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Recipes

Christmas Pudding

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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Sunday just past was Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent when traditionally Christmas puddings and cakes would be made. This was because Advent used to be a fasting period much like Lent and Sitr Up Sunday, much like Shrove Tuesday, would be when you used up all the rich food in the house. Only unlike on Shrove Tuesday when you eat loads of pancakes, on Stir Up Sunday you were making food for the Christmas feast in 4 weeks time.

But don't worry, even if you missed making your puddings on Sunday, you still have time to make them before Christmas. The beauty of puddings is that they can be made anytime. Some years myself and my mum have made them as early as the October bank holiday weekend and as late as the 2nd weekend in December.

This recipe for Christmas puddings comes from my Irish grandmother and in my totally biased opinion, it is the best Christmas pudding recipe you'll ever have. The best thing about this recipe is that it makes about 3 - 4 puddings (depending on the size of your basins) which means you only have to make them every second year!

Two notes on the ingredients for this recipe:

I have specified the amounts of raisins, sultanas cherries and peel but then it's up to you for the remaining 400g of fruit. In the original recipe my grandmother stipulated 225g of currants and 225g of muscatels (if you can get them). Interestingly she never used currants as she disliked them so substituted in extra raisins, sultanas and cherries. This year we used a mixed bag of sultanas, cranberries and raisins to make up the difference. The main thing is that you end up with 1100g of fruit (including the peel and cherries) whatever combination you want to make of that is up to you.

I have also specified pale ale, but anything in the ale family works great in this pudding.

Ingredients
Apple
1
Lemon (zest only)
1
Raisins
225g
Sultanas
225g
Mixed Dried Fruit
400g
Glacé Cherries (Mixed colours)
100g
Mixed Peel
55g
Bread Crumbs
225g
Ground Almonds
55g
Brown Sugar
225g
Chopped Nuts (Mixed or your favourite kind)
55g
Flour
225g
Nutmeg
½ tsp
Cinnamon
½ tsp
Mixed Spice
½ tsp
Ground Ginger
½ tsp
Eggs
3
Butter
225g
Pale Ale
230 ml
Whiskey (plus extra for feeding)
200ml
Other Requirements

Grater, sharp knife, large mixing bowl, wooden spoon, 4 pudding basins and a saucepan

This is one of the hardest recipes I've done for the blog, as so much of the recipe is by feel rather than measurements, so please let me know if you have any trouble with it.

Some people soak their fruit before making the pudding, we let our pudding recipe stand over night instead and let the fruit plump up that way instead. Then we add a little more whiskey, if necessary, before the steaming.

Anyway, to the task at hand - making Christmas Pudding!

First peel, core and grate the apple and leave to one side.

Zest the lemon and leave to one side too.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and put to one side also. Doing these little jobs at the start makes putting together the pudding a breeze.

Meaure the sultanas, raisins and other mixed fruit into your largest mixing bowl.

Add the peel, chop up the glacé cherries into quarters with a scissors and pop in the bowl. I like using a mix of red a yellow cherries for a mix in colours.

Mix the fruit around with a wooden spoon, add the breadcrumbs and mix again.

Add the flour and stir in.

Add the sugar and mix in.

Next add the chopped nuts and ground almonds. Stir in well.

Finally add the last of the dry ingredients: the lemon zest and the grated apple. Mix it all up once again. (Starting to become clear why it's called Stir Up Sunday.)

Now for the wet ingredients. First measure out the butter and melt it in a pot or the microwave. Pour into the rest of the mixture and stir in.

Meaure out the beer and mix in. Drink any left over, you wouldn't want to see it go to waste.

Measure in the nutmeg and cinnamon.

Followed by the ginger and mixed spice.

Add the beaten eggs and mix through.

Finally, add about 100 mls of whiskey (though more is totally allowed) and stir through.

Now for the most important step, get everyone in the household to stir the pudding and make a wish. This is being ably demonstrated here by one of the Beau's children.

It used to be that this would be point where you would add the charms to the pudding. Much like with a barm brack these items would indicate your fate for the coming year. The most common thing to add to the pudding would be a silver sixspence (to symbolise wealth), but you could also find a wishbone (good luck) a silver thimble (thrift) or a tiny anchor (safe harbour).

We then leave the mixture to stand overnight. This lets the fruit plump up with the liquid and become moist and rich. It is best to throw a teatowel over the bowl to prevent incursions from local wildlife.

The next day, add the second 100 mls of whiskey and stir in. The mixture will be much thicker than the previous day.

