Date Archives September 2012

Mango Fruit Leather

I’ve never made fruit leather before but it is a fantastic way to use up overripe fruit and transform it into a energy laden, tasty snack for when your batteries are running low…….

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • Lemon juice from ½ small lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to about 50-60°C or its lowest setting.
  2. Line a small shallow baking tray with parchment (very approximately 23cm x 13cm or anything around that size)
  3. Place the chopped flesh of the mango into a food processor with the sugar and the lemon juice. Process to form a fruit puree (in theory this can be done with any other fruits, adjusting the sweetness to taste)
  4. Transfer the mixture to the lined tray so that it is about 3mm thick and evenly spread.
  5. Place in the oven for about 6-10 hours until dry and leathery. I turned my oven off after about 6 hours and left it in the oven overnight and got it out the next day. This made sure it was dry but  gave it a lovely slightly chewy texture.
  6. To store, I sliced mine into thin strips and rolled into wheels, with a piece of baking parchment between to stop it sticking. Alternatively, just chop into pieces of whatever size you like!


Pumpkin Seed Anti Anxiety Butter


As a perpetual worrier and a passionate nutrition enthusiast, I love pumpkin seeds for their fabulous anti-anxiety properties. This bountiful jar of bottle-green ‘butter’ is like my own personal and bespoke prescription without the price tag. However, also unlike your prescription (unless you’re 10 years old and drinking the dreamy sugary Calpol) this one has a vanilla-like, sweet and indescribable aroma and taste.

After my endless and compulsory regurgitation of the principle amino acids for my university biochemistry modules,  I know that they are vital and guess what? Pumpkin seeds are a good source! They have a heap of both tryptophan and glutamate, two important amino acids in the body. While tryptophan is converted to serotonin to help sleep, glutamate is converted to GABA neurotransmitter in the brain that can allow us to deal with stress and anxiety. Therefore, my nights of endless worried sleep are over. If anxiety kicks in….take a large dreamy spoonful and be on your merry way. In addition, these pictures would without doubt be much more appreciated on my revision wall than the chemical structures currently residing….

  • 200g pumpkin seeds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp thick set honey
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
  1. Begin by heating a dry frying pan until hot and toast the seeds until they begin to pop and crackle (you will hear it) and the skins start to split. This helps release flavour and smell. The popping happens quickly so just get them going and then remove from the heat to prevent burning.
  2. Add to the bowl of a food processor and blitz. Keep the motor running continuously, stopping now and again to scrape the build up from around the sides. The whole process (I carelessly forgot to time it…) takes about 10 minutes so don’t worry if it doesn’t look very ‘buttery’ to start, just continue to process for about 10minutes until the mixture begins to release though lovely oils and it becomes like thick paste.imageimage
  3. As this happens, add the rest of the ingredients and continue until you have a texture you like. I like it thick so it can be spread on toast or oat cakes nice and smoothly.
  4. Jar and keep in the fridge, ready for those moments of anxiety, or for a wholesome boost!


Bramble Mousse


Lovely and light, this mousse is the most quintessentially seasonal finish to a rich wintery Sunday roast beef. With the seasons blackberry harvest stashed protectively in our bloated freezer, I permitted myself a rationed supply for this little beauty…..

(Makes about 10 small glasses)

  • 500g cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 250g blackberries (save a few whole ones for decoration)
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 280ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • A few mint leaves for decoration
  • 125g ginger biscuits
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  1. If you are want to serve your mousse on a biscuit base, begin by bashing the biscuits in a bag with a spoon until you have fine crumbs and combine with the melted butter. Spoon into serving glasses and chill in the fridge.
  2. Combine the apples, sugar and blackberries in a heavy based saucepan and heat gently to release the juices. Cook for about 15-30 minutes until the mixture breakdown and becomes mushy and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. Place into a food processor and puree until completely broken down to a smooth paste.image
  4. Use a fine sieve and a metal spoon to remove the pips. This takes some elbow grease……you need to get all the pulp through the sieve into a clean bowl so you are left with a pure fruity nectar and now teeth tainting seeds!
  5. Now fold the fruit puree into the whipped cream until well combined.image
  6. Spoon over the top of the biscuit base or into plain clean serving glasses and top with a few whole blackberries and a mint leaf!

Blackberry, Lime and Coconut Slice

Someone has to stop me. What started as an innocent plucking of the first seasons tempting vulnerable blackberry, has turned into an obsession. On my daily dog walks, the multiple jungle of tangled branches gloat and boast their juicy fruit in my face, saying, ‘pick me!’. Consequently, everywhere I look I seem to see just one more handful that cannot be left untouched. My pocket now permanently contains a bag just in case.

