Monday, 31 January 2011

H is for... Ham hock and horseradish hot-water crust pastry pies with a honey and mustard dressed salad

For under a fiver you can easily make two meals from half a ham hock with a few slices left over for sandwiches as well as a delicious stock to turn into soup. I bought an excellent piece of meat from Chadwicks of Balham for my ham hock and horseradish hot-water crust pastry pies. The hock can be very salty, so it's best to soak it in cold water overnight or, you can do it the way my mum does it, and consequently how I do it too. Simply place the ham in a large saucepan and top it up with enough cold water to cover and bring to a rolling boil. Drain off the salty water and top up with cold water again and bring to the boil, this time with the addition of flavourings - an onion, peeled and cut into quarters, some celery, some chunks of carrot, leek, herbs (I used thyme, rosemary and sage) and a scattering of whole peppercorns. There is no need to add salt - the hock will be salty enough on its own.

Hot-water crust pastry

This pastry recipe comes from Angela Boggiano's Pie 

Makes about 500 g of pastry

450 g Plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp icing sugar (this won't make it sweet, it just increases the richness)
1 egg, beaten
200 ml water
80 g butter
80 g lard

Mix the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour the egg into it and toss a liberal covering of flour over the egg, `put the water, lard and butter into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Once, boiling, pour the liquid on to the flour, mixing it together with a knife. Knead until all the egg streaks have gone and the pastry is smooth. Use the pastry immediately, without resting, as it hardens when it cools and will be impossible to work with.

Ham Hock and horse radish hot-water crust pastry pies.

Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan)

1 quantity of hot-water crust pastry
Cooked ham hock (as above), cut into bite sized chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
A handful of sage, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp cream of horse radish sauce (depending on how hot you want it)
1 pint of ham hock stock (see above)
A generous splash of double cream
salt and pepper

First things first, you'll need to make your pastry cases. I made mine about the same size as a small Scotch pie. You can use upturned straight sided glasses or jam jars for moulds. Divide the pastry in half, wrap one half and pop it in the fridge to reserve for the pie lids. Grease the outside of the moulds lightly with oil. divide the pastry into 8 balls and roll each ball to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Fit the pastry rounds over the greased upturned glasses and press drown so that the pastry is around 2 1/2 inch deep. Cut a strip of baking parchment for each glass, wrap a piece around each pastry case and tie it on with string. Place the finished pie cases in the fridge to firm up for about half an hour.

In the meantime, make the filling. Gently fry the onion, leek and garlic in olive oil until soft.  Toss in the ham and cook for a further few minutes. Add the stock and herbs and leave to simmer until it has reduced by half. Stir in the horse radish and taste for heat, adding more if you like. Stir in the cream and season to taste. Leave to simmer gently while you gently slide the pastry cases off their moulds and place on a baking sheet. Divide the ham mixture between the pie cases, discarding the bay leaf once you find it. 

Next, quickly roll out the remaining pastry and cut out 8 lids. Dampen the edges of the pies and place a lid on each, pressing them down lower than the rim. Crimp the edges with your fingers to seal. Brush the tops with a little beaten egg to glaze and cut a small hole in the centre of each pir to allow the steam to escape. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly golden.

Serve hot with a little salad with honey and mustard dressing

Honey and mustard salad dressing

1/2 clove of garlic, crushes
1 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp of wholegrain or dijon mustard
The juice of 1 lemon
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, check for seasoning and drizzle over your salad just before serving. 

Monday, 10 January 2011

H is for... Haggis-in-the-hole with Highland Park whisky sauce

Toad-in-the-hole is cheap, filling and proper, old-fashioned winter comfort food. I am a big fan of haggis and for last year's Burns' Night we bought a really delicious haggis from Chadwicks and so it was to Chadwicks again that I went for H night. I bought a very small haggis and baked it in the oven - simply remove the outer plastic wrapping, prick the pudding all over with a fork and wrap it in foil. Pop it in the oven at 200 C (180 C Fan) for one hour. Once it's done, unwrap the foil and cut open the haggis skin to allow the steam to escape and leave to cool.


Preheat the oven to 200 C (180 C Fan)

4 oz/ 100 g plain flour
pinch of salt
half a pint of milk and water (1/4 pt milk plus 1/4 pt water)
2 eggs 
1 small haggis, baked as above
A couple of tbsp goose fat, dripping or lard (or oil if your cholesterol dictates it)

To make the batter, simply sift the flour with the salt, add the milk and eggs and whisk it all together until it is the consistency of double cream. Leave the batter to rest for 15 minutes. In the meantime, roll the haggis into small balls and place some fat in each of your custard pots or a muffin tray would work well too if you don't have any. Pop the pots/ tin in the oven until the fat is hot and slightly smoking. Pop in your haggis balls and place the pots back in the oven for 5 minutes. Top the pots up with the batter and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the haggis-in-the-hole has puffed up and turned golden brown.

Highland Park sauce

You don't have to use Highland Park whisky, any whisky will do just fine.

A generous splash of Highland Park whisky
1/4 pint of fresh poultry stock (I used goose, as I had some I'd made from G night's bones)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 pint of double cream
Salt and pepper

Heat all the ingredients together in a saucepan, taste for seasoning and pour over your haggis-in-the-hole.

H is for... Harissa marinated Haloumi with herby flat bread

H was all about hearty fare and the "nibbles" with drinks were no exception. I love the aromatic heat of harissa, so knew from the get-go that H couldn't go ahead without its inclusion somewhere. Marinating cubes of Haloumi in it worked a treat and the herby flatbread was an ideal scoop. If you have a food processor, harissa is a doddle to make, especially if you buy a jar of ready roasted red peppers. Richard was given the task of making the harissa and he vaguely followed a recipe he found on the BBC Food website by Sam and Sam Clark, which included a wonderful tip on how to deseed chillies - simply remove their tops, slice them in half and use a teaspoon to scrape the seeds and pith away.