Divide the mixture between your pudding bowls and steam/boil each one for 3½ hours. It is important to place the bowl on a trivet in the saucepan if you are boiling it and be very careful not to let it boil dry. The water should come up half way up the pudding bowl and you can top it up with boiling water along the way.

Alternatively you can steam the pudding using a steaming pot, which is what we do. The pudding bowl sits in the steaming basket inside a larger pot with the boiling water underneath. Both methods need the same amount of time.

Once the pudding has cooked through, remove it from the pot and allow it to cool. It will now keep in the back of a cupboard for several years. You can keep it longer by adding a little whiskey or other alcohol at regular intervals through the year.

When you want to serve the pudding, boil or steam it again for 1 - 1½ hours. Remove it from the pudding bowl onto a plate. For a dramatic presentation, pour warmed whiskey (or brandy, or sherry) on to the pudding and set alight. Serve with cream, custurd or the incredibly indulgent brandy butter.

Guld Ærter med Flæsk (Yellow Pea Soup with Pork)

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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I have returned from my hiatus after a year of settling into our new house. It is amazing the amount of time that houses take up. However I am now ready to resume my blogging life and share more recipes. I also have a new fancy camera, which I am still getting used to, so apologies for the different size of pictures in the post, I'm still working out what all the buttons do.

To start us off I am sharing the soup recipe that I made for people to try at my talk on Danish cooking at the Savour Kilkenny Food Camp. It seemed to go down pretty well with my audience.

This is famous dish in Denmark and is typical of their style of peasant food. My dad used to make this quite a bit when we were younger but I only made it myself for the first time recently. It is a delicious, cheap meal that is easily frozen and reheated for lunches.

The Danes traditionally serve the meat on the side of the dish on a communal platter, which I like to do when I cook it the first night. I then like to chop up any remaining meat and mix it into the leftover soup for another day. A quick note on the sausages; I used big barbeque sausages from my butcher that were about 6 inches long with an inch diametre. Try and use the biggest sausages you can find as they make for a better finished product to slice. It would also be worth experimenting with different types of sausage in the soup, I think a Bratwurst would work quite well.

This soup is thick, rich and nourishing - what more could you want for a winter's evening?

Ingredients
Yellow Split Peas
250g
Water (split)
3l
Carrots
2 - 3
Celery Sticks (including leaves)
2
Parsnip
1
Leeks
2
Pearl Onions
250g
Parsely
sprig
Thyme
sprig
Ham
500 - 750g
Sausages (large)
250g
Salt & Pepper
to season
Other Requirements

Sieve, 2 large saucepans, sharp knife, chopping board and a square of muslin

Unfortunately this soup has to be started the night before, so you need to be a little bit organised, but after that it is plain sailing.

Measure out the yellow split peas into a sieve and rinse them under water. Place them into a medium to large sized saucepan.

Add 1 litre of the water to the pot, cover and leave the peas to soak overnight.

The next day, prepare the vegetables. Roughly chop the carrots and parsnip.

Roughly chop the celery retaining the leaves to one side for later. Chop up the leeks the same way and again retain the green tops (washed clean) to use later.

Finally, peel the pearl onions.

Now take the leek greens, the celery, the parsley and thyme and put them into a muslin square or bag. This makes a suppevisk, the Danish equivalent of a bouquet garni. You can also just bind the herbs and greens together with food safe twine but I find the muslin easier for fishing out of the pot later in the cooking process.

Put the ham into a large saucepan and add the rest of the vegetables and the suppevisk.

Just cover the meat in water - this took 2 litres in my giant pot, but may take less in yours. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 2 hours.

Next bring the split peas to a simmer in the water they were soaking in. Skim any scum that appears off the top.

Continue to simmer the peas for an 1 - 1½ hours until all the water has been absorbed and the peas resemble a thick porridge.

Fifteen minutes before the end of the meat cooking, add the sausages to the main pot and cook for 10 - 15 minutes.

Once all the meat is finished cooking remove the suppevisk, sausages and ham from the pot. Dispose of the suppevisk. Keep the meat warm by wrapping in tinfoil or putting in a warm oven.

Add the peas to the vegetables and cooking liquid and bring to the boil for 10 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, slice the sausage and ham and arrange on a platter or side plates, ladle the soup into bowls and enjoy with a good craft beer. Traditionally this dish is served with Danish snaps, a near lethal spirits made from potatoes but beer makes a much nicer accompaniment.

