Cream

Mary Berry’s honeycomb ice cream

honeycombicecream

‘Half Term Treat – Mary Berry’s Honeycomb Crunchies’ is by far my most successful blog post to date – if you judge success by the number of hits that is. This is quite depressing really because I wrote it with minimal effort, in a rush, with the children nipping at my heels.

I love honeycomb and when I had this ice cream at a dinner party recently I was in absolute heaven. I just had to look up the recipe and try it. Mary makes the honeycomb in exactly the same way as in the crunchies recipe and mixes it with a ‘cheat’s’ ice  cream that doesn’t need an ice cream maker. It’s so easy to make and I look forward to trying this ice cream technique with other flavours.

Mary Berry’s honeycomb ice cream

  • 4 tablespoons (60ml)  of golden syrup
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda
  • 600ml of double cream
  • 397g (1 tin) of full-fat condensed milk

Measure out the bicarbonate of soda and set aside. Then line a flat baking tray with baking parchment and lightly grease with a flavourless oil.

Put the sugar and golden syrup into a saucepan and set it on a very low heat for about 10 minutes until all the sugar has melted, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. When the sugar is completely melted, turn up the heat to medium. Once the mixture has started to boil, leave to bubble without stirring until it turns golden-brown (this only takes a couple of minutes).

Turn off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and quickly whisk for a couple of seconds. The mixture will froth up massively so make sure you use a saucepan with plenty of room. Quickly pour it into the middle of the oiled baking tray and don’t spread it out or touch it or the tray. Leave for about 30 minutes to cool and harden. You can hurry things along by putting it into the fridge after about 15 minutes.

Now break the honeycomb into bite size pieces. Set a third of the honeycomb to one side for decoration, the rest will go into the ice cream.

For the ice cream, whip the cream in a large bowl until it has soft peaks. Then pour in the condensed milk and stir well to combine. Fold two thirds of the honeycomb into the ice cream.

Pour the ice cream mixture into a loaf tin lined with cling film, cover with more clingfilm and freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve, turn out onto a serving dish and top with the remaining honeycomb.

Panettone ‘bread-and-butter’ pudding

panettonepudding

I’m not a huge fan of panettone but there is often one knocking around after Christmas and it does make a delicious cheat’s bread-and-butter pudding. This one came from the bottom box of a ‘Tower of Treats’ and was re-gifted to me in January. I was thrilled because I new exactly what to do with it.

Since there is fruit, mixed peel, butter and sugar already in the panettone you don’t need to add any extra – which is why I use the word ‘cheat’. If you have a particularly sweet tooth you can add some extra sugar to the custard if you like and I do add a light smear of extra butter to the top of each slice of panettone for a nice crispy crust.

It’s the perfect comfort food but very indulgent. Carbs, sugar, fat – it’s all in there. Sorry if you’re trying to be good. I’ll aim for a healthier recipe next time.

Panettone ‘bread-and-butter’ pudding

  • 1 panettone (mine was 500g and 20cm diametre), cut into slices about 2 cm thick
  • 30g of butter
  • 300ml of double cream
  • 600ml of milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of demerara sugar
  • Nutmeg
  • Optional – 50g of caster sugar

Lightly butter a ceramic baking dish approximately 20 cm x 30 cm (or one with a similar area).

Spread the rest of the butter thinly over the top surface of each slice of panettone and arrange in a single layer in the dish but with each slice overlapping the next (as above). If you want it to look prettier then you can cut the panettone slices into smaller pieces but I don’t bother.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream and, if you have a sweet tooth, the caster sugar.

Pour this over the top of the panettone slices, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour for the bread to soak up the custard mixture.

When you are ready to cook, remove the cling film and sprinkle over some demerara sugar and a good grating of nutmeg.

Place in an oven preheated to 180oC for 45 minutes – one hour (or until the custard is set – you can test this with a knife in the middle and if it comes out clean then it’s done – and the top is a deep golden brown). Mine took 55 minutes.

Let it stand for 10 minutes (if you can wait that long) before serving. Serve with pouring cream if you like but I think it is perfect just for itself.

panettonepudding2

It tastes so much better than it looks.