Herby flatbread

1/2 tsp dried yeast
250 ml warm water
500 g plain flour
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
A large mixed bunch of tarragon, thyme, rosemary, chives and parsley (or any herbs you like), chopped.
Sea salt

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Place the flour and herbs in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Gradually pour in the oil and the yeast-water and stir slowly with your hand, bringing the flour into the middle until it all comes together to form a dough. Knead until the dough is elastic and smooth, shape into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. Cover the top with clingfilm and leave to rest for an hour or two in a warm, dry place (the airing cupboard, if you have one, is perfect). Divide the dough into 8 and roll each piece to a thickness of 1/2 cm or less. Sprinkle with salt and lay them on a hot griddle for 2-3 minutes each side.

Harissa marinated Haloumi

8 oz/ 200 g fresh red chillies
3 heaped tsp caraway seeds, ground
3 heaped tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp black cumin seeds, ground
4 cloves of garlic
4 oz/ 100 g piquillo peppers or roasted and peeled red bell pepper
2 tsp tomato puree
2 tsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 packet of Haloumi, cubed or sliced

Deseed the chillies (see tip above) and blend in a food processor with a generous pinch of salt, half of each of the spices (except for the paprika) and the garlic, until smooth. Add the peppers, the rest of the spices (except for the paprika), the tomato puree and vinegar and blend again until very smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the olive oil. Sprinkle the paprika on top and stir in. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Cover the cubes of Haloumi in the harissa paste and leave to marinate for at least half an hour. Then simply fry off the cheese, with any extra paste, in a dry non stick frying pan until it begins to melt and slightly brown. Serve alongside the herby flatbread.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

H is for...

... Harvey Wallbangers with harissa marinated Haloumi and herby flatbread, followed by haggis-in-the-hole with Highland Park whisky sauce. Next up, we had ham hock and horseradish hot water crust pastry pies, with a honey and mustard dressed salad. For main, we ate hare in Hobsons Old Henry ale with herb dumplings and haricot beans. Pudding was hazelnut and chocolate tart with honeycomb ice cream, washed down with hazelnut liqueur. The cheeseboard comprised of Highland Blue, Hundred Dram Cheddar and Harbourne Blue.

H night began with one hangover and ended with another. The night before Richard and I had gone to dinner to celebrate a friend's birthday, the pub followed and merriment overpowered all reason and we drank everything we could reach. Dehydrated with horrendous headaches, the next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed to Chadwicks of Balham and then heaved a trolley round Waitrose. All this effort needed to be rewarded and so we found ourselves heading hungrily towards The Fat Delicatessen for lunch. All the food had been bought and while we waited for our order to arrive, I thought I'd take a moment to email directions to H's dinner guests. As the much needed jug of water arrived at our table, my phone buzzed with a new email, as I checked it, my stomach turned (not for the first time that day). Due to some confusion, two of the evening's diners couldn't make it after all. I looked at the sea of shopping bags surrounding our table and felt the heat of panic flush my cheeks. We had two others coming so H had to go ahead, but with enough food for 6 already bought I wanted to find some replacements fast. Richard and I spent our lunch emailing, texting and phoning Alphabet Soupers who might be able to take the spare places. Nobody was biting. My heart sank. I'd ordered in the hares especially and everything. Then suddenly, hope arrived in the shape of comedy writer and knitter extraordinaire, Sarah Dean - thank you, Sarah, for saving the day! It seemed absolutely fitting that it should be Sarah who made it to H, as her boyfriend, writer/performer Tom Wateracre had been to G night and proposed to Sarah the next day. I think it was the goose what done it. One less for dinner wasn't nearly so bad - we'd all just have to be a bit greedier than normal. Fine by me.

Richard made a compilation CD which included Debbie Harry, Jimi Hendrix, House of Pain, House of Love, Hot Chocolate, PJ Harvey and the Handsome Family. We were also exposed to the surprising (and often unnerving) delights of Honor Blackman and Patrick MacNee's Kinky Boots.

Harvey Wallbanger

A classic since its creation in 1952 by the world champion mixologist, Donato "Duke" Antone (Paolantonio). Legend has it the cocktail was named after a Manhattan Beach surfer who was a regular at Duke's "Blackwatch" bar on Sunset Boulevard*. I must admit, I wasn't a fan of this drink. I found that addition of the Galliano made the drink too sickly for me, but the others didn't have trouble sinking their's and then mine afterwards. The recipe is simple, 2 measures of vodka over ice, topped up with orange juice and a half measure of Galliano is floated on top.

* Ref. Wikipedia

Friday, 7 January 2011

Evening Standard Magazine article

I was thrilled to be asked to write an article about Alphabet Soup for the ES Magazine. It came out on 17th December 2010 and here it is for you to read:

No obstacle will come between Victoria Glass and her quest to cook 
her way through the alphabet from aubergine to zebra.

It's 4.30pm and I'm waiting for a delivery of ibex goat mince to stuff my involtinis. I'm serving them with imam bayildi followed by iridescent ice-cream igloos. Yes, tonight is 'I' night n my alphabetical culinary odyssey.

I have always had a passion for cooking and love to play host. At the age of six I'd sneak downstairs at dawn to make elaborate breakfasts for my family, complete with curled butter and orange juice in champagne flutes. I used to enter my parents' bedroom, crashing a cymbal, and present them with a handwritten menu. All this was done with a tea towel over my forearm and the efficient arrogance of a maitre d'.

When I grew up I founded Victoria's Cake Boutique, specialising in bespoke celebration cakes in flavours more exciting than your average Madeira sponge - anything from chocolate and red peppercorn to my cocktail-inspired White Russian confection. But I am a greedy glutton who loves to cook all  manner of things in all manner of ways, so I set myself a task: to cook my way from A (for antelope) to Z (for za'atar zebra) in one year.

Alphabet Soup equates to roughly a letter a fortnight, but it doesn't mean I only eat food beginning with one letter for two weeks at a time. I may wait in all day for ibex, but I'm not a lunatic. To allow my culinary imagination free reign while avoiding bankruptcy, I was going to need a little help from my friends. Alphabet Soup Supper Club was launched for the letter B. A crew of friends and friends of friends who are interested in my project attend, but there are never anymore than eight of us (we only have eight chairs). The cost of ingredients is split between all diners, so my biscuit-based blackcurrant bavarois, topped with blackcurrant liqueur jelly and British berries, and served with baklava, didn't break the bank.

