This is a thick tomato soup made with plum tomatoes and chopped basil leaves to give it an Italian flavour. The bowls of soup are sprinkled with mozzarella cheese and garnished with extra basil leaves. Just serve with lovely, fresh crusty bread.
Refrigeration time: 6 hours or overnight, plus 2 hours
Cooking time: 25 minutes
For the custard
butter, for greasing
4 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), yolks only
45g (1½ oz) caster/white sugar (¼ cup)
½ tsp vanilla extract
300ml (10 fl oz) single/table cream (1¼ cups)
300ml (10 fl oz) double/whipping or heavy cream (1¼ cups)
3 tsp instant coffee granules or coffee essence
For the topping
2–3 tbsp golden caster/white sugar, if using a chef’s blowtorch
115g (4 oz) caster/white sugar (½ cup), if not using a chef’s blowtorch
6 x 150ml (5 fl oz) heatproof ramekins
For the custard
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) (gas mark 3)
Lightly grease the ramekins with the butter and set to one side.
Put the egg yolks into a large bowl, add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk with a balloon whisk to combine. Set to one side.
Pour both creams into a pan and heat until scalding. Remove from the heat and add the coffee granules, stirring until dissolved, or stir in the coffee essence. Leave to cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
Gradually pour the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking with the balloon whisk until blended. Strain the custard and divide between the six ramekins.
Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, line a deep-sided ovenproof dish or roasting tin/pan with a layer of kitchen paper and sit the six ramekins on the paper (this prevents them slipping). Carefully pour enough boiling water into the dish or pan/tin to come halfway up the sides of the ramekin dishes.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes. The custard needs to still wobble slightly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the water. Take the ramekin dishes out of the water, cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
For the topping using a chef’s blowtorch
Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar evenly over the custard in each ramekin, right to the edge, so that the custard is completely covered.
Caramelize the sugar under a direct flame.
Leave to cool, then refrigerate for two hours before serving.
For the topping without using a chef’s blowtorch
First, have a piece of parchment paper ready on the counter top. Next, put the sugar in a stainless steel pan and add just enough water to dampen the sugar. Place over a low heat and stir the sugar until completely dissolved. Then increase the heat to medium–high. Without stirring, leave the sugar to bubble fiercely. When the bubbling lessens and the sugar has turned a pale straw colour, it will be ready. Carefully, pour the caramel onto the paper (it will be extremely hot) and leave it to become cold.
The caramel will harden on cooling. Break it into small pieces and blitz in a food processor or blender until there are really fine granules (finer than caster sugar). Sprinkle evenly over the custard in each ramekin, right to the edge, so that the custard is completely covered.
Preheat the grill/broiler to high.
Put the ramekins on a baking tray as close to the heat as possible. Cook for less than a minute, not letting the sugar burn. The heat just needs to melt the sugar.
Leave to cool then refrigerate for two hours before serving.
2 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), whites only
115g (4 oz) caster/white sugar (½ cup + 1 tbsp)
2 tsp cornflour/cornstarch
½ tsp white wine vinegar
For the cream topping
150ml (5 fl oz) double/whipping or heavy cream (⅔ cup)
For the banoffee topping
90ml (3 fl oz) Dulce de Leche (a creamy caramel sauce) (⅓ cup)
For the chocolate swirls
55g (2 oz) plain/dark chocolate
small disposable piping bag
Preheat the oven to 140°C (275°F) (gas 1)
To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff. Then gradually add the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Sprinkle over the cornflour/cornstarch and vinegar and whisk in.
Place a piece of baking parchment on a large baking sheet and secure by dabbing a little of the meringue mixture in the corners. Use the meringue from the edge of the whisk to do this (a Mary Berry tip).
Spoon four separate large spoonfuls onto the paper and flatten to make circles about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick.
Bake for 1¼ hours, until the meringues can be lifted off the paper easily. Leave to cool.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place half in a bowl over a pan of just simmering water. When melted remove from the heat and add the remaining chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the consistency is smooth. Set aside to cool a little.
Whip the cream until it is thick, then gently spread over the meringues.
Measure the Dulce de Leche into a small bowl. Now slice the bananas and add to the bowl. Stir to coat the bananas with the caramel. Spoon over the cream layer.
