables in a little oil until golden brown and then add to the skimmed stock, now simmer for 1 hour, skimming as needed.
Strain off the stock and give another skim, place the strained stock into a sauce pan if using straight away, if not then now is the time to cool and place in the fridge ready for the Christmas Day either way follow the remainder of the recipe once the turkey is out of the oven.
Remove the turkey out of the roasting tray, place the roasting tin on a low heat and allow the sediment to settle, now very carefully skim off any fat and reserve. Now add the previously made stock and bring to boil, scraping the bottom of the roasting tin with a wooden spoon, deglazing the tin. In your pan which had the stock in add 2 tbsp of the strained fat and 2 tbsp flour and mix well, add a little stock at a time until you get a nice smooth paste, then gradually strain the remaining stock back into the sauce pan, bring to the boil and season as necessary.

In Season, December

Well December has finally decended upon us once again; the Christmas spirit is well and truly in the air, as is the cold and the frosty mornings. The frost does some of our food some good, the festive favourite a brussel sprout is not ready for picking until it has had atleast one frost. The parnsip gets better with the cold weather it’s natural sugar is increased and the sweet flavour enhanced once jack frost has given the ground a good covering.

This weather also starts to mark the dry season of food when all the year’s bottling, preserving and pickling can be started to get used as a lot of the fresh food is just not available at this time of cold and poor growing conditions. It is not all doom and gloom though there is still some good produce out there, cabbages, kale, sprouts, parsnips, salsify, jerusalem artichokes, truffles, clams, wild duck, venison, seabass, oysters and mussels are all at their prime.

Mulled Wine is a traditional drink at this time of the year, it is like Christmas in a glass, it is warming through heat and through spices and is very tasty indeed, it is very quick and simple to make and the spice quantity and sweetnes can be changed to suit your own tastes. This is how I like to drink mine.


Mulled Wine
1 x bottle Red Wine
1 x unwaxed Lemon, just the zest
1 x unwaxed Orange, juice & zest
1 x Cinnamon Stick
½ x Vanilla Pod
2 x Star Anise
2 x Cloves
1 x Bay Leaf
100g Caster Sugar
4 tbsp Cointreau/Grand Marnier/Triple Sec or other orange liquor

Peel the orange and lemon with a peeler so that you get large thin strips of peel. Juice the orange.

In a pan add all the ingredients and put on the lowest heat possible, leave to warm up and let the flavours infuse. Leave until all the suagr is dissolved and the liquid warm verging on hot. Taste and add more sugar if not sweet enough, this is to your taste. DO NOT BOIL at any point as this will cook away the alcohol.

To served either ladle it into a glass or pour all of the mix with the ingredients into a heatproof jug and let people help themselves, be warned it goes very quickly and you might be making another batch sooner than you think.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Crème Brûlée is without doubt one of the greatest, well known and popular french classic desserts; it is also one of my favourite to eat. Made correctly it should have a crispy golden caramel topping with a velvety smooth vanilla custard underneath, heaven in a ramekin.

The literal meaning of Crème Brûlée is Burnt Cream, it is not advisable to burn the cream nor the caramel as the name suggests, a lot of people over glaze the topping and use its name as an excuse to serve the dish, for me if the caramel is too dark or burnt then it spoils the dish with a bitter burnt taste that no one could enjoy, your looking for a nice golden/slightly dark caramel to give a good balance of bitter/sweet and a good crunch. When you first attack the Brûlée with a spoon it should make a good cracking sound as the spoon breaks the caramel.

Another point of discussion amongst chefs is what kind of sugar do you glaze the top with, icing, caster or demerara? Well for me it is simple, Caster Sugar is my sugar of choice, the reasoning behind this is that icing sugar burns in an instant and therefore you have very little control when glazing your brûlée; demerara is to chunky in texture so by time you have melted some of the sugar other parts of it are burnt, i find that caster sugar is the easiest to get a consistently good golden brown layer. This of course is purely personal preference and you should play around with different sugars and see what works for you.

In this recipe I make a classic Vanilla flavoured Crème Brûlée but you can play around with flavour combinations, be careful not to add to much liquid flavouring because this will alter the amount of eggs needed for the Brûlée to set. I will add some variation ideas at the end of the recipe.

I like my recipe very rich, therefore it is made with only double cream, you will find a lot of other recipes use a 50/50 ratio of milk and cream and others use a 70/30 cream to milk ratio, i like to indulge and use 100% double cream, the choice of course is yours. Only use fresh vanilla pods in your brûlée it deserves nothing less, expensive but well worth it. I always serve shortbread biscuit with mine as it compliments the dessert very well indeed.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée, Shortbread Biscuit

Vanilla Crème Brûlée
Pre Heat oven to 130oC

600ml Double Cream
100g Caster Sugar, plus extra for glazing
1 x Vanilla Pod
8 x Egg Yolks, medium free range

Slice the vanilla pod in half and scrape the seeds out of the middle, place the seeds into a mixing bowl and the empty pod into a sauce pan.
Place the double cream into the saucepan with the vanilla pod and place on the stove, slowly bring up to almost boiling point.
Meanwhile separate the eggs, keep the whites to make meringue, in the mixing bowl with vanilla seeds add the egg yolks and the caster sugar, whisk together until combined.
Once the cream has reached temperature carefully pour into the mixing bowl with the egg mixture whisking continually until all the cream is incorporated. Now pass this mix through a fine sieve into a jug.
Place 4 ramekins into a deep roasting tray, then fill the tray with hot water so that it reaches up to at least half way up the ramekins. Now carefully pour in the brûlée mix to the top of the ramekins, place into the pre heated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, check after 35 minutes then check every 5 minutes or so thereafter as they will overcook quickly. The custards are cooked when almost fully set with the middle having a little wobble.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing from the bain marie, then chill until needed.
To serve, remove the brûlée from the fridge and sprinkle a even covering of caster sugar over the top, then very carefully glaze with a blow torch.

