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Cover: A dish for all seasons

March, 2012

30Mar 12

Poached Pears with a Hot White Chocolate Liqueur Sauce

Pears with chocolate sauceIf frozen berries and white chocolate make a nice pairing, I think that the combination of pears and white chocolate is pretty divine, especially when the white chocolate sauce contains a little liqueur.  What a nice way to round off a special meal!

 

March is the last month of the pear season in the UK.  You can still find lots of delicious varieties out there.  Poached pears with a hot white chocolate liqueur sauce uses Conference pears.  This fruit is one of my personal favourites.  Pears have a special kind of sweetness and when ripe, a great softness, although pears also have that distinctive slightly gritty texture to them.  Apparently, when they are picked early and ripen off the tree, that gritty texture is less prevalent.

What you need:

  • 6 conference pears, stalks in place, peeled
  • 85g Demerara sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey, runny and clear
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • 450ml white wine
  • 255g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 120g butter, unsalted
  • 4-6 tbsp white chocolate liqueur

What to do:

  1. In a deep and heavy-based saucepan, add the white wine, cinnamon, vanilla essence and honey, and bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer.  Add the pears and turn the heat down to low, poaching the pears for about half an hour or until they are translucent in appearance.  Turn the pears over every now and then during poaching.
  2. Whilst the pears are cooking, you can get going with the white chocolate liqueur sauce.  Gently melt the white chocolate and the butter together in a separate pan.  When molten and combined, remove from the heat and stir in the white chocolate liqueur.
  3. Once the pears are translucent and soft, remove them from the saucepan and place them in the serving bowls, then reduce the white wine mixture to a third of its quantity.
  4. Pour some of the white wine reduction over each pear before pouring on the white chocolate sauce.

If you want to be really decadent, you can make a milk chocolate sauce as well. Take 255g of milk chocolate in small pieces and 120g of butter. As with the white chocolate sauce, stir together over a low heat until it is all molten and combined. Pour on top of the pears after the wine reduction and before the white chocolate.

Less than 30 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to 1 hour to cook

Makes: 6 puddings

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29Mar 12

Baked Salmon with Red Pesto, Red Peppers and Tomatoes

Baked Salmon with Red peppers and TomatoesBaked salmon with red pesto, red peppers and tomatoes is a low-fat, nutritious meal for two.  You do not need to add any oil; the salmon will bake in its own juices, along with those of the vegetables and the lime.

Roast Salmon with vegetables is also quite tasty as the veggies provide a perfect complement for this light dish.

Salmon is regionally seasonal, following a complex series of migrations as the fish move from river to river throughout the year.  It’s fascinating stuff!  Make sure to look up when Salmon is in a river near you.

What you need:

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 2 tbsp red pesto
  • 1 large red pepper, deseeded then cut into long, thin strips
  • 4 garden tomatoes cut into halves or small cubes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh basil to garnish

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  2. Place a large sheet of aluminium foil over your baking tray, enough to comfortably wrap around all of the ingredients, sealing in the cooking juices.
  3. Lay the salmon onto the prepared tray with the skin side down; spread the red pesto over the top of each fillet.
  4. Arrange the red peppers and tomatoes all around the outside of the fillets, squeeze lime juice over everything, and sprinkle over the lime zest before seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Wrap the aluminium foil around all of the ingredients, creating a parcel effect, and bake in the oven for 25-45 minutes (depending on the size of your salmon fillets).  When the fish is opaque throughout, it is cooked. Check that there is no translucency to the middle part of the salmon fillets before serving.  You can also remove the foil from the top of the fish for the second half of cooking if you want to add a little crispness and don’t mind losing some of your cooking juices.  If you do this though, be sure to create a tray effect with aluminium foil (with folded edges to each side) plus a separate foil cover at the start, so that when you remove the cover, the juices won’t escape.  Both methods are very tasty.
  6. Serve the salmon over the vegetables. Pour over the juices, and top off with a sprig of fresh basil.

