February is the time to make the most of chocolate by serving warm individual chocolate puddings with a crusty top, soft sponge and a rich gooey chocolate centre. They can be cooked in small ramekin dishes, but slightly larger dishes which provide enough space for the pudding to rise without tumbling down the sides seem to work best.
For 4 medium or 8 small puddings you will need:
5oz (150g) self-raising flour
2oz (50g) ground almonds
4 tbspns cocoa powder
4oz (110g) dark chocolate - grated
7oz (200g) caster sugar
5 fl oz (175ml milk)
2oz (50g) melted butter
1 free range egg - beaten
1oz (25g) sliced almonds for garnish
5oz (150g) dark muscovado sugar for the sauce
3 tbspns cocoa powder for the sauce
9 fl oz (250ml) boiling water for the sauce
Turn the oven onto 180°C / 160°F or Gas mark 4.
Place the flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, grated chocolate, salt and sugar in a large bowl and mix well together.
Mix together the melted butter, milk and egg in a separate bowl, then stir into the dry mix.
When the mixture is well-stirred, divide between the dishes.
Mix the muscovado sugar and cocoa powder together and pour on the boiling water, stir well, then gently spoon this over the sponge mix. This might look rather alarming, but worry not, during the cooking process the sauce will gradually sink into the sponge to provide the delicious sticky chocolate centre.
Toss a few sliced almonds over the top of each dish and bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 170°C / 150°F or Gas mark 3 for a further ten minutes. When the top feels firm to the touch the puddings are done and should be served immediately with fresh cream.
No trip to the Cotswolds is complete without visiting Bibury (just 40 minutes from Eynsham) and no trip to Bibury is complete without a visit to the Bibury Trout Farm and its little shop where fresh trout is on sale throughout the year. This trout is so fresh that it glistens, and so tasty that it cries out to be cooked.
Now is the time to visit Bibury. If you wait until the summer you will find yourself having to compete for space with hundreds of tourists all there to see the town that William Morris rated as the most beautiful in England.
To serve 2 people you will need:
1 fillet of trout weighing in at about 8oz (250gm)
2 medium sized potatoes that also weigh 8oz (250gm)
1 free range egg yolk
1oz (25gm) butter
1 tablespoon of flour
Small bunch of fresh parsley - chopped fine
1 tablespoon oil to fry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper corns to season.
Peel and slice the potatoes and boil in salted water until soft and place the trout fillet in a frying pan of salted water and cook over moderate heat until done.
Mash the cooked potato with the butter, flour and egg yolk, until soft and creamy.
Drain the fillet of trout on kitchen paper, carefully remove the skin and divide into flakes - throwing out any little bones you may discover.
Gently mix the flakes of trout, flour and chopped parsley into the mashed potato, being careful not to crush the flakes, taste and adjust seasoning.
Divide the mixture into four and place on a floured surface. Shape into 4 rounds - you can make them smaller if you wish.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and carefully place the fish cake into the pan. Allow them to fry until brown on the underside, turn and cook the other side.
Serve hot with a wedge of lemon and a fresh leaf salad.
The great thing about living in Eynsham is that I can walk into our local butchers and enjoy an animated conversation with butchers Paul and Martin while we decide what I can cook up for a romantic St Valentine dinner. This year it was decided the dish lamb would be great as lamb is synonymous with spring and spring is for lovers.
Paul then took considerable trouble to trim two small racks of lamb, which it was decided would signify romance if they were cooked with the bones interlocking. The spinach was chosen for its colour and because it signifies strength and the little heart shaped potatoes were added just for fun, so were the white hats placed on the bones.
To serve 2 people you will need:
2 small racks of lamb, bones scraped clean
4oz (100g) baby spinach leaves
One large potato, sliced then shaped with heart shaped cutter (you can buy these cutters at The Emporium)
Oil to fry potatoes
Glass of red wine for the gravy sauce and same amount of stock
Desert spoon of flour
Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.
Turn the oven to 220°C / 425°F or gas mark 7 and only place the racks of lamb linked together into the oven on a baking tray when this temperature has been reached.
Season with salt and freshly ground black peppercorn before placing in the oven.
Allow 20 minutes at this temperature, then take the oven down to 190°C / 375°F or gas mark 5, allowing a further 20 minutes per lb (450g) once the first 20 minutes is up.