Since then, Alphabet Soup has become a baroque undertaking. Each letter is an event, with themed cocktails (Bellinis, Cosmopolitans, Daquiris), soundtracks based on the letter of the day (eclectic mixes from The Cure to The Ink Spots) and a heightened level of secrecy around my tiny Streatham kitchen. Guests are kept in the dark about the menu until it is served; this leads to an excited atmosphere in which bets are placed. G has been the most expensive letter so far at just over £27 a head. Not too steep for an eight-course meal:

Gin Fizz cocktails served with Gruyere gougeres

A shot of gazpacho

Guinea fowl and girolle terrine with a grapefruit salad and grain mustard vinaigrette

Gem squash gnocchi in Gorgonzola sauce

Golden goose with goose-fat potatoes, greens, garlic puree and giblet gravy

Gunpowder granita

Gold glittered green tea and chocolate ganache gateau with ginger ice cream, ginger biscuits and Grappa

A  cheeseboard of Gruyere, Petit Gaugry and Golden Cenarth served with gherkins and grapes

Goose is always far more delicious for Christmas lunch than turkey, and the smoky sweetness of the roasted garlic puree added an extra layer of ceremony to the dish, which I intend to repeat on Christmas Day.

Aside from my micro-kitchen, which has only three working hob rings and three forearm-length work-tops, there is a second hurdle to overcome. Richard, the man I share my life and my kitchen with, has a fish allergy. So to ensure he survives beyond Z, fish must remain off the menu. But it is because of these boundaries that I've made many exciting culinary discoveries. Ceviche is even more delicious when made with scallops. Elk fillet is a red meat-lover's dream. Crocodile tastes like sea bass-y chicken and, as one guest pointed out, we were 'eating something that could eat us'.

I spend hours scouring cookbooks and the internet for inspiration, and while there are a few recipes I have followed on my quest, most of the menu is my invention. All dishes are usually created on the day with occasional prep work on the evening before. Alphabet Soup has a strict code of practice, namely: no cheating. I can't call an aubergine and eggplant if I've already called it an aubergine elsewhere; similarly I can't say zucchini if I've already said courgette. And despite the boundaries, each menu is carefully planned so that flavours balance. The deer and doubanjiang dim sum weren't just thrown together with the pickled daikon. The daikon added a fresh, tangy sharpness that cut through the richness of the dumplings, as well as providing a satisfying crunch.

I've made less welcome discoveries along the way. Eddo is a hard, flavourless disappointment of a vegetable that, alarmingly, contains a toxin beneath its skin that causes your hands to go bright red and itchy on contact.

I have also discovered previously untapped levels of squeamishness. Who knew the preparation of escargot empanadillas could be such a shudder-worthy business? Tinned snails exude a white, viscous scum as you wash them, putting me off forever. I have half-planned next week's J night, but I still have no idea what I'll be serving for the letter X. It'll be a toughie. Xylitol and Xanthan gum, anyone? 

G is for... Gruyere, Petit Gaugry, Golden Cenarth, Gorgonzola and Double Gloucester served with gherkins and grapes


I usually try, where possible, to make the cheeseboard varied - one soft, one firm, one goats' or sheep's milk cheese and one blue. This time, however, I went all out on the cows' milk cheese. It was largely by accident, but mostly because I picked up the G cheeses I like best, which just happened to be bovine. I served them with grapes and gherkins.

Petit Gaugry is a French unpasteurised cows' milk cheese similar to Epoisses de Bourgogne, which is washed in Marc de Bourgogne. Golden Cenarth is an organic soft cows' milk cheese from Wales. I picked up both of these from Paxton and Whitfield. The other cheeses I bought at Waitrose: Gruyere is a firm Swiss unpasteurised cows' milk cheese, Double Gloucester is an English unpasteurised cows' milk cheese and Gorgonzola is an Italian pasteurised cows' milk blue.

G is for... Gold glittered green tea and chocolate ganache gateau with ginger ice cream and ginger biscuits

I wanted to make a pudding involving green tea, as I love the bitter tang it gives sweet things as well as the extraordinary colour - which is strange really, because I've always found green tea, as a drink, a bit nothing-y. I am also particularly keen on the combination of green tea and ginger, so I thought a home-made ginger ice cream would be a winner. And I was right. The addition of the little ginger biscuit added an extra little punch of aromatic warmth as well as an extra layer of texture with its pleasing crunch.

The gold glitter top received many "oohs" and "aahs" - absolute essentials for any Guy Fawkes Night and I was thrilled we didn't miss out on making these traditional noises, even though we didn't have any actual fireworks.

Gold glittered green tea and chocolate ganache gateau

Green tea layering cake

You can make a gluten-free version of this cake, by substituting the plain flour for more ground almonds.

Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan) and grease and line a large roulade tin.

3 whole eggs
5 egg whites
A pinch of salt
2 oz/ 50 g caster sugar
1 1/2 oz/ 40 g unsalted butter, melted
2 oz. 50 g plain flour, sifted
7 oz/ 175 g icing sugar, sifted
7 oz/ 175 g ground almonds
6 tsp green tea powder (matcha)

Whisk together the whole eggs and icing sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the almonds and continue to whisk on high speed for about five minutes. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour and green tea powder until fully incorporated. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt until they reach the soft peak stage. Add the sugar in stages, whisking in between, until you have a stiff and glossy meringue. Add a generous spoonful of the meringue to the ground almond mixture and beat vigorously to slacken it. Fold in the remaining meringue in stages and then pour the mixture out into your prepared tin. Level the top with a palate knife and bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until the cake is no longer sticky to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate ganache filling

I like a ganache to be rich and darkly chocolatey, but you can always substitute some of the dark chocolate for milk if your palate demands it. Personally, I have always felt that milk chocolate is sickly when used in cookery, so I've always felt much more at home on the dark side.

When making ganache, it's easiest to think metrically - for every 100 g of chocolate, you'll need 100 ml of cream.

