Saturday, 11 September 2010

Stewed Damsons


1lb Damsons
4 dessertspoons sugar
(I like my damsons reasonably tart but if you like them sweeter you can add more sugar)

I hadn't had stewed damsons in years and was delighted to see them in the greengrocers the other day.   This serves three.

Put 350 fl oz water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the damsons and the sugar. Simmer for about ten minutes until they are starting to burst out of their skins. It's that simple.

Serve warm with warm custard or cold with cold custard. As a child I used to mix the damson juice with the custard to make great swirls of colour. When Mum used to make them for us we all used to save all the damson stones and then go through the counting rhyme (in theory to see who you were going to marry or what you were going to become) - “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief'.  This was followed by when one would marry - This year, next year, sometime, never.

It was silly but we always did it. Some people then counted them again to find out other things:-

What will I be (if you were a girl)?
Lady, baby, gypsy, queen.
What shall I wear?
Silk, satin, cotton, rags (or silk, satin, velvet, lace)
How shall I get it?
Given, borrowed, bought, stolen.
How shall I get to church?
Coach, carriage, wheelbarrow, cart.
Where shall I live?
Big house, little house, pig-sty, barn.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Cooking Cabbage the Delia way

Fresh cabbage lightly cooked is full of goodness, packed with vitamins, minerals and flavour and it’s not expensive.

Cabbage should always be eaten as fresh as possible – it loses nutrients if stored for too long. An unwrapped fresh cabbage should look bright and crisp, with its outer leaves intact (often if it’s had its outer leaves removed, it was because they were limp, which is not a good sign). The heart should feel firm and the leaves should squeak as you pull them apart.

To prepare cabbage: with a leafy variety such as spring greens, it’s best to discard any tired, floppy outside leaves, then separate the other leaves down to the central bud and place them one by one on a flat board. Then, using a sharp paring knife cut out the stalks, running the point of the knife down each side. When the stalks have been removed, pile the leaves on top of each other and, using a larger knife, shred the cabbage into strips, then do the same with the centre bud to shred that, too.

For a more compact variety, such as Savoy, once the outer leaves have been discarded, halve and then quarter the cabbage lengthways, then cut out the hard core from each quarter and discard. Finally, slice thinly across each quarter to shred it.

I have tried every method under the sun for cooking cabbage and I am now convinced that boiled cabbage needs plenty of water. The secret is to shred it quite finely and cook it briefly in rapidly boiling water. What I do is pack it down quite tightly into a saucepan, sprinkle with salt, then place the pan over a high heat, pour in boiling water from the kettle, which re-boils instantly, and time it for 3-5 minutes.

The one way to tell if it’s cooked is to bite a piece, as you would pasta. Then tip it into a colander and squeeze out as much excess water as you can, using a saucer to press the cabbage down. Then turn the saucer on its side and use chopping movements to push any excess water out.

Serve it straightaway in a hot bowl, tossing it with a minute amount of butter, and season it with salt and pepper. One medium-sized cabbage will serve 4 people.

From Delia On-line

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cooking cucumber

Most people think of cucumber as a salad ingredient but it can also be cooked as a vegetable.

Peel cucumber and slice in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and chop into C-shapes about one third of an inch wide. Put butter in frying pan. Add the cucumber and season with salt and pepper. Fry gently for about three to five minutes.

If cooking in a stew or curry you can leave the skin on so that it doesn’t disintegrate.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cooking scallops

"Assuming your scallops are sparklingly fresh (and if they're not, you shouldn't buy them in the first place) they don't actually need cooking at all - they can be eaten raw as sashimi. Now you may not want to do this, but the point is, short cooking time is fine and in fact better.

Of course it depends on the size of the scallop as to how long it needs to cook - and whether you are cooking just the meat or the meat plus the orange-pink coral - the coral takes less time to cook. This is why many top chefs remove the coral before cooking. The coral doesn't have to be wasted - it can be pounded with butter to make scallop butter - very nice on grilled fish - or left to dry overnight in a very slow oven and crumbled over finely sliced and stir-fried cabbage or seaweed.

However, my advice on cooking the scallop meat is to get a heavy based pan very very hot - leave it on the heat with no oil or butter for several minutes. Rub the base of the hot pan with a block of butter and add your dried scallops (dry them beforehand on kitchen paper).

Take a look at the pan-side after 30 seconds - is it crusting nicely? If so, turn it over and give it another 30 seconds. If not, give it another 10 secs then turn it.

