Archive for May, 2009

May ‘Meanderings’ …

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’

Pictured (top to bottom)
Sweet Potato, Sweetcorn & Bacon Chowder
Pizza Florentine
Black Forest Trifle

100_3277 Swt Pot, Swtcorn & Bacon ChowderI (and as far as I am aware!) my family have been enjoying the pizza/pasta challenge that I set for myself during May.  I dusted off one of my favourite little books: Step-by-step Pizzas by Wendy Lee and made a batch of her Tomato Sauce, after which I was ready to cook.  Wendy suggests three types of base: Bread (yeast) is the most most time consuming, but worth it, as it is the most authentic and tastes the best; Scone (biscuit) base is a good quick 100_4059 Pizza Florentinesubstitute if you do not have time for the yeast to rise; Potato base is a totally different type of base which stays much softer and doesn’t form much of a crust.  I have a waffle recipe which uses potato, actually recommending the use of dried packet mashed potato and this base reminded me of these.  I decided to make one pizza on 100_3485 Black Forest Trifleeach base and as a result we ate Pizza Marinara on Scone (Biscuit) base, Chicken Satay Pizza on the traditional Bread (yeast) base and finally Pizza Florentine on Potato base – all were given the thumbs up and all appear on this blog.  Try them for yourself, choosing whichever base you fancy/time permits.

I thumbed through several books and a pile of papers to locate our favourite family Pasta recipes.  For a dinner party where I was entertaining a friend who eats fish but not meat, I made an adaptation of Pasta Amarilla (a rich pasta bake combining smoked haddock, white fish, prawns and cheese – link to follow) from Mary Berry at Home: Over 150 Recipes for Every Occasion.  I had been fortunate to get several fennel bulbs on the market a few weeks before, more than we wanted at one meal, so had a box of fennel chunks readily available in the freezer.  Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham in the second of Diane Seed‘s two comprehensive Pasta books: The Top 100 Pasta Sauces and More Great Pasta Dishes was a great choice.   I used the Sainsbury’s free instore cards for two dishes: Jamie Oliver’s Creamy Pasta with Bacon & Courgettes (for the umpteenth time!) and Sausage & Courgette Pasta.  Both of these recipes would be good for cooking in a hurry – last year I cooked the first in our caravan in France finding it easy to get the ingredients or reasonable substitutes in the local supermarket.

I have started to post some Basic Recipes as I do not want to assume that readers know them.  If you have a basic recipe that you prefer, or even a variation, then use it instead – and feel free send me a comment to share it with others and so I can try it myself!  It would be lovely to know additional information to help other readers and I welcome comments.  I have included the method for making Batter as used in the British favourite Yorkshire Pudding, traditionally eaten with Roast Beef as well as the Pizza Bases mentioned above and the Simple Tomato Sauce.  

In early May we invited some good friends for Sunday lunch and had Australian Spiced Roast Pork with Roast Mixed Vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar and crispy Roast Potatoes. (I par boil my potatoes until almost cooked, give them a shake in a colander which starts to ‘rough up’ the edges for the lovely crispy bits and then put them in a very hot oven 200-220oC with a sprinkling of salt and olive oil.  I often sprinkle over herbs or spices as well, bearing in mind how the taste mixes with the other items being eaten – paprika is tasty and pretty.)  We followed with a dessert of Black Forest Trifle, very tasty and also very handy to come back from church to already made the previous evening, with just the cream and decoration to add.

On the television I am still catching up with Gary Rhodes‘ new series Rhodes Across the Caribbean exploring the varied cooking across the islands. Quite by chance I came across and recorded some programmes on UKTV Food by a food writer, Rachel Allen who is new to me. She was making making a delightful Cherry and Cream Meringue Roulade, laced with rosewater.  It didn’t look all that difficult and would be lovely for a dinner party.  If it is as good as it sounded I will certainly add a post here. (It was as good as it sounded and the recipe can be found on this site: Cherry & Rosewater Pavlova Meringue Roulade.)