400 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
400 ml double cream
A small pinch of salt
1 vanilla pod
Icing sugar, to taste

Chop the chocolate into small, evenly sized pieces (this is a tiresome business if you don't have a sharp knife, so get sharpening) and place in a large bowl. Place the cream in a saucepan and split the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds out into the pan. I usually throw the pod in too for good measure. Heat the cream and vanilla gently until it is barely boiling and immediately take the cream off the heat. Wait 30 seconds before passing the cream through a sieve (if you stuck the pod in, you won't need to bother with a sieve if you left it out) on to the chopped chocolate. Leave the cream to begin to melt the chocolate for one minute, before carefully stirring the mixture with a rubber spatula until all the chocolate has melted and you have a thick, smooth and glossy ganache. Stir in the salt. Sift a spoonful of icing sugar into the ganache and mix it in. Taste for sweetness and sift in more sugar if needed. Leave the ganache to cool completely. It will thicken on cooling. Once cool, whisk the ganache (an electric hand whisk is best here if you have one) to aerate it and make it more spreadable.

Gateau assembly

Trim the edges off of your green tea cake and cut lengthwise into four. Using a palate knife, spread one layer of the cake with a generous layer of ganache. Place the second layer of cake on top and repeat. Once the final layer is on, smooth the top and sides with a generous covering of ganache. Sprinkle the top of the gateau with edible gold glitter (which is available from most cake decorating suppliers). Slice the gateau and serve alongside the ice cream topped with a ginger biscuit.

Ginger ice cream

This was a real hit on the night and Jane from Really Hungry liked it so much she couldn't wait for me to write up my blog post to get the recipe. If you have an ice cream maker, don't forget to pop it in the freezer the night before you want to make this.

for the custard 

If you are making fresh custard as an accompaniment instead of as a component to this ice cream, you will only need half the amount of sugar and you should add a scraped out vanilla pod to the cream when you heat it or, failing that, a few drops of vanilla extract.

4 egg yolks
4 oz/ 100 g caster sugar
12 fl. oz/ 350 ml double cream

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it is barely boiling and pour it on to the eggs, whisking all the time. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk over a gentle heat until the custard has thickened - dip a dessert spoon into the custard and once you can draw a line with your finger down the back of the spoon, the custard is ready. Transfer to a clean, cold bowl or jug and leave to cool. Popping a sheet of clingfilm over the top of the jug will prevent a skin from forming.

to make the ice cream

1 quantity of custard (as above)
1 pot (227 g) of clotted cream
The ginger syrup from 1 jar of stem ginger
4-6 stem ginger balls, finely chopped

Simply mix together the cold custard and clotted cream with the ginger syrup and place in the fridge for an hour to get really cold, before pouring it into your ice cream maker. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, but mine takes roughly 20 minutes. Once set, add the chopped stem ginger and allow the machine to churn it through. Transfer the ice cream into a tupperware container and pop in the freezer until needed. If you don't have an ice cream maker, mix together all of the ingredients and put it straight in the tupperware box and pop it in the freezer for about 4 hours, stirring every half an hour or so to prevent ice crystals forming.

for the ginger biscuits

2 oz/ 50 g icing sugar
1 1/2 oz/ 40 g butter
1 egg white
1 1/2 oz/ 40 g plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger

Cream the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy. Sift over the flour and ginger and mix together. Fold in the (unwhisked) egg white. Pop the mixture in the fridge to rest for 10 minutes before spreading it thinly across the baking tray. Pop in the oven for five minutes and cut out circles with a pastry cutter while the biscuits are still warm. Leave the biscuits to cool completely before serving on top of a scoop of ginger ice cream, scattered with green tea powder, next to the gold glittered green tea and chocolate ganache gateau. Serve with a glass of Grappa.

After G night was over I thought it would have been an excellent thing if I had cut out mini gingerbread men for ginger "Guys", but, alas, my brainwave came too late in the day this time. Ah well, maybe next year...

G is for... Gunpowder granita

As G night was celebrated on the 5th November, I thought it would be shameful not to include something with gunpowder tea in it somewhere. Its flavour is quite subtle, so I didn't want it to compete with anything else. After all the rich food before, I thought a palate cleansing granita would be just the ticket - so, gunpowder granita it was!

Gunpowder granita 

1 pint of water
4 teaspoons of gunpowder tea
2 tbsp caster sugar

Boil the water in a saucepan and add the tea. Leave to steep for 5 minutes and strain. Add the sugar and stir until it has melted and leave to cool. Once cold, transfer to a a large tupperware box, so the sweet tea is shallow, and pop it in the freezer. Give it a good stir to break up the ice crystals every half an hour for 2 to 3 hours.   

G is for... garlic puree, giblet gravy and greens

The garlic puree worked beautifully alongside the goose. Its smoky sweetness added an extra layer of ceremony to the main course which elevated the dinner far above traditional roast. 

Garlic Puree

Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan)

4 heads of garlic
Olive oil
5 fl. oz/ 150 ml double cream
2 ladles of guinea fowl (or chicken/veg) stock
1 oz/ 25 g unsalted butter 
Salt and pepper

Peel off the papery outer skin and slice the tops off of the garlic heads, so that the flesh of each clove is faintly visible - don't slice too far down, you don't want to waste the garlic. Drizzle over a glug of olive oil and wrap loosely in foil. Seal the ends and place on a baking tray and pop in the oven for about 45  minutes, or until golden and soft.

Remove from the oven and carefully squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skin into a saucepan. Add the cream and stock, stir and gradually bring to the boil. Blend the mixture into a smooth puree and add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and season to taste.

Giblet gravy

After making the guinea fowl terrine, I made a vast vat of guinea fowl stock with the bones, which came in handy for many of the other savoury components of G's menu. I can't recommend making your own stock enough. People seem to think it's difficult or a bit of a hassle, but it really couldn't be easier. Simply bung your meat bones in a large saucepan with some roughly chopped vegetables (classics are onions, carrots, leeks and celery), with some herbs (bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage or oregano are always good bets), salt and a scattering of black peppercorns. Pour over enough water to cover the bones and heat until the liquid begins to boil. Then, turn the heat down and leave to simmer for a few hours. Strain it and you not only have a delicious home made stock which is the perfect base to any gravy, but also enough left over veg to make a wonderful soup. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week or you can freeze it.

