Thursday, 31 May 2012


There are times when you want something light but comfortingly familiar to have as a starter, particularly on a Sunday when there is a large lump of roast beef coming up as the main course. At times like this I either make a prawn cocktail (and I make no apologies for that) or this - smoked mackerel pate. It's beautifully flavoured but has a light texture so you are left hungry for more food. The addition of horseradish is a classic one and I can lay no claims for this being an innovatory ground breaking recipe - but it's delicious.

I serve it with homemade Melba toast which is crispy and a perfect contrast to the creaminess of the pate. Making Melba toast is quite easy, I always use packaged sliced white bread (we always called it 'plastic bread' when I was growing up). Toast the slice of bread until golden brown, cut the crusts off and slice it in two horizontally ( so that one side is toasted and the other side isn't). Heat up the grill, lay the toast white side up and brown - keep an eagle eye on it as it burns very easily. In my family four bits are required (i.e. two slices of bread).

Serves 4

250g smoked mackerel
125g cream cheese (you can use low fat if you wish)
2 tsp. horseradish - I use English Provender horseradish - it's 83% freshly grated horseradish whereas most sauces are around the 35% mark
Lemon juice to taste
Black pepper

Lemon wedges
Olive oil

Put the mackerel, cream cheese, horseradish and the juice of half a lemon in a food processor and blend.  Taste and add more horseradish, lemon juice, black pepper to taste.

Shape into nice little egg shapes (the cheffy word is quenelles), and serve with sliced cornichons, capers, chopped chives and a tiny dribble of olive.  And lots of Melba Toast!!

Monday, 28 May 2012


Regular readers will know I cooked up a Spanish storm a couple of weeks ago. This is what we had for pudding, courtesy of Claudia Roden. It is a flourless cake made with eggs and ground almonds, then bathed in an orange syrup. You can make it the day before but as long as it has 4-6 hours to rest it's fine. Serve with cream or some lovely full fat Greek yoghurt. It is a lovely light zingy way to end a meal - and it is also a  very forgiving recipe....


4 eggs, separated
125g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
50g ground almonds
50g blanched almonds, finely chopped


Juice of 3 oranges (about 300 ml)
75g sugar
Cinammon stick

Pre-heat the oven to 180, gas mark 4

Grease and flour a 20cm cake tin, preferably with removable sides - I use baking parchment too as the cake is quite sticky when it comes out of the oven.

Beat together the egg yolks with the sugar, orange zest and all the almonds until creamy. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them in. Pour mixture into the tin and bake for 45 minutes. Allow to cool then transfer to serving plate.

To make the syrup simmer together the orange juice with the sugar and cinammon stick until the sugar has dissolved. Prick the cake with a skewer all over then gradually pour over the syrup. I do it a little at a time to allow it to absorb - it takes a little while. Put the cinammon stick on top for decoration.

Leave to soak for as long as you can, then serve with cream or yoghurt.

Monday, 21 May 2012


I have been woefully neglectful of my blog for some time. You know how it is – work gets frantic, personal life take an unexpected turn, suddenly life is taking up far more time than it should do. But I think we’re over the worst now (fingers crossed) and I was delighted to have my mate Tony (aka The Skint Foodie) over for a Spanish-stylee dinner a couple of Saturdays ago.  

I turned to Rick Stein’s Spain and Claudia Roden’s new tome for inspiration. I didn’t want to do jamon, tortilla, albondigas and croquetas but something slightly different with maybe a couple of favourites thrown in.  The first dish I would like to share with you is inspired by Rick Stein’s Slow Braised Lamb with fresh and dried peppers  – we had this as a main course with a soupy vegetable dish of artichokes, peas and broad beans in a thickened chicken stock. There wasn’t much left, so it must have been alright. It is supposed to be quite a chilli hot dish so don’t spare the hot smoked paprika.

Slow Cooked Lamb with Peppers 

Serves 4 

1 kg neck fillet
1 tblsp hot smoked paprika
2 tblsp olive oil
2 medium onions sliced finely
4 garlic cloves finely sliced
1 tblsp hot smoked paprika
75g Serrano ham, finely chopped
Can of tinned tomatoes, chopped
1 tblsp fresh thyme leaves
4 bay leaves
2 large roasted skinned peppers from a jar (or DIY), chopped
1 tblsp. chopped flat  

Cut the lamb into bit sized chunks then toss in the sweet paprika and leave for an hour or so out of the fridge. Heat the oil then fry off the lamb in batches so that it gets a nice brown, slightly crispy, coat. Take out of the pan and put to one side. 

Add the onions and garlic to the oil and sauté slowly until soft and golden brown. Add the paprika and Serrano ham and cook gently for a further five minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves and pepper. Bring to a simmer, add the lamb, and braise for 45 minutes.  

Add more hot smoked paprika if not hot enough for you, sprinkle with the parsley and serve. I served it with vegetables cooked in a chicken broth, which suited the dish very well.....