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Lemon Montecaos & A Lemon Drop Cocktail Afterthought

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These biscuits are my modest (token, you might say) contribution to Christmas food this year. It may be a modest effort but it's a wonderfully simple recipe to put together and that's got to be a good thing. They're really pleasing with coffee and they're not just for Christmas. Confusingly, this montecaos recipe is based on a French interpretation of an Algerian original that I came across a few years ago and they're sort of remote cousins of the mantecados that are made around Christmas time in Spain. The traditional Spanish mantecado recipe uses pig fat (manteca de cerdo means pork fat or lard, or so I'm told) but North African biscuits, not surprisingly, replace the pig fat with oil. It's best to use a fairly neutral oil in this recipe to avoid more powerful oils dominating the taste. Cinnamon is often used as the primary flavouring but there are many variations such as orange, almond or coconut. I've used lemon because I love it and it makes me thin

Black Pudding, Smoked Garlic, Apple Reduction, Crushed Peas, Hazelnut Tuile

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The recipes on this blog can be eclectic and random but they're definitely not cheffy. Just this once, as we come towards the end of another year, then I think I'm allowed one dish that might seem a little more elaborate. Actually, it really isn't difficult to put together but it might possibly impress your friends. Admittedly, I'm assuming that you have friends who like black pudding. I put this together after I stumbled across some lovely smoked garlic and some even more lovely black pudding in a local market. There are four elements to this little treat: First, a base of peas flavoured with smoked garlic. The smoked garlic might seem a little intense when raw but, when it's roasted, it becomes mellow and intensely savoury. Second, the black pudding, which is cooked very simply. Choose whichever black pudding you like but I prefer to use a softer style. My favourite types are usually either from Stornoway or Normandy. Third, an apple reduction. This sounds a bit

Yoghurt Bread

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This yoghurt bread is a soft, close-crumb, light bread that's great for breakfast but, I think, works well with savoury dishes too. I like it toasted and served with pâté. It's my alternative to a slice or two of brioche when I don't want too much sweetness or richness.  Not for the first time, I'm happy to allow my breadmaker to get on with the hard graft of making the dough for this bread. (Actually, this isn't a difficult or irksome dough to make if you don't use a breadmaker, but I've got other things to be getting on with.) I first came across similar yoghurt breads in France and so I tend to use a French T65 flour in this recipe (there's something about the softness of the flour that seems to work well) but other white bread flour will be fine.  I prefer to use a Greek-style 0% fat yoghurt for this bread but richer, higher fat yoghurts will be good too. It's best to avoid very thick, strained yoghurts, though. 1 tsp dried, fast-action yeast 225

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