The key to this is really to get that pan hot hot hot before you cook - otherwise the scallops will stew rather than fry and caremelise nicely.

(SS’s notes – if you want you can add lemon juice to the frying pan and many people will halve the scallops).

And another thing - please please please use hand-dived scallops. They're much more expensive but the alternative involves dredging the bottom of the sea bed and removing everything from it - meaning there's no breeding ground for scallops or fish for years to come."

Richard Leader

(The above scallops were cooked with samphire, cabbage and salmon.)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Cooking Marsh Samphire

Marsh samphire has vibrant green stalks, similar to baby asparagus, with a distinctively crisp and salty taste. It can be used raw in salad, though it tends to be very salty so it is more often boiled or steamed for a few minutes. Samphire is at is best in July and August. Buy bright, fresh looking plants with no signs of wilting. Wash thoroughly under cold running water before eating. Trim off any root. Buy samphire as you need it - it doesn't keep for long. If you must, tightly wrap and refrigerate for not longer than a few days.

Pop into a pan of boiling water for one minute, drain and toss in butter. Or steam over a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes and serve with melted butter.

(Though there are two types of samphire - marsh and rock - only marsh samphire is widely available. Rock samphire has a rather unpleasant smell and flavour. Occasionally you may also find jars of pickled samphire in gourmet shops.)

P.S. I  quite like snacking on it raw! Lovely.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010




1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm milk (110 to 115 degrees F)
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted, divided
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt


In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar; let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, 1 tablespoon butter and egg; mix well.

Add flour and salt; beat until smooth. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Brush griddle and 3-in. metal rings or open-topped metal cookie cutters with remaining butter. Place rings on griddle; heat over low heat. Pour 3 tablespoons of batter into each ring. Cook for 7 minutes or until bubbles begin to pop and the top appears dry. Remove rings. Turn crumpets; cook 1-2 minutes longer or until the second side is golden brown. Serve warm or let cool on a wire rack and toast before serving.

(Thanks to Cynthia for pointing me in the direction of this recipe.)

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Wine-poached Chicken

Serves four

3½ fl oz white wine
9 fl oz chicken stock
1 fl oz white wine vinegar
2 ¼ fl oz extra virgin olive oil
juice of ½ lemon
zest of 1 lemon
tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove – peeled and sliced
4 chicken breasts – with skin removed
Yellow pepper – sliced into small strips
6 Cherry tomatoes
3½ oz watercress
1¾ oz sultanas or raisins
1¾ oz toasted pine nuts
salt and ground black pepper

For the Chicken Breast

1. Bring the wine, chicken stock to the boil in a saucepan with half the lemon zest, the bay leaf and garlic.

2. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering. Add the chicken and poach for 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and set aside to cool in the poaching liquor.

For the dressing
1. Remove half of the poaching liquor and place in a saucepan. Heat until the volume has reduced a bit and whisk in the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, the rest of the zest, and sugar until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve
1. Place a handful of watercress (or other salad such as Rocket), yellow pepper and tomatoes on each plate and top with the poached chicken.
2. Sprinkle on the pine nuts and sultanas and drizzle over the dressing.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Tuna Burgers and Niçoise-style Salad

Serves four.

For the Burgers
2 tins Tuna in sunflower oil with the oil drained off
5oz Breadcrumbs
1 Egg white
1 Shallott – peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp Chopped fresh Mint
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper

For the Salad
8 fl oz Extra virgin Olive Oil
4 fl oz Sherry Vinegar
(or White Wine Vinegar with a teaspoon of caster sugar)
4 Eggs – hard-boiled and quartered
4 oz cooked fine Beans
8 Cherry Tomatoes – halved
Handful Watercress – roughly chopped
2 oz Green Olives – pitted
2 oz Seedless Green Grapes
1 tbsp chopped fresh Chives
Salt and Black Pepper

Handful Watercress


Blend the tuna, shallot, egg white, breadcrumbs, mint and cumin until well combined and then season.
Shape the mixture into four large or eight small burger shapes.
Put in the fridge to chill for at least 20 minutes.

For the salad – whisk the oil and vinegar in a large bowl, add the remaining salad ingredients – except the eggs - and mix until well combined. Season to taste and then add the eggs but do not stir again.

Fry the tuna burgers for a few minutes each side until golden brown.

To serve, put some of the Niçoise salad in a circle around the plate. Put a little bit of Watercress in the middle and place the burger on top of the Watercress.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Hash Brown

There are many ways of cooking hash browns. This is not only one of the simplest but, of those I have tried, the one which yields the best results.

