Thursday, December 29, 2011

Easy smoked mackerel pate - recipe

Merry Christmas all.  Hope Father Christmas brought you everything you wanted and you enjoyed some quality time with friends, family and several boxes of mince pies.

With the festive season not quite over yet (phew!), lots of people this year seem to be planning to celebrate New Year's Eve with a party at home.  So, for those of you who need some ideas for nibbles or a buffet, I thought I'd share my smoked mackerel pate recipe.

This couldn't be easier; it's ready in about two minutes and tastes delicious.  Ideal served with crusty bread for a starter, on mini crackers as a canape, or with crudites for a buffet.

1 packet smoked mackerel fillets
1 tablespoon soured cream**
1 tablespoon double cream
1 dessert spoon creamed horseradish (from a jar)
Juice of half a lemon
Black pepper to season

Remove the skins from the smoked mackerel fillets.  These peel off really easily.

Put mackerel, soured cream, double cream and horseradish into a blender.  Blitz for 30 seconds to a minute - the consistency is up to you but I prefer mine with a little bit of texture, not completely smooth.

Taste and add lemon juice and pepper as required.

The pate will keep for a couple of days covered in the fridge, so you make well in advance of your party.

*If you have any spring onions or parsley that need using up, you can add them when you blend the ingredients.

**This recipe is fairly foolproof and you don't need to be exact with ingredients.  If you prefer you could use Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oysters with Japanese dressing - recipe

They might not be very traditional but I think oysters make the perfect starter over Christmas.  When you're eating so much rich food, oysters provide a welcome change.  Not only that but they're surprisingly affordable (around 70p per oyster) and most fishmongers will even open them for you - so very little effort is required.

You can serve them au natural with just a squeeze of lemon, or with a simple shallot and red wine vinegar dressing, or if you fancy, you can add a few more flavours.

One of my favourites is a Japanese twist.  I made these yesterday for Marc with a dressing made of soy sauce, sushi vinegar and grated ginger.  I also topped them with a touch of very finely chopped cucumber and spring onion and a little dot of wasabi.  Perfection.

A couple of months ago, we went to an oyster tasting event at Wrights Bros, Soho.  Have a look here for some more oyster inspiration.

Oysters with Japanese dressing

Monday, December 19, 2011

Canapés from the East at Hashi Cooking

One of the best things about Christmas is party food (also known as canapés!).  I love drooling over the supermarket ads showcasing their festive offerings but have to admit that, if you can find the time, homemade canapés always taste better.

With my love of the bite-sized treat, the Canapes from the East class at Hashi Cooking sounded like the perfect pre-Christmas night out.

The class is just one evening, during which you learn how to make six different Asian canapés.  Reiko demonstrates first, then you get the chance to make them yourself.  Most importantly, you get to enjoy them all with a glass of fizz at the end!

My three favourites are below.  You also take away all the recipes, making it easy to recreate them at home.  Hope they give you some festive inspiration.

Watercress, calamari and prawn tempura

Little gem lettuce with chestnuts and sweetcorn

Prawn noodle salad with sesame dressing

Friday, December 16, 2011

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends #7 - cookery courses

One of the best things I've done this year is Japanese cookery lessons at Hashi Cooking.  I think a cookery course is an ideal present for any foodie friends or family.

The added bonus is that they can try out their new skills on you!

Here's my top three suggestions:

Billingsgate Seafood School
They offer a variety of different one and half day courses, some of which include a guided tour of the World famous fish market.

The Ginger Pig Butchery classes
Not one I'd be keen to do (due to my non-meat eating ways!) but I've heard good things about these classes.  Maybe one for the man in your life?

Hashi Cooking
I think the one day sushi/sashimi making class would make a great present.

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends:

#1 For Japanese food lovers:

#2  For those who like an unusual tipple:

#3  For those who like the finer things in life:

#4 For the chilli-heads:
#5 For pizza addicts

#6 For cheese chompers
Slate cheese board

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends #6 - slate cheese board

This slate cheese board is a brilliant idea, as you can write the name of the cheeses directly on it with a piece of chalk.  I recommend doing this before you start dinner, whilst you can still remember what they all are!

The Handpicked Collection stocks them here 

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends:

#1 For Japanese food lovers:

#2  For those who like an unusual tipple:

#3  For those who like the finer things in life:

#4 For the chilli-heads:
#5 For pizza addicts
Pizza stone

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends #5

I'm a huge pizza fan but rarely make it at home.  Perhaps I would if I had my own pizza stone though, this is definitely on my Christmas list!

The idea is that you place your pizza on the stone in the oven.  The stone heats up, giving you a super crispy base.  My local pizza delivery outlet might just find themselves out of business.  Sorry guys!