Chocolate Orange Cake

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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I had hoped to get this posted earlier today so that you could all make this delicious cake for your mothers, but the internet has been conspiring against me here in Denmark and I am only getting a chance to post it now.

But with the bank holiday tomorrow, maybe some of you will make this for your mums as an extra treat for Mothers' Day.

This cake recipe comes from Asda's monthly magazine. A work colleague happened to have a copy of the January issue, which contained this cake and a lot of other delicious orange recipes. Of course I quickly copied out the ones that most appealed to me, including this cake.

The really interesting thing about this cake, apart from being gluten free, is that the sugar is added to the egg whites before they are folded into the main mixture. I have made many no-flour cakes before, but I have never seen this method used. However, I can tell you that the result of this technique is a very light and fluffy cake. Though I would be very interested if someone can explain the science behind this.

Ingredients
Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa solids)
150g
Butter
100g
Eggs
6
Ground Almonds
150g
Oranges (zest and juice)
2
Orange Juice (from oranges)
2 tbsp
Caster Sugar
100g
Cocoa Powder
to decorate
Icing Sugar
to decorate
Other Requirements

Deep 23cm cake tin (Spring-form is best), glass bowl, saucepan, 2 mixing bowls, fine grater or zester, spatula, and whisk

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Grease your cake tin thoroughly. If you think it needs it, line the base of the tin with parchment paper, though I didn't bother, I just went heavy on the greasing! A word of advice, don't use a silicone tin for this cake. I did the first time I made it and the cake broke when I turned it out. Stick to metal tin!

Break the chocolate into a glass or otherwise heatproof bowl and add the butter.

Make a bain maire by placing the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure that the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Keep the heat low so that the chocolate melts nice and slowly.

While the chocolate is melting, separate the eggs into the 2 mixing bowls. Add the ground almonds to the yolks. You can watch a video of me separating eggs here.

Zest the two oranges and add to the yolk and almond mixture.

Juice the oranges and add 2 tablespoons of the juice to the mixture. Stir everything up together into a paste.

By this stage the chocolate should be melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute before adding it to the orange mixture.

Mix the chocolate in as thoroughly as possible. Leave the mixture to one side while you work on the egg whites.

Measure out the sugar into a bowl and whisk up the egg whites to soft peaks.

When the egg whites reach perfect peakiness, add the sugar a little at a time, whisking between each addition until it has all been added and you achieve a meringue-like consistency.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture a spoonful at a time. Use a gentle figure-of-eight movement to best combine the mixtures. While mixing, try not to tap the edge of the bowl with your spoon or spatula as it will cause some of the air to come out of the mix and you want to keep as much air as possible in it to help it rise.

Pour the combined mixture into the greased cake tin, smooth the top and put into the hot oven to bake for 35 - 40 mins, until a skewer comes out of the mixture clean.

When the cake is cooked, leave it to cool in the tin for 10 mins. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Decorate the cake with either sieved cocoa powder or icing sugar or both.

Tricolour Marmalade

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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Happy St. Patrick's Day! This year I am hiding out from the Irish extravaganza in Denmark, visiting relatives, but I still have a (somewhat) patriotic recipe up my sleeve.

We've just come to the end of the Seville orange season and therefore the end of marmalade season. Last year for my first ever attempt to make marmalade and I found this article by Felicity Cloake to be incredibly useful. In fact, it was so useful that it forms the basis of my own Tricolour Marmalade recipe, a three fruit marmalade that contains all the colours of the Irish flag (see the tenuous Paddy's Day link yet?)

In this recipe I've just put in the total weight for the citrus fruit needed. I made up my kilo of fruit with 3 Seville oranges, 3 limes and 4 lemons but you can try a different combination. You also need to add an additional lemon, which I listed separately to the rest of the fruit.

You can also try making a plain Seville marmalade or a three fruit marmalade made with grapefruit or even a ginger and orange marmalade. The choice is endless!

Ingredients
Citrus Fruit (Seville oranges, limes, lemons)
1 kg
Lemon
1
Water
2.5 l
Sugar
1 kg
Muscavado Sugar (Light)
1kg
Other Requirements

A large pot, sieve, a large square of muslin or muslin bag knife, elastic band, saucers or small plates, lots of jam jars and lids.

First assemble all your fruit (including the additional lemon) and cut it in half. Squeeze the fruit into your large pot, making sure that you have a sieve in place to catch the pith and pips.

Pull off the rest of the pith using your fingers and a knife, so that you're left with peel that has very little flesh left on it.

