Thursday, 19 November 2015

Luxury Fruit Christmas Cake (includes Thermomix method)

A rich and decadent traditional style Christmas cake, packed with fruit

For me, this is best prepared by around mid-November, so you can give it a few 'feeds' of brandy before Christmas. This makes one large cake, which is great if you have a family who really love it and will get through it (although it will keep for up to a year!) - or if you don't want lots of leftovers, you can cook it in a large square tin (which is what I generally prefer to do), then just before you're ready to ice it, cut into four smaller square cakes and give three away!

Yes, there is a 'little' missing from the top left square of the cake in the bottom middle photo...

As far as the mixed fruit goes, you can play about with the dried fruit types and quantities I've given you in the ingredients. If you don't like something, then substitute it for something you do like, the same weight - chopped dried apricots or dates, dried cherries, blueberries, pineapple - whatever you fancy. Play around with the weights of different things if you want too, just try and keep the overall weight the same (1kg dried fruit including glace cherries). If you don't have bags of assorted dried fruits permanently hanging around your kitchen cupboards like I seem to have, then for convenience you could just buy an 800g pack of dried mixed fruit of your choice (preferably including peel if you like it) and a 200g tub of glace cherries (or buy a 1kg mix including glace cherries) and mix with the liquid ingredients. Easy peasy!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Braised Ox Cheeks in a Rich Red Wine Sauce (includes Instant Pot Pressure Cooker method)

Moist, tender beef with a really rich, dark and delicious sauce

Although you don't have to cook this in a pressure cooker (you can slow cook it instead), it will shave a few hours off the process and give you the same meltingly tender results from the meat from just 30 minutes cooking at high pressure.

Ox cheeks are becoming easier to get hold of, now that they've become popular again - although the downside of this is that any surge in popularity means a surge in the price too. However, they're well worth it, as they are one of the tastiest, most tender cuts of beef, when cooked properly. They are practically the beefy embodiment of the word 'unctious'. If you can't get hold of ox cheeks, then beef shin will give you a similarly tender, gelatinous result.

One thing to note about cooking ox cheeks in this way is that they do shrink quite considerably during cooking, so if you want to cut them into single portions, I'd probably go for about 250g each which may seem like a large piece of raw meat, but not once it's shrunk after cooking! I cut it into large chunks about 125g each (so if buying in portions of around 500g, cut into four portions) to cater for my family, where people can choose whether to have one, two or three pieces each that way, according to their appetites (naming no names!). One piece is enough for me and the kids for a small portion, but I think most people would go for two (or three for larger appetites!). If you don't have access to a good butcher to buy your ox cheeks from, they can be found in some Waitrose and Morrisons stores (UK).

Serves from six to eight. Approximately 206 calories per 125g (raw weight) piece of ox cheek with sauce, therefore 412 calories for a serving of two pieces with sauce.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Baked Cod Provencal

A delicious, healthy taste of the Meditteranean, cooked in just the one tray!

Yes, that's right. Not only does this taste amazing, you only need one tray to cook it in, so less pots to contend with, too!

Succulent fillets of cod cook perfectly in the oven, on top of a bed of delicious roasted vegetables full of Provencal flavours. Shavings of lemony fennel inspired by Gordon Ramsey, top it all off perfectly for a contrasting texture, with fresh herbs.

Serves two, 318 calories per serving.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Creamy Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie with Tarragon (includes Thermomix method and gluten free options)

A luxurious creamy chicken pie, beautiful comfort food to share and enjoy...

If you like to cook a big roast chicken (or even turkey) on a Sunday and want something delicious to make with the leftovers, then here it is! Or if you just want to make a mouth-watering chicken pie, then you could roast one just for this (or cheat and grab a rotisserie chicken on your way home - one large bird should give you enough for this with a little bit left over for sandwiches - but shhh, don't tell anyone I said that!).

This is a luxurious deep fill pie, with a really generous filling to pasty ratio. I use a lasagne-style pyrex dish which is 19cm x 25cm and 6cm deep, which is filled pretty much to the brim when using the full 800g of chicken. If you prefer a more shallow-filled pie, then you could bake this in two slightly smaller pie tins, and use two packs (or quantities) of pastry and put one lid on each (you'll need to reduce the cooking time to around 35 to 40 minutes or so). Or of course, you can make it into individual pies. You can freeze it once topped with the pastry - either before or after cooking it (leftovers!), or simply as portioned up pie filling depending on your preference.

If you'd like to make this gluten free, you can use my easy gluten free rough puff pastry recipe, and instead of making the sauce with butter and flour, just mix a few tbsp of GF cornflour with some cold milk, and add to the heated milk and stock at the end, until thickened to your likening.

Serves eight to ten. Freezes well. [Calories in square brackets]

Calories: The entire pie is 3,827 to 4,161 calories (using a pack of sheet puff pastry, according to weight of chicken used). For a tenth portion of a pie using 600g chicken, it would be 383 calories. For an eighth portion of a pie using 800g of chicken it would be 520 calories, and so on.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Roasted Aubergine and Spinach Curry

A delicious vegetarian curry that's easy to make and tasty!

'Roasting' the aubergines until soft, and then scooping out the flesh means that you don't need to cook them in lots of oil, and that they take on a rich, toasty flavour from the slight char on the skin which permeates through to the flesh.

If made with two de-seeded large red chillies, this is a very mild curry, which makes a lovely vegetarian main on its own (you may want to add a tin of chickpeas to add more texture and protein to the curry, if you want to serve it as a main on its own), or a beautiful side dish to other curries, or part of a selection (e.g. a thali).

Makes seven portions (main sized) of approximately 250g, at 134 calories each; or eight servings if including chick peas (see 'variations'), at 157 calories a portion. Serves more as a side dish, and freezes well.

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