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Recipe: Potato and Leek Soup with Bacon and Kale

Potato & Leek Soup with Bacon & Kale

Potato & Leek Soup with Bacon & Kale

I have quite a few Christmas recipes up my sleeve, but lets take a break from the chocolate, the alcohol and the spice, and think about a comfortable Christmas lunch for the days before and after the crazy indulgent one. I am thinking soup, and who doesn’t love soup? Nourishing and soothing, soup is what I reach for when I am ill, or when I need comfort. Oh, and toasted sandwiches too.

I love an elegant simple soup but I like to spike these with some flavour bombs and textural contrast. Bacon and kale sit on top of this creamy dense soup and provide perfect flavour pops. I crisp the kale a little in the bacon fat too. I promise that even the most grey, most grim days will be redeemed with this.

Before I crack on with the recipe, a few things! I was thinking of launching a reader recipe request feature, what do you think? Are there any dishes that you have always been keen to know but didn’t know where to start? Let me know! I am also tweaking the site at the moment, adding new features and changing the design. The current design is temporary while I work on the site features. The changes are long overdue but I am doing it myself, so it is taking a little time. Your feedback here would be immensely valuable if you could take the time. Read more

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

I wondered about sharing these photos, I really did. I had to rush them before dashing to the airport, and I risked it, and got up at 6am to make them, because I really wanted to share this recipe with you. It is perfect for Christmas. Stress free and it takes a little care but otherwise, just fine, anyone can make these. Of course life and work intervened, and I was too busy in Germany and too tired at the end of every day to do any decent writing. So, here it is now.

Salted Caramel

Salted Caramel

But then the photos, I can’t help but think they look like I dug up some mushrooms and then coated them in fine soil. I can’t worry about this though, isn’t it much better that you get the recipe? And maybe a little reassuring to see that, yeah, you can make truffles, and they might look a little rough, but hey! They are still delicious. There aren’t enough hours in the day and there is plenty of other bothersome things, I shouldn’t worry myself so much about photos of truffles.

Or should I?

Anyway, lets drive on. You must make these. All you need is a little salted caramel from my recent recipe, some cream, some good dark chocolate, and some cocoa, and then we are all set.
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Salted Caramel (Perfect as a Sauce, on Toast, or Just Eating With a Spoon)

Homemade Salted Caramel

Homemade Salted Caramel (it is actually very smooth, but I was rushing this shot to get to the airport, and poured it hot into the glass, don’t do that!}

Christmas is on its way, there is no longer any denying it. I am woefully under prepared, as is my form. I just paid through the nose for my flight home this year for a start, which eats into every other Christmas budget. I guess all of the other ex pats must be very organised this year. After that, there is not a child in the house washed, as we would say at home. (Calm down dear, I haven’t had any children since my last missive, it merely means there is nothing organised and we can’t even see where organised might be, over the horizon).

However, I have some recipes to share that will help you be a bit more organised for Xmas, and that will make me feel a lot better. A good place to start is a lovely salted caramel, and it is something that every cook should have in their armoury besides. It is so easy, as long as you watch over it, as it will burn as soon as you stop to look at it. I burned my first batch this morning, and I have made it many times. Watch it carefully, and it will behave, I promise.

My salted caramel is very simple, and very quick. It is thick, but pourable, and a perfect Christmas condiment. It is a great gift too, if you make it late enough. It will keep in the fridge for a week or so too.

How to eat it? It is a perfect sauce for most desserts. It is superb on toast for a luxurious Christmas breakfast. Or you know, like nutella, you may just want to eat it with a spoon. Read more

Article

Beef Cheek Chilli

Beef Cheek Chilli

anc Beef Cheek Chilli

Beef cheek chilli is a gorgeous dish. Tender, robust and sublimely yielding, once you do the initial work, it basically cooks itself. The best bit? It is a relatively cheap cut of meat, and has a wonderful deep flavour and texture. Winner. You will find yourself buying this instead of steak for dishes like this, I promise you.

When I first started making chilli, I would make it using minced beef, and yes this is fine, but once I started to experiment with other meat cuts like shin and cheek, I could see that a chilli has much more potential than the one that I was making.