For a full list of postings since the April Meanderings… see below. (Recipes already posted have been highlighted and the others will appear in coming weeks.) 

May Recipes …

Pizza Florentine
Chicken Satay Pizza
Pizza Marinara
Sweet Potato, Sweetcorn & Bacon Chowder
Roast Mixed Vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar
Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham
Black Forest Trifle
Toad in the Hole with Fried Onion
Lemony Baked Pears & Peaches

Back to basics…

Basic Recipe: Simple Tomato Sauce
Basic Recipe: Pizza Bases
Basic Recipe: Batter Mixture – Yorkshire Puddings

Meanderings ‘à la carte’ – April 2009


‘For what we are about to receive…’ June 2009 and beyond

Food for the mind…

Non Fiction Food book
Going with the Grain: Travels for the love of Bread – Susan Seligson  A book about bread and its place in the diet of our world.  Mostly travelog but with a few interesting recipes to try.

… and for the June table – Salmon & Strawberries

Last month I researched and cooked pasta and pizza.  This month I have decided to try out a variety of Salmon recipes, most of which come from Jane Bamforth’s book (listed above) from our public library.  Alongside this, but not necessarily at the same meal, I am going to find some recipes for June (and Wimbledon favourite), the strawberry.  Summer cooking has arrived – at last!

Recipe books I’ll be looking through…
Cooking with Salmon, the King of Fish by Jane Bamforth
Claire MacDonald’s Quick & Easy Desserts & Puddings

Finally, I’d like to invite readers to post a favourite Salmon or Strawberry recipe on their own site, adding a link to this site in your post and send me details in a comment to this page.  What’s your favourite?  I’d love to know. 

Happy Eating!


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Chicken Satay in its spicy peanut butter based sauce is a definite winner in our house and makes a great topping for a pizza.  The original recipe used cooked chicken but you could cook an 8oz chicken breast under the grill or in the microwave, cool and then add to the marinade if you don’t have chicken leftovers.  You can vary the amount of chilli used as well to suit the level of heat you like and even substitute chilli powder or flakes for a fresh chilli.  I keep fresh chillis (red & green) in the freezer.  You need to split them with a knife and scrape out the white seeds before chopping finely ready for use.  Be careful not to touch your eyes and to wash your hands carefully after handling!

This recipe comes from Step-by-Step Pizzas by Wendy Lee, a great book with everything you need to know including making basic pizza bases and preparing the Tomato Sauce topping plus a large number of different pizza recipes.

100_4015 Chicken Satay Pizza

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Chicken Satay Pizza
(Serves 2-4)

1 quantity of pizza base using basic recipe – I used Bread (yeast) base
quantity of Tomato Sauce using basic recipe
2tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1tbsp lime juice
1tbsp light soy sauce
3tbsp milk
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed/chopped very finely
175/60zs cooked chicken
3/4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
60g/2ozs Mozarella cheese, grated
olive oil for drizzling
salt & pepper

1.  Mix together the peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, milk, chilli and garlic in a bowl.  Add the chicken pieces, stir until well covered and leave to marinade in a cool place for at least 20 minutes – longer if you can to allow the flavours to develop.

2.  Roll out the dough making a 25cm/10inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Place on a greased baking tin or pizza pan.  Push up the edge a little with your fingers to make a rim.

3.  Pre-heat oven to 200oC (190oc Fan oven)/400oF/Gas 4

4. Spread the tomato sauce evenly over going almost to the edge but keeping within the rim you have made.

5. Arrange the chopped spring onion, then the chicken pieces and the peanut sauce evenly over the tomato sauce.

6. Sprinkle on the cheese. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season.

6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20minutes until the edge of the pizza is crisp and golden.

7. Transfer to a warmed serving plate. Serve immediately with salad or, as the original recipe suggests, a simple vegetable stir fry which can be quickly cooked while the pizza is in the oven.