Parsley soup

parsley soup 2.jpg

I was watching Rick Stein on one of his long weekends in Bordeaux over Christmas. He was gushing about French markets selling huge bunches of herbs and how that didn’t really happen in the UK. But the following week I went into my local greengrocers (Fred Hallam in Beeston, Nottingham) and low and behold they were selling enormous bunches of locally grown parsley just like the Bordeaux market.

I couldn’t resist buying lots of it. I added parsley to everything that week but still had plenty left over. I then remembered this soup recipe where parsley is the main ingredient (which coincidentally is a Rick Stein one). It is one of my all time favourite soups and the perfect lunch for a cold, wet January day when one is trying to be a little more healthy after all that Christmas indulgence.

You do however need a good, cheap parsley supply – it would cost a fortune if you had to make it with those measly 30g bags from the supermarket.

Parsley soup

  • 2 large leeks or 2 small onions
  • A huge bunch of parsley (curly or flat leaf) approximately 200g
  • 75g of butter (you can use less if you’re watching your fat content, I use about half this amount and it still has a nice velvety texture)
  • 275g of floury potatoes, chopped into small cubes (I don’t bother peeling them)
  • 1.2 litres of chicken stock (home-made is best but stock cubes or pots are fine)
  • You can add double cream if you like (the original Rick Stein recipe uses 50ml) but I don’t think this is necessary

If using leeks then discard the darker green tops and chop roughly, alternatively roughly chop the onion.

Roughly chop the parsley stalks and leaves, reserving a handful of the bright green leaves for later.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the parsley and leeks/onion and soften gently for about 5 minutes.

Now add the potatoes and chicken stock then cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

Blitz the whole lot in a food processor along with the handful of uncooked parsley leaves until very smooth.

Return to the pan and season with salt and pepper (and add the double cream if you like).

Classic quiche Lorraine

quiche
It is difficult to make this dish look appetising as this photo demonstrates.

When you work in an office with a high percentage of women (as I have done) you often have to listen to tedious conversations about dieting. And many times I have overheard diet bores slapping themselves on the back because they have had “just a little bit of quiche and salad” for lunch. This is pretty funny because there are few dishes which contain quite so much fat (pastry, eggs, bacon, cream!!!). But for some reason quiche seems to retain an image of ‘lightness’ and ‘femininity’.

Calories aside, I have never bee a fan of quiche because I think eggs and cheese mixed together is the devil’s work. Even the smell makes me want to vomit. And memories of being forced to eat my primary school’s ghastly ‘cheese and egg flan’ have never quite left me.

I recently read however that a classic Quiche Lorraine should never have cheese in it (yes, yes, it was Elizabeth David again but I’m not obsessed, honest). Hurrah I thought and quickly googled for a recipe without cheese.

The filling for this recipe is very straight forward and comes from Felicity Cloake (attempting to create the ‘perfect’ quiche Lorraine for the Guardian). The shortcrust pastry recipe is from my trusty Be-Ro book. I couldn’t help myself and added a little caramelised onion to the mix – but this is not ‘the done thing’ – Elizabeth would not approve.

I found that I could happily eat quiche made this way. And my husband, who has a very feminine palate, (he loves cappuccinos, chocolate and yoghurt) thought it was wonderful.

Classic quiche Lorraine

Serves 10-12

For the pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g margarine
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons of cold milk

For the filling

  • 200g smoked back bacon, finely chopped
  • 320ml double cream
  • 4 whole eggs and two yolks (reserve the white for brushing the pastry bottom)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced (OPTIONAL)

To make the pastry measure the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the margarine and then rub together with the flour until you have a mix the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the 3 tablespoons of milk and with a knife stir until well incorporated. Then, using your hands, bring the mixture together lightly to form a ball. Knead very gently a couple of times until smooth. Press the ball down roughly to form a thick flat circle, place in a plastic bag and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 190oC.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out with a rolling pin until it is big enough to line a 23 cm tart tin. Prick the bottom with a fork all over and trim the edges. You need to make sure there are no cracks in your pastry (because otherwise the filling will seep out) but if you have some don’t worry – just patch up the holes/cracks with pastry left over from trimming the edges. Don’t worry if it looks a bit messy. Put a square of baking parchment over the surface of the pastry and fill with baking beads.