Not helped by my father who – I quote- said – ‘its not enough! We need to fill the freezer!’- I have managed to gather around 6 bags of blackberries. I have chosen to freeze them to lock in their seasonal freshness, make them last longer and most importantly, prevent their disappearance before they have the honour of finding their way to an admirable recipe. My poor father, who is a simple foodie man, loves nothing more than a easygoing, undemanding and straightforward blackberry and apple pie. Don’t get me wrong, a straight crumble is on the top of my pudding list, however, this year……….this year, I have picked more than enough to govern experimental licence….

So if your usual garden birds are looking a little anorexic this year then I’m sorry- I take full blame for having stolen their winter pickings….a juicy, nutty crumble, an almond and blackberry bar, blackberry crumble ice cream, bramble moose, jam, summer pudding, coulis, or with a port sauce served over duck……image

PS. If you do freeze them, the best way is to was them and leave to drain and dry in a colander. Then spread out in a single layer on a baking tray and freeze like this. Then bag them up, this way you prevent getting a huge frozen mass of solid berries.


  • 125g chilled butter, cubed
  • 175g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar


  • 35g dessicated coconut, lightly toasted in a dry pan
  • 150g blackberries, and a extra handful to top
  • 2 eggs
  • 140g granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup lime juice, zest from 1 lime
  • 40g flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 and line a 9×9 inch tin or larger for a thinner base, with parchment
  2. Begin by making the base. Combine the caster sugar, flour and butter in a food processor. Blend until the mixture form breadcrumbs and then continue until the mixture forms a crumbly dough. Add the coconut and pulse to combine.
  3. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and use the back of a metal spoon to compress and smooth the dough into a single layer
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.
  5. Now make the topping. Puree the blackberries in the processor until they become liquid. Strain this mixture through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.image
  6. Whisk together the eggs, lime juice, zest and sugar in a large bowl. Add 3 large heaped tablespoons of your sieve blackberry puree and whisk again.
  7. Add the flour and stir to combine. [Keep the remaining berry puree for serving but it may need sweetening. Heat and add a little caster sugar to dissolve]image
  8. When the base in cooked, leave to cool for a few minutes, then pour the egg mixture over the top. Scatter with the handful of reserved berries and bake for 20-25 minutes until set.
  9. Once cool, dust with icing sugar and cut into the desired slices.

Bouillabaisse with Rouille, Sourdough Croutons and Samphire

Bouillabaisse is a Provencal fish stew. This is probably one of my favourite dishes and I love to spend an afternoon making it properly from scratch, however, don’t be put off, it can be done quicker I just like to take my time!

Contents (serves 4)

  • 1 x tinned tomatoes
  • 1 litre homemade fish stock
  • a pinch of saffron
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • mixed seafood- I used 1xgurnard, 1xbream and 1 large hake fillet, filleted and chopped into chunks. Reserve the fish bones/heads for the stock
  • 12-15 raw crevettes/prawns- peeled, shells retained
  • Handful of mussels
  • Bunch flat-leaf parsley, stalk reserved for stock
  • Samphire, steamed for about 3 minutes, to serve
  • Rouille, to serve

Soup base

  • 1 large bulb fennel
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Small glass white wine/Pernod

Fish Stock

  • Bones, head and tails or the fish (about 2 carcases) or ask your fishmonger for some free scraps
  • 2 red onions, quartered
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, halved
  • Stalks of flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • Salt
  • 2 litre cold water
  1. Start by making the fresh fish stock but if using a cube, skip to stage 4.
  2. Place all the ingredients into a large pan (except the salt) and cover with the water. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that comes to the surface and discard.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, but no longer. Season to taste and then strain and reserve the stock for use later.
  4. Now start on the soup base. Chop the vegetables and fry gently in some oil in a large pot with the fennel seeds, bay leaves and parsley. Cover with a cartouche (a round shaped piece of parchment) to prevent the vegetable catching and to help soften them. Reduce the heat and soften for 40 minutes.
  5. image
  6. After 40 minutes, increase the heat and caramelize the vegetables for a few minutes until tinged with brown. Add a small glass of white wine and simmer for 1 minute before adding the tomatoes, 600-800ml fish stock and a pinch of saffron and cayenne and season. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 hour. Meanwhile…….

A traditional bouillabaisse has a ‘tomatoey’ sauce flavour, however, I have adapted various recipes to bring out the best in the flavours I like best. Feel free to skip this step but it wholeheartedly adds a deep, rich, fishy punch to the soup base. Here I have made a prawn stock/reduction using the reserved shells.

