Saturday 18 July 2020

Shrewsbury Biscuits

A.k.a: Lemon-flavoured shortbread. Crisp, and buttery, and generally perfect. They only develop a particular crunch after they've been out of the oven for several hours...but there's a very real challenge in actually waiting that long!

For about twenty biscuits.

Ingredients: 100g butter; 125g sugar; 2 egg yolks; 200g plain flour; grated zest of 1 large lemon.


1. Heat oven to 175 degrees C. Grease a baking tray (or in fact, probably, two).

2. Process together the butter and sugar; add to this the two egg yolks, and then the flour and the lemon zest. Continue to process until the mixture adheres together in one lump.

3. On a floured surface, roll out the biscuit dough to a thickness of about 3 millimeters. Using a fluted cutter,cut out as many biscuits as you can, and then roll together the trimmings and repeat the process until all the dough has been used up.

4. Bake in the pre-heated oven for twenty minutes. Once out of the oven, leave to cool on a rack for at least an hour, and preferably longer.

Friday 17 July 2020

Passito fruit jelly...

Jewel-like and mesmerising, this is a dish of berries suspended in a clear jelly of dessert wine (and nothing else) - the berries can be anything you like, as long as they won't leech juice into the jelly, so: raspberries, strawberries, wild strawberries, blueberries, blackberries...
For the jelly, I use passito, which is the local dessert wine in this part of the world. Sauternes would probably be the wine of choice in France; use whatever you have of reasonable quality and that won't break the bank.

For four individual servings.

Ingredients: 1 litre dessert wine; 8g powdered gelatine; 150g raspberries (or your berry of choice).


1. Spray or wipe the inside of four ramekins with a flavourless oil.Place them inside the freezer for at least twenty minutes, so that they are already very cold before you begin to fill them.

2. Put the wine into the top part of a double boiler, over medium heat, and sprinkle the gelatine over the surface of the wine. Stir gently with a whisk, to speed the gelatine melting. After five minutes or so, the gelatine should have completely dissolved. Pour it into a jug and place in the fridge for half an hour, to cool completely.

3. Into the base of the chilled ramekins, spoon a thin layer of cooled wine-gelatine mixture - just enough so that the fruit, when you add it, will not touch the bottom of the ramekin. Place back in the fridge, until the first layer of jelly has set. 

4. On the set jelly arrange in a layer in each ramekin a quarter of the berries. Spoon more jelly mixture over the berries, to cover, and return to the fridge. Once set, repeat with the remaining berries and jelly. Leave in the fridge to set for around four to six hours.

5.To un-mould the jelly, sit each ramekin for a few seconds in small bowl of very hot water, while you run the tip of a sharp knife around the top of the jelly itself, and then upturn the ramekin onto a plate.

I serve these with some chilled creme anglaise (here, flavoured with a mixture of vanilla and orange flower water) and some extra berries for garnish.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Fave, with Ham

Young, tender Fave - that's Broad Beans to the uninitiated - cooked with a beguiling combination of ham, pepper and garlic. It's one of the spanish dishes I regularly turn to in summer and is associated in my mind with late night al fresco dining, with only the sound of the garden fountain in the darkness, as the heat gently seeps from the day.

For two.

Ingredients: 1 kg young broad beans (if young, they have the additional advantage that they don't need to be skinned); half a medium onion; 1 clove garlic; 1 tbs butter + 1 tbs oil; 100g ham (serrano if you're being purist - I use pancetta); half a red pepper, seeded; 1 tbs flour; approx 350 ml stock (chicken probably - if I have something to hand that's a little more interesting, like pheasant, then I generally use that); chopped parsley (for garnish); seasoning.


1. Over medium heat, in a pan melt the butter together with the oil. Add to this the finely chopped onion and garlic and cook for about five minutes until their texture has collapsed.

2. Finely dice the ham and the red pepper, and add these to the pan. Continue to cook for a further five minutes.

3. Add the fave beans to the pan, sprinkle over them the flour and stir to incorporate. After a minute, add the stock, bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for about twenty minutes until the liquid has all but gone, and the beans are sitting in a dense sauce. 

4. Check, and add seasoning to taste. Allow the beans to cool down a little, for a couple of minutes, before you serve them, garnished with chopped parsley.