People too often get squeamish about the idea of giblets and I can only think that the reason for this is because of the irritating habit of supermarkets, and even some butchers, of placing them in a plastic bag and whacking them so far back up inside your bird that you need Arnold Schwarzenegger's biceps, with child sized hands to pull them back out again. Luckily, I am no wimp and also have unusually small hands for my height. If you're upset by the idea of inserting your hand so far inside the goose, just pop on a latex glove and try not to leave it up there as you withdraw. It really will be worth it for the delicious flavour the giblets will add to your gravy.

Goose giblets
Half an onion cut into rough chunks
1 carrot, scrubbed and roughly chopped
1 celery stick roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 1/2 pints of guinea fowl (or other) stock
A large glass or so of Madeira
2 bay leaves
A bunch of thyme 
A few black peppercorns
1 oz/ 25 g unsalted butter 

Place the giblets in a roasting pan with the vegetables. Drizzle over some olive oil and roast for about half an hour - stirring them every so often to ensure even browning. Remove the giblets from the oven and place on the hob. Scatter over the flour and stir over a medium heat for about a minute. Add a couple of ladles of stock, reduce the heat and stir to ensure all the goodness stuck to the pan dislodges. Transfer the giblets and vegetables to a saucepan and add more stock and a large glass of Madeira. Pop your herbs into the gravy and leave to simmer for a couple of hours, topping up with more stock or Madeira if needed, and scooping off any scum which forms on the top. Strain the gravy through a fine mesh sieve and skim off any excess fat. Taste for strength and seasoning and reduce further if necessary, before stirring in a little butter and serving.


Greens are best steamed when served as a side vegetable, so simply get rid of any nasty outside leaves, remove the end of the stalk and chop into four. Wash thoroughly, place in a steamer and sprinkle with sea salt before popping on the lid for about five minutes. Serve with a little butter and seasoning. 

G is for... Golden goose with goose fat potatoes

This was the first time I have roasted a goose, largely because I always spend Christmas at my parents' house where my mother cooks the bulk of everything and I just help with the trimmings and bring the cake. The goose went down extremely well and many "oohs" were made as I entered with the bird and after the bulk was eaten, the bones were thoroughly picked. After the initial palava of pulling out the bag of giblets and washing the bird inside and out and cutting out the internal pads of fat and then disinfecting the sink and surfaces (I am my mother's daughter), the rest of the cooking was fairly straightforward. One thing I didn't do, having read about it after G night had already been cooked, eaten and washed up after, was this wonderful tip from Michel Roux Jr: namely, to turn the bird (whatever it is - duck, pheasant, goose) upside down while it is resting, so that all the juices run back into the flesh to make the meat more succulent and juicy. I'll be trying that next time, for sure.

Golden goose

Preheat the oven to 240 C (220 C Fan)

1 goose
3 lemons, halved
2 onions, quartered
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves but left unpeeled
A bunch of thyme
3 bay leaves
A little olive oil
Salt and pepper
A scattering of Szechuan peppercorns, ground in a pestle and mortar

If the goose has been trussed, snip off the string. Generously salt the inside cavity of the bird and then stuff it with the lemons, onions, garlic and herbs. Smooth a little oil over the top (not much though, it's just to ensure the seasoning will stick) and season generously with the salt and pepper. Scatter over the Szechuan pepper and tent the goose in foil. Place in the oven for ten minutes and then reduce the temperature to 190 C (170 C Fan) and cook for 30 minutes per kilo. Baste the goose every half an hour or so and take the foil off for the last 45 minutes of cooking so that the skin becomes deliciously golden and crisp. Don't forget to strain the fat into some kilner jars to keep - you'll get at least 2 pints of fat from one goose. Rest the bird for half an hour before carving.

Goose fat roast potatoes

Roast potatoes cooked in goose fat are a spud lover's heaven. Goose fat can reach amazingly high temperatures without burning, which means the outsides of your potatoes will get crispy and crunchy while the insides stay floury and soft, without a hint of greasiness. If you feel like adding garlic to the roasting tray, go for it, but I opted against it as I already had garlic puree on the menu. 

Preheat the oven to 200 C (180 C Fan)

1 kilo of floury potatoes - Maris Piper, King Edwards or Desiree are all good choices
2 tablespoons of goose fat
Sea salt and pepper

Peel and chop the potatoes, so that they have plenty of flat edges to crisp up. Parboil the potatoes in salty water and drain in a colander. Give them a good shake to rough up the edges. Meanwhile, heat the goose fat in a roasting tray for a few minutes so it melts down. Toss in the potatoes and stir them around so they are fully coated in the fat. Sprinkle over sea salt and pepper (if you wish) and pop them in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden, crisp and crunchy.    
Jane from Really Hungry picking the bones 

G is for... Gem squash gnocchi in Gorgonzola sauce

We'd been bemoaning the number of gem squashes we'd had in our Able & Cole vegetable boxes in the recent weeks before G night but, of course, by the time G arrived they'd been replaced by some other lettered squashes and were nowhere to be seen. In the end, after what seemed like endless searching around, it was in Fortnum and Mason that I found them and where I picked up a couple of gem squashes at the completely reasonable price of a fiver each. That's right. £5. Each. After my initial shock had subsided, I decided that they must be the best gem squashes available to man and therefore would definitely be worth the expense.

In fact, the gnocchi worked very well, though Richard wasn't convinced he could actually taste the gem squash in them, I - very possibly due to sheer determination alone - was convinced it added an extra richness and the warming flavours of Bonfire Night to the dish. The gem is a subtle squash in flavour, so it may well have been drowned out a little by the Gorgonzola sauce, but I genuinely feel that you would have noticed the difference if the gnocchi had been made with potato alone. Definitely. Or, almost certainly, at the very least. 

I wouldn't advise making the gnocchi with all gem squash as they are far too wet and would require too much flour for them to be able to remain light and fluffy. And nobody wants heavy gnocchi - especially as part of an eight course feast. If you want to make all potato gnocchi just increase the weight of potatoes and leave out the squash.

