Tuesday, 30 April 2013

M is for Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians)

The dish is one from Southern Spain and stems from the time that the region was ruled by the Moors--hence the name.

My version (and there as many versions of this dish as there were Moors) cooks in the oven so you don't have to keep stirring it to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.  However, check once or twice during its time in the oven to ensure there is enough water for the rice to cook properly.

  • 1 regular-sized can black beans, drained
  • 1 small pack of lardons
  • 2 cups of light chicken stock (plus extra hot water for cooking)
  • 1 cup of long grain rice
  • 1 tblspn olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tblspn red wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 large sprigs of thyme
  • S&P
  • 1 beef tomato, deseeded and finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 165°C (if fan assisted, 180°C if not)
  2. If using the lardons, dry fry for five minutes in a large frying pan
  3. Then add the olive oil, allow it to heat up and fry off the onion and pepper for five minutes till soft (but not browned)
  4. Add in the garlic and cook for a further minute
  5. Add in the rice; cook for two-to-three minutes until all the grains are coated in the oil

  6. Stir in the beans, stock/water, vinegar and the fresh herbs gently (you don't want to mush up the beans); season with the salt and pepper and decant everything into a casserole dish
  7. Cook in the oven for around half an hour, checking halfway that there's enough liquid left for the rice to cook
  8. Once cooked, taste to check the seasoning and then fork through to fluff up the rice, removing the bay leaves and thyme twigs
  9. Serve with the fresh tomato chunks stirred through at the last minute

Serves four on its own or eight-to-ten when served alongside the other tapas dishes.

It can easily be made as a veggie version by cooking the beans in water rather than chicken stock and omitting the lardons.

Monday, 29 April 2013

T is for Tapas

These are four easy-peasy tapas dishes for supper.

  • A pack of thin chorizo slices (around 30 slices)
  • One jar Pimento stuffed olives
  • 30 cocktail sticks (one per chorizo slice)
  • Some black olives (preferably pre-marinated in garlic & herbs)
  • A pack of manchego cheese  (approx. 200 grms)
  • A bottle of balsamic glaze (get one that has a little nozzle like the M&S one so it's easy to direct)
  • One whole chorizo sausage (or four of the little ones M&S sells)
  • 1½-2 cups red wine
  • One pack of 6-8 slices of Serrano ham
  • Two types of bread (can be kept frozen) and a pack of breadsticks
  • Tomatoes on the vine
  • S&P
  1. Preheat the fan oven to 165°C (180°C if not)
  2. Cut off the ends off the whole chorizo u-shaped sausage bound together by string, and peel off all the papery skin 
  3. Slice the sausage into coins and put in a layer in an ovenproof dish
  4. Slosh over the red wine up to half way of the sausage disks and season well
  5. Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chorizo has rendered some of its oil
  6. Decant into a small white bowl with a bit of the liquid (not all) and leave to cool slightly; garnish with a couple of flat parsley leaves

  7. Meanwhile, cut the rind off both ends of your triangle of cheese and then slice your cheese into wedges the width of a pound coin


  9. Fan out the cheese pieces on a plate and drizzle with the balsamic glaze

  10. For the olive flowers (shown above), cut a slit from the centre of each of the pre-sliced chorizo to the edge (i.e. along a radius) and then form a cone with each slice


  12. Pop an olive in the middle (pepper bit up) and skewer the edge of the wrapped chorizo with a cocktail stick through the olive and through the other side to secure

  13. Pile all the chorizo flowers into a bowl with the flower bit facing upwards

  14. Remove more of the remaining green olives from the jar/liquid, and toss with the black olives until they're all coated in oil and the garlic/herb mix; serve in a small bowl

  15. Last, but not least, peal off the ham from the separating plastic and (if you haven't already) tear each slice in half. Twirl the strand loosely around a finger and place each 'ball' on a plate next to each other.  Once you filled the corner of your plate, pile on top.  This shouldn't be neat.
  16. Serve the ham with some fresh (preferably on the vine) tomatoes and the olives.

  17. Serve everything at once with the breadsticks stuck vertically into a glass to add height, and the other dishes clustered around
If you want to do slightly more, you can easily wrap the ham around short sticks of cucumber, honeydew melon, or a pear (peeled, de-cored and tossed in a bit of lemon juice to stop it discoloring).

Serves four or eight-to-ten when served with the other tapas dishes.

Friday, 26 April 2013

F is for Flowers

My mother-in-law brought me a branch that had snapped off her magnolia tree in the recent winds.  I really wasn't sure what to do with it until I had an idea using a clear glass bud vase that I slotted into the middle of my Pol Potten's branch candelabra to look like the magnolia was growing through it.

The birds are a motley collection of porcelain ones from eBay following a tradition of porcelain figures decorating the table that dates back to the early 18th Century.