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The term ‘Marinara’ as a pasta sauce does not usually refer to the use of fish or other seafood, I know, but rather that it was served to mariners (fishermen).  I probably ought to change my title to reflect this mistake, but this was the name given in the original recipe so I have continued to use it.  This is unashamedly a seafood pizza and any mixture of fish can be used as a topping.  Bags of mixed frozen seafood are available from the supermarket – usually a mixture of small prawns, calamari/squid and mussels.  You can substitute or augment as you wish, though I am not sure I would use white, smoked or very oily fish, though pilchards might be good. You could also make this with just one variety of fish, for example prawns or salmon. This time I used half a tin of tuna, a small piece of salmon, about six crab sticks and a dozen medium sized prawns. I also used finely chopped gherkin for a similar mild pickled flavour as I had no capers and would do this again.  As for the olives, I always put them on as I love them as they make a dish look attractive but they all end up on my plate as nobody else in our house likes them!

The basic idea I have adapted for this recipe comes from Step-by-step Pizzas by Wendy Lee, a great book with everything you need to know including making basic pizza bases and preparing the Tomato Sauce topping plus a large number of different pizza recipes.

100_3554 Pizza Marinara

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pizza Marinara
(Serves 2-4)

1 quantity of pizza base using basic recipe – I used Scone (biscuit) base
⅓ quantity of Tomato Sauce using basic recipe
250-300g/8-10ozs mixed fish (defrosted frozen seafood cocktail, tuna, salmon, prawns, seafood sticks…)
1 tbsp capers or substitute 1 tbsp chopped cornichon gherkin
1 small yellow pepper (chopped)
1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram (if available)
½ tsp dried oregano
60g/2ozs grated Mozzarella cheese (or similar – needs to melt easily)
½oz grated Parmesan cheese
12 pitted black olives
olive oil for drizzling
salt & pepper
Sprig of fresh marjoram or oregano to garnish

1.  Roll out the dough making a 25cm/10inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Place on a greased baking tin or pizza pan.  Push up the edge a little with your fingers to make a rim.

2.  Pre-heat oven to 200oC (190oC Fan oven)/400oF/Gas 4

3.  Spread the tomato sauce evenly over going almost to the edge but keeping within the rim you have made.

4.  Arrange the fish, capers and yellow pepper evenly on top of the sauce.

5.  Sprinkle over the herbs and cheeses.  Arrange the olives on top.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and season.

6.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20minutes until the edge of the pizza is crisp and golden.

7.  Transfer to a warmed serving plate and garnish with a sprig of fresh marjoram if available.  Serve immediately with salad.

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Tomato sauce is simple and versatile: delicious as a base for a  pasta sauce or served alongside sausages or chops. This recipe will serve 3-4 people as a sauce or can be used as a topping for three pizzas. It can be frozen in pizza size topping portions for later use.  You can add a chilli with the onion for a more spicy flavour. 

The recipe comes (slightly adapted) from my favourite pizza book: Step-by-step Pizzas by Wendy Lee.

100_3525 Pizza tomato sauce

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Tomato Sauce
(Serves 3-4 or enough for three pizzas serving 2-4 people each)

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp olive oil
400g tin of plum tomatoes
4tbsp tomato purée
½tsp sugar
1tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper

1. Fry the onion and garlic gently in the oil for 5 minutes until softened but not browned. (If you would like a spicy sauce add a finely chopped deseeded chilli or chilli powder to taste. Spices such as cumin or coriander could also be used.)

2. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan with the tomato purée, sugar, oregano, bay leaf and seasoning. Stir well.

3. Bring to the boil and cover.
For Sauce to accompany Pasta or Meat: simmer gently for 5-10minutes until desired thickness (pouring or spooning) adding a little water if necessary.
For Pizza topping: simmer gently for 20minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce is fairly thick.

4. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste. Leave to cool completely before using. If you are making just one pizza the remaining two portions will keep in the fridge for up to a week but should be date labelled and frozen if you wish to keep them longer.

Find a pizza base recipe
Find a pizza topping recipe

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There are several ways of making Pizza base. The traditional base is a bread dough made with yeast but there are alternatives which can come in very useful when time is short. In all cases the quantities given are for a base of about 25cm/10inches which feeds 2-4 people.

These recipes have come from my favourite pizza book Step-by-step Pizzas by Wendy Lee.

Find a Pizza Tomato Sauce Topping Recipe
Find a pizza topping recipe or look under ‘Pizza’ in A-Z index

100_4010 Chicken Satay Pizza on Dough Base

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com Chicken Satay Pizza on Bread (Yeast) Dough Base

Bread (Yeast) Dough Base
(Makes 1 x 25cm/10inch base)

15g/½oz fresh yeast 0r 1tsp dried or 1xsachet easy blend yeast
90ml/3½fl oz tepid water
½tsp sugar (not needed if using sachet easy blend yeast)
1tbsp olive oil
175g/6oz plain flour (white or wholemeal)
1tsp salt

1a. Fresh yeast: combine the with the water and sugar in a bowl and leave mix to rest in a warm place for 10-15 mins until frothy on surface. Stir in oil. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in yeast liquid.

1b. Dried yeast: sprinkle over surface of water and whisk until dissolved
leave mix to rest in a warm place for 10-15 mins until frothy on surface. Stir in oil. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in yeast liquid.

1c. Easy blend yeast: Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir in easy blend yeast. Add water but no sugar and oil.

2. Using floured hands mix together. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5mins until smooth and elastic. (I use a large lightweight metal bowl and am able to knead this small ball of dough in the bowl.)

3. Place in a plastic bag and leave in a warm place for about 1hour or until doubled in size – the airing cupboard is a good place. (If you want to make this earlier in the day then leave to rise at room temperature. If you are making even earlier then it can be stored in the fridge where it will still rise but much slower.)

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly (knock back) and then knead as previously 4 or 5 times more.

5. Roll out or press into a 25cm/10inch circle on a lightly greased baking sheet or pizza pan. Push up the edge a little to form a ridge to retain the filling.

100_3540 Scone Base w Pizza Marinara

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com Pizza Marinara on Scone (Biscuit) Base

Scone (Biscuit) Base
(Makes 1 x 25cm/10inch base)

175g/6ozs Self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
10g/1oz cold butter
120ml/4fl ozs cold milk (I needed about 3½fl ozs)

1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.

2. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Keeping the mixture as cold as possible with minimal handling gives a better result. Extra flavourings such as grated cheese or herbs (oregano is good) could be added at this point.
3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in nearly all the milk. Draw together quickly with a knife until you have a soft dough. Add the rest of the milk only if necessary.

4. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently – turn and press with the heel of your hand 3 or 4 times only.

5. Roll out or press into a 25cm/10inch circle on a lightly greased baking sheet or pizza pan. Push up the edge a little to form a ridge to retain the filling.

100_4044 Florentine Pizza with Potato Base

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com Florentine Pizza on Potato Base

Potato Base
(Makes 1 x 25cm/10inch base)

250g/8ozs boiled potatoes
30g/1oz butter/margerine
2tbsp olive oil
125g/4oz self-raising flour
½ tsp salt

(For an extra buttery dough use 60g/2ozs butter and leave out the olive oil.)

1. If the potatoes are hot, mash, stir in butter until melted, followed by the oil, until evenly distributed throughout and leave to cool. Sift flour and salt together and stir into mashed potato to form a soft dough.

2. If the potatoes are cold, mash without adding butter. Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in butter with fingertips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir flour/butter mixture into mashed potatoes to form a soft dough

3. Either roll out or press the dough into a 25cm/10inch circle on a lightly greased baking sheet or pizza pan. Push up the edge a little to form a ridge to retain the filling. This base is difficult to lift when rolled out so is better shaped, rolled out or flattened by hand directly on the sheet/pan on which it will be cooked.

