These are really easy to make finger food, and add some nice festive colour too. Classic combination of mozzarella, tomato and basil in one easy mouthful. Choose the largest basil leaves you can find and use plum cherry tomatoes if possible. I’d normally drizzle this sort of food with olive oil and / or balsamic vinegar, but this would make them rather messy to eat, and I hate finger food that’s tricky or messy to eat in public. Make do with a liberal twist of sea salt and black pepper or leave plain.

Ingredients
1 ball of mozzarella
6 cherry tomatoes, halved lengthways
12 large basil leaves
12 small skewers

Method
Tear the mozzarella into 12 small chunks. Take a basil leaf, tuck a chunk of mozzarella at one end, tuck a piece of tomato (cut side against the cheese) at the other. Hold between your thumb and ring or middle finger (depending how big your hands are) and carefully push the skewer through, being careful to catch the basil at both ends but not to tear it).

Enjoy!

20111205-115546.jpg

I made this for the first time earlier this week for dinner with friends. Wow – it was good! Easy to do (well, lining the tin is a bit fiddly, but the actual cooking isn’t), though it has to be made well in advance – start it two days before needed. If we weren’t having pork for Christmas, this would definitely be on the menu, especially as it keeps well too. I found the recipe on the BBC Good Food website here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4897/pork-apricot-and-pistachio-terrine.

Ingredients
400g pork fillet
2 cloves of garlic
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp whisky
12 good quality sausages
250g unsalted pistachios in shells / 100g unsalted pistachios
8 ready to eat dried apricots
1 1/2 packs smoked, rindless streaky bacon
Salt and pepper
Butter for greasing

Method
Dice the pork fillet, removing any fat or sinewy bits. Crush the garlic and put in a large bowl with the pork, thyme and whisky. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight to marinade. The next day, slit open the sausages (I use scissors to do this) and put the meat into the bowl with the other pork. Shell and add the pistachios, season well and mix thoroughly. Prepare a 1 lb loaf tin by lightly buttering it, placing the remaining sprigs of thyme along the bottom and lining it with streaky bacon. Take your time on this bit, ensuring that the rashers overlap and there are no gaps. The ends are tricky – use more rashers and press well to get it to stick. Spoon half of the meat into the tin and press down well. Arrange the apricots in a line down the middle, then add the rest of meat. Press down well then cover the top with more rashers of bacon lengthways and then tuck the ends of the rashers lining the tin over the top. Ensure that there are no gaps. Cover with a piece of buttered foil (butter side down!) and place the tin in a large roasting tin then half fill with boiling water. Cook in the middle of the oven for about an hour at 180 degrees.

Allow to cool then place in the fridge with a piece of cardboard and some tins on the top to press it down. Leave overnight. To remove from the tin, dip it briefly in boiling water (not too long as I did, or the butter and jelly all melts and seeps out!) then turn onto a serving board. Slice as required – these quantities make a terrine that will easily serve 12 or more. Serve with cornichons, chutney and crusty bread.

Enjoy!

20111204-195214.jpg

Yum, yum, yum! This Ocado recipe surely counts as one of my five a day, though the dentist wouldn’t be too pleased with how the sauce sticks to the teeth. I think this would be improved by more and thicker sponge – perhaps double mix plus some extra flour. I will just have to make it again and try…

Ingredients
4 large pears, peeled and sliced
125g flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g caster sugar
1 egg
200ml milk
75g butter
4 tbsp golden syrup
150g dark sugar

Method
Arrange the pears over the bottom of a buttered 1.5l baking dish. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, then beat in the caster sugar, butter, milk and egg until smooth and pale. Pour over the pears. Melt the syrup and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stirring until the sugar melts. Bring to the boil without stirring then take off the eat and carefully pour over the cake mix. It will sink into the mixture – don’t worry! Bake in the centre of the oven at 180 degrees for 35-40 minutes until the pudding is golden brown. Allow to stand for five minutes then serve with ice cream or double cream.

Enjoy!

20111126-205528.jpg

For the first time I can remember we had birthday cake left over and going stale this year. So I used it up in the bottom of a trifle. I would normally make trifle with a splash of sherry and a tin of fruit cocktail in the bottom, but my son declared he didn’t want either. To make up for this, I used orange juice to soak the sponge and in the jelly, which made it taste lighter and fruitier than usual. The cream refused to stiffen, so we had it poured over instead – but still with hundreds and thousands, of course. Delicious. This is a really easy dessert to make, it just takes time to set. Make it the day before needed, but add the decorations at the very last minute before serving.