Spoon the chocolate into the piping bag and snip off the end to give a small opening. Pipe a zig-zag pattern over the bananas.
They can be chilled for up to one hour. Any longer and the bananas will start to discolour.
Parmesan coated chicken breasts are baked in a tomato and basil sauce covered with mozzarella. They are served with tagliatelle tossed in chopped parsley and garlic butter and sautéed courgettes/zucchini.
400g tin (½ x 28 fl oz can) chopped/diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
salt and pepper
For the chicken
28g (1 oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated (¼ cup)
28g (1 oz) flour (3 tbsp)
1 egg, beaten
28g (1 oz) butter
4 boneless chicken breasts, skinned
8 thin slices mozzarella cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil sprigs to garnish
For the tagliatelle
8 tagliatelle nests
28g (1 oz) butter (2 tbsp, or ¼ stick)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2–3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf/Italian parsley, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
An ovenproof dish large enough to take the four chicken breasts in a single layer
Preheat the oven to 200C/400°F/gas mark 6
For the parmigiana
For the tomato sauce
Put the olive oil and garlic into a pan over a medium-low heat and, as soon as the oil starts to sizzle, stir in the tomatoes and tomato purée. Simmer gently for 10 minutes to thicken a little. Add the shredded basil leaves and season.
For the chicken
Meanwhile, measure the flour into a plastic bag and season. Then add the grated Parmesan and shake to mix. Spread out onto a large plate.
Tip the egg into a shallow dish.
Turn the chicken pieces in the egg, shaking off any excess egg while lifting them from the dish. Then coat with the flour and cheese mixture.
Melt the butter in a frying pan/skillet and add the chicken pieces to the pan. Cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes on each side until they are light golden in colour. Transfer to the ovenproof dish and pour the tomato sauce around the chicken.
Lay two slices of mozzarella on top of each chicken breast then sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan.
Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes until the cheese is lightly browned.
For the tagliatelle
Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the tagliatelle and cook for the length of time suggested on your packet.
While it is cooking, mix the butter with the garlic and chopped parsley.
Drain the tagliatelle, return it to the pan with the parsley butter and toss together.
For the courgettes/zucchini
Cut the courgettes/zucchini into 1.25cm (½ inch) slices.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan/skillet over a medium heat. Add the the courgettes and toss in the oil. Sauté for 3–5 minutes, turning frequently until cooked through.
Lift the chicken breasts from the pan onto four serving plates and spoon the tomato sauce around. Garnish the chicken with the basil sprigs. Serve with the tagliatelle and courgettes/zucchini.
I recently made some chocolate choux buns and, whilst making the choux pastry, I decided to try whisking the eggs into the melted butter mixture using an electric hand whisk. I had picked up on the fact that this is supposed to incorporate air into the mixture as you are whisking in the eggs, resulting in a lighter pastry.
Having had success with these choux buns, I will now use this method when making the pastry for the religieuses and so I have amended the method for making the choux pastry in that recipe to show this (see here).
I like trying new ways of doing things. They don’t always work but this one certainly did.
Choux buns filled with a sweet, vanilla cream and topped with a thick coating of chocolate – what could be more heavenly?
55g (2 oz) butter, cut into cubes (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
70g (2½ oz) plain/all purpose flour
2 eggs, medium (U.K.)/large (N.A.), lightly beaten
For the filling
480ml (16 fl oz) double/whipping or heavy cream (2 cups)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp caster/white sugar
100g (3½ oz) plain/dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
40g (1½ oz) butter, cut into cubes (3 tbsp)
For the choux buns
Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F) (gas 7)
First sift the flour onto a piece of kitchen paper.
Place the butter in a heavy-based pan along with 150ml (5 fl oz) (⅔ cup) of water. Heat the mixture over a gentle heat until the butter melts, stirring occasionally. Now bring the mixture to a rolling boil and then immediately remove from the heat and quickly tip in the flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth paste.
Now cook the mixture over a low heat, stirring constantly, until it comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a soft ball, about 2 minutes. The mixture will also dry out a little at this stage. Then transfer to a mixing bowl and leave until it feels cool to the touch, about 15 minutes.
Next, using an electric whisk, gradually add the eggs, whisking well between each addition. Not all the egg may be needed. Just add enough until the mixture is smooth and shiny and forms a soft peak. (Using an electric whisk will allow air to be incorporated into the mixture as the eggs are added.)