  1. Fry the reserved prawn/crevette shells and heads in a little oil for about 5 minutes, until they turn a beautiful deep orange and release their juices
  2. Add a splash of wine and simmer for 1 minute, before adding a large spoonful of the simmering soup base and then top up with about 200ml of fish stock.
  3. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 25 minutes.
  4. After this time, strain and retain the prawn stock, season and discard the shells.


8.   After 1 hour, puree the soup with a hand blender (not too smooth, don’t worry if there are a few lumps) and add the prawn reduction (If not using, add fish stock to obtain your required consistency)

9.   Finally, add the chunks of fish and on a very low simmer, cook the fish for about 6-7 minutes before adding the shelled prawns and mussels. With a lid on, cook for a few minutes until the mussels are open and the prawns are cooked.

10.  Serve in deep, warmed bowls topped with samphire and scattered with chopped parsley and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. I devoured mine with the traditional mayonnaise- Rouille and giant sourdough croutons




Rouille is simply a saffron, chilli and garlic infused mayonnaise. I always make my own mayo at special occasions or when it is a central ingredient or accompaniment for a meal as it is so easy to make if you have a food processor and a steady hand. Once you’ve had the real homemade stuff you’ll be left wondering how on earth a jar of Hellman’s suddenly tastes so vile after years or worshipping the contents? The only hold back usually, is its creamy indulgence so don’t throw away your jars yet……..Classic French rouille is a traditional garnish to a punchy Provencal fish soup or a deep rich bouillabaisse. A celebratory freshly homemade bouillabaisse was the call for this batch which I knocked up to lather a bakeryful of giant sourdough croutons!

  • 1 tsp dried crushed chillies
  • Pinch of flaky salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 2 free range egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 120ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  1. Grind the chillies, garlic cloves, and saffron with the salt in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Add the egg yolks and mix thoroughly
  3. Add to a food processor and, with the motor running, pour the oil through the funnel drop by drop and then in a EXTREMELY steady, gentle stream with the motor running at all times. If you add to fast it won’t emulsify with the yolks, however as you see it begin to thicken, you know you’re on safe ground and you can begin to pour more quickly but still in a steady stream. Sometimes it won’t take and the mixture will split and be runny like cream- sometimes it just happens *image
  4. When you have added about 2/3 of the oil and it is thickening, add the lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper and then finish adding the oil. If you want it a little thinner, add a little more oil.
  5. Once finished, pot and pop it in the fridge where it will keep for about 4-5 days.

This recipe, untraditionally doesn’t contain soaked breadcrumbs which it should but I rather like it without and thought this recipe was great anyway!

* To prevent your mayonnaise splitting in the first place, use fresh eggs at room temperature in a really clean food processor bowl. If it does split, don’t chuck you’re mixture. Remove it to a jug, clean the bowl well and add another egg yolk to the processor and blend. Then instead of adding oil, add the mixture!image

Tips for the perfect risotto…….

Call me crazy but risotto is my idea of a relaxing evening at home in the kitchen. After spending some of my gap year traveling in Tuscany undergoing self-indulgent cookery courses, it takes me floating back while mindlessly stirring a pan of creamy, moorish risotto with nothing to rush for except the giddy excitable stomachs of your blessed guests- sorry but they’ll have to wait, risotto cannot and should not be rushed. Like my ice cream, I am probably a risotto connoisseur. So many people cook risotto badly- dry, stiff overcooked and tasteless. So here are a few of my tips I’ve gathered after countless experiences that I think are essential when cooking an fantastic Italian risotto.

These apply mainly to the process of making a risotto base. Extra flavours, different wines or purees can be added during or at the end, but essentially these rules always apply for me!

  • Butter– Risotto is a regional dish from the Northern areas of Italy. As discovered on my cookery endeavours, rather pleasingly, here it is much more common to use butter in cooking than the southern use of olive oil. Therefore, always use a big knob of unsalted butter (with a little olive oil to prevent it burning) to gently soften the base vegetables (onion, celery etc). Risotto is about flavour and taste- don’t skimp on the good stuff.
  • Wine– Once your rice has toasted a bit, always add a generous glass of wine and let it bubble so that is is absorbed by the rice, before adding your stock. Always keep any leftover wine for this exact purpose as it doesn’t have to be good/fresh.
  • Stock– Always add HOT stock. This will ensure the cooking time is kept constant and the temperature of the risotto does not keep fluctuating. I keep a pan on the hob next to me with a big ladle. In addition, use a GOOD stock as essentially, this will add the bulk of the flavour so make sure its tasty.
  • Liquid– Add the stock little by little. This is important, never add it all at once as the rice will boil dry before it has a chance to cook. Keep a loose texture but don’t let it run dry, so keep an eye out. It needs constant stirring to loosen the liquid around the grains to release the starch and thicken the mixture.
  • Al dente– The whole addition process should take about 15-18 minutes so keep testing the rice. I should have a slight (and I mean slight not raw) al dente bite so that when served, you can see each grain. Overcooked and the grains merge in a starchy mess.
  • Rest– When it is ready, add cubed, chilled butter (the more the merrier) and grated parmesan (usually, except in a seafood risotto) while it is OFF the heat. Pop a lid on and just let it sit relaxingly for a few minutes.
  • Texture– risotto should be served on a flat plate or shallow soup bowl so that it can easily spread but is not watery.
  • Serve– Finally, serve at once! Like I said, risotto doesn’t wait for anyone, the longer it’s left, the more it will overcook.