Put all the pith and the pips collected in the sieve into your muslin bag or into the centre of your square of muslin and seal up with an elastic band.

Add the water to the large pot and put in the bag of pith and pips. Leave to one side while you prepare the peel.

Using a sharp knife shred the peel of the fruit into the size of pieces that you prefer. Personally, I like a mixture of fine and thick peel.

Add the peel to the pot and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 2 hours until the peel gets soft.

After the 2 hours, remove the muslin bag from the pot and allow to cool in a bowl. It will take a minimum of 30 mins for the bag to cool enough for you to handle, unless you have heatproof gloves or asbestos hands. At this point you can leave the marmalade to stand overnight.

While you're waiting for the bag to cool, prepare the jam jars as in my Apple Butter recipe.

Once the bag is cool enough to handle, squeeze it so that lots of goop comes out. You want to squeeze out as much of this as possible into your marmalade mixture. Do be careful during the squeezing that none of the rough contents of the bag escape.

Once you squeezed lots of goop into the pot, bring the marmalade mixture back to the boil and add the sugar.

Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and bring to the boil. Do be careful during this part, as boiling sugar is dangerous. If you have a sugar thermometer, now is the time to use it.

While the marmalade is coming to the boil but a set of saucers into the fridge, so they get nice and cold. This is to help tell when the marmalade is ready.

When the marmalade reaches 104°C, or, if you don't have a thermometer, after the mixture has vigorously boiled for 15 mins, take a spoonful of the mixture and put it on to one of the cold plates and put it back in the fridge for 5 mins. If the marmalade is ready, the marmalade will wrinkle when you push your finger through it. After the initial boil, try the marmalade every 5 mins until you get the wrinkle.

Once the marmalade is ready, let it stand for 15 mins before ladling it into the warm jam jars you have in the oven.

Clean the jars and seal them. Leave the jars to cool and you can label them. Check out Jamlabelizer for cool labels.

You can eat the marmalade the next day, but it tastes much better if you leave it for a couple of weeks.

A Return and a Romantic Recipe

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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I have finally returned from my hiatus due to our house move. I never knew that moving into a new house took up so much time! We are now finally all settled in, though there is still a little sorting to be done in certain corners of the house. Once the kitchen is tidy, I will take some pictures to show it and my muddy garden off.

In the meantime, since today is Valentine's Day, I have a simple steak recipe with a twist for anyone planning to cook for their lover this evening. It is taken from Allegra McEvedy's book Bought, Borrowed & Stolen, which I got as a Christmas present from my friend Shelly, and is one of my new favourite cook books. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as the Beau and I did.

Ingredients
Rib Eye Steaks
2
Miso Paste
2 tbsp
Water (just off the boil)
60 ml
Sake
75 ml
Onion (white)
1
Sunflower Oil
2 tbsp
Salt
to season
Other Requirements

Sharp knife, mandolin or food processor with slicing attachment, measuring jugs, measuring spoons, frying pan, large lid to cover frying pan, spatula and timer

The best thing to do with this recipe is to have your entire prep ready before hand so that you can grab things as you need them. You will also need to have a timer nearby for cooking the steak. Just a note that I used striploin steaks in the pictures below as that is all I could get the other day, however, this recipe is much nicer with really good rib eye steaks.

First take out your steaks to let them get to room temperature and sprinkle with a little salt on each side.

Now prepare your liquids. Put the miso paste into a jug and cover with hot water (you can use cold, but it dissolves better with the hot). Stir until all the paste has been incorporated.

Measure out the sake into another jug. If you can't get sake, I've found that both dry sherry or Chinese rice wine make acceptable substitutes. I had to use the rice wine when I made it last as I could not find sake anywhere local.

The final piece of preparation is to slice your onion. You could do this earlier, but as I'm quite sensitive to onions (even taking the skin off sets my eyes to watering) I leave it till last.

First peel the onion. You then need to slice the onions very finely, so it is best to use a mandolin or the slicing option on a food processor as I did.

Now for the actual cooking. Heat the frying pan over a high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cover with a lid for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid and let the onions cook uncover for another minute. Put the cooked onions into a bowl and leave to one side.

Wipe the pan clean with a sheet of kitchen roll and heat up again. Once the pan is blisteringly hot, add the steaks and cook on each side for 1 minute.

Add the sake, followed by the miso and let the steaks cook for another 1 minute on each side.

Remove the steaks from the pan and leave on a board to rest while you finish the sauce. The sauce should be quite thick, but if it has gotten a little too thick or has almost evaporated entirely, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time until you reach a consistency that you're happy with. Turn off the heat under the sauce.

