Brie and peach salad

I’d never been a huge fan of Brie up until I participated in a virtual wine and cheese night over Christmas. We all looked on the Waitrose website, chose a mini bottle of wine each and a type of cheese to go with it, My friend picked Brie de Meaux which I’d never tried before. I picked some up and needless to say, it became a fast favourite. When I went for a walk recently and just ended up in M&S, like you do, I couldn’t resist taking some home. Although serving it with crackers is perfectly delicious, I wanted to do something different, so I had a look on BBC Good Food and found an interesting salad recipe. I added peach – because why not. The candied walnuts sadly burned in the oven on the recommended temperature whilst not melting any of the sugar so next time I’ll do them in the pan.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 peaches
  • 200g rocket
  • 1 packet of brie de meaux – I think about 200g
  • 40g dates
  • 50g croutons
  • 50g walnuts
  • 12g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp honey
  • 3 tbsp walnut oil

Method

1.) Slice the peaches and put them under the grill, flipping so each side is grilled. When done, remove to a bowl and pour over the honey, give it a stir.

2.) Measure out the sugar and add to a frying pan. Measure the walnuts and break in half and add to the pan. Heat on a low heat until the sugar melts and coats the walnuts. Set aside.

3.) Slice all the rind off the Brie. Put the brie in a bowl and stick in the microwave for 15 seconds. You should then be able to whisk it up with a spoon.

4.) In a mixing bowl, add the rocket, the dates, the oil and the balsamic vinegar and toss.

5.) Plate up the rocket and dates, sprinkle over some walnuts, some croutons and divide the peaches between the plates.

6.) Finally spoon blobs of the Brie into the middle of each plate.

Blue Cheese Cheesecake

After the absolute delight that was Yotam’s aubergine cheesecake, I was extremely keen to try his blue cheese cake from his book ‘Nopi’. It did not disappoint. I recommend it best of all warm from the oven but it’s also delicious chilled from the fridge. The base isn’t baked in this recipe before the cheese mixture goes on but I probably would give it a pre-bake when I make it next. The recipe has pumpkin seeds in the base but I used pistachios. Gotta say, the savoury digestive mix is a treat just on its own here – McVities are missing a trick. I would buy savoury digestives for sure. I’ll give the proper ramekin sizes below though I just used what I had in the house which were a bit smaller. I also doubled the amount of base mixture as I like a higher base:cheese ratio. I used low fat cheese too – I honestly prefer the tang of lower fat cream cheese. Serve with a drizzle of honey and a side of pickled beetroot (there is a recipe for the pickled beetroot in ‘Nopi’ but I just used jarred).

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 80g pistachios
  • 10 digestive biscuits
  • 60g parmesan
  • 1 leek
  • 360g cream cheese
  • 170g crème fraiche
  • 80g double cream
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 20g chives
  • 20g basil
  • 100g stilton (or another blue cheese)
  • 4 eggs
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C on a fan setting

2.) Wash and trim the leek. Slice thinly.

3.) Heat some oil in a frying pan and add the slices of leek. Cook on a low heat until the leek is softened. Set aside to cool.

4.) Add the butter, pistachios, biscuits and parmesan and salt to a blender and blend into crumbs

5.) Press the crumbs into 8 ramekins of 12cm diameter to form a base (a buttery biscuit base as Greg Wallace would say)

6.) Into a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, crème fraiche, the eggs and the double cream. Whisk up until smooth. Crumble in the blue cheese.

7.) Peel and finely chop the garlic and add to the cheese mixture.

8.) Finely chop the basil and chives and add to the cream cheese. Give it a stir.

9.) Divide the mixture between the ramekins.

10.) Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until set.

Simple Fish Stew

I’ve gotta write this up quickly as the first game of the European football championship is coming up – so exciting! I managed to escape to Lisbon for six days before our prime minister decided to change the regulations on travelling to Portugal. It’s a really wonderful city and a great one for fish lovers. Every restaurant serves a wide variety of fish. This visit, I had mostly grilled fish but when I visited the Algarve many years ago, I had a Portuguese fish stew which they call a ‘Cataplanas’ and wanting to carry on the feeling of being in Portugal when I arrived back in Manchester, I decided to make a fish stew. The problem is that we don’t really have an abundance of fish, or fishmongers here. Therefore, I thought I would see what could be done from a supermarket shop and therefore have on a weeknight and considering that, this was pretty damn good. I used Jamie Oliver’s website to find the fish stew recipe ‘Summer fish stew’. Note this is best served with aioli but as the only mussels I could get were in a garlic sauce I thought maybe it could end up being too much garlic. Actually I don’t think this is possible. It serves four but there were only two of us but I thought it best to eat the mussels and the langoustines fresh. Therefore I added an extra potato for the other 2 servings.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • one onion
  • one clove garlic
  • one stick celery
  • two potatoes
  • 30g parsley
  • olive oil
  • 150ml white wine
  • 680ml passata
  • 2 fillets sea bream (I used sea bass as bream wasn’t available)
  • 4 langoustines (they had frozen ones at the supermarket)
  • 400g mussels (mine were frozen with a sauce but I tipped the sauce out)

Method

1.) Peel and finely chop the onion, celery and garlic. Peel and chop the potatoes into small cubes.