With another bouquet in the hall...

...and some daffs on the kitchen table...

...I feel spring is here,

Friday, 19 April 2013

K is for Kids

It's raining again so I created these images to print out and frame for my nephew who is 18 months' old.  They have got nothing to do with entertaining unless I can incorporate them in my tablescape when he next visits

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

S is for Shepherd's Pie

I made a shepherd's pie today using the leftover lamb from our Sunday roast.


  • Leftover lamb (around 400 grms), minced
  • 1 red onion, chopped finely
  • 3 smallish carrots, peeled and diced into small pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ¼ pint of frozen sweetcorn
  • ¼ pint of frozen peas
  • Any other leftover veggies (we had some buttered leeks and cabbage)
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Squidge of HP (brown) sauce
  • 1 tblspn mustard powder
  • ½-¾ pint of leftover gravy (add water if necessary to top up)
  • S&P

  • 5-6 Maris Piper or Desiree pototoes, peeled and cubed roughly
  • 5 cloves garlic, de-papered and cut into quarters
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 fl oz of milk
  • S&P

  • Handful of grated cheese (I used cheddar, but any hard cheese works)
  • White pepper

Preheat the oven to 165°C (fan assisted, 180°C if not).
Gently fry the onion and carrots in a large, broad-based frying pan in a small slug of veggie oil.
Tuck in the bay leaves and set aside off the heat while you sort out the potatoes.

In a saucepan, just cover the cubes of potato and garlic cloves with water, add a teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil.
Turn down the heat and simmer the water until the potato and garlic bits are soft (usually up to 10 mins depending on how small your cubes are).
Drain off the water and return the lid to the pan and set aside off the heat for the potatoes to steam a bit.

Remove the bay leaves from the onion/carrots.
Add in the mince, (frozen and leftover) veggies, sauces and mustard (but not the gravy).
Fry, gently turning over the ingredients with a spoon until everything's well mixed together.
Season to taste.
Set aside.

Add the butter and milk to the resting potatoes.
Season and mash well until the mix is smooth.
Check the seasoning is right.

Pour half your gravy into your casserole dish, spoon on the mince mix and then pour over the remaining gravy until it's coated the mince but not swimming in it.  Otherwise your mash will be very difficult to spoon over.

Using a metal spoon, cut out and spoon over thin wedges of the potato mash onto the mince mix until all the contents are covered.
Spoon over the remaining mash and press down till the top's even.
Sprinkle over the cheese and grind over a few twists of white pepper.*

Either bake in the oven for around half an hour until the top is lovely and golden and serve OR freeze at this point (i.e. before the final bake) for up to three months.

To cook, allow it to defrost completely before putting in the oven (again in a preheated oven at 165°C if fan assisted, 180°C if not). This time leave the pie in for around 40 minutes as the contents are cooking from being cold.

* We often have a couple of roast potatoes left and I usually chop these up finely and sprinkle them on the top of the potato before adding the cheese.  They crisp up when cooking, adding to the crunch of the melted cheese.

Monday, 15 April 2013

P is for Pudding

Another weekend is behind us, and two bakes went down well as puddings with requests for seconds on both occasions so here are the two recipes:

Plum Pudding Cake

Two packs of plums (4-5 plums per pack)
9 oz all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspns baking powder
10 oz caster sugar
3 large eggs
¼ cup milk
2 teaspns vanilla essence

2 oz ground almonds (almond meal)
2 tblspns soft butter

Preheat the oven to 165°C (fan assisted, 180°C if not) and line a 9" tin.  I use 8" inserts from Lakeland and just smooth the paper to cover the bottom of the tin (the edges are still just tall enough).  Much quicker!

Take each plum and cut into it with the tip of your knife going into the flesh where the dimple is at the top of your plum.
Cut around the entire circumference with your knife through to the stone around to your starting point.
Holding the plum by its two halves (one half in each hand) wiggle the top so that it comes away from the stone.
Prize the stone out from the bottom piece of plum with your index finger and chop each half into quarters.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and then add the sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla essence. Mix gently until all is just combined.  This can be done in a machine, but on a slow speed.
Then fold in the plum bits gently by hand using a metal spoon, taking care not to break up the fruit.  It's a bit daunting at this point as there's about two thirds fruit to one third batter. But this is normal.
Spoon the mix into your prepared tin and gently poke the pieces of fruit down till the mixture is vaguely flat.

Then dust over the almond meal/ground almonds covering all the cake mixture.  Take your tablespoons full of softened butter and pinch off little bits and dot over the almonds.  The smaller the bits, the less large dark spots you'll see on your cooked cake.

Pop in the oven for around 45-50 minutes.
Before taking the crumb test with a skewer, jiggle the tin gently to see if your cake wobbles in the middle. If it does then it needs another 5 minutes.
Take out of the oven once cooked, leave to stand for 10 minutes or so and then remove the tin.
Leave till cool and then serve.