Once the sauce is finished, cut up the steaks and move to warm serving plates. Scrape the juices from the steak into the sauce and stir in.

Drizzle the sauce over the top of the steaks and place the onions on top.

Serve immediately with a green salad on the side. Or my home made chips would also make a great side dish.

Harvest Loaf

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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Before we get started into this recipe that I've been promising to write up for about a year, you might also enjoy reading a much easier bread recipe that I did as a guest post for the ever-glamorous French for Cupcake blog. The lovely Claire asked me to do a recipe for her website while she went off on her adventures, so I put together my very simple soda bread recipe for her. Let me know if you enjoy it.

This loaf is one that you might see some version of in churches across the country at this time year. A harvest loaf makes a striking centrepiece for a autumn display at an harvest festival or a harvest dinner in your home.

The recipe for this bread is very straightforward; the difficult bit is putting the whole loaf together. However it is worth the effort, if only for all the compliments you will get on your amazing loaf!

Ingredients
Strong Flour
1350g
Dried Yeast (two packets worth)
15g
Salt
1 tbsp
Sugar
1 tsp
Sunflower Oil
2 tbsp
Water (lukewarm)
900ml
Egg (beaten)
1
Other Requirements

Large mixing bowl (you'll probably need the biggest you own), pastry brush, kitchen scissors, large baking tray or sheet, and wire rack

I'm going to work through the making of the bread first and then actual shaping, just as it was taught to me by Sylvia, a member of our local church. I advise that you read all the way through the recipe and method before you get going so that you can spot any potential pitfalls before you start. If you have any queries or find anything unclear please let me know, by commenting or sending me an email.

Measure out the flour and yeast into your roomiest bowl.

Add salt and sugar and mix together.

Put 600ml of cold water into a measuring jug. Add the oil and top up 900ml with boiling water.

Stir the water and oil together briefly and pour into bowl with the dry ingredients.

Time to get your hands dirty. Stick your hands in the bowl and carefully mix the liquid and dry ingredients together until you have a rough dough. Make sure you've removed any rings and that your hands are clean before getting stuck in.

Sprinkle a lot of flour on your worktop and tip out the rough dough on to it. Knead for 10 mins (about 3 songs on the radio), until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. You can be really rough with your dough, take out all your anger and stress on it. The more you pound it, the better the finished dough will be. You can watch how to knead the dough in the video below.

Clean the bowl that you made the dough in, unless you have a second giant bowl, and pour in a drop of sunflower or vegetable oil. Rub this around the bowl until it's thoroughly oiled.

Put the kneaded dough into the oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Put in a warm spot, like my mum's hot press (airing cupboard), and leave the dough to rise until it has doubled in size and springs back when prodded. This should take about an hour.

That's the dough made, now we're onto shaping the loaf itself, this is easier than you would think, though there is a little bit of counting involved.

While the dough is rising, prepare the baking tray that you're going to use for the loaf. You will probably need to use one of your shelves from the oven and the size of the finished loaf is very big. Cover the tray with tin foil, tucking it in around the sides. Add a drop of oil and rub it over the top of tin foil to grease it.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Retrieve the, by now gigantic, bowl of dough from your warm place and knead it again for 2 mins until it becomes smooth and firm. Keep the dough you're not working with at any one time, in the bowl and covered with the cling film.

Cut off 450g of the dough and roll it out into a 20cm round. Place it on the baking tray at one end. Do use a weighing scales for this, as there is a lot of dough to measure off as we go along and you don't want to guess wrong and run out of dough.

Cut off another 450g of the dough and roll out into an oblong that is 18 x 10cm. Put this onto the tray, slightly overlapping the first bit of rolled out dough.

Now we are into the slightly complicated bit, cut off a third of the remaining dough and divide it into quarters. Put one quarter to the side and divide the other three quarters into 8, so that you have 24 pieces.

These 24 pieces are going to become the stalks of the sheaf. Take each piece and roll it out until you have a stalk approximately 20cm long.

Brush the oblong part of the base with water to stick down each stalk. These should cover the whole of the oblong part of the base and run over the bottom edge. Lay out all the stalks until the whole base is covered. It doesn't matter if some overlap as this adds to the illusion of a real sheaf of wheat.

Split the remaining quarter of dough from above into three equal pieces, and again, roll into strips 20cm long.

Connect the three strips at the top and weave them into a plait. This should be wrapped in cling film and left to one side for the moment.