Bake the pastry case in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the beads and the baking paper and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Finally brush the bottom with a thin layer of egg white (apparently this helps to avoid a soggy bottom) and pop back in the oven for another 3 minutes. Set the case aside while you prepare the filling.

OPTIONAL: Fry a large onion (or two smaller ones) gently in a little olive oil or butter for about 15 minutes until soft and caramelised. Spread over the base.

Fry the bacon until browned but not too crisp. Drain on kitchen towel and spread half over the onion or (if you’re not using onion) over the base.

Put the cream and the eggs and yolks into a large bowl with a generous pinch of salt and some pepper. Beat together slowly until combined and then give the mix a fast whisk until frothy. Pour over the base to fill and then sprinkle over the rest of the bacon.

Bake for 20 minutes. The centre should still be a little bit wobbly if you like a creamy texture. If you prefer a denser texture then cook for 5-10 minutes longer.

Serve warm or at room temperature (but not piping hot or fridge cold – both of these dampen down the flavour).

Fiskekaker (Norwegian fish cakes)

Norwegian fish cakes

It may seem perverse to come back from holiday and attempt to recreate dishes that you didn’t even try whilst there, but that is exactly what I’ve done this week. I saw these fishcakes for sale in Bergen, and I really wanted to try them, but I didn’t because my penny pinching reflexes kicked in and I couldn’t bear to part with £££s for them.

On another note, I’ve been lusting after newly published cookbooks recently, but for before-said miserly tendencies I’ve made a resolution to revisit cookbooks that I currently own but never use instead. So I was reading Elisabeth Luard’s ‘European Peasant Cookery’ (which is a great hulk of a book, which I put on my birthday list 7 years ago, received and then promptly ignored) and one of the first recipes in the book was for Norwegian fish cakes, or fiskekaker. This tweaked my interest having been in Norway recently and I decided to try making them.

I wish I had tried the authentic version to compare them with, but what I can say is that mine (or rather Elisabeth’s) were delicious in a subtle, comforting way – almost like nursery food. I make fish cakes a lot but these are refreshingly simple with fish being the star of the show. Unsurprisingly my children loved them and I think they will become a regular feature on our weekly menu.

Fiskekaker (Norwegian fish cakes)

From Elisabeth Luard’s ‘European Peasant Cookery’

Makes about 12

  • 500g of filleted white fish (haddock or cod will do but make sure it’s as fresh as possible)
  • 1 small cooked potato, mashed, or 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 6 tablespoons of single cream or full cream milk
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt
  • A good grinding of white pepper
  • Butter for frying

Skin the fish and remove any pin bones. Roughly chop the fish flesh and pound this either with a pestle and mortar (hard work but traditional) or finely mince in a food processor. Stir in the potato, cream and seasoning. Beat until you have a smooth doughy mixture.

Melt a good dollop of butter in a frying pan and heat to medium.

Using a dessert spoon dipped in water, scoop out a spoonful of the fish mixture and add it to the pan. Press it down with the back of the spoon. Alternatively shape into small cakes with wet hands. Continue until the pan is full. Brown on one side before flipping over to cook the other, about 5 minutes on each side. Keep warm in a low oven while you cook the others.

I served mine with dill butter, a beetroot salad and rice. More traditional would be to eat them just for themselves or with boiled potatoes.

How to cook Christmas dinner without crying and a recipe for bread sauce

Crying at Christmas

My husband and I have teamed up to cook Christmas dinner for over 10 years now. At first we felt the pressure and really tried to impress. We trawled the internet for new ideas and watched all those Christmas cookery specials – amazed at the ability of celebrity chefs to churn out new takes on the traditional Christmas dinner year, after year, after year.

But in the end we’ve come to the rather undramatic conclusion that keeping things simple is the key. A few basic, well-cooked dishes is far better than a plate so packed full of miscellaneous items that it looks like you’re dining at one of those awful ‘all you can eat’ Chinese, Italian, Indian buffets.