20 minutes to prepare – 25 to 45 minutes to cook

Makes: 2 main courses

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27Mar 12

Lamb Roast with Garlic and Rosemary

Lamb Roast with Garlic and RosemaryLamb roast with garlic and rosemary is a mouth wateringly tasty meal that is served up traditionally in some Irish households on St Patrick’s Day on 17th March.  The festival coincides with the very beginning of the lambing season in mid march, so this may well be your first taste of spring lamb this year. (If you really like this meat, I also recommend spiced skewered lamb.)

What you need:

  • 1 leg of lamb on the bone, about 2kg
  • Lamb trimmings and chopped bones (fresh from the butchers)
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, halved horizontally
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped in half
  • 20g butter, softened
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
  2. Take a deep roasting tin and lay in the chopped bones, trimmings and the halved garlic bulb.
  3. With a sharp knife, make plenty of deep slits into the leg of lamb, inserting the garlic cloves and the small sprigs of rosemary into them randomly all over the joint.
  4. Rub the lamb all over with the butter and lay the joint over the bones in the roasting tray.  Season well with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 1-1½ hours or until the meat is cooked to your liking.
  5. At the end of the roasting time, take the lamb out of the oven, grind over a little more salt and pepper, cover it loosely with tin foil to retain the heat, and remove it to another tray to rest.  Resting the meat relaxes it so that it has a softer texture.
  6. Whilst the joint is resting, make the gravy by placing the tray with the bones of the lamb over a medium heat on the hob and reducing the cooking juices until they are caramelised.  This should only take a few minutes.  Strain away any excess fat and pour in about 360ml of cold water.  Bring the mixture up to the boil, then reduce the heat immediately and simmer for around 5 minutes.  Strain the gravy mixture through a large sieve and pour it into a gravy boat to put on the table.
  7. Serve the lamb with creamed potatoes, parsnips and carrots, and a green vegetable of your choice.

Enjoy with a customary pint of Guinness, or a full-bodied red wine.

Less than 30 minutes to prepare, 1-2 hours to cook

Makes: 6-8 servings

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26Mar 12

Moules Mariniere

Moules MariniereMoules mariniere brings back memories of holidays in the south of France and close to the Spanish border where moules frites (mussels and chips) and mussels in Asturian cider are very popular.

British Mussels are in season in February.  If you’re lucky enough to find good ones, you will soon be making succulent and tasty mussels in a white wine and cream sauce, which you can enjoy as a starter, or as a main meal with nice hunks of granary bread, chips or a mixed salad.  It looks stunning in its presentation and is sophisticated to the palette.

Moules mariniere is most fun prepared in company, sampling the white wine together as you cook.  I use a splash of good white wine from the bottle I want to drink with the meal rather than a cheap cooking wine, which I believe improves the flavour significantly. Try this recipe with a very well chilled oaked chardonnay.

What you need:

  • 1.75kg fresh mussels
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 15g butter
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 100ml white wine
  • 120ml double cream (substitute for light crème fraiche if desired)

What you do:

  1. Wash the mussels thoroughly, removing and binning any that have opened and don’t close when lightly pressed in your fingers.
  2. Remove the beards from the mussels – these are the tough and fibrous strands which stick out of the closed shells.  Rinse the mussels once again.
  3. Melt the butter in a large pan (which needs to be large enough for the mussels to reach only half way up the pan) and fry the shallots and the onion until soft.
  4. Splash in the wine and add the mussels.  Turn up the heat at this point, cover the pan with a lid, and steam the mussels for 3-4 minutes.  Whilst the mussels are cooking, move them about every now and then by gently shaking the pan; there’s no need to remove the lid to do this.
  5. Pour in the cream, add the coriander, and remove from the heat.

10-15 minutes to prepare and cook

Makes: 4 generous starters or light main meals

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