Take the remaining dough, divide it into quarters, then divide the quarters in three, and finally divide the thirds into four. This should leave you with 48 pieces of dough.

Roll each piece of dough into a ball and flatten, so that it forms an oval about 4cm long. Then, with the scissors, snip two diagonal cuts on each side so that the dough looks like an ear of wheat.

Brush a little water on the top of the base and starting from the top stick down each ear of wheat. As you work down the loaf the new layer of ears should overlap the bottom of the layer above. Repeat until the whole top part of the loaf is covered.

If you are feeling particularly traditional you can retain one of the 48 pieces of dough and use it to make a mouse to sit on the stalks at the end. If you do make a mouse, whole cloves make great eyes and flaked almonds make good ears. I've not made one in this version as my mouse always ends up looking a bit deformed.

Once you have placed all the stalks and ears on the loaf it's time to unwrap the plait, brush some water across the divide between the two and place the plait on, tucking the ends around the sides.

Beat the egg in a bowl and brush over the whole loaf, making sure to get into all the crevices.

Put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 160°C and bake for 40 - 45 mins until golden brown. If it starts to get too brown, cover it with tin foil.

When the loaf comes out of the oven, turn it over and knock the bottom, if it sounds hollow then the bread is done. Leave the loaf to cool.

Once cool your loaf is ready to eat or be part of a fantastic harvest display, while you sit back enjoy the compliments (or bread)!

Chicken Tarragon Soup

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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With the changing of the seasons, my thoughts have started to turn to soups. I think this soup perfectly suits this time of year, it is warming but still light, and contains one of my favourite flavour pairings - chicken and tarragon.

The best thing about this recipe is that it takes no time at all to put together, and as with many soups, it is even more delicious the next day.

Ingredients
Onion (medium sized)
1
Carrot
1
Oil or Butter
for frying
Chicken Stock
2.5l
Chicken (skinned and boned)
6 thighs
Tarragon
20g
Milk (optional)
splash
Salt & Pepper
to taste
Other Requirements

Chopping board, sharp knife, large pot, frying pan, spatula and blender.

First prepare your vegetables for the base of the soup. Finely chop the onions and cube the carrots.

Pour a little oil into your large pot, add the vegetables and cook over a low heat until the onion turns translucent.

Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave to cook while you prepare the chicken.

Chop the chicken thighs into bite sized pieces. I use skinned and boned thighs from my local butcher, if you ask yours I'm sure they'll have them. If not, you can always have a go at skinning and boning them yourself, which, while tricky is not impossible.

Heat a little oil to the frying pan, add the chicken and cook until just cooked through. Leave to one side.

Add the tarragon to the soup base, stalks and all. Let the tarragon soften in the hot liquid for a couple of minutes and then blend together. I use my trusty stick blender but you can ladle in into a standing blender too.

Once everything has been smoothly blended together add the splash of milk. This adds a slight creaminess to the soup that I like, but feel free to leave it out.

Add the chicken to the pot and season. Simmer the soup for 15 mins to allow all the flavours to mingle.

Serve hot with bread. Great for lunch or dinner.

Avocado and Chorizo Salad

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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First, a little apology for the lack of blog posts this month, but myself and the Beau recently bought a house and we have been having it renovated. Therefore, I have been spending quite a bit of time picking my dream kitchen, colours for the walls and a million other things. The work is almost finished now and the blog will hopefully return to a somewhat normal posting schedule.

My new house

Back to business, this recipe was my contribution to the ever so long ago August cookalong of summer salads. It's a recipe that my dad had cut out from a magazine about 6 years ago. We think it might have been the Sunday Times, but nobody can actually remember.

This is a great salad to have for a brunch or as a light dinner as it has enough substence to it that you don't feel hungry after eating it. Perfect for any remaining summer days.

Ingredients
Red Peppers
2
Potatoes (baby potatoes)
10
Avocados
2
Lemon (juice only)
1
Chorizo
300g
Romaine Lettuce
1 head
Baby Gem Lettuce
1 head
Sherry Vinegar
1 tsp
Olive Oil
6 tsp
Dry Sherry
2 tsp
Garlic
1 Clove
Salt & Pepper
to season
Other Requirements

Saucepan, oven proof dish, frying pan, chopping board, sharp knife, and a couple of small bowls.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. While you're waiting for the oven to warm up, prepare the potatoes by chopping in half and putting in a saucepan of cold water. Bring the potatoes to the boil. Boil for 10 mins, drain and leave to one side.