Then there are chillies to think about. I used to make beef chilli with whatever chilli I had, then I progressed to smoky punchy chipotle, and then, with an appetite for more and a geeky drive beneath it, I decided to explore different chilli combinations. Then I could see what all the fuss with chilli was about. Layers of chilli playing with the beef, enhancing it, some bringing searing heat, others smoke and others a low rumble. You can make your beef chilli as hot or as mild as you want, and you can make it really interesting. Chilli can be good, and chilli can be superb. Lets talk about a superb one.

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Beef Cheek Chilli (made with just one cheek on this occasion)

Beef cheeks are a terrific cut of meat. Easier to source now than before, as we all become more aware of cheaper flavourful cuts and the importance of nose to tail eating. Ask your butcher to get some in for you if you can’t find them anywhere, that is what I do. They need long slow cooking, and start firm and obstinate, but under that low gentle heat, they yield gently and let the chillies mix in.

I use three chillies for this dish: chipotle, pasilla and ancho. The chipotle brings smoke and a low throaty rumble, the pasilla is hotter but just medium hot and quite fruity and the ancho is medium hot too, with more of a sweet dried fruit flavour. I use a combination of three, with more chipotle. It results in a nice hot chilli, not in a face melting way but it will definitely warm your cockles on a chilly night.

Beef Cheek Chilli

Beef Cheek Chilli

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Chicken Rendang (In Partnership with Le Creuset)

Chicken Rendang Recipe

Chicken Rendang Recipe

This post was sponsored by Le Creuset. They asked me to write a one pot recipe and to choose one of their pots to cook it in. I fancied something spiced,  slow cooked and full of character,  so I settled on a rendang inspired by my travels to Malaysia. I chose a shallow pot that would aid evaporation, caramelisation and intensification of the sauce  (a 30cm shallow casserole, in lovely Marseille blue). 

Le Creuset Pot in  Marseille Blue

Le Creuset 30cm Shallow Casserole in Marseille Blue

I have been to Malaysia twice in the past year, to the tip of it in Langkawi, and the bottom, Sabah, Borneo. I love it there for many reasons. The monkeys (who can resist?), the rainforests and the gorgeous seas, the sandy beaches and the mangrove trees. Best of all is the food, seasoned with punchy aromatics and a little spice. Where India has spices, Malysia has aroma – galangal, lime leaves, lemongrass, lots of fresh turmeric – and slow cooked tender meats, bright fish, with sometimes funky undertones from fermented fish. For this project, I settled on a chicken (ayam) rendang, the perfect food for a chilly November. Read more

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Roast Pumpkin, Kale, Feta & Pomegranate Salad

Roast Pumpkin, Kale, Feta & Pomegranate Salad

Roast Pumpkin, Kale, Feta & Pomegranate Salad

Yes, more roast pumpkin. But you probably have some left over from the last recipe, and I bet you are not averse to roasting some more. Or is that just me?

In Winter my salads become a little more robust. More kale than lettuce, wilted or crisped, chunks of pumpkin or similar dense veg, roasted into submission. No salad should be heavy, so I lift mine with spritely dressings, this time a pomegranate molasses and lime dressing with no oil, so you know, healthy and lower calorie (I did say I was going to try, right?). Over this, soothing pops of sharp creamy feta, and then to give it some sparkle, a gorgeous sprinkle of juicy pomegranate seeds.

It is winter? Who cares, when you have this salad? I quite like winter anyway.

Some very pretty lilac kale that I happened upon - but any kale will do

Some very pretty lilac kale that I happened upon – but any kale will do

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Almond Crusted Tuna with Chilli Roast Pumpkin, Wilted Lettuce, Tomato & Curry Leaves

Tina

Almond Crusted Tuna with Chilli Roast Pumpkin, Wilted Lettuce, Tomato & Curry Leaves

Almond crusted tuna frequently pops up my idea periscope when my mind wanders. I first had it in Sicily a few years ago in San Vito Lo Capo, when I was a judge for the International Cous Cous Festival (yes, I really was, and it was bonkers, and a lot of delicious fun). There are many almonds in Sicily, pistachios too, and they appear a lot in the cuisine. Almond crusted tuna was one of my favourite dishes that I tried, a fabulous alternative to breaded fish, the tuna remains crisp and is – obviously – nutty. Read more