Remove from the oven and allow the meat to rest while you wilt the spinach and fry the little heart shaped potatoes in hot oil until brown.
Make the gravy by adding a dessert spoon of flour to the residue in the roasting pan and stir until it begins to brown.
Toss in a glass of red wine and a glass of stock, stir and season, bring to boiling point and reduce by a third.
Put the dish together as illustrated and open the champagne.
Now the bread shop has opened all our food shopping can be done in one small area of the village. I set myself the task of obtaining everything I needed for authentic spaghetti bolognaise without going out of the village for the ingredients.
Thanks to the fact that the Co-op were selling fresh herbs, the new bread shop offering a superb selection of breads that I could use for the garlic bread to go with the main dish, and Sandy at Cornucopia providing a goodly stock of Parmesan cheese - my shopping was anxiety free.
To serve 4-6 people you will need:
One pound of freshly minced beef from Richard Golsby, Eynsham’s family butcher.
4 rashers of back bacon from Richard Golsby
3 cloves of garlic from the Co-op
2 small onions from the Co-op
8 mushrooms from the Co-op
2 sticks of celery from the Co-op
One pot of live basil from the Co-op
1x135g tube tomato paste from the Co-op
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes from the Co-op
Freshly picked oregano and marjoram from my own garden
2 bay leaves from Cornucopia
Olive oil from Cornucopia
One wine glass of chicken/vegetable or beef stock
Small block Parmesan cheese for garnish from Cornucopia
One 400g pack of spaghetti from Cornucopia
Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.
For the garlic bread to go with the spaghetti:
baguette from The Natural Bread Company
2 oz soft local butter from Cornucopia
2 cloves garlic - chopped fine.
Begin by chopping up all your vegetables into really small dice. This includes the garlic, mushrooms, onions, and celery. Chop the fresh herbs but not the basil. Also chop the bacon into small pieces.
In a large frying pan pour enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan and bring to a high heat.
When the oil is really hot toss in the bacon and cook until it begins to colour, then add the minced beef and cook for a further five minutes, stirring as you go.
Add the chopped vegetables and chopped garlic to the pan, stir and allow to cook until the garlic begins to give off its delicious aroma.
Squeeze the tube of tomato paste into the mix, stir, then add the tin of chopped tomatoes.
Now add about a wine glass full of stock to the mix, adding more if you want a lot of sauce.
Add the chopped fresh herbs and bay leaf - but not the basil - that goes at the end.
Stir, taste, adjust seasoning and simmer for about 20 minutes with a lid on the pan.
While the sauce is cooking prepare the garlic bread by chopping 2 cloves of garlic really fine and working them into the butter.
Cut the baguette into slices about half an inch thick, spread the butter and garlic mix on both sides, lay the slices on a flat tray covered with a sheet of tinfoil, and place in a medium oven while the sauce cooks. (The tinfoil prevents the garlic aroma penetrating the tray and makes washing up easier).
Remove the garlic bread from the oven when it begins to brown.
While the sauce and garlic bread are cooking, place the dry spaghetti into a large pan of boiling salted water, stir as it softens and allow to simmer gently until cooked (approx 7 minutes). Strain, toss in a little olive oil to avoid the spaghetti sticking to itself, and keep warm.
Break the basil into small bits and stir into the sauce then remove pan from the heat.
Assemble by dividing the spaghetti between the plates, then spoon on the sauce. Garnish each plate with grated Parmesan cheese and serve with the hot garlic bread.
NOTE: A mixed green salad goes well with this dish too.
The trick to making a perfect pancake is to allow the batter to rest once it has been mixed. Although an hour’s rest will do, by allowing it to sit in the refrigerator overnight you are guaranteed success.
If you don’t need a dozen pancakes, make them anyway, and having placed a square of greaseproof paper between each one, carefully place the excess into the freezer for use another day.
To make 12 pancakes you will need:
8oz SR flour
2 free range eggs
600 ml milk
˝ tsp salt
˝ oz melted butter also butter to cook the pancakes
2 lemons cut into wedges for garnish
Caster sugar to scatter on finished pancakes.
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the salt.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and beat in the eggs.
Pour the milk into the mix and whisk until it becomes a smooth batter and all lumps have gone.
Pour in the melted butter and mix again.
Allow to rest, preferably overnight if possible.