Sprinkle or spray a little water over the baking sheet. (When in the oven the water will create steam which will help puff up the mixture.) Put eight large spoonfuls of the mixture onto the lined baking sheet, spaced evenly apart.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 190°C (375°F) (gas 5). Cook for a further 20 minutes or until the buns are well risen and golden brown. (Don’t open the door of the oven during the first 20 minutes of cooking.) Remove the choux buns and turn off the oven.
Pierce a small hole into each bun with a skewer or make a small cut with the tip of a knife, which will allow steam to escape, then return to the oven for 5 minutes to dry out.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Then cut in half and remove any uncooked pastry. They are then ready to be filled.
Put the butter and half the chocolate in a heavy-based pan and melt over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from the heat, add the remaining chocolate, and stir until it has melted and the mixture is of a smooth consistency. Set to one side to cool.
For the filling
Whisk the cream, vanilla extract and sugar together until stiff.
Cut the buns in half and fill with the cream mixture.
Once the chocolate is cool, thickly coat the top of each bun.
These are best eaten within a few hours after they have been filled. Once filled with the cream mixture, the pastry will tend to soften.
Remove the crusts from the bread and cut into rough pieces. Place in a bowl and moisten with the milk. Mix with a fork to break up into crumbs.
In a large mixing bowl, mix in the soaked breadcrumbs, onion, lamb, eggs, seasoning and nutmeg until throughly combined.
Shape into 32 meatballs, using wet fingers. Just keep a small bowl of water nearby. (Fingers dipped in flour will just become sticky.) Chill the meatballs for 1 hour to firm up.
Heat half the butter in a frying pan/skillet over a medium heat. When the butter is frothy and hot, add half the meatballs. Shake them in the pan to keep them moving and cook until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Remove, using a slotted spoon, and transfer them to the casserole dish. Repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding extra butter if needed.
Add the stock to the pan and scrape off any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring to the boil, then stir in the mustard. Pour over the meatballs, cover the dish and cook above the centre of the oven for 45 minutes.
Mix the crème frâiche and cornflour/cornstarch together in a bowl, then stir into the casserole until well blended. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes, uncovered, until bubbling. The sauce will become thick.
4 x 175ml (6 fl oz) (1 cup) pudding basins or similar small rounded dishes
A deep sided tin/pan large enough to hold the four basins
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6)
Grease the four pudding basins and put 1 tablespoon of jam in the bottom of each. Set aside.
Grate the zest from half the orange and set aside. Then squeeze the juice from the orange and pour into a small jug.
Beat the zest into the butter using an electric hand mixer. Add the sugar and beat until light and creamy. Then gradually whisk in the egg. Fold in the flour, adding sufficient orange juice to give a soft dropping consistency. This is best done one tablespoon at a time.
Alternatively, use a free-standing mixer. Mix all the ingredients together, except for the orange juice. Then add the orange juice, one tablespoon at a time, until a soft dropping consistency is reached.
Divide the mixture between the four basins and smooth the tops.
Butter four pieces of foil, each large enough to cover the basins, and fold over the sides. Then put the covered basins in the tin/pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the basins. Bake for 45 minutes until the tops of the sponges spring back when lightly pressed.
Carefully lift the basins out of the pan. Run a small palette knife round the edge of the sponges, then turn them out onto four plates or dessert bowls.
12-cup bun or muffin tin lined with 9 or 12 paper baking cases. (The standard size baking cases are smaller in the U.K. and so the mixture will be enough to make 12. Being larger in North America, they will only make 9.)
For the sponge
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) (gas 5)
Sift the flour into a bowl and put to one side.
Lightly whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together in a small bowl using a balloon whisk. Again, put to one side.
Now cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using a free-standing mixer or hand-held electric mixer.
Next, gradually beat in the eggs and 2 tablespoons of the flour.
Fold in the remaining flour adding the milk to make a soft consistency.
Spoon into the baking cases, filling them two-thirds full.
Bake for 15–18 minutes until the top of the cakes spring back when lightly touched with the tip of the finger.
Leave for one minute and then remove the cakes to a cooling rack to become cold.