While the potatoes are boiling, prepare the red peppers. Cut the peppers in half and deseed them. place the red peppers in to an oven proof dish and drizzle with a little oil.

Season the peppers and put in the hot oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, mix the parboiled potatoes into the same dish as the peppers and put back in the oven for 20 mins.

While the potatoes and peppers are cooking, halve the avocados, remove the stones and cut the flesh into slices in the skins. Put the slices into a bowl. They must be ripe avocados, otherwise they're too hard to enjoy properly.

Squeeze the lemon over the avocado slices and season with a little salt and pepper. Stir gently so that the lemon juice coats all the slices and leave to one side. The lemon juice helps to prevent the avocados from going brown while you make up the rest of the salad.

Remove the outer skin from the chorizo and cut into slices. Cook in a frying pan over a gentle heat, until golden brown, being careful not to slightly overcook it like I did!

By now the potatoes and peppers should be ready, the potatoes will be golden and the peppers will just be starting to singe at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.

While the potatoes and peppers are cooling, make up the dressing. Measure out the sherry vinegar, sherry and olive oil into a bowl.

Whisk the ingredients together and season. I use my handy little milk frother to whizz them up.

Time to start putting the salad together. Cut the garlic in half, and rub around the inside of the salad bowl. This gives a little hit of garlic, without having to add it to the salad itself.

Cut up the romaine and little gem lettuce into strips. Put into the salad bowl and add the potatoes.

Now that the peppers are cooler, remove the skins and slice into rough pieces. Add to the bowl.

Add the cooked chorizo pieces to the bowl and drizzle on most of the dressing, retaining a little for after the avocade is added. Gently toss the salad.

Finally add the avocado pieces and the rest of the dressing and very gently toss in with the rest of the ingredients.

Serve immediately.

Magical Meringue

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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A couple of weeks ago I left a wish on Gluttony for Beginner's blog post and as a result was visited by the magical, mystical Fairy Hobmother aka David from Appliances Online. The Fairy Hobmother has been floating around the blogosphere lately granting wishes left, right and centre.

I was kindly sent an Amazon voucher which I excitedly splurged on new cookbooks to keep me going while my own are packed away. I bought Michel Roux's three books on Pastry, Eggs and Sauces and Nigella Lawson's How To Eat.

The Roux books are beautiful and contain recipes from the simplest of egg dishes to the most complicated pastry creations. The Nigella book I've only skimmed so far but I've already got my on a couple of recipes to try out on the Beau and the rest of my family in the not too distant future.

The best part about the Fairy Hobmother visiting me though is that now you have the chance to be visited too! Leave a comment at the end of the post with a wish for the Fairy Hobmother and you too could have a sprinkling of fairy dust in your life.

To celebrate this I thought I would put up the recipe for that most fairy like of desserts, Pavlova, named for the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. This is Michel Roux's recipe taken from his Eggs book.

Ingredients
Egg Whites
4
Caster Sugar
125g
Icing Sugar
125g
Cream
250ml
Mixed Berries
400g
Other Requirements

Mixing bowl, weighing scales, baking sheet, parchment paper, spatula, whisk, sharp knife

Just a quick note that I have almost halved the amount of cream that M. Roux asks for, as I thought that 400ml of cream would be a little on the heavy side. I have also allowed you to pick your own berries. Personally, I used a mixture of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and red currants, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks. I used an electric hand whisk but you can do it by hand with a balloon whisk or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.

Measure out the caster sugar and gradually add to the egg whites, whisking all the time, until the egg whites are smooth, shiny and form stiff peaks.

Michel recommends that you whisk it for 10 mins after adding the caster sugar, but my mixer was in danger of overheating and dying so I only did it for 5 without any ill effects to the final product that I could detect.

Sieve in the icing sugar to the egg white mix and whisk together until it's thoroughly incorporated. Start slowly or you'll end up with a cloud of icing sugar in the kitchen.

Take a baking tray and line with parchment or greaseproof paper.

Pour out the meringue mixture onto the baking tray into a rough circle approximately 20 cm in diameter and 5 cm high. Place into the oven for 30 mins.

After the 30 mins turn down the oven to 120°C and bake for another 45 mins.

After the 45 mins, turn off the oven and leave the meringue in the oven for at least 6 - 8 hours or overnight. According to Michel Roux the perfect pavlova should be:

...half-cooked in the middle, crisp on the outside, and the edges should be slightly cracked.

After a minimum of 6 hours or, in my case the next day, take the meringue out of the oven, carefully remove the paper from the bottom of it and put on the serving plate you want to use.