Place a frying pan onto the stove and turn the heat up high.
Add a little butter to the pan.
When the butter has dissolved pour in enough batter to cover the base of the pan and allow it to settle.
Using a palate knife test by turning a little of the pancake at edge to see if it is done on the underside after a few moments. If it has turned a delicious brown, flip it over with the knife unless you feel confident enough to try and toss it, which is great fun if you can get that right, but a messy procedure if you don’t.
Continue cooking the pancakes on each side, placing them in a pile, with a sheet of greaseproof paper between each one for ease of handling when they are done.
Serve warm, scatter caster sugar over them and garnish with lemon wedges.
With Shrove Tuesday coming up shortly, it’s time to get the non-stick frying pan out and begin thinking pancakes, which are so delicious and easy to make you can eat them throughout the year.
The secret to a good pancake batter that turns out light and crisp is ‘time’. Leave the batter to rest for at least a half an hour before frying and success is assured.
Whilst pancakes are traditionally enjoyed with lemon and sugar, I have filled these with cooked Bramley apples, then topped them with sugar.
To make roughly 8 pancakes you will need:
4oz (125g) plain flour
1 egg - beaten
Half pint milk (300ml)
Vegetable oil to fry pancakes
2 large Bramley apples
Caster sugar to sweeten apples and dust pancakes.
Place flour and salt in bowl and add the egg and beat together with a wooden spoon.
Gradually add the milk, beating well until all lumps have vanished.
Leave the batter to rest for at least 30 minutes. Use this time to peel, core, slice and stew the apples with a little water and sugar to taste.
The trick to cooking pancakes is to ensure that the pan is really hot and that there is only enough oil in the bottom to grease the surface. This can be achieved by pouring off surplus oil from the pan before adding the pancake batter.
Pour just enough batter into a seven-inch pan to coat the surface, turning it all ways until the base is lightly covered.
Cook for about two minutes, or until the bottom begins to brown, then carefully turn over. Cook the second side until begins to brown and then transfer onto a warm plate while you cook the next one.
Repeat, oiling the pan each time, until all the batter is used up, piling the pancakes on top of each other, with a sheet of greaseproof paper between to stop them sticking together.
Serve by folding each one in half, adding a spoonful of the cooked apple and folding once more.
Scatter a little caster sugar on top and serve two per portion.
You don’t have to spend a fortune when serving up a St Valentine breakfast, but as love can be expressed through the gift of food, it’s worth seeking out fresh local ingredients and making a bit of an effort to get it right.
This recipe is a very simple twist on the classic eggs Benedict which calls for hollandaise sauce, muffins and grilled bacon. Should you wish to glamorise this dish even further, hollandaise sauce would pep it up nicely.
For two people you will need:
2 local free range eggs
One 225g bag baby leafed spinach
Salt to season
One heart shaped pastry cutter (available at Eynsham Emporium).
Wash the spinach leaves in cold running water and place in a saucepan with a small pinch of salt. It will not be necessary to add further water.
Allow the spinach leaves to simmer for a few moments until wilted.
When the spinach is cooked, drain and keep warm while you poach the eggs.
Heat an inch of water in a frying pan. (Do not salt the water as this tends to affect the look of the egg white – sprinkle the egg with salt once it is cooked).
When a steady stream of bubbles can be seen rising to the surface of the pan, place the heart shaped cutter into the water, holding it in place while you break the egg into it.
Place a lid on the pan and cook for 2 minutes, or until the egg is done.
Place the egg onto the spinach and serve with toast and hollandaise sauce if you want to make a real effort to serve a really romantic breakfast.
Traditionally it should be broccoli and Stilton soup, but actually this classic can be made with most blue cheeses, except perhaps gorgonzola which is rather salty. If you are looking for some exceptional blue cheese, do try Eynsham’s amazing deli Cornucopia - you will not be disappointed.
For 4-6 people you will need:
12oz (350g) broccoli
One medium onion - rough chopped
2pts (1.1ltrs) vegetable or chicken stock
2 large potatoes - peeled and diced small
4fl oz (115ml) milk
4oz 125g) blue cheese
Cream to garnish (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.
Rough chop the broccoli, reserving a handful of small pieces for garnish.
Cook the broccoli intended for garnish in a small pan of salted water, until reasonably soft, remove from the water and reserve.