Gem squash gnocchi

Preheat the oven to 200 C (180 C Fan)

1 and 1/2 gem squashes (roughly half a kilo in weight)
1lb/ 500 g floury potatoes - such as Desiree, King Edwards or Maris Pipers.
3 1/2 oz/ 85 g "00" flour
1 small egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 oz/ 50 g butter

Bake the potatoes and gem squashes in the oven for about an hour to an hour and a half, until tender. Cut the spuds and squashes in half to allow the steam to escape and then spoon out the flesh. Push the scooped out flesh through a sieve into a bowl and leave to cool slightly. Add the flour, salt and pepper, mixing them together with a butter knife to avoid overworking the flour and making the gnocchi doughy. Finally, add the beaten egg and mix until you have a ball of dough - you may not need to use all the egg. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the potato dough in half, sprinkle the table or work surface (if your's is big enough) with flour and  roll the dough into two long sausages. Cut each sausage into 32 pieces - so you end up with 64 gnocchi dumplings - so each guest should get 8 small gnocchi each. Press the back of a fork lightly into each dumpling to make the traditional line marks on them and drop them into a saucepan of boiling, salty water in batches. Once the gnocchi rise to the surface, they are done, so scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of cold water and drain. Next, coat a large tupperware tub with olive oil and place the cold gnocchi in the tub, tossing them in oil, pop the lid on and stick them in the fridge until needed.

Once you're ready to serve your gnocchi, heat the butter in a large, non-stick frying pan, add the gnocchi and cook until golden brown on both sides.

Gorgonzola sauce

Simply heat some guinea fowl (or chicken or vegetable) stock in a saucepan, add crumbled Gorgonzola and stir until melted. Add a generous glug of cream and warm through. Check for seasoning and add the gnocchi, ensuring that it is all evenly coated and serve.    

G is for... Guinea fowl and girolle terrine with a grapefruit salad dressed in grain mustard vinaigrette

I am not even going to try to pretend that this dish doesn't take some effort. It requires a lot of prep work, partly I'm sure because I was essentially making the recipe up as I went along, but even with the luxury of following a recipe, you should be prepared to put a bit of time and welly in. It's definitely worth it though, not only for its moist and tender texture or its herb-infused subtle game-y flavours but also for its beauty. This really is a gloriously pretty plate of food and the sharp citrus of the grape fruit, together with the gentle heat of the mustard provided a really satisfying balance of flavours.

The first stage is to confit the guinea fowl. "Confit" comes from the French "confire", meaning to preserve. Confited meats, as long as they are well covered in fat and stored in an airtight container, can be kept in the fridge for a month or probably longer. You're supposed to leave the meat in the salt and herb rub for 24 hours, but I couldn't make it to the butcher's before closing time, so I left my meat for 4 hours. Well, at least it was something...

Guinea fowl confit

3 guinea fowls
4 sprigs of thyme, chopped
2 bay leaves, chopped
3 tsp juniper berries, crushed
2 tsp white pepper
4 strips of lemon zest, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 oz/ 150 g sea salt
1.5 kilos of goose fat (yes I know it sounds like a scary amount, but you won't actually be eating it all in this dish. Don't panic)

Combine the salt with the herbs and aromatics and rub this mix all over the guinea fowls' skin, place in a large dish and cover, before popping them in the fridge. Ideally, leave the meat for 24 hours but if, like me, time is too short, just leave it for as long as you can. If you can't leave it for 24 hours, use the meat straight away as it won't have been preserved properly for long-keeping.

Remove the herby salt from the birds with kitchen paper or give them a quick rinse in cold water and then dry them thoroughly afterwards. Cut off the legs (this requires a large heavy knife to get through the bones). Use a heavy bottomed pan (preferably cast iron), large enough to fit all the guinea fowl pieces (including the legs) snugly in a single layer - I had to confit mine in two pans.  Take the meat back out and very gently melt the goose fat down until it is liquid, but do not allow it to boil. Add the guinea fowl and ensure that all the meat is completely covered by the fat. Cover the pan and either pop it into a preheated oven at 150 C (130 C Fan) or stick it on the hob at the lowest heat possible. Cook for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender - it should come away from the bone very easily and the juices should run clear. Carefully lift the meat out of the fat and place in a container. From a bit of a height, strain the fat through a fine meshed sieve into a very large jug if you have one, or I used a very large steel mixing bowl. This should allow the meat juices to separate from the fat. Carefully ladle the fat over the guinea fowl and you should be left with all the delicious meat juices at the bottom. Cover the confit and leave to cool. Once cold, the guinea fowl juices will have turned into a thick jelly. Scrape off any fat left on the top and keep the jelly for the next stage.

Roughly chop and pull all the meat from the guinea fowls and then use the bones to make a stock. I used this stock in many of the evening's dishes.

 Guinea fowl and girolle terrine

The meat from confit of 3 guinea fowls (see above)
The meat jelly reserved from the confit
Half a pint of guinea fowl stock
10 oz/ 250 g girolles, washed thoroughly of their grit
A bunch of tarragon, finely chopped
A bunch of thyme, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 small glass of ruby port (or white port if you want to keep the colour purer)
2 oz/ 50 g unsalted butter
4 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced lengthwise
4 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water for at least ten minutes
12 slices of cured ham (I used Serrano)
Salt and pepper

Gently cook the leeks in the butter until completely soft, then drain and set aside to cool. Add the chopped girolles to the butter and saute with the garlic until soft. Add the guinea fowl meat along with the guinea fowl jelly. Cook gently for about ten minutes, then add the port and herbs and cook for a further few minutes, season and taste - adjust the seasoning if necessary. Heat the stock in a saucepan and dissolve the gelatine in it. 

Line your terrine dish or loaf tin with clingfilm - enough so that it hangs over the sides. Line with the slices of ham, so that they overlap to cover the base and sides and hang over the edges. Place one ladle of stock in the bottom of the terrine dish. Compress a layer of the guinea fowl and girolles mixture into the dish and then moisten with more of the stock. Place a layer of the leeks on top and then repeat with more guinea fowl, then leeks, then guinea fowl and then more leeks with a final layer of guinea fowl on top, or until the terrine is filled to the brim, remembering to moisten each layer with stock. Ladle some more stock over the top and give the dish a sharp tap on the worktop, so that the stock can sink into all the gaps. Fold the ham over the top and then  fold over the clingfilm and press it down gently. 