Variations omit vanilla and replace with one of the following, Lemon Zest, Orange Zest, Cointreau, Amaretto.

Variations keeping the vanilla, drop some fruit into the ramekins before adding the liquid, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries all work well.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée Recipe Printable Download

Jingle Bells – Christmas Dinner Part 1

Christmas time is approaching fast, this year seems to be flying by a vast rate, not long now until the big day, in fact from the time of writing this there are only 32 days until Christmas Day.

Christmas is a busy time of year for everyone, works parties, family parties, christmas shopping, decorating the house and the tree, organising christmas dinner and the list goes on and on, I am hoping that in this series of ‘Jingle Bells’ blog posts I can help you with Christmas Dinner preparations, some of which can be made in advance to make the day less stressful.

So in this series of recipes I am going to start with the dessert, the Christmas Pudding, this can be made now and will store just fine until Christmas Day, it takes a while to cook a good Christmas Pudding but it is so so worth it; the smell of your kitchen will be amazing and will make you want to eat the pudding straight away but you must resist until the big day, if eaten straight away the pudding will fall to pieces and taste will be lacking as the pudding needs to be left for a minimum of a couple of weeks for the flavours to mature. Traditionally the Christmas Pudding is made approx 5 weeks before Christmas, the last Sunday before Advent, although the longer the pudding has to mature the better.

Chef Tip – Print off the recipe and have a pen handy, when adding your ingredients cross them off with a pen to ensure that you have not missed anything out of your pudding.

Christmas Pudding
100g Raisins
100g Currants
150g Sultanas
100g Dried Cranberries
30g Candied Mixed Peel
1 x Bramley Apple, peeled, cored & chopped
½ Orange, zest & juice
½ Lemon, zest and juice
4 tbsp Brandy
4 tbsp Rum
110g Vegetable suet, you can use beef but this can make it a slightly heavier pudding
110g Light Muscavodo Sugar
90g Fresh white breadcrumbs
15g Almonds chopped
10g Pistachios chopped
60g Self-raising flour
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 x eggs

Mix together the currants, sultanas, cranberries, and apple, pour the rum and the brandy over and leave to soak for a couple of hours minimum but ideally overnight.

Now in a big mixing bowl add all the remaining ingredients and mix until combined, then add the soaked fruits and any remaining soaking alcohol.

Combine and mix well.

Place into a 1½ – 2 litre pudding basin and pack it in well, place 2 sheets of baking parchment on top of the pudding, then place a piece of tin foil over the top of the basin so that it comes down the sides a little, now secure with a piece of string.

Place into a steamer and cook for 7 hours, make sure that you check on your steamer to make sure that it has not boiled dry, keep topping up as necessary.

Once cooked remove from the steamer and leave to cool, once cool, remove the foil and the baking parchment and replace with fresh store in a cool, dark, dry place until Christmas Day.

On christmas day simply steam for 2½ hours until hot.

Christmas Pudding Recipe Printable Download

Chicken, Wild Mushroom & Leek Tagliatelle

I must confess that this is not a dish that we serve at The Dial, after writing the last post about White Wine Sauce it inspired my dinner last night which I thought I would share as today’s recipe.

For this I used Dried Ceps as Fresh are just not available in supermarkets to the home cook, the advantage of using dried is that they are available all year round and you get a secondary by product, an amazing mushroom stock. To prepare the dried mushrooms place them into a heatproof bowl then pour on 250ml boiling water and leave to soak for a minimum of 30 minutes, then drain the mushrooms, put the mushrooms to one side for use in the below recipe, allow the liquid to cool then freeze, you then have a ready made rich mushroom stock, ideal for use in a mushroom risotto.

Dried Ceps Soaking in Boiling Water

Mushroom Stock

Chicken, Wild Mushroom & Leek Tagliatelle
Serves 2 large portions

2 x Chicken Breasts, skinless & boneless
1 x Onion, finely sliced
1 x Garlic Clove, peeled & lightly chopped
4 x Sage Leaves, finley shredded
25g Dried Porcini/Cep Mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for a minimum of 30 minutes
300ml White Wine Sauce, made with chicken stock
1.5 tsp Course Grain Mustard
1 x Leek, halved lengthways and finely sliced
100g Dried Tagliatelle

Fill a large pan with water and lightly season, bring to the boil.
Meanwhile dice the chicken into even sized cubes, place 2 tbsp oil into a frying pan and start to saute the chicken pieces, once the chicken is evenly coloured on all sides add your sliced onion and cook until the onion starts to soften, next add the garlic and turn the heat on to full, once hot add the soaked mushrooms and cook on a high heat to evaporate all excess liquid out of the mushrooms.
Now add the tagliatelle to the boiling water and cook for 8 minutes.
Whilst the tagliatelle is cooking add the leeks, grain mustard and white wine sauce to the chicken mixture and bring to the simmer. Once the tagliatelle is cooked drain in a colander then mix with chicken mix, add the sage and check the seasoning, serve with french bread.