Ingredients

Enough sponge (Victoria, Madeira, or trifle sponge fingers) to cover the bottom of the serving bowl, cut up into slices and with any jam or icing scraped off
Juice of two oranges
1 packet jelly (preferably strawberry)
1 pint custard (made from scratch or instant; not tinned, it’s too thin)
500ml double cream
Hundreds and thousands

Method

Cover the bottom of the serving bowl with the sponge and pour over half the orange juice so that it is soaked up by the sponge. Make up the jelly, using the rest of the juice in place of the cold water. Carefully pour over the sponge – you might need to hold the sponge down with the back of a fork to stop it floating around. Allow to cool then pop in the fridge to set. Make the custard and allow to cool until lukewarm – stir from time to time to stop it setting. Pour over the jelly and pop back in the fridge. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and spoon over the top of the custard. Serve decorated with hundreds and thousands.

Enjoy!

20111120-142633.jpg

Everyone knows how to make scrambled eggs, right? Wrong! I have given up on getting decent eggs in any caff or restaurant. I think it’s because they have to be served immediately that they don’t lend themselves to eating out. And don’t get me started on the stuff that lurks on under dreaded breakfast buffet covers… I’m making this about three times a week at the moment, as it’s my daughter’s favourite lunch, and I can’t complain given that a) I love them too; no-one else in my house likes them, so I rarely bother just for one (it’s the washing up more than the making); and it’s a cheap and nutritious and very very quick meal. Has to be served with hot buttered toast – but if it’s a toss up between having piping hot toast or piping hot eggs (eg if you’re cooking on your own), choose the eggs every time. Add bacon, sausages and black pudding for a proper breakfast.

Ingredients
Eggs – allow about 1.5 eggs per person
Dash of milk
Knob of butter
Salt and pepper

Method

Break the eggs into a small bowl, add a good grating of pepper and a dash of milk and beat briskly with a fork until smooth and slightly bubbly around the edges. Heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. When the butter is melted whisk the eggs again (this is the trick to really light and fluffy eggs) then pour into the pan. Now stir, stir, stir and don’t stop stirring for anything. Pay particular attention to the edges, but keep all the mixture moving around the pan until it thickens. When it is nearly as cooked as you like it…STOP! Take the pan off the heat immediately and serve – the eggs will carry on cooking for a bit longer and thicken further. Season to taste.

Enjoy!

20111119-170230.jpg

A brilliant supper. Easy, nutritious, can be made in advance, and my daughter can feed it to herself. What’s not to like? The grated courgette is a good way to sneak some extra veg into the meal and also makes the meat go further. I like to serve this with peas on the side, for some contrast and some colour on the plate, but they could be added into the mix too. In fact, the recipe can be varied to accommodate whatever is in the fridge (eg no onions, as we have run out; splash of passata as we had some to use up; Parmesan instead of cheddar, to give a crisper topping). A perfect end of the week meal.

Ingredients

500g lean beef mince
1 stock cube
1 dssp Worcester sauce
Salt & pepper
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 courgette, coarsely grated
75g passata
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks
Butter and milk
50g cheddar, grated

Method

Brown the meat in a large pan on a low heat. Crumble in the stock cube and add the Worcester sauce. Add a splash of water and / or olive oil if it starts to stick. Season well. Stir in the carrots then the courgette and leave to cook for about five minutes. Stir in the passata and taste – adjust seasoning as required. When the carrots are starting to soften, turn off the heat and spoon into an oven proof dish. Allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, boil the sweet potatoes and potatoes in a large pan until really soft. Take off the heat, add a splash of milk and a knob of butter and seasoning to taste, then mash until smooth and mixed together. Spoon over the meat and use the back of a fork to spread the mash so that it completely covers it. Go right to the edges to prevent the meat bubbling up and out during cooking. Make ridges across the top with the fork then sprinkle over the grated cheese. Cook at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the top is brown andbthe meat piping hot. Serve immediately on its own or with additional veg.

Enjoy!

20111118-212246.jpg

The classic no cook cake – rich, chocolatey and really easy to make. I like to use a mixture of milk and dark chocolate for the top to give it a hit of cocoa but without being too bitter. This recipe is definitely only for those with a sweet tooth. The photo below doesn’t do it justice. Yum!

Ingredients
125g butter
4 tbsp golden syrup
200g digestives, broken into chunks (not crumbs)
100g raisins
3 tbsp cocoa powder
200g milk chocolate
50g dark chocolate

Method
Melt the butter and syrup in a heavy bottomed pan on a low heat. Take off the heat and stir in the cocoa, the raisins, then the biscuits. Press into a square tin. Melt the chocolate and spread over the top. Put in the fridge until just set, then cut into 16 squares and return to the fridge to chill completely.

Enjoy!

20111117-220247.jpg