Unfortunately because of the fruit this cake doesn't keep. It really needs to be eaten on the day it's cooked otherwise the cake and crust goes soggy.  What a shame!  And you can use any stone fruit. Apricots, cherries, nectarines and peaches all work well though I must weigh the fruit sometime to replicate again with cherries as last time there was too little fruit after I got bored de-stoning cherries...

Fresh Lemon Slices 

Note: You really do need a food possessor for this recipe.

150 grms all-purpose (plain) flour
50 grms superfine (caster) sugar
115 grms butter, melted
1 teaspn vanilla essence
Pinch salt

1 lemon (unwaxed*), cut in chunks to remove the pips
200 grms caster sugar
45 mls lemon juice
50 grms butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 heaped tblspn corn flour
Pinch of salt

Icing sugar for dusting
Double cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 165°C (fan assisted, 180°C if not), putting a baking sheet on the shelf on which the mix will sit.
Line and grease a 20 cm square (deep) cake tin allowing two edges of the baking paper to overhang so you can decant the contents neatly at the end.
In your food possessor, whizz the first set of ingredients until they just start to come together.
Empty the soggy-looking crumbs into your prepared tin and gently pat out to evenly cover the bottom of the tin, pushing into the edges.
Pop the tin on the hot sheet in the oven for 25 minutes or until a golden colour.  The sheet helps the bottom of the pastry base crisp up.  No soggy bottoms here!
Put the timer on.

Towards the end of the cooking time for the sweet pastry, clean out your food possessor and then in the bowl whizz up the sugar, salt, lemon pieces (skin, pith, flesh, just no pips) and the juice until the batter is smooth. There will be a few very small flecks of lemon but this is fine.
Add in the rest of the second list ingredients and whizz again until all is combined.
When the pinger goes on your timer, take the pastry out and turn down the oven to 140°C (fan assisted, 150°C if not).
Pour the lemon mix over the pastry and pop back in the oven.
Bake for a further 25 minutes or until the lemon mix is just set.
Remove the tin from the oven, leave to cool for 10 minutes or so and then lift the paper carefully out of the tin and quickly onto a cooling rack.
Once cool, cut into smallish portions and serve with a dusting of sugar and some cream on the side

Warning.  This is quite tart (hence the portion sizes) but I find it's nice after a heavy meal.

* If you can only find waxed, not to worry.  Dissolve a couple of teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda in water that's just come off the boil and bung in the lemon.  Keep submerged with a spoon for up to five minutes. Pick out with the spoon and then clean off any remaining wax with a scrubbing brush under the hot water tap with your marigolds on to stand hot water to melt off the last of the wax.  You'll be done when the lemon isn't shiny.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

R is for Recipe Rifle

A favorite blog of mine is Recipe Rifle.

Nice for a giggle (and the recipes of course) with a few of my favorite quotes below to encourage you to mouse on over:

"Then stuff them ALL in your face, growling and drooling like Fantastic Mr Fox." [Lamingtons]

"I don't know why this photo has come out blue." [Chocolate nests for Easter (because I post naff photos and believe misery loves company)]

"Add the icing sugar, one large tablespoon at a time. I have never found a way of doing this that doesn't leave your kitchen looking like a rock star's dressing room - you might be more clever about it."[A Birthday Cake]

"Our relationship with our mother is like the painting of the Forth Bridge. Once she's got off the phone with the last one, it's time to ring the first one all over again." [French breakfast]

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

R is for Roses

Wouldn't this arrangement look nice on your dinner table of a night?

While the details are in French, it's not exactly rocket science to work out what to do!

All you need is:

A glass vase Some string
A pair of scissors Double sided sticky tape
Sticky tape A small end of card
A hole punch A wooden clothes peg
Masking tape A little piece of string
(Yellow) rosesA small piece of patterned paper

Can you see the faint tape strips in the bottom-left-hand-piccy that guide you as you plonk in the roses? This (pg. 45) and so much more are available in the latest edition (No. 13) of Plumetis, which is out now!

O is for Owl

My nephew came to stay with us over Easter and his favorite creature is an owl.  So I dug out Moonstitches's tutorial to russle up some owls ahead of his next visit.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

E is for Easter

Bit late posting these but I wanted to remember the fun:

If you can just about make then out from the poor photos:

  • The pewter place card holders and S&P pots came from Williams Sonoma
  • The egg votive holders and bunny sweet dishes are from Pottery Barn
  • The glasses are from LSA.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A is for April Fool

In France, people attach a paper fish to someone's back (unnoticed) as a prank.

If you think that's a bit childish, Marie Claire Idées has a great fish bookmark to celebrate the day in a nicer way (available for download here).

Or they have a gift tag for any hostess gift.