4. If not required immediately then cover with cling film and chill for up to 2hrs.

5. Variations: Adding herbs, a small amount of chopped onion or spring onion, grated cheese or grated carrot to this base will add extra flavour.

*Substitute instant dried mashed potato when leftover potato is unavailable, or for speed, but keep the consistency fairly dry.

Other Bases to try

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Pitta Pizzas
Pitta breads, either left whole or split to form very thin bases.
This version topped with Tomato Relish, Red Pepper, Mozzarella Cheese & fresh Basil.

Other similar (but untried) suggestions:
Split muffins (Stotties would be good if you are in North-East England)
Split French bread stick
‘Pizzettes’ – individual pizzas using a 3inch/7.5cm cutter. (Idea from Cooking with Salmon by Jane Bamforth.


Ready made bases!
Small packet of Ciabatta mix makes 2 bases
Make potato base using instant mashed potato (*see footnote to recipe above)


Combine parmesan, chopped chives or herbs with the dough

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A meal in a bowl, this tasty chowder makes a filling main course on a chilly day and it is quick to make.   I added some mushrooms to the original recipe because they go well with bacon – and because I like them!  The original recipe suggested a gammon steak, but I used bacon – some supermarkets, ASDA included, usefully sell packs of mixed mishape bacon pieces. I also often use only ½ a stock cube as the flavour can be rather synthetic and salty. The original recipe served the meal with crusty bread, but I served it with warm cheese scones, a good accompaniment for the bacon.

This recipe was originally published in the ASDA free instore magazine, April 2008 issue.

100_3277 Swt Pot, Swtcorn & Bacon Chowder

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Sweet Potato, Sweetcorn & Bacon Chowder
(Serves 4)

500g unsmoked bacon (but could be smoked, or a mixture, if you wish)
125g button mushrooms, quartered or sliced.
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, chopped
700ml chicken stock or hot water with ½ dissolved chicken stock cube
1 large potato cut into small cubes
1 large sweet potato cut into small cubes
326g can Sweetcorn, drained
2tbsp chopped parsley
150g (half a pot) Elmlea single cream

1. Cut the meat into small pieces removing any excess fat. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook with the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes until just cooked. Remove and set aside leaving as much fat in the pan as possible as it will add flavour to the other ingredients.

2. Cook the onion in the oil over a low heat until soft and translucent.

3. Add the stock, potato and sweet potato. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes until tender.

4. Using a draining spoon, remove a third of the potato and onion and puree in a blender with a little of the cooking liquid.

5. Return to the pan with the cooked bacon and mushroom, add the sweetcorn and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Add the parsley and cream, season if necessary and reheat.

6. Serve with crusty bread or, as mentioned above, with warmed cheese scones.

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This colourful vegetable assortment, which can be varied as you wish, is a good accompaniment for a roast dinner and is especially useful (and easy) if you are entertaining for Sunday lunch as preparation can be done in advance.  The vegetables used can vary according to season, or availability, though I suggest that onion is an essential starting point unless you really dislike them as they give a caramelised sweetness to the dish. Apart from those listed, you can also select different root vegetables (carrot and parsnip always roast well, though I suggest that carrot is kept fairly large so it does not dry up), include aubergine or add fresh tomato (which must be added towards the end of cooking to remain fairly whole and not disintegrate). I am sure there are other good additions to experiment with, even some fruits (if you like fruit with a savoury dish).  The flavours are enhanced by the use of the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and if you wish, fresh or dried herbs. Adding pieces of parboiled potato (either washed and in their skins or peeled) turns it into an easy ‘all-in-one’ dish. It is simple to make this in advance and heat it through as needed, plus leftover roast vegetables can be reheated the next day or turned into soup. As well as the vegetarian alternative (below), it is also possible to add pieces of chicken or pork to serve this as an all in one meal. Vegetarian or not, I always try to serve a portion of a plain lightly boiled or steamed vegetable (peas/beans/broccoli) on the side to add variety if using as a main meal.  