1 pound potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
2 tablespoons oil, such as sunflower
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste


Scrub the potatoes. They do not need to be peeled. Grate with a shred-size grater. Heat a 12-inch frying pan, preferably non-stick, over a medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter. When hot, add the potatoes and push down with a spatula to spread evenly in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper - be generous with the pepper. Fry until the bottom is browned and crispy (about 5 minutes). Do not try to flip until it is browned, or the potatoes might stick. Flip the potatoes, in sections if necessary, and fry another 5 minutes, or until browned and crispy on the other side. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200° F oven.

Do you have a favourite hash brown recipe you'd like to share?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


It’s Shrove Tuesday so I thought you might like a pancake recipe. This quantity of ingredients make about 8 pancakes.


4 oz plain flour
2 large eggs
7 fl oz milk
3 fl oz water
2 tbsps melted butter
Pinch of salt
A spot of butter for the pan.

Add the water to the milk.
Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs.
Begin to whisk the eggs –lightly with a whisk or fork, gradually incorporating the flour from the edges.
Gradually pour in the milk and water while continuing to stir and whisk the flour. When all the liquid has been added run a fork around the edges to ensure all the flour has been absorbed.
Whisk thoroughly until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add the two tablespoons of melted butter and stir it in.

Melt a teaspoon of butter in a frying pan and pour out the excess onto a saucer. Make sure the pan is quite hot and pour in a small cupful of the pancake mixture. It should be enough to cover the bottom of the pan but not to flood it. Cook for thirty seconds or so and then lift the edges. I rarely bother tossing the first pancake since it often seems to stick. I just turn it over.

Slide the pancakes onto a warm plate, cover with foil and keep in an open oven (or put on a pan of boiling water) until you’ve done all you need.

Once the second pancake is in the pan the amount of melted butter has been reduced to just the right amount for cooking the pancakes without them sticking so these can be tossed.

Serve with sugar and lemon juice or ice cream and maple syrup.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Apple Scone

Main Ingredients:
One medium cooking apple - shredded or finely chopped
8 oz (250g or two cups) self raising flour (all-purpose flour with baking powder)
½ teaspoon salt
Level teaspoon baking powder
2 oz (60g or ½ stick) butter
2 oz (60g or ¼ cup) castor sugar
Up to ¼ pint (150ml or half cup) milk

Ingredients for glaze:

A little milk
1oz demerara (light brown) sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (400F or Gas Mark 6).

Peel and core the apple and then finely chop. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Then rub in the butter followed by the sugar and finely chopped apple and mix. Add milk until you have a soft but not sticky dough.

Roll out on a floured surface to about ¼" thick and 8" round and mark into 8 wedges. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush the top with milk and sprinkle with the demerara (light brown) sugar and cinnamon.

Bake in the pre-heated oven at 200C (400F or Gas Mark 6) for around 20 minutes. Serve the apple scone warm with butter.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Liver with mushroom sauce and straw chips

One piece of Calf’s liver
Three slices of Bacon
Onion - 1/4 chopped
Small pickled onions
Beef stock
One large potato

Liver is usually over-cooked which not only toughens it but also can add a bitter taste and chalky texture. This turned out to be the best liver I had ever eaten with the added bonus of having cooked it myself.


For the Liver:-
Lightly coat the liver with flour and fry in a very hot pan with a little oil and butter for 2 minutes each side then leave to rest for at least five minutes. The end result should be liver which is pink inside (and therefore tender and tasty) but resting it ensures that it does not bleed when cut as any juice is re-absorbed into the meat.

Straw Chips:-
Peel the potato and cut off the rounded ends and sides leaving an oblong block. Cut into narrow slices and then cut the slices into narrow strips. Try to keep the size of all the chips consistent.
Heat the chip pan and cook for a couple of minutes until golden brown.

For the sauce:-
Gently fry the onion in oil and butter. Add the mushrooms (I used dried porcini mushrooms which I soaked for 20 minutes beforehand – that gave me some extra juice for the sauce). Add the bacon. Pour in half a glass of Marsala or red wine and flame it to burn off the alcohol. Add herbs (I used some fresh parsley and some dried Mixed Herbs). Add half a cup of beefstock and half a cup of cream and gradually reduce until you have a thick and creamy mixture. If you have the ingredients ready to hand the whole process takes little more than five minutes so you can do this once the liver is cooked.

Serve, eat and enjoy!