This does make cooking Christmas dinner very undemanding (just think of it as a regular Sunday roast with a slightly bigger bird). But the real point here is that no one really cares whether the stuffing is in a beautiful roll and jewelled with cranberries, or if the carrots are delicately spiced with cumin. They just want a generous amount of food, a smiley/unstressed host, and a free flowing supply of wine. Save culinary excellence for another time when you can chose exactly what to cook based on who you’re cooking for.

To make our lives even easier we always prepare as much as possible beforehand so that on the day itself it’s just a case of bunging things in the oven. Christmas Eve is the day when everything happens in our house, we peel-chop-parboil all the vegetables and keep them in the fridge overnight, we make the stuffings and gravy…the kids watch far too much Christmas TV.

And on Christmas Day we always take the turkey out to rest in a double layer of foil before we start cooking the other stuff (potatoes, vegetables, stuffing etc.). That way we always have plenty of room in the oven. The meat does stay warm enough and with plenty of hot gravy over the top no one has ever complained.

This year I’m very excited because we’re finally getting the chance to cook in our very own kitchen. I’ve bought a special free range turkey from the butcher but apart from that we’re going to keep things pared down. Just potatoes roasted simply with oil and salt, some steamed cabbage from the allotment, roasted carrots, two stuffings (vegetarian sage and onion, sausage meat and chestnut), some really good gravy and…

…well despite everything I’ve said everyone has one thing that they see as an essential part of Christmas dinner and for me it has to be bread sauce. Someone asked me the other day what exactly it was and when I described it as bread soaked in milk flavoured with cloves, I realised that it sounded pretty horrible. But it isn’t. I don’t eat bread sauce at any other time of the year but for me the turkey (or should I really say Boxing Day turkey sandwiches) just wouldn’t be the same without it.  I always use the following Delia recipe and to make life easier I make it a day or two in advance and store it in a jar in the fridge. I then warm through and add the cream and butter just before serving on Christmas Day.

Delia Smith’s bread sauce

Serves 5-6 people (I usually double the recipe which makes enough for Christmas Day  (to feed 10 people) AND turkey sandwiches)

  • About 75g of two day old white bread, crusts removed and made into breadcrumbs using a food processor
  • 425ml full fat milk
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 50g butter
  • 2 tablespoons of double cream
  • Salt and pepper

Cut the onion in half and stick the cloves in it. Place the onion, bayleaf, peppercorns and milk in a saucepan and leave to infuse for a couple of hours in a warm place.

Then, over a very low heat, slowly bring the milk to the boil (about 15 minutes). Remove the onion, bayleaf and peppercorns.

Stir in the breadcrumbs and add 25g of the butter and some salt. Leave the saucepan on a very low heat stirring now and then until the crumbs have swollen and thickened the sauce. I’ve made this many times and it’s difficult to be exact about the quantity of breadcrumbs needed because this depends on the texture and make up of your bread. But if the sauce is too runny don’t worry just add a few more breadcrumbs. The consistency should be thick enough to just about fall off a spoon. Leave to cool and place in a clean jar in the fridge until ready to serve.

On Christmas Day, heat the sauce in a saucepan, add the remaining 25g of butter and double cream and taste to check the seasoning adding more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve with the turkey and a big, relaxed smile.

Elderflower pana cotta with gooseberry sauce

panacotta

Our gooseberry bushes at the allotment have done really well this year so I earmarked this recipe to try and use them up and asked my daughter Elizabeth (aged 5) to pick the fruit.

I have vivid memories of being sent into my granny’s garden at a similar age to pick gooseberries. Now, if you have ever picked them yourself you will know that they are very thorny. It’s a painful pursuit but as a child I didn’t wear gloves and despite getting prickled and scratched I don’t remember making a fuss. Perhaps it was the thought of the gooseberry fool that we would make afterwards by mixing the stewed fruit with Bird’s instant custard that kept me going.

Now Elizabeth is pretty tough but she managed to pick just five gooseberries before moaning and giving up. I let her off and picked the rest myself (albeit with gloves) wondering whether I should be a tougher parent.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will have noticed that I’m a fan of stodgy puddings but in warm weather it’s nice to have something lighter and more summery. This Hugh  Fearnley-Whittingstall dish from his ‘River Cottage everday’ book is just the ticket and it’s the best panna cotta recipe I have tried. I often find panna cotta too creamy but in Hugh’s version he adds yoghurt which gives a nice tang.

