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Sweet Potato Soup with White Wine, Lime and Chillies

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It's getting very autumnal and, for me, that means it's soup time. Recently I was listening to someone talking on the radio about how unusual it was to use wine in a soup. I wasn't convinced that it was that unusual and I began trying to remember any soups that I'd made with wine. From somewhere deep in my confused memory,  I recovered this one from the distant past. It's a simple enough soup but if the balance between the sweet ingredients (the leeks and sweet potatoes) and the sharp ingredients (dry white wine and lime) is just right, then I think it's a bit special. The touch of chilli heat rounds it off very nicely for me. Of course, there are a lot of variables such as the size and sweetness of the sweet potatoes, so it's the perfect excuse to taste carefully and repeatedly before serving to your victims , sorry, I mean guests. You could use any chilli paste or sauce you like in this soup but one with a good savoury flavour and maybe a little smokiness

Chicken with Orange and Mint

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This dish is based on a Spanish recipe that I found while wandering about in my usual dazed manner many years ago. The original was a rich sauce that usually accompanied duck and contained buckets of cream. Times change and if I made that original sauce today then everybody I know would look horrified and refuse to eat it. So this is a much lighter and fresher version that keeps the unusual and attractive flavours without all the fat.  You don't have to thicken the sauce at all but, if you prefer a classic, thicker result then, rather than add cream, just add a spoonful or two of cornflour let down with either a little of the sauce or water or deploy whatever thickener you prefer. (I tend to use a little Ultratex if I really need to thicken sauces these days). A quick note on the ingredients: Sherry vinegars can vary quite a lot in acidity and, in this case, a less acidic style works best. A PX (Pedro Ximenez) vinegar is ideal. You could leave out the orange liqueur, but it does a

Aubergine, Apple and Tomato Chutney

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There's nothing too surprising or unusual about this chutney, but it's proved to be a huge favourite in my house and is rapidly hoovered up with curries or other spicy dishes. So I thought I'd better write the recipe down in case I forget it and have to leave home under a dark cloud of ignominy.  You can't go far wrong with this chutney, it's very forgiving and open to substitutions and variations depending on what's in season and what's in your cupboard. I used standard, dessert apples this time but sharper, cooking apples will work too, though you may need to increase the amount of sugar a little. I used small plum tomatoes to make this version of the chutney but it's OK to use whatever you have. You could even use any unripe, green tomatoes at the end of the growing season but, once again, you may need to increase the amount of sugar a little. The amount produced by this recipe will obviously depend somewhat on the size of the aubergines and apples us

Dark ‘n’ Stormy Chicken

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The Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail is a combination of dark rum, ginger beer and (usually) lime juice. (I've added a few notes on the cocktail if you're interested at the end of this post). They're great flavours in a drink but recently I decided it was time to eat them. So here's a simple way to get those flavours into chicken.  I've used a little Henderson's Relish in this recipe and I've become a bit of a fan of the Sheffield elixir, lately. (I would call it Hendo's, but I think that's illegal unless you were born in Sheffield). There would be outrage in Sheffield at my suggestion that Worcestershire sauce is an alternative but, if that's what you have, then use it. This method of cooking chicken is based on the way the estimable Rosamund Grant used to cook chicken half a lifetime ago (or thereabouts). While my enthusiasm for Henderson's Relish owes a great deal to the way Tom Wrigglesworth has expounded its virtues. This should serve 2.  8 ch

Spanish Carrot Salad and Black Hummus

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For me, summer meals often mean creating a selection of mezze dishes (or should it be meze? I don't know and neither does my dictionary). I'll regularly make French carottes râpées and some classic hummus but, just for a change, here are two alternatives to those classics which should freshen things up a bit.  I use the amounts given here to serve 2, 3 or 4 people as part of a mezze, depending on how many other dishes I can be bothered to make. Spanish Carrot Salad I've had this recipe scribbled in a notebook for more than 30 years but, until recently, I'd never actually made a version using the PX (Pedro Ximenez) sherry vinegar that the recipe called for. It was only during lockdown that I shifted myself to buy some on line. But you could use another sherry vinegar, as long as you add a little extra sweetness (and maybe a dash of PX sherry). I've played around with the dish a little to suit my tastes these days but it's not complicated to make and it's an o

Frango na Púcara or its Distant Relative

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I created a version of this dish based on stories I'd been told about it. As it happens, what I'd been told differed from person to person. So this version is doubtless a long way from its Portuguese roots but, nevertheless, it's seriously tasty. It takes its name from the dish in which it's cooked and that should really be quite a large, lidded clay pot (púcara). I don't have one so I used a classic, ceramic casserole dish.  The mustard and the assortment of alcohol makes this a little different to other chicken casseroles and you might imagine that the resulting dish tastes boozy but, in fact, it has a very savoury flavour. A whole, jointed chicken is normally at the heart of this dish but I've used chicken thighs here in an attempt to keep things simpler and smaller. Originally I was told to use chorizo for this dish but then I was told to use an air-dried ham instead, so use whichever you prefer and, if you use the ham, add a little paprika. I have a vivid

Chilli Sherry and What To Do With It

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Combining chillies and sherry might sound like an eccentric fantasy today but I remember the 1960s (even though I was there - just about). Back then sherry was one of the staples in dinner party and restaurant cooking and, despite what we're often told, chillies and spices were available to English cooks who wanted them. So it was perfectly reasonable to stick a few chillies in one of your bottles of sherry while listening to the new Beatles LP. In fact, this method turns up in the Constance Spry Cookery Book published way back in the mid 1950s. Since then, sherry in cooking has become a bit of a joke and faded from use. It deserves a revival.  How To Make Chilli Sherry (it's really simple):  Step 1 - Go and buy a bottle of sherry. The two types of sherry favoured these days seem to be the very dry or the very sweet. For sipping purposes, I totally agree, but for chilli sherry in the kitchen a medium or medium-sweet is probably the most useful of all in my opinion.   Step 2