Place the terrine on a plate to catch any of the juices and place a small baking tray on it and top the tray with something heavy - a couple of tins of beans will do.  Pop it in the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours. About an hour before serving, place the terrine in the freezer to firm up for about 10 minutes to make carving easier. Remove the terrine from its dish and wrap it tightly in more clingfilm. Carefully slice the terrine, remove the clingfilm and, using a palate knife to help you lift it, place a slice in the centre of each plate. This should be done about half an hour before serving so that the terrine isn't fridge cold when eaten.

Grapefruit salad with grain mustard vinaigrette.

for the salad

3 pink grapefruits, peeled and segmented
A mixture of lambs lettuce, watercress and rocket (or whatever you like)

for the vinaigrette

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 heaped tbsp grain mustard
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper

Mix or shake all the ingredients together and taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary.

Place some leaves, then a segment of grapefruit, repeating in a circle around the edges of each plate. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette and serve. 

G is for... Gazpacho

I had never liked gazpacho much until one late Summer's day a few years ago. Richard and I had only known each other for a short time and he'd invited me round for lunch and the starter he'd made was gazpacho soup. But this wasn't just any old gazpacho soup - it was the most delicious gazpacho soup I had ever eaten. Ever. So, naturally, for G night, I asked his advice on how to make a gazpacho as delectable as he had made all that time ago for me. As I had been secretly hoping, he not only offered his advice. Instead he made the soup in front of me, so I could learn it and, better still, could get away with having a little break from G's prep work without feeling guilty or lazy. Excellent. As I wanted to serve the gazpacho in shot glasses, we both agreed that the addition of bread, as is usual in the recipe, should be omitted, so the soup would be thinner and more drinkable. Richard bases his gazpacho on an old Elisabeth Luard recipe from European Peasant Cookery, but he adds an extra kick to the seasoning. Here's Richard's gazpacho, sans the bread:


Half a pint of cold water
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2-4 cloves of garlic
3" piece of cucumber
1 lb ripe tomatoes
1 green pepper
1 red onion
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A quarter of a pint of tomato juice
Salt and pepper
A pinch of sugar
A few drops of Tabasco

Simply place all the ingredients in a processor and blitz until thoroughly liquidised. taste for seasoning and dilute further if necessary. Place in the fridge along with the shot glasses (or you could even pop the glasses in the freezer) until you're ready to serve. 

If you want to serve this as larger portions in bowls, double the quantity to serve 6 and add 1 - 2 slices of day old bread to the food processor before blitzing. Reserve a few finely chopped pieces of cucumber and pepper to scatter over the tops of the bowls with an extra drizzle of olive oil. 

G is for...

... Gin Fizz cocktails served with Gruyère gougéres, followed by an amuse-bouche of a shot of gazpacho. The starter was guinea fowl terrine with a grapefruit salad dressed in grain mustard vinaigrette. Next up came gem squash gnocchi in a Gorgonzola sauce. The main was golden goose served with goose-fat potatoes, greens, garlic purée and giblet gravy. A palate cleanser of gunpowder granita followed, before a pudding of gold glittered green tea and chocolate ganache gâteau with ginger ice cream, ginger biscuits and Grappa. Last came a cheeseboard of Gruyère, Petit Gaugry, Gorgonzola, Double Gloucester and Golden Cenarth served with gherkins and grapes. 

After the drama of F night, I was determined to make G a less fraught affair. I made sure all flat cleaning and food shopping had been completed the day before, so I could concentrate entirely on the food on the day itself, which was prepared to a soundtrack of The Gossip to help speed things up. But ensuring the evening would run more smoothly than F didn't mean I wanted to challenge myself any less with my menu plans. 

G night was held on the 5th November - Guy Fawkes Night, so I wanted this to be reflected somewhere in the menu. Richard and I scoured South London for indoor fireworks and sparklers, but alas, we couldn't find any anywhere. Despite my disappointment at not being able to offer guests a firework display in the middle of dinner, the least I could do was ensure there'd be something involving gunpowder and something twinkly in the form of edible gold glitter. People are often scared by glitter on their food, even when assured it is entirely harmless and edible. If you find the idea of it off-putting, let me reassure you - you can't digest it, so it will go straight through you. You will not be sidled with a glittery stomach lining for evermore, nor will you have to warn the radiographer should you happen to require an X-ray shortly after consuming it. The worst (or best, depending on your take on things) that will happen is that you will have sparkly poo the next day. 

Richard didn't have time to make a compilation CD this time, so we listened to whatever we could find in the CD rack, which was surprisingly little. Our dining soundtrack included Godspeed You! Black Emperor (or it might possibly have been Godspeed You Black Emperor! - I can't remember which of their CDs were played), Gorillaz, Gene, Goldie (something I usually only listen to while on the cross trainer, so I couldn't help but adopt an unwelcome competitive rhythm to my chewing), Guru (a mid 90's party staple) and The Go! Team. Luckily we only had Godflesh on tape so we were spared having to listen to that.

Gin Fizz

This is the most famous cocktail in the Fizz family (which became popular in America in the early 1900s) and it's definitely my favourite. According to Wikipedia, the Gin Fizz was so popular in the bars of New Orleans that scrums of bartenders working in teams would be employed to take turns shaking the fizzes. Although this doesn't sound entirely plausible, I certainly like the idea that this might have been true. To make a Gin Fizz, it's simply 2oz of gin, the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of icing sugar per person shaken with ice and topped up with fizzy water: simple, zingy, refreshing. And lethal.

Gruyere gougeres

I discovered a recipe for gougeres in the wonderful Essence by David Everitt-Matthias, which he serves in his restaurant, Le Champignon Sauvage, as bar nibbles - so I thought they'd be a perfect accompaniment to my Gin Fizzes. You make gougeres in a very similar way to choux pastry, except with milk as well as water. They are like like savoury profiteroles: cheesy, moreish little puffs of air.