Elderflower panna cotta with gooseberry sauce

For the elderflower panna cotta

  • 100ml whole milk
  • 250ml double cream
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of elderflower cordial (homemade or shop bought)
  • 2 gelatine leaves
  • 150ml plain yoghurt

For the gooseberry sauce

  • 500g gooseberries
  • 75g caster sugar

First make the gooseberry sauce. Wash and top and tail the gooseberries, then put them in a saucepan with the sugar. Cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until they are soft. Hugh keeps his sauce lumpy which you can do if you like but I personally don’t like the texture of the pips so I whizz the mixture in a food processor then pass through a sieve so that you have a nice smooth sauce. Set aside.

For the panna cotta, first soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5-10 minutes until floppy.

While the leaves are soaking, in a saucepan combine the milk, cream, sugar and elderflower cordial and bring the liquid just to the boil (Hugh calls this scalding).

Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to the hot creamy mixture and stir until they have dissolved.

Leave the mixture to cool at room temperature, stirring from time to time.

Once cool add the yoghurt and stir until well combined.

Pour the mixture into ramekins or small jelly moulds and chill in the fridge until set (about 4 hours).

When you are ready to serve, dip each mould in warm water for a couple of seconds and then turn out onto a serving plate (as you can see from the photograph above mine were left in the water just a little too long which is why some of the outer mixture has melted into the gooseberry sauce).

Serve with a spoonful of gooseberry sauce and if you want to be poncy (like me) some wild strawberries.

NOTES:

If you don’t like gooseberries then you can serve these panna cotta with any fruit sauce. Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, plum all work brilliantly. You can also leave out the elderflower and add a few drops of real vanilla essence instead (you will need to add an additional 10g of sugar to the milk at the start though).

I made elderflower cordial for the first time this year because it’s really expensive to buy in the shops and we have an elder tree overhanging our allotment. It was super easy and here’s how I did it. Measure out 900g of caster sugar in a bowl and pour over 1.7 litres of boiling water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and leave to cool. Add about 30 elderflower heads and 50g of citric acid (which I bought in my local chemist for 99p). Leave in a cool place for 24 hours, stirring from time to time. Strain through some muslin and transfer to sterilised bottles. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. You can dilute it with tap water, sparkling water or champagne!

Good hot porridge

porridge
You may find this post both patronising and hypercritical if you read the one I wrote a while back criticising Jamie Oliver for including a fish finger sandwich in his recipe book. But I’m posting this recipe because my daughter Elizabeth loves porridge and I would like my way of cooking it to be written down so that she can make it the same way when she’s a big girl. And remember, you don’t have to fork out £20 to read this blog.

Porridge is often classed as poor food because it’s cheap. I ate it for two meals a day when I was a skint graduate desperate to live in London with an unemployed boyfriend to support and too much pride to go running to the bank of mum and dad. But even then I really didn’t mind eating so much porridge because, just like my daughter, I LOVE it.

And now that money is not a huge issue but time is, porridge has become a real luxury for me. Most weekdays breakfast is a small bowl of muesli or a slice of toast eaten standing up whilst doing several other things, but when I can find time to make porridge I’m always pleased that I did. Here’s how I do it.

Porridge

Serves 2

  • 100g whole rolled jumbo oats
  • 450ml water
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon of semi-skimmed milk
  • A little freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon

Start the process the night before (remembering this is the trickiest bit). Measure the oats into a saucepan and soak in 450ml of cold water. Cover with a lid and leave overnight. This part is essential for a lovely creamy texture even though you are just using water.

In the morning put the pan on a high heat until it just starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously so that it doesn’t stick. If you think the porridge is a little thick for your liking then you can just add a bit more water.

Spoon into bowls and pour over 1 tablespoon of milk and add a drizzle of honey and some grated nutmeg. If you’re feeling really luxurious then you can use cream instead of milk which is delicious and an occasional weekend treat.

NOTE: Providing you don’t use cream this is great diet food. It really fills you up and is only 256 calories per serving (oats 185 calories, honey 64 calories, milk 7 calories).

Porridge and Elizabeth 1

Elizabeth enjoying her morning porridge.