Rather than spoil a whole meal as I once did, be warned that occasionally courgettes are bitter and it is best to try a small piece of each one before adding to a recipe.  

This recipe is one of my own.

Alternatives: Vegetarian Variation or Main Dish
Although this is intended as a side dish it could become a vegetarian lunch by adding cubes of goat’s cheese at the final stage, allowing them to melt slightly. Unless you have included potato, serve with crusty bread.

100_3490 Roast Mixed Vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar

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Roast Mixed Vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar
(Serves 4-6)

4-6 Red Onions (depending on size) peeled and quartered
2 medium Sweet potatoes
2 large mixed colour sweet peppers (needs 1 each red & yellow at least)
2 Courgettes
125g/4ozs Button Mushrooms, quartered
3-4tbsp Olive oil
3-4tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Salt & Black Pepper
Fresh or dried herbs of your choice (optional)
(This mixture of vegetables is a mixture I regularly use, but can be varied according to taste.  We  like lots of onion! Cooking times are approximate and may have to be adjusted slightly according to the amounts and types of vegetable you are cooking.)

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200oC/400oF.

2.  Place the prepared onion in a large deep baking tin, drizzle with olive oil and season.  Bake in the oven, covered (with a second tin or a baking sheet) for 1ominutes.  Remove from oven and stir well.

3.  Peel the sweet potato and cut into largish (about 5cm/2inch) cubes.  Add to the tin, stir round, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar.  Cover again and return to the oven for a further 10minutes. Remove from the oven and stir well. (If you are adding par-boiled potatoes or other root vegetables they should be added at this stage.  Keep carrot pieces large as they dry out very quickly – smaller pieces of carrot are better added at Stage 4.)

4.  Quarter the peppers and cut into chunks.  Cut the courgettes into 2½cm/1inch cubes. (If large they can be halved before cutting into semi-circular pieces. Add a little more oil or balsamic vinegar if required. Return to the oven and cook uncovered for 5-10minutes. Stir well.

5.  Finally add the quartered mushrooms. They need a very short cooking time so push them towards the bottom of the vegetable mixture so they do not dry out.  Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes.  (If you are using tomatoes they should be added at this point so they keep their shape and do not disintegrate. You can also add a tin of sweetcorn or pre-cooked red kidney or butter beans at this final stage.  They should be thoroughly drained of their liquid, well stirred in and just need to be heated through.) 

6.  Each item in the final mixture should be cooked through but retain its shape – cook a little longer if required but it is better not to overcook.  There may be a little charring, in particular to the edges of the peppers.  There should be a small amount of liquid in the pan after serving, but the vegetables should not be ‘swimming’ in oil.

7.  I serve this as an accompaniment to a roast dinner, or alternatively with a chop, gammon or steak.  It is a good idea to serve a plain boiled green vegetable (peas or lightly cooked broccoli) as well.

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This recipe is rather rich, but very tasty – a useful dish that can be made in advance and cooked just before you are ready to eat. I was a bit nervous about what seemed like a large quantity of fennel required (500g/1lb) when I made it first time, so substituted half the fennel with onion.  The dish still has a strong fennel flavour but the onion, along with 6-8 sliced mushrooms, both give additional flavours which complement the ham. (I used a gammon steak, which I pre-cooked in the same pot as the pasta!) I also augmented the recipe with a mozzarella cheese ball cut into pieces. The taste testers in my family said they would definitely like to eat this dish again! (I might even risk the whole quantity of fennel next time.)

The original recipe came from More Great Pasta Dishes by Diane Seed which contains a number of straightforward pasta recipes. The book is very attractive with colourful illustrations by Sarah Holcombe.