Leftovers– If for some insane reason there are leftovers, don’t you dare throw them away! One of the most amazing things to do with cold risotto is to make arancini. These are balls of rice, breaded and fried and usually contain cheese. Using your cold leftovers, roll into tennis ball sized balls (a nice thing to do is stick a piece of mozzarela, goats cheese or a good melter in the centre first) and coat in flour, egg and then roll in breadcrumbs. These little beauties can now be fried in oil (or deep fried) until golden and molten in the middle.

See my Wild Mushroom and Marsala Risotto recipe.

Wild Mushroom and Marsala Risotto with thyme and mascarpone


An oozing, Autumnal, deep, rich, silky and moorish risotto. This can be, and I assure you- will be, eaten with nothing but a trusty fork, eyes closed with a satisfied smile on your face. As the last rays of sunshine tiptoe off back to Australia leaving behind a dark gallery of evenings and a steady chilly drizzle….not to worry, this will solve any post summer blues, I promise. Because, honestly, who doesn’t love cheesey buttery and smooth warming dinners (unless of course you don’t like mushrooms)…

Risotto is the most relaxing way to spend a evening in the kitchen, unwinding with a glass of iced white, music and some mindless stirring with a wooden spoon….bliss. [See my tips for risotto making] (Serves 4)

Risotto Base

  • 300g risotto rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • Bunch thyme, leaves picked
  • 150ml Marsala wine (or white wine)
  • Vegetable stock- About 1 ½ pints
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 50g grated Parmesan
  • 60g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Flat-leaf parsley to serve, chopped
  • Mascarpone, to serve
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil


  • 500g mixed mushrooms- I used chesnut and button, sliced
  • Handful of dried wild mushrooms, soaked in 200ml boiling water for 20 minutes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Handful of parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Knob of butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C and roast the garlic bulb whole, drizzled with a bit of oil for 30 minutes. Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water.
  2. Now begin with the risotto base by heating a tbsp of olive oil and a knob of butter in a large frying pan on a medium-low heat and soften the onion, celery and thyme leaves until translucent but not coloured. Seasonimage
  3. While this is softening, heat 1 tbsp of oil and a knob of butter in another frying pan and saute the raw mushrooms to release and evapourate the juices (about 8-10 minutes) and to brown them. Don’t be tempted to crowd the pan, so do this in batches if necessary. After about 10 minutes, add the garlic and the parsley and cook for a few minutes. image
  4. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid and chop the soaked dried mushrooms and add them to the frying ones. Then set aside this mixture.
  5. Using forks, remove the (should be) softened, sweetened garlic and crush to a thick garlicky paste in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt.image
  6. Back to the risotto, add the rice to the softened veg and toast on a medium heat until translucent and hot to touch. Add the Marsala wine (or white wine) and simmer gently. Now add a ladle of hot stock to the mixture, and on a low heat, simmer gently until it is all absorbed. Continue adding ladles of stock, making sure it does not dry out but is also not swamped. The rice should expand as it absorbs the liquid and this process should take about 18-20 minutes. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked, with a slight bite and the texture is oozy. Now add the garlic paste and mix in.image
  7. Now, the rice should be cooked. Stir in the reserved mushrooms.image
  8. Take the pan off the heat, add a squeeze of lemon juice, the parmesan and scatter with the cubed butter (you can add as much butter as you like, the more you add the shinier and creamier it will taste- restaurants are known to use up to 200g to get that decadent texture and taste). Cover with a lid and leave for 2 minutes off the heat. image
  9. After this time, mix gently to mix in the melted additions and add a touch of reserved mushroom stock if to thick. It should ‘ooze’ and be served in a shallow soup bowl- not dry and stiff on the plate.
  10. Serve topped with chopped parsley, a spoonful of cool, creamy mascarpone and drizzle with truffle/olive oil if you want!