For the buttercream filling
Beat the butter until it is really soft.
Slowly add half the icing/powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Then beat in the remaining sugar along with the vanilla extract until soft and creamy.
Cut a cone from the centre of each cake using a small pointed knife held at angle. Cut each cone in half to create two wings.
Next, spoon a generous portion of buttercream into each hole and carefully place each pair of ‘wings’ on top with the cut edges facing down into the buttercream.
675g (1½ lb) potatoes, cut into even sized pieces (about 5 medium)
115g (4 oz) cooked ham, diced
340g (12 oz) baby spinach leaves, chopped
28g (1 oz) butter (2 tbsp, or ¼ stick)
28g (1 oz) flour (3 tbsp)
150ml (5 fl oz) milk (⅔ cup)
150ml (5 fl oz) hot chicken stock (⅔ cup)
salt and ground black pepper
150ml (5 fl oz) single/table cream (⅔ cup)
85g (3 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (¾ cup)
1.5 litre/2½ pint (6 cup) ovenproof dish
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6).
Put the chicken, onion, carrot and bay leaf into a pan and cover with water. Bring the water to the boil, then cover the pan and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and discard the water and vegetables.
Blanch the potatoes in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, dice into 1cm (½ inch) cubes.
Dice the chicken and put into a large bowl along with the ham and spinach. Toss to mix, then spread over the base of the ovenproof dish.
Melt the butter over a medium heat. Turn the heat down and quickly stir in the flour and mix to a smooth paste. Gradually add the milk and stock, stirring continuously until there is a smooth sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a further 2–3 minutes, stirring continuously, until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from the heat. Add the seasoning, cream and cheese and beat well.
Pour half the sauce over the chicken mixture. Spread the cubed potato over the top, then spoon the rest of the sauce over.
Bake above the centre of the oven for 40 minutes until the potato is tender and has started to brown.
A sweet trifle with frozen mixed berries to create a light dessert that goes down so easily. The sponge is soaked in a fruity, sherry syrup, topped with the summer berries, a rich creamy custard and finished with flavoured whipped cream.
Slice the trifle sponges or lady fingers in half and sandwich back together with the raspberry jam. Cut the sponges into large chunks and put in the bottom of the trifle bowl, or divide between the individual dishes.
Drain the fruit, reserving the juice, and layer over the sponge.
Make up the reserved juice to 120ml (4 fl oz) (½ cup) with boiling water and add the golden syrup and sherry. Stir well to combine and then spoon evenly over the fruit and sponge to moisten.
For the custard
Pour the milk, cream and the vanilla extract into a pan and heat until bubbling around the edges. Put to one side. Next, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour until smooth. Then gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture. Return the custard to the pan, bring to the boil, then gently simmer for 2–3 minutes, whisking constantly, until the custard has thickened. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Slowly pour the custard in an even layer over the fruit, then chill for 20 minutes, until the custard is cool and just beginning to set.
For the topping
Whip the cream with the golden syrup and sherry until it starts to hold its shape. Then spoon over the custard.
Return to the fridge to chill for 1 hour 30 minutes before serving.
284ml (10 oz) can condensed beef broth (Campbells)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 red pepper
1 small head of broccoli
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil
450g (1 lb) sirloin steak, cut into strips
A 22.5cm/10 inch frying pan/skillet
First, blend together the cornflour and water in a bowl. Stir in the beef broth and soy sauce and then set aside.
Deseed the pepper and cut into small chunks. Break the broccoli into small florets, discarding the stem. Peel and thinly slice the carrots.
Place the pan over a medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. When hot, add the vegetables and garlic and stir to coat. Stir-fry until tender, about 5–8 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
Add the other 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and when hot add the beef. Stir-fry for 2–4 minutes according to how well-done you like your steak. Turn frequently to brown on all sides. Remove and keep warm.
Add the reserved broth to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir until it thickens. Return the vegetables and meat to the pan, stirring through the sauce. Reheat for a couple of minutes until hot.
With seasons changing and days becoming cooler, now is the time I start thinking of heartwarming soups for lunch. I made the Country Vegetable soup this week and thought you may be interested in some of the tips I have picked up on making soups generally. See Tips for Making Soups
I have also added a few suggestions of garnishes that can be used when serving up bowls of soup.