2.) Heat some oil in a casserole dish and add the vegetables. Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes until soft.

3.) In the meantime, de-skin the sea-bream/bass and measure out the wine.

4.) Pour the wine into the casserole dish and cook off

5.) Add the passata and a cup of water to the dish

6.) Add the langoustines and sea-bream (I added the langoustines for a few minutes more a little earlier as they were frozen) and cook for 10 minutes

7.) Add the mussels and put the lid on the casserole dish and cook for 2 minutes and check they’re all open (I did about 4 minutes as the mussels were frozen)

8.) Serve with bread and some aioli and dream of being in Portugal

Gougères

These cheese puffs were another small bite I made for my Eurovision party. They were also a good way to use up the rest of the gruyère I bought for the beer cheese sauce. They are best eaten fresh but I just warmed them up in the oven for 5 minutes at 150 degrees C. The recipe is from one of my favourite celebrity chefs – Rachel Khoo – and her book ‘Little Paris Kitchen’ so named as living in Paris, she couldn’t afford much of a kitchen.

Makes about 15

Ingredients

  • 60ml water
  • 65ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 85g plain flour
  • 35g gruyere cheese
  • 2 eggs

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking tray

2.) Measure out the water and milk into a measuring jug, grate the cheese, beat the eggs into a container and beat with a fork, measure out the butter into a pan

3.) Measure out the flour and melt the butter into the pan.

4.) Once the butter is melted, add the water and milk, the flour and beat, add about 2/3 of the cheese and beat in until melted

5.) Add half the egg and mix, then add the other half and beat until a glossy paste

6.) Put the dough into a piping bag (or into a freezer bag with the corner chopped off to make a nozzle).

7.) Pipe on the baking tray into about 15 walnut sized balls. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I went back and topped them up.

8.) Wet a finger and pat down the points on each ball.

9.) Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese on the tops.

10.) Bake for 20 minutes.

Broad bean stuffed pancakes

Another recipe that caught my eye in the Cicchetti cookbook was this one for stuffed pancakes. It’s probably not so much a normal weeknight dinner meal but being on holiday this week, I’ve been a bit more flexible. This would be a good one to make if you have guests as you can make them the day before. The recipe suggests to use cocktail sticks to hold the wheels in place but I didn’t personally feel the need.

Ingredients

  • 1 tin broad beans (250g drained)
  • 60g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 5g chives
  • salt and pepper
  • butter
  • 8 slices quorn ham
  • 3 sprigs basil

Method

1.) Make the pancake batter by beating the eggs in a bowl, whisk in the milk and flour. Chop up the chives and mix in the batter.

2.) Melt some butter in a small frying pan, add 1/4 of the pancake mixture at a time and make 4 pancakes. Set aside on a plate to cool.

3.) In a food processor, add the drained broad beans, the cream cheese and the parmesan. Blend until a smooth paste.

4.) One at a time, move a pancake to another plate, lay 2 slices of quorn and dollop on 1/4 of the broad bean mixture in the middle. Spread out the broad bean paste all around the pancake.

5.) Roll up the pancakes one by one then cut into slices. At this point, seal with the cocktail sticks if wanted.

6.) Chill until cool, then rip up the basil and sprinkle over the top.

Scallop gratin with artichoke salad

So far my week off work has been more stressful than I was originally hoping. My cat, Figaro got a stomach upset on Easter bank holiday when all the vets were closed except the emergency one miles from our home. Giving him a new flavour of the pet food he normally eats was enough to do it. After two trips to the vet and being hand-fed for 4 days he finally seems to be on the mend. I nearly had a heart attack when my other cat, Gino came bursting through the cat flap with what looked to be a broken paw. Fortunately he’d just gotten his paw stuck in his collar and there was nothing wrong with him. At least I had a nice treat with this delicious scallop gratin.

This recipe works with the tiny frozen scallops you get from the supermarket, I just defrosted them before using. The version in the book is served in the scallop shells but I used ramekins. The recipes are from the book ‘Cicchetti’ – a book of small Italian dishes that I really love.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 10 small scallops
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 30g butter
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 5g parsley leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 5g chives
  • 2 tins artichoke hearts
  • 30g parmesan
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Peel and chop the garlic, finely chop the parsley

3.) Melt the butter in a pan and then add the garlic and 1/3 of the parsley

4.) Arrange the scallops in 2 ramekins

5.) When the oven is ready, pour the breadcrumbs into the butter and give them a stir

6.) Divide the breadcrumbs between the ramekins and place the ramekins on a baking tray

7.) Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown

8.) While the scallops are baking, grate the parmesan

9.) Add to a mixing bowl, drain the tins of artichoke hearts and chop up

10.) Put the artichokes in the mixing bowl and add the rest of the parsley, some seasoning, mustard and the oil and give it a good mix

11.) Chop up the chives to serve with the scallops and artichokes.

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