WINE: The depth and richness of this dish is robust enough to stand up to something regional from Italy. Here I’m thinking a hearty red from Valpolicella, Italy. While you could in fact use a splash in your risotto or make a devine Veronese Risotto as a replacement of the Marsala, better still enough a glass of Amarone della Valpolicella such as the 2010 Musella available at Armit Wines.

Jess - Musella

Homemade Puff Pastry


Today I attempted my first ever homemade puff pastry. It was totally unnecessary and received eye rolling, sighing and characteristic head shaking from my ‘non-foodie’ father who, ironically, would be reaping the benefits later that evening, in the form of Salmon en croute. I’ve always looked upon puff pastry as a superfluous endeavour when the supermarkets provide such satisfactory pre-made effort, however, I had some time today, I love cooking and, hey, I thought I’d add it to my repertoire.

Findings. So either I had put the tricky task of making this on a golden plated throne of difficulty or it is actually much easier than people make out, but I must admit, it took much less time than I’d thought, it was simple to create and produced puffed, laminated layers of buttery pastry! So for anyone who has never made it and wants to sample the proper stuff, then give this one a go……it was the first recipe I used, and appeared to work well! Hopefully it wasn’t beginners luck…..(Makes about 600g block)

  • 245g plain flour
  • 40g chilled cubed butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 215g unsalted butter block
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 130ml cold water
  1. Begin by mixing the flour, salt and 40g of cubed butter in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until you form a breadcrumb-like mixture.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the water and lemon juice and mix with a fork until you have a ball of dough. Using your hands, knead lightly until you form a smooth dough. For into a ball and then using a knife, score a deep cross in the top to allow the dough to stretch and relax as it rests. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place you 215g block of butter between a folded sheet of parchment. Using a rolling pin, bash heavily to flatten the block and soften it, whilst maintaining it in a cold state, to about 1 cm thick, in a square. Return to the fridge.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge. Take the corner of each of the crosses you scored and pull them out and roll them using a rolling pin, outwards so they flatten leaving a thicker mound of dough in the middle to accommodate the bulk of the butter that will be added.
  5. Making sure it is slightly smaller than your flat dough, place the chilled sheet of butter in the centre and fold in the corners of the dough to cover it completely.
  6. Flour the work surface well to prevent it sticking and roll the dough, totally encased in butter, into a long rectangle, about 40cm long and 18cm wide. You are now ready for your first folding.
  7. With the short side facing you, bring the top 3rd of pastry down about 2/3rds of the way and the bottom 3rd up to cover it like a book [as seen above]. Then rotate clockwise 90°.
  8. Repeat this rolling to 40cm and folding again. Then wrap in cling film and quickly chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  9. Bring the dough out and place it in front of you as if it has just been folded. Rotate 90 and repeat steps 7 and 8 so that it has been rolled and folded twice more. Wrap and chill again for 30 minutes.
  10. Finally, repeat this process once more, so that in total it is rolled and folded 6 times. At this stage the dough can be shaped as desired and chilled again for 30 minutes before baking. Or it can be left until needed/frozen.
  11. It is usually baked, brush with beaten egg, (direct from its chilled state to prevent the butter melting) at about 200-220°C for 20 minutes as a rough approximation depending what you are doing with it!


Champagne and Canapes


Ok so it was sparkling wine but it was my clear favourite in a blind tasting and its from Kent [Chapel Down- Tenterden]! Despite being my top tipple, it still hasn’t triggered any increase in its purchase in the weekly shop shockingly (I tried) However, this Kent variety is worth buying for a special occasion, which this was……

Yesterday, we proudly and inspiringly celebrated the dedicated 35 years my dad has spent working for an engineering company he joined after University. So we indulged him in some bubbly and fancy canapes. I knocked up some pillowey blinis topped with creme fraiche, salmon caviar and chives.


  • 175ml milk
  • 40g butter
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 1 ½ tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives,plus extra to serve
  • Oil to fry
  • Creme fraiche
  • Salmon caviar
  1. Heat the milk and butter until melted.
  2. Sift the flours, yeast, sugar and salt into a food processor or bowl.
  3. With the processor running, add the warmed milk and butter mixture, followed by the egg yolks (or whisk into the bowl if not using a processor)
  4. Pour into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until risen and airy.
  5. Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into the yeast batter with the chopped chives.
  6. Heat a little oil in a hot frying pan and drop small spoonfuls of batter into the pan and cook for about 40 seconds per side or until golden.
  7. Reserve to a plate and leave to cool a little before topping with creme fraiche, caviar and chives. Alternatively, these blinis can be topped with anything else like salmon, goats cheese mousse etc!