Mediterranean Tomato Soup

Mediterranean Tomato Soup

 

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.

 

Mediterranean Tomato Soup
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 35 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 450g (1 lb) plum tomatoes (6–8)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • strip of lemon rind
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnishing
  • 600ml (20 fl oz) good vegetable or chicken stock (2½ cups)
  • 28g (1 oz) butter (2 tbsp, or ¼ stick)
  • 28g (1 oz) flour (1 tbsp)
  • 85g (3 oz) mozzarella cheese, grated/shredded (¾ cup)

  • To serve
  • fresh crusty bread

  • Equipment
  • a blender or liquidiser


  1. Method
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds.

  3. Put the tomatoes, onion and carrot into a large pan along with the lemon rind, bay leaf, seasoning and basil.

  4. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

  5. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then liquidise.

  6. In a clean pan, melt the butter and then stir in the flour. Let it cook over a low heat for 2 minutes.

  7. Now, slowly, pour in the liquidised mixture, stirring constantly until blended. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and let it simmer for a further 2 minutes.

  8. Divide between four soup bowls and sprinkle the cheese in the centre of the soup. Serve immediately garnished with the reserved basil leaves and crusty bread.

  9. Tip
  10. To make it easier to grate/shred mozzarella cheese, pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes first.

 

Chocolate Choux Buns

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.

 

Chocolate Choux Buns

 

Choux buns filled with a sweet, vanilla cream and topped with a thick coating of chocolate – what could be more heavenly?

 

Chocolate Choux Buns
Prepares: 8 choux buns
 
  • Preparation time: 35 minutes
  • Cooking time: 40 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the choux buns
  • 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

  • Topping
  • 100g (3½ oz) plain/dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 40g (1½ oz) butter, cut into cubes (3 tbsp)


  1. Method
  2. For the choux buns
  3. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F) (gas 7)

  4. First sift the flour onto a piece of kitchen paper.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.) 


  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Topping
  13. 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.

  14. For the filling
  15. Whisk the cream, vanilla extract and sugar together until stiff.

  16. Cut the buns in half and fill with the cream mixture.

  17. To finish
  18. Once the chocolate is cool, thickly coat the top of each bun.

  19. Note
  20. 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.

Updated: November 16, 2017

Orange Baked Sponge Pudding with Raspberry Jam

Orange Baked Sponge Pudding with Raspberry Jam

 

A sponge pudding to fill the family on those cooler days. Individual, light sponge puddings flavoured with orange and topped with raspberry jam.

 

Orange Baked Sponge Pudding with Raspberry Jam
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: About 20 minutes
  • Cooking time: 45 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 115g (4 oz) butter, softened, (½ cup, or 1 stick) plus extra for greasing
  • 4 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 1 medium orange
  • 55g (2 oz) caster/white sugar (¼ cup + 1½ tsp)
  • 1 egg, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.), beaten
  • 115g (4 oz) self raising/self-rising flour, sifted (⅔ cup + 2 tbsp)

  • Equipment
  • 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


  1. Method
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6)

  3. Grease the four pudding basins and put 1 tablespoon of jam in the bottom of each. Set aside.

  4. Grate the zest from half the orange and set aside. Then squeeze the juice from the orange and pour into a small jug.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Divide the mixture between the four basins and smooth the tops.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Serve with cream or custard (optional).

Updated: November 9, 2017

Fairy Cakes

Fairy Cakes

 

These dainty little fairy cakes are very easy to make. The light sponge and delicate flavoured buttercream make them enjoyable to be eaten with your favourite cuppa.

 

Fairy Cakes
Prepares: 9 or 12 cakes
 
  • Preparation time: 35 minutes
  • Cooking time: 15–18 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the sponge
  • 140g (5 oz) self-raising/self-rising flour (1 cup)
  • 115g (4 oz) butter, softened (½ cup, or 1 stick)
  • 115g (4 oz) caster/white sugar (½ cup + 1 tbsp)
  • 2 eggs, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk

  • For the filling
  • 115g (4 oz) butter, softened (½ cup, or 1 stick)
  • 170g (6 oz) icing/powdered sugar (1½ cups)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • icing/powdered sugar to dust

  • Equipment
  • 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.)


  1. Method
  2. For the sponge
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) (gas 5)

  4. Sift the flour into a bowl and put to one side.

  5. Lightly whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together in a small bowl using a balloon whisk. Again, put to one side.

  6. Now cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using a free-standing mixer or hand-held electric mixer.

  7. Next, gradually beat in the eggs and 2 tablespoons of the flour.

  8. Fold in the remaining flour adding the milk to make a soft consistency.

  9. Spoon into the baking cases, filling them two-thirds full.

  10. Bake for 15–18 minutes until the top of the cakes spring back when lightly touched with the tip of the finger.

  11. Leave for one minute and then remove the cakes to a cooling rack to become cold.

  12. For the buttercream filling
  13. Beat the butter until it is really soft.

  14. 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.