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan)

100 ml milk
50 g unsalted butter
100 ml water
125 g plain flour
3 eggs, beaten
175 g finely grated Gruyere cheese 
Salt and pepper

Place the milk, butter and water in a heavy based saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Take off the heat, tip in the flour and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon. Pop the mixture back on the heat and continue to beat until it is shiny and leaves the sides of the pan. Continue to beat over a low heat for a couple of minutes to dry out the mixture a little. Allow to cool slightly and then whisk in the eggs a bit at a time. The mixture should be smooth, shiny and fairly firm; you might not need all of the egg. Stir in the cheese and some salt and pepper. Transfer to a piping bag ( I chose not to use a nozzle, but David Everitt-Matthias recommends a 1.5 - which is absolutely tiny). Pipe in mounds of 3 x 3 cm on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, allowing a 4 cm gap between each one.  Pop the tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until well risen and a rich, golden brown. Allow to cool slightly, then serve warm alongside the cocktails.

Amy Sackville, award winning novellist of The Still Point, tucking in.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

F is for... Fudge

I fondly remember family holidays to Cornwall as a child and stocking the boot up with boxes of Cornish fudge and Cornish Fairings to give as presents to friends when we returned. In an effort to make fudge that most closely resembled my memories of the sweet, soft and sticky fudge I ate as a child, I wanted to use clotted cream. I found a recipe by Matt Tebbutt on the Good Food Channel website and followed it, except I chose to use fresh vanilla instead of vanilla extract and didn't bother with the chocolate drizzle.


Grease a 20 cm/ 8" square tin

Butter, for greasing
275g caster sugar 
100g golden syrup
225g clotted cream
The seeds from 1 fresh vanilla pod

Place all the ingredients in a heavy based saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cover for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to boil until the mixture reached 115C on a sugar thermometer (My parents don't have one, so I guessed). Carefully pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl and leave to cool slightly. Whisk the mixture until the sugar crystallises - it should start to appear a little grainy in texture and turn from glossy to matte. Scrape the fudge out into your prepared tin and leave for half an hour or so to set slightly. Score with the tip of a knife into squares and leave the fudge to set completely before eating.

* As with the florentines, the fudge got scoffed before I had a chance to photograph it.

F is for... French Fancies

I would love it when, as children, we'd go to Nanny and Grandad's and they'd open a box of Mr Kipling's French Fancies. I liked the yellow and brown ones best and only ever went for a pink as a last resort. Eating them as an adult, I realised it was less the taste of the actual cakes I loved so much, it was more the silliness of how how they looked - in all their bold colours striped with ribbons of white icing - and the blob of silky buttercream on top. I wanted to make French fancies with tasty cake as well as tasty buttercream and, due to the enormous amounts of cookery I'd already saddled myself with, I decided for once, I was going to make life a little easier for myself and make them all vanilla. You can easily make different flavours by changing the flavour of sponge and buttercream. I didn't stick to Kipling's yellow, pink and browns either and added in some lilac and baby blue offerings too.

French Fancies

for the cakes

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) and line a roulade tin with baking parchment

4oz/ 100 g unsalted butter
4oz/ 100 g caster sugar
4oz/ 100 g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, beaten
a generous splash of vanilla extract
A splash of milk to slacken the mixture

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy and gradually whisk in the eggs, a little at a time. Stir in the vanilla and sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and fold in until thoroughly combined. Add milk to slacken the mixture if necessary and pour the batter into your prepared tin. Level over the top with a spatula and pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack.

for the special buttercream

3oz/ 75 g soft unsalted butter
1oz/ 25 g full fat Mascarpone
8 oz/ 200 g icing sugar
A generous splash of vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and Mascarpone. Sift half the sugar over the top and whisk until fully combined. Sift over the second half of the sugar and whisk until light and fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla, taste and whisk in a splash more if needed. Place the buttercream in a piping bag.

Trim off the edges of your cold sheet of cake and cut them into 2" x 2" squares. Pipe a generous blob of buttercream on the centre of each square.

for the royal icing

1 large eggs whites
14oz/ 350 g icing sugar
The juice of half a lemon
Various food colours (paste dyes are best - I used lemon yellow, pink, baby blue and lilac)

Whisk the egg white until it starts to froth, then sift over a quarter of the icing sugar and whisk until fully incorporated. Add another quarter and whisk in again. Sift over the rest of the sugar and whisk on high for 2-3 minutes. Sift the lemon juice into the icing and whisk again. Add more juice if needed and keep whisking until the icing is glossy and ribbons when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. 

Place 1 spoonful of the royal icing in a piping bag fitted with a no. 2 nozzle. Divide the remaining icing between bowls and colour them with your chosen dyes. 

Stick a cake square on the end of a fork, so that the buttercream side is on top and dunk it into a bowl of coloured icing. Carefully remove the cake square from the fork and leave to set on a rack. You may have to give each cake two layers, depending on the thickness of your icing.

Once set, pipe a zig zag of stripes over each cake with the bag of white royal icing reserved from earlier and allow to set. Place each cake in a fairy cake wrapper and serve. 

F is for... Florentines

Florentines are irresistible in all their sticky, fruity, chocolatey indulgence. As a child, I always thought they were a benchmark of sophistication and, as such, assumed they would require unimaginable levels of skill and effort to get right. In actuality, florentines are a doddle to perfect and work very well with a number of changes in the ingredients, so add candied peel if you like or use chopped mixed nuts instead of coconut or white chocolate instead of dark. 


Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan)

2 oz/ 50g unsalted butter
4 fl. oz double cream
5 oz/ 125g light muscovado sugar
2 oz/ 50g natural glace cherries, quartered
6oz. 150g dessicated coconut
3oz/ 75g flaked almonds
2 oz/ 50g stem ginger balls, finely chopped
2oz/ 50g plain flour
2oz/ 50g dark chocolate, melted

Melt the butter, cream and sugar together in a saucepan until the sugar has completely dissolved, sift over the flour and mix thoroughly. Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate and fold together until fully combined. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and drop a teaspoon's worth of mixture in regular intervals across the sheet - being sure to leave enough room between each biscuit for the mixture to spread. Pat each dollop down with the back of a spoon and place in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Leave them to cool on a wire rack, before dunking them in the chocolate or spreading a little over their tops. 

* My florentines didn't get photographed in time on the day - they'd all been scoffed before the camera battery had been changed, sorry!