You can find them in most kitchen shops and there are loads online, for example this one on Amazon

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends:

#1 For Japanese food lovers:

#2  For those who like an unusual tipple:

#3  For those who like the finer things in life:
White Alba truffle

#4 For the chilli-heads:
Chilli presents

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends #4 - For the chilli-heads

You probably know someone who loves hot food.  The hotter the better.  They order the hottest curry on the menu and insist on adding extra chillies to anything you make them.

Marc is one of these people.  I used to get offended when he immediately tipped a pile of chilli flakes over any of my creations, without trying it first but these days I just accept it.  In fact, I think I like my food spicier as a result of living with a chilli-head!

There are loads of chilli related presents out there, so this Christmas present suggestion is actually three-in-one.

1.  First up, chilli chocolate.  Yes, it's becoming ubiquitous among artisan producers but it really is good and makes a great stocking filler.  One of my faves is Montezuma's  They do chilli chocolate by the bar, in various flavour combinations.  It's an independent British company, so worth supporting.  There are a few shops in London and the South-East but they also do mail-order.

2.  I grew chillies for the first time this year and can vouch for the fact that it's pretty fool-proof and actually quite rewarding.  For someone who loves chilli, I think a grow-your-own-chillies kit is a fab pressie.  There's plenty of them around, try Amazon.

Some good tips on growing them in this article

3.  Now, the only problem with growing your own is that it does take aaaagges.  So, if you're looking for a more instant hit, check out Capsicana  This online shop sells all manner of dried chillies, including the World's hottest chilli, Bhut Jolokia - guaranteed to spice up your Christmas dinner!  My favourite is the chipotle, which has a lovely smoky flavour.  I've used it to make patatas bravas very successfully in the past.  Prices at Capsicana are reasonable, so why not put together a selection pack.  Guaranteed to be more popular than your standard chocolate one!

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends:

#1 For Japanese food lovers:
Hashi: A Japanese Cookery Course

#2  For those who like an unusual tipple:
Violet liqueur

#3  For those who like the finer things in life:
White Alba truffle

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends #3

Truffles might seem like an obvious Christmas present but I'm not talking about a box of chocolates.  How about snuffling out some truffles and arranging for a White Alba truffle to be be delivered to your loved one in time for Christmas?

Earlier this year I bought a truffle from Mister Truffle and had a very decadent weekend making all sorts of truffle-y delights - check out my post on Truffle Fest 2011 for more information.

Mister Truffle is arranging deliveries for Christmas, so get in touch with the lovely people there for a present guaranteed to be more popular than a box of chocolates!
Present ideas:
#1 Hashi: A Japanese Cookery Course
#2 Violet liqueur
#3 A White Alba Truffle

Friday, December 2, 2011

Best Christmas Presents for foodie friends #2 - violet liqueur

If you're thinking a bottle of something naughty might be in order, why not make it something a little bit different?

This violet liqueur comes in a gorgeous bottle - it almost looks like it belongs on a dressing table in fact - and is the most stunning colour. It puts me in mind of an old fashioned apothecary but there's nothing medicinal about the taste: this is Parma violets in a bottle. Divine.

Pour a little into a champagne flute and top with champagne or prosecco to make a Parma violet Princess. Perfick.

It's not easy to get hold of but I found it on Amazon 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Best Christmas presents for foodie friends #1

Love it or hate it, it's most definitely that time of year again (and for the record I LOVE it!).  So, it's chocolate for breakfast, mince pies for elevenses and mulled wine whenever I can get my mitts on it.  Ace.

Along with all the eating and drinking I'll be trying to get my Christmas shopping done in plenty of time this year.  There's always a few people who are difficult to buy for, so, being a generous sort of person, I thought I'd help you out with some pressie ideas.

And I'm starting you off with a cracker(!).  Even if your loved one's bookcase is already groaning with cookbooks, I can guarantee they'll make room for this one.  Shiny, spanking brand new: Hashi: A Japanese Cookery Course, by Reiko Hashimoto.

As you might remember, I've done Reiko's Beginners course and am currently doing the Gourmet course, so I'm familiar with a fair few of the recipes and I can reliably inform you that they're all delicious.  In the book, they are throughly explained step-by-step, with useful cook's tips throughout.

This book does what Reiko does so well in person: it demystifies Japanese cookery and makes it accessible.  A reference section at the front gives you all the information you need on equipment and utensils, as well as lots of interesting facts about the cuisine itself.  Reiko's down-to-earth approach comes across well in the text and there's plenty to learn, without it being overfacing.

The book is beautifully styled and the photography is stunning.  I bought my copy yesterday and I'm over the moon with it.  I'm sure anyone you buy it for will be too.