  15. To finish
  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. Dust with icing/powdered sugar.

 

Chicken and Ham Savoury

Chicken and Ham Savoury

 

An easy one-dish chicken meal. A layer of chunks of chicken and pieces of ham, with baby spinach in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with diced potatoes.

 

Chicken and Ham Savoury
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 40 minutes
  • Cooking time: 40 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ onion
  • 1 carrot, cut into large chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 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)

  • Equipment
  • 1.5 litre/2½ pint (6 cup) ovenproof dish


  1. Method
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) (gas 6).

  3. 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.

  4. Blanch the potatoes in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, dice into 1cm (½ inch) cubes.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Pour half the sauce over the chicken mixture. Spread the cubed potato over the top, then spoon the rest of the sauce over.

  8. Bake above the centre of the oven for 40 minutes until the potato is tender and has started to brown.

  9. Serve with a salad or seasonal vegetables.

Updated: November 7, 2017

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese

 

What can I say? Spaghetti Bolognese is a real family favourite. And quick and easy to prepare!

 

Spaghetti Bolognese
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 25 minutes
  • Cooking time: 40 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the Bolognese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 450g (1 lb) minced/ground beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 275ml (10 fl oz) beef stock (1¼ cups)
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes (½ x 28 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 115g (4 oz) button mushrooms, sliced (1½ cups) (optional)

  • For the spaghetti
  • 225g (8 oz) spaghetti (filling the hole of a pasta server with spaghetti is a single portion)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a little olive oil

  • To serve
  • Parmesan

  • Equipment
  • large frying pan/skillet or sauté pan
  • a large pan for the spaghetti


  1. Method
  2. Heat the oil in the pan and cook the onion over a low heat for 10 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

  3. Increase the heat to medium, add the beef, and brown for about 5 minutes. Break up any clumps with a wooden spoon.

  4. Stir in the stock and tomato purée and bring to the boil.

  5. Add the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, if using, and season. Give it a good stir and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add salt and dash of olive oil, then ease the spaghetti into the pan.

  7. Reduce the heat a little and cook the spaghetti for the length of time according to the directions on the packet. (Can recommend DeCecco brand.)

  8. Drain through a large colander, reserving 120ml (4 fl oz) (½ cup) of the cooking water and then return to the pan with the spaghetti. Add the sauce and toss well.

  9. Spoon into bowls and top with little slivers of Parmesan.

  10. Note
  11. A Caesar salad makes a good starter. And garlic bread to serve with the Spaghetti Bolognese.

 

Festive Cranberry Sauce

Festive Cranberry Sauce

 

This recipe makes a lovely cranberry sauce with just a hint of port and spices to make it special.

 

Festive Cranberry Sauce
Prepares: 8 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 15 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 450g (1 lb) fresh cranberries (4 cups)
  • 90ml (3 fl oz) port (⅓ cup)
  • 115g (4 oz) light muscovado sugar/soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice/pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ orange
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier (optional)


  1. Method
  2. Put the cranberries into a medium-sized pan.

  3. Add the sugar, port and spice.

  4. Zest and juice the orange, then add to the pan and stir everything together.

  5. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and gently simmer for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries soften and are just starting to break up.

  6. Spoon the sauce into a bowl and stir in the Grand Marnier, if using, and then leave to cool.

  7. The sauce can be kept covered in the refrigerator but bring it back to room temperature before serving.

 

Raspberry Ice Cream Sundae

Raspberry Ice Cream Sundae

 

A traditional ice cream sundae – delicious at any time. Raspberry sauce drizzled through scoops of ice cream or frozen yogurt and velvety whipped cream.

 

Raspberry Ice Cream Sundae
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 10 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 450g (1 lb) frozen raspberries, thawed (2 cups)
  • 85g (3 oz) caster/white sugar (½ cup)
  • 1 lemon, juice only*
  • 284ml (10 fl oz) double/whipping or heavy cream (1¼ cups)
  • 8 good scoops vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

  • *1 lemon should yield 3 tbsp

  • Equipment
  • 4 sundae glasses


  1. Method
  2. To make the raspberry sauce, put the sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with 225ml (8 fl oz) (1 cup) of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until slightly thick and syrupy.

  3. Put the raspberries in a blender or food processor and pour the hot syrup over the top. Purée until smooth, then strain through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

  4. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.

  5. Drizzle two tablespoons of the raspberry sauce round the inside of each sundae glass. (It will run down the insides of the glass and leave a layer on the bottom.)

  6. Add two scoops of ice cream or frozen yogurt to each glass.

  7. Now add a large dollop of whipped cream and then slowly drizzle two tablespoons of raspberry sauce over the top, allowing the sauce to run down through the layers.

  8. Serve immediately.

Updated: November 1, 2017