100_3505 Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham

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Baked Pasta with Fennel, Cream & Ham
Penne al forno con salsa di finocchi e prosciutto cotto
(Serves 4)

500g/1lb Fennel bulb & Onion (proportions according to taste, I used 50/50)
100ml/3½fl ozs single cream (Elmlea gives a lower fat alternative)
Black pepper
1tbsp olive oil
7g/¼oz butter
150g/5ozs diced cooked ham
6-8 sliced button mushrooms (optional)
1 x 125g ball of Mozzarella cheese, liquid drained away (optional)
12ozs pasta (I used Penne – original recipe calls for Rigatoni)
50g/1½ozs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
50g/1½ozs breadcrumbs

1.  Remove the feathery tubes and any tough fibres from the fennel. Roughly chop the fennel and cook in lightly salted water until tender. Drain and puree. Cool slightly, mix with the cream and season to taste. (If, as in the original recipe, you use all fennel and omit the onion then cook and puree two-thirds at this stage and reserve the remaining third to cook in place of the onion at
Stage 2.)

2.  Chop the onion and fry gently in the butter and oil for about 10minutes until translucent but not brown. Add the sliced mushrooms and diced ham and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste.

3.  Pre-heat oven to 200oC/400oF.

4.  Half cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Drain and stir through the fennel cream sauce.

(The mozzarella is not in the original recipe. If you are omitting it then combine the pasta and ham mixtures and pour directly into the ovenproof dish.) Otherwise…

5.  Place half the pasta in sauce in the base of an ovenproof dish. Place the ham mixture on top and then evenly cover with pieces of sliced mozzarella. Finally add the remaining pasta in sauce.

6.  Sprinkle over the grated parmesan and breadcrumbs. Add some freshly ground black pepper

7.  Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes.

8.  Serve with a green salad or a lightly cooked green vegetable. It would be best to follow this dish with a light and refreshing dessert.

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A simple and delicious dessert of cherries with cream and custard which can, apart from adding the cream and decoration, be made ahead of time. Chocolate cake is best for the sponge layer – if I use chocolate swiss roll I lessen the sugar in the custard slightly, otherwise the trifle can be very sweet. To soak the base I use a generous sherry glass of Carina brand Cremandorla: Crema aux Amandes, a Sicilian almond flavoured aperitif made with Marsala wine, which we buy when on holiday in France and can be found in many French supermarkets: Leclerc, Super-U, Carrefour, Intermarche…  (I suppose it really should be Kirsch but I have never tried it – I find the combination of almond and cherries works well together.)  I have never managed to find cherry flavoured jelly, but would use it if I did, although a full sugar type could make the dessert over sweet. (Another alternative would be to set the cherry syrup with gelatine.) Even though they are supposed to be pitted it is worth double checking the cherries as I always find one or two stones – laborious but necessary and much better than damaged teeth!  Grated chocolate can be frozen for later use.

As an alternative to Cherry, a Chocolate Orange Trifle can be made using sliced fresh Orange or tinned drained Mandarin Oranges in place of the cherries and orange jelly, with sherry or orange liqueur to soak the base.  These recipes are my own invention.

100_3485 Black Forest Trifle
‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’ www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Black Forest Trifle
(Serves 6-8)

1 small Chocolate Cake or Swiss Roll or Trifle sponge fingers/Boudoir biscuits to cover base of dish
2-3 tablespoons Almond Liqueur or dry sherry (optional) – see above
680g (350g drained) jar of pitted Cherries in light syrup (Harvin brand – Lidl)
1 Double pack of Raspberry sugar free jelly (powder)
1 pint of custard made with custard powder and milk – sugared to taste
284ml/10fl oz carton Elmlea whipping or double cream
about 6/8 squares Fairtrade bitter Dark Chocolate, grated (for decoration)

1.  Line the base of a transparent glass dish with slices of cake, swiss roll or trifle sponge fingers and soak with the almond liqueur or sherry.