Kedgeree

kedgeree
In my early 20s kedgeree was my signature dish and  I thrust it upon anyone who came to dinner – friends, family, work colleagues, potential boyfriends. This sums up my ‘devil may care’ attitude in those days – it didn’t cross my mind that people may NOT like it, of course they would, after all I liked it.

These days I am a more thoughtful and conservative host and even though I think it’s delicious I would be terrified of serving kedgeree to guests. What if they hate smoked fish (many people do), what about all that dairy (I have several friends that either avoid dairy or don’t like creamy things) and then there are all those evil carbs. That said I still love it and luckily so do my children and my husband.

Whilst traditionally a breakfast or brunch dish we rarely eat kedgeree at that time. I prefer it as a special dinner treat because admittedly it’s not the healthiest dish in the world (all those lovely hard boiled eggs and cream). There are hundreds of variations of this dish but in my version the fish is kept separate and served over the top of the rice. This serves two purposes, firstly, it keeps the flavours fresh and vivid and stops the fish from getting all mushed up, secondly, it avoids arguments as everyone gets a fair portion of the best bits.

My Kedgeree

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite, for two this is a big portion)

For the rice (make up the amount below but you will only need two thirds of the cooked rice for this recipe. Save the rest for frying up another day – it’s great with an omelette on top. I’ve tried to reduce the quantities but for some reason this method of cooking the rice doesn’t work for such a small amount.)

  • ¼ litre basmati rice
  • ½ litre water
  • ½ Knorr chicken stock pot (or other stock)
  • 3 cardamom pods bruised
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon medium curry powder
  • a little oil, butter or ghee

Frying the rice

  • ½ onion
  • 10 medium closed cup mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic

For the fish

  • 300g smoked haddock
  • 100ml single cream
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • A little black pepper

To garnish

  • 2 hardboiled eggs
  • A good handful of chopped coriander
  • A squeeze of ½ a lemon

First, cook the rice. Put a small dollop of butter/ghee or a dash of oil into a small saucepan and put it on a low heat on the hob. Using a measuring jug measure out ¼ litre of rice then pour the into the saucepan, add the curry powder, turmeric and cardamom pods and give it all a good stir.

Boil the kettle and make up the stock using ½ Knorr stock pot (or other stock) and ½ litre of water.

Tip the stock into the saucepan, raise the heat and bring to the boil. Then put on a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes. Do not be tempted to open the lid during the cooking.

After 15 minutes fluff up the rice with a fork and leave aside to cool with the lid off (if you leave the lid on the rice will continue to cook and will go stodgy).

For the fish, first skin the fish with a sharp knife and remove any bones. Place in a small saucepan (you may need to cut the fish up if it doesn’t fit easily) and tip in the cream. Sprinkle over the turmeric and bring the cream to the boil. Put on a lid, turn the heat down and cook for about 5 minutes until the fish is just cooked through. With a fork break the fish into large flakes while still in the pan and spoon the creamy sauce over the fish until it is well covered. Replace the lid to keep warm while you fry the rice.

Fry the onions, garlic and mushrooms in a frying pan over a medium heat until the water has come out of the mushrooms and boiled dry. Tip in two thirds of your cooked rice and fry until the rice is heated through. Don’t move it about the pan too often or it will become stodgy. It adds to the flavour if some bits catch slightly and go golden brown. Season well with salt and pepper to your personal taste and then add half the chopped coriander and stir.

To serve put a nice big pile of rice in a bowl, spoon over the fish and cream and garnish with the hard boiled eggs cut into quarters. Sprinkle over the rest of the coriander and squeeze some lemon juice over the top of each bowl.

Note: These days smoked haddock is quite expensive, so for a more economical dish you can use a small piece of hot smoked salmon or even smoked mackerel. Cook the rice in the same way but instead of cooking the fish in cream just flake it up and add it to the rice at the end and stir.

Sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and ice cream

sticky toffee pudding

I once walked along the line of Hadrian’s Wall from Newcastle (on the west coast) to Bowness-on-Solway (on the east coast) over a period of 8 days. Every evening we ate at the local pub and almost every evening I’d finish my meal off with a sticky toffee pudding. I just couldn’t get enough of it and it felt totally guilty free – surely I deserved it after all that walking! For years I only ever ate sticky toffee pudding as a special treat when eating out but then I came across this recipe, attempted to make it myself, and that was when I discovered the secret.