Using a pan large enough to contain the soup, gently sweat the rest of the broccoli, the chopped onion and potato in a little sunflower oil, until soft (but not cooked right through) then add the stock.
Bring to full heat them simmer for a further 15 minutes then remove from the heat and puree in a liquidizer when cool enough to handle. (For an extra smooth finish pass the soup through a sieve).
Return to a clean pan, add milk, crumble in the cheese and take it back to full heat.
Taste, adjust seasoning and serve, garnishing each bowl with the small pieces of broccoli and a swirl of cream if you have some to hand.
This is one of those really easy recipes that doesn’t take a moment to put together if you have all the ingredients to hand. I like adding masses of fresh herbs to the pot and as many vegetables as I can find, because at this time of the year, we need the nutrients that they provide. So take the vegetables listed as a guide only and use your imagination, by adding if you have them.
For 4 people you will need:
4 thick lamb chump chops - trimmed of excess fat
2 carrots - diced
2 sticks celery - rough chopped
2 onions sliced
1 leek – rough chopped
4 large potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
Handful of fresh herbs if you have any - chopped fine
1˝ pts ( 900ml) lamb or vegetable stock
1 oz (25g) butter
Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season
Parsley leaves chopped fine as garnish when cooked.
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F or Gas Mark 6
Prepare the vegetables, cutting the scrubbed potatoes into slices aprox an 1/8th of an inch thick. (I keep the peel on for extra roughage, but you can peel them if you wish).
Place the chops in the bottom of a casserole dish, then add the chopped herbs, carrots, celey, onions and leek and season.
Top up with stock, until all are covered. Now layer the potatoes on top of the vegetables, overlapping them as you go.
Cut the butter into small cubes and scatter on top of the potatoes, scattering a little salt and pepper on the top too.
Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.
Place in the oven without a lid and allow to cook for about an hour, or until the potatoes are a delicious golden brown and the liquid is bubbling.
As the cold weather continues, even though the snowdrops are beginning to bloom, warm, filling puddings should still be on the menu. This sponge pudding is so easy to cook, that it is well worth making while this chilly weather persists.
You will need:
1 tbspn black treacle
6oz (175g) self raising flour
6oz (175g) soft light brown sugar
1 rounded tspn baking powder
6oz (175g) softened butter
3 free range eggs
Small pinch salt
4oz (125g) currants
3 tbspns golden syrup
Butter to grease pudding bowl.
Grease a pudding basin with butter and pour the golden syrup into it, also the currants.
Place the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk together with an electric mixer if you have one, until you have a really smooth creamy mix and thoroughly blended. Remember it is important that the butter is really soft before adding it to the other ingredients or you will be in trouble.
Spoon the sponge mixture into the bowl on top of the golden syrup and currants.
Place a circle of greaseproof paper on top of the sponge, then a sheet of tinfoil, making a pleat in the centre, to allow the sponge space to rise as it cooks.
Secure the foil in place with a piece of string, making yourself a handle from the string so that the pudding is easy to remove when cooked.
Place in a saucepan filled with enough warm water to go half way up the bowl and steam over a gentle heat for about two hours with a lid secured in place. Check the water level every half an hour and top up with more water if needed.
Remove pudding from the pot when cooked and having loosened it from the bowl with a palette knife, invert onto a warm plate.
If you want a really syrupy pudding, pour a little more warmed syrup over the top before serving.
This is a supper dish I cooked up quickly when an unexpected guest turned up who was obviously hungry. It’s actually a very good way of using up those vegetables stored in the bottom of the fridge that have been stored a little too long. I have listed the vegetables I used that night, but obviously others can be added if you have them to hand.
For one hungry visitor you will need:
2 free range eggs
Half a large potato
Half a large carrot
One large mushroom or several small ones
2 sprigs of purple sprouting
Half an onion
Oil to fry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season.
Slice the potato, carrot, mushrooms and onion into thin strips.
Cut away any stem from the purple sprouting so that only the floret remains.
Add enough oil to cover the bottom of small frying pan and toss in all the vegetables except the mushrooms.
Season the vegetables and fry over hot heat until the vegetable strips begin to soften, stirring often as you go.
Stir in the mushrooms and allow them to cook for a moment, then make a well in the centre and break two eggs into the dish.
Place a lid onto the pan and allow to simmer until the eggs are cooked.
Serve with warm bread.