2.  Drain the jar of cherries, reserving the syrup and reserving 8 good shape cherries for decoration. Place the remaining cherries in the dish in an even layer on top of the sponge.

3.  Follow the instructions on the packets of jelly powder using the syrup from the cherries, topping up with water as necessary. I find it best to initially heat about 150ml/¼ pint syrup, then stir in the powder until well dissolved and finally add the remaining syrup and water. Adding ice cubes rather than water helps to set the jelly quickly.

4.  Pour most of the jelly liquid gently into the bowl, leave to set, add the remaining jelly liquid and leave this to set as well.

5.  While the jelly is setting, make up a pint of custard, varying the amount of sugar used according to the sweetness of the base layer. Leave to cool.

6.  When cool and the jelly set the custard layer can be added on top of the jelly. If it is too hot, or the jelly not fully set, you may get a striped or marbled effect: not so pretty but it will taste fine.

7.  To serve: Whip the cream and add evenly on top of the custard. Grate the chocolate using a cheese grater (for larger curls use a potato peeler) and add in a broad band on the cream around the edge of the bowl. Place the 8 reserved cherries evenly round the edge on top of this layer.

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We love Toad in the Hole (the traditional British dish of sausages in batter) but we also love lots of fried onions (and I mean lots – often one medium onion each!) so I combine the two. This dish can be cooked at any time of the year, but is definitely a winter ‘comfort food’ favourite. 

This recipe is my own version, using our family Batter Pudding recipe.  I use the best quality sausages I can get and definitely not the poorer quality ones with a low meat content.  I would rather have one good quality sausage than several that are all filler and no meat. For this recipe you must choose thick sausages, not chipolatas, either plain pork, pork & herb or pork & leek.  (I am not sure that some of the fancy varieties would work so well.)  You can add herbs (fresh or dried) to the mixture to liven up plain sausages if you wish.  I often forego any potato when I eat this as I find the batter is enough.  Sometimes I put the sausages on a bed of mixed roast vegetables (peppers, courgette, mushroom, tomato, for example) which need less pre-cooking, so I add them to the pan as I increase the heat in advance of adding the batter mix.

100_2484 Toad in the Hole with fried onion

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

This recipe uses my Toad in the Hole with Fried Onions
(Serves 4-6)

Best quality Thick Pork Sausages (usually 2 per person depending on appetite)
Basic Recipe: Batter Mixture (made with 2 eggs)
Onion, peeled & sliced into rings or semi circles – quantity according to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
Mixed Herbs or Herbes de Provence (optional) and/or
Balsamic Vinegar to taste (optional)

1.  It is best to use a metal dish as this conducts the heat well and helps the batter to rise well. (A cast iron Le Creuset ware as shown is ideal.)  However, I have used a pottery dish as well.

2.  Pre-heat oven to 180oC.

3.  Slice the onions and keep to one side. Place the sausages in the dish, on a rack if available, cover with a lid (or a baking tray) and cook in a moderate oven for 15minutes turning half way through cooking.

4.  Remove the sausages and set to one side, leaving the sausage fat in the pan.  If not much remains then add one or two tablespoons of sunflower oil.  Add the onions and herbs, plus a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar if you wish.  Replace the pan in the oven and cook for 10minutes, stirring once.

5.  Increase the oven heat to 220oC.  Make up the batter mixture according to the Basic Method: Batter Mixture instructions.

6.   Remove the pan from the oven.  Batter rises best when put into a hot pan, so quickly lay the sausages on top of the part cooked onions, arranged so you will be able to remove them in portions, and pour the batter mixture over the sausages.  Immediately return the pan to the oven. 

7.  Do not open the oven again until the batter is well risen or it could collapse. Cook for about a further 20minutes until the batter is well risen and golden and before the sausages are too dark in colour.

7.  Serve with a green vegetable and roasted tomatoes plus a jacket potato or new potatoes.  Tomato Relish is a delicious accompaniment.

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