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Lamb Boulangere

For an almost normal 'virus-what-virus?' dinner party. Slow-roast lamb, on a bed of potatoes layered with shallot, garlic and parsley, in butter and white wine. Succulent and delicious, and accompanied by a dish of piselli alla romana (with a handful of chopped mint thrown in, for good measure). 

Ingredients: 1 leg of lamb; 1 tbs olive oil; 6-8 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced; 2 shallots, diced small; 2 cloves garlic,diced small;  handful parsley, chopped fine; 1 oz butter; 1 cup dry white wine; salt.


1. Heat oven to 170 degrees C. Grease a large roasting pan. Mix together the shallot, garlic, & parsley.

2. Over a layer of potatoes, put half the shallot mixture and sprinkle with salt. 

3. Use half the remaining potatoes to make a second layer, and repeat, and then top with a final and third layer of potato. Sprinkle the top layer with salt, and dot with butter. Pour the wine over the top, to seep into the potato layers. 

4. Smear  the lamb with the oil and place it on top of the potatoes; sprinkle the joint with salt.

5. Roast for one and a half hours in the pre-heated oven, and then turn off the heat but leave the dish inside the closed oven for a further 30-45 minutes (after which time it will still be hot enough to serve).

6. Remove, carve, and serve.

Monday 13 July 2020

Panna Cotta with Cointreau

And served here with wild strawberries, from the garden. I prefer to make these as individual dishes, as the process of cutting into a large single panna cotta in order to serve it is sure to end up with it looking like the Wrath of God! For these, and in order to have a finished shape which is appropriate to contain berries for serving, I use individual savarin moulds.

For two individual panna cotta.

Ingredients: 7.5 ml cream; 2.5 ml milk; 3 tbs cointreau; 50g sugar (or equivalent volume sucralose); 1 tsp vanilla essence; 1/2 tbs powdered gelatine. For the caramel in the mould: 1 heaped tbs sugar.


1. Grease two individual savarin moulds, or ramekins, and put to one side.

2. In a small saucepan, place the milk, cream, sugar (or sucralose), cointreau, and vanilla. Bring the mixture to boil, and then reduce the heat and let it simmer, stirring all the while, for two minutes. At this point, put the pan to one side, for an hour or more, to cool down completely.

3. In the top part of a double boiler, over medium heat, put about 1/4 cup of hot water, and into it sprinkle the powdered gelatine. Stir gently, to dissolve the gelaine, until the liquid is clear. To this, add the cream mixture, and whisk to incorporate thoroughly. Turn off the heat under the double boiler. All the mixture to cool down - it takes another hour or more - whisking every so often, to ensure that the gelatine doesn't separate out as the mixture cools.

4. In a separate small pan, use the sugar and a couple of tbs of hot water to make a light caramel, and divide this between the two individual moulds, making sure that it covers the bottom each one. 

5. Divide the cooled cream mixture between the two moulds. Place the moulds in the fridge for at least two hours, to set.

6. To unmould, fill a small bowl with very hot water, and hold the base of each mould in the water for about half a minute - you'll know that it will exit the mould properly if you tip the mould slightly at an angle, and you should see the panna cotta move easily as you do so.

7. Unmould onto an appropriate plate, add berries (if you wish) , and serve.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Ricotta al forno

It's a cheesecake! Savoury, with no base, and served warm...but, it's still a cheesecake. And with all the moreishness that good cheesecakes always have. Simplicity itself to make, and taking almost no time; it can be on the table 45 minutes after it has first occurred to you to make it,  and with hungry mouths to feed.

For four (greedy) first course servings.

Ingredients: 150g parmesan; 2 handfuls each of fresh mint and fresh basil, and 1 handful of flat leaf parsley; 500g ricotta; 2 eggs; 120 ml cream; salt and pepper, to taste; 4 black olives, stoned.


1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease a false bottomed 8 inch tin (with sides at least an inch high) and line the base with greaseproof paper.

2. In the food processor, grind the parmesan finely, along with the herbs, and to this add the eggs, ricotta, and cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin, and arrange the olives, halved, on the surface.

4. Bake in the pre-heated oven for forty minutes, at which point the surface should be slightly coloured and begin to show signs of cracking.

5. Ease the finished dish from the tin, and slice it to serve.