Whip up the cream until it forms soft peaks.

Spread the cream over the top of the pavlova and start decorating with the berries.

If you are using strawberries; remove the green top and chop into smaller pieces before adding to the top of the pavlova.

Once you have added all your fruit to the top of the pavlova, serve in generous slices this is not something you can just eat a small bit of.

Don't forget to leave a comment for the Fairy Hobmother, who may come and visit you next!

Chocolate Ice Cream

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

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This is the last of my summer party cookalong recipes and it is for one of my favourite foods.

I've been eating this chocolate ice cream for as long as I can remember, as it was regularly made by my Danish grandmother when we visited. There was always great excitement after dinner to see if there would be chocolate ice cream and 'kissses' (small meringues) and stomachs would be examined with a probing finger by Granny to see if there was a hole that would accommodate just a little bit of dessert.

The ice cream would be served on its own or with the above mentioned 'kisses', it would also make an appearance to accompany stewed pears and my grandmother's famous layer cake.

I now make this ice cream as a special treat for visitors, generally served with something like a chocolate brownie. There is generally very little left to put back in the freezer by the end of the meal but it does refreeze quite well, especially if you have stirred it enough during the inital freezing process.

Now before all the pedants jump on me, I will point out that technically this is not strictly an ice cream, however, I'm of the opinion that if it looks like ice cream and it tastes like ice cream, it is bloody ice cream!

You will notice that the chocolate flavour in this is added from hot chocolate powder rather than cocoa powder. The reason we use this is three fold; firstly the hot chocolate powder (and we use Cadbury's or Green & Black's for preference) tends to not form lumps, so it doesn't need to be sieved and won't form lumps when you fold it into the mixture, and secondly you can very easily go from not chocolatey enough to too chocolatey very quickly with cocoa powder, and finally the cocoa powder can have a very bitter taste while the hot chocolate powder tends to be sweet.

The ice cream takes a minimum of 5 hours to freeze so I tend to make it the evening before I intend to serve it. This saves a lot of panic. But do remember to take it out of the freezer about 15 mins before-hand, letting it melt a little so it's easier to serve.

I hope you enjoy this ice cream as much as I do and that it brings you as many happy memories.

Ingredients
Eggs (seperated)
2 large
Icing Sugar
60g
Cream
500ml
Hot Chocolate Powder
8 tbsp
Other Requirements

3 mixing bowls, whisk, spatula, tupperware box with lid,

Weigh out the icing sugar and seperate the eggs. I've embeded a video below showing you how to do it, if you've never tried before. You pass the egg yolk carefully back and forth between the two pieces of shell, letting the white drip into the empty bowl below. Once the majority of the whites has dropped into the bowl you place the yolks into the bowl with the icing sugar.

Using the spatula mix the egg yolks and icing sugar together until they form a smooth paste. Leave to one side.

Pour the cream into a third bowl and whisk it until it has soft peaks.

Fold the whipped cream into the egg yolk and icing sugar mix. It should be a very pale yellow in colour once you have mixed it all through.

Time to add the hot chocolate powder. Fold it through a couple of tablespoons at a time. Make sure you taste it occasionally so that you get the level of chocolateyness you prefer. The 8 tablespoon measurement I've used in the recipe is based on Cadbury's hot chocolate powder and gives the level of chocolate flavour I enjoy the most. But feel free to experiment to find what you like the best

Whisk up the egg whites until they have stiff peaks when you pull the whisk away.

Fold the egg whites into chocolate mixture.

Pour the finished mixture into your tupperware container. Smooth out the top, put on the lid and place in the freezer for 45 mins.

Now comes the slightly tedious bit, especially as while I do own an ice cream maker, I've not tried it with this recipe yet so don't know what time to give. If you want to try it out and let me know that would be great.

After 45 mins take the ice cream out of the freezer and stir thouroghly, especially into the corners. The purpose of this is to break up the ice crystals so that they don't get too large and ruin the texture. Once stirred pop the container back into the freezer for another 45 mins.

As before, after the 45 mins, stir again and return to the freezer for a final 45 mins.

This is the last time you have to stir the ice cream. You'll notice that the corners in particular on this stir will be quite set. After you've finished stirring, return the container to the freezer and leave until the ice cream has completely set (at least 5 hours).

Once the ice cream has set, remove from the freezer about 15 mins ahead of when you want to serve it.

Serve with fruit, cake, or pretty much anything you like. Raspberries are especially delicious with it. Enjoy!