You see I know why sticky toffee pudding is nearly always on the dessert menu in pubs and restaurants. Firstly, it’s not particularly difficult to make, secondly, it keeps for up to a week in a tin, thirdly, it can be frozen, and fourthly, and most importantly, it tastes pretty much the same reheated in the microwave as it does fresh from the oven. Don’t be put off by the fact that there are two separate elements (sponge and sauce) and some whizzing of dates in a food processor – it’s really not that complicated (although there is a little more washing up than an all in one sponge cake).

This recipe is adapted from the one in James Martin’s book ‘Desserts’ – nauseatingly subtitled ‘a fabulous collection of recipes from Sweet Baby James’ (seriously, who came up with that TV series title?). He in turn attributes the recipe to the owners of the Sharrow Bay Hotel on the banks of Lake Ullswater in the Lake District who he believes invented the dish. Apparently there is some dispute over this, but regardless of who thought it up, in my view it’s one of the best puddings there is.

I’ve also included a recipe for classic vanilla ice cream which makes a perfect accompaniment. It also tastes wonderful with just the toffee sauce if you have no room left for stodge and the end of a meal.

Sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce

Serves at least 9 cut into squares but I would recommend slicing into 18 small rectangles as it is really rich (especially with toffee sauce and ice cream)

For the sticky toffee pudding

  • 55g soft butter, plus 15g for greasing
  • 175g demerara sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 ½ tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 ½ tablespoons black treacle
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 200g pitted dates
  • 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda

For the toffee sauce

  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 200ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 190oC fan.

Grease a 20cm squared tin (or one with the same area) with 15g of butter, then dust the inside of the tin with flour.

Mix the sugar and butter together with an electric hand whisk or by hand with a wooden spoon. Then add the golden syrup, black treacle, eggs and vanilla extract and mix again for a minute or so until well combined. Add the flour and fold into the mixture carefully with a metal spoon.

Put the dates in a saucepan with 300ml of cold water and bring to the boil. Transfer to a blender and whizz up for a minute until smooth. Add the tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda and whizz again for a second. The mixture will foam up quite excitingly.

While it is still hot tip the date mix into the other ingredients and fold with the metal spoon until well combined.

Transfer to your prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack, before cutting into portion sized squares or rectangles. I like to trim the edges if I’m trying to be fancy but these are perfectly good to eat as leftovers. If you are making this pudding in advance then wrap in foil when it is completely cool and store in a cake tin or Tupperware.

For the toffee sauce put the sugar and butter into a saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cream and bring to boiling point. Stir continuously for about 5 minutes until the sauce has turned golden and has started to thicken.

When you are ready to serve you just need to reheat the sauce in the pan on the hob or in a jug in the microwave for a minute or two. The sponge can be reheated as a whole in the oven covered with foil for about 5 minutes at 180oC fan or in individual portions in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

You can also freeze individual portions of toffee and sauce.

The prepared tin.

The prepared tin.

Little Mix.

Little Mix.

The frothy date mixture.

The frothy date mixture.

When the toffee sauce has turned this colour remove it from the heat.

When the toffee sauce has turned this colour remove it from the heat.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Makes 1 1/2 pints

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar together.

Heat the milk in a saucepan slowly until it is almost boiling and then stir this into the egg and sugar mixture.

Tip the whole lot back into the pan and place on a medium heat stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Whatever you do don’t let it boil or it will curdle and ruin.

Cover the mixture and leave it to cool first to room temperature and then in the fridge. Stir in the cream and the vanilla extract and churn in an ice cream maker until thick. Place in a plastic container and transfer to the freezer to finish hardening.

NOTE: I have a Magimix Le Glacier ice cream maker – the cheaper sort where you have to freeze the bowl overnight before using. If you don’t have an ice cream maker then you can still follow this recipe but you will need to whip the double cream first before adding it to the milk/egg/sugar mixture. Fold the cream into the custard and then freeze, beating every couple of hours with a fork or in a food processor until it is firm enough to scoop (usually about 6 hours).