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Give It Some Welly!

23rd October 2013

Beef and pastry – two of the best ingredients in any menu.  I hosted a dinner party recently, and decided to ‘give it some welly’ (see what I did there?!).  I had never made Beef Wellington before, but it seemed like a fun challenge (and I really fancied beef and pastry).

But before I explain the main course, let me show you the starter.  O and I got inspiration for this one at a restaurant we visited in Thailand, and have been meaning to make it for a while.  I will not claim the credit, he did all the work on this course!

Stuffed Tomato

It’s a stuffed tomato, served with the ‘lid’ on.  So, we bought one beef tomato per person, sliced the tops off, and then O got to work scooping out the insides.  These are then chopped and mixed with mozzarella, basil and seasoning in a bowl, before being spooned back in to the hollowed out tomatoes.

Tomato with filling

Lids are placed on top, and then we reduced some balsamic vinegar on the stove to decorate for serving.  The tomatoes look very pleasing when they’re brought to the table – I think this would work with other fillings as well (maybe goats cheese and pepper?).

Stuffed tomatoes

Starters munched, onto the Wellington.  I’d prepared this in the afternoon, so popped it into the oven as we were serving the starter.  It needed about 25 minutes in a hot oven to cook to medium rare. 

Firstly, you need to buy some really good beef fillet.  This should be from a butcher or the meat counter in a supermarket (be warned, it is a bit pricey…).  Around 1kg should serve six people well, but if you can afford more, buy more – you’ll want seconds!

I precooked the fillet (brushed with olive oil) for 15-20 minutes, and then put it in the fridge to chill.  While it’s cooling, throw a load of chestnut mushrooms into the food processor and chop them till they’re quite fine.  These are then pan fried with butter, oil, thyme and white wine to make the ‘duxelles’.  

Use cling film to wrap the fillet in prosciutto ham, with a layer of duxelles between the ham and the beef.  The duxelles keeps the beef moist, and the ham will help to prevent the pastry becoming soggy. 

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When the beef is wrapped, put it back in the fridge to chill (wrapped in cling film still), while you roll out a sheet of puff pastry.  You then need to place the fillet on the pastry sheet, and brush the whole lot down with egg yolk.  Lay another sheet of pastry over the top, and seal by pressing a spoon around the edges.

Trim the pastry and then decorate the Wellington with the excess, before brushing more egg yolk over everything.

Beef Wellington ready for the oven

I blobbed the remaining bits of pastry around the tray, because I know people always like extra pastry…

The Wellington can be chilled like this for up to 24 hours before you put it back in the oven.

Cooked Beef Wellington

To my blogging shame, I was too excited with the result and forgot to take a photo of the beef when I’d carved the Wellington into slices.  But I can say following reviews that it looked (and tasted) pretty good!

As a side dish, I served an Ottolenghi dish I’d been recommended by K – sweet potato gratin.  You can find the recipe on that link.  I will hands down be making this again – minimal prep (especially if you can slice the potatoes with a food processor), and so, so delicious.  The short story is, you roast sweet potatoes, sage, garlic and cream in the oven and create something magical.

Ottonlenghi Sweet Potato Gratin

As you can see, the finished gratin will make a big impact (the colour is lovely).

Pudding was raspberry pavlova, washed down with Amarula.  We were joined after supper by some neighbours across the road who spotted us dancing through the window.  (A little strange, but why not?)  So we danced the night away…

Raspberry Pavlova

Raspberry Pavlova

What are your go-to dinner party recipes?

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‘Nearly Pesto’ Pasta

21st August 2013

The summer is flying by, and I’ve been meaning to post this for a while.  However, Italy, skiing, and bad internet connection have all provided enough of an (enjoyable) distraction that I haven’t gotten around to it.  

OK, no more excuses – here is a simple pasta recipe that I made last time I went home.  It’s like a tangy, lighter version of home made pesto. First stop – the greenhouse, for fresh basil. 12 The warm, tomato-ey smell of the greenhouse is one of my favourite things. 1 2 3 Basil in hand, I returned to the kitchen to prepare the rest of the ingredients. 13 For this pasta sauce, you’ll need:

  • Parmesan or other hard cheese – I used one I found in the fridge and can’t remember the name of – will update!
  • Pine nuts
  • Basil
  • Lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Cream (if you like dairy)
  • Tomatoes, courgettes and so on can be used as a side salad if you fancy it – or you could mix them into the pasta.  Options!

(I’m sorry I haven’t included quantities – that’s because I didn’t really use them.  Just go for a ‘good handful’ of everything, and adjust to taste).

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Grind up the pine nuts with a pestle & mortar, and then throw in some more whole ones for a bit of diversity in the texture.  Add the parmesan to the nuts as well.

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Chop your beautiful fresh basil…

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And then grate the rind of a lemon and throw the whole lot in with the nuts and cheese.

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(My lemon is a bit pink because it got up close and personal with a pomegranate.  But no harm done.)

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A nice big slosh of olive oil and a squeeze of the lemon – and there you are.  The next picture isn’t that pretty but it’s what it looks like.  It tastes fab though.

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You can set that on one side or in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.  When you are, boil up some fresh pasta – don’t forget to add a bit of oil and a pinch of salt to the water.

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Put the cooked pasta into a serving dish and pour the sauce mixture on top of it, then toss it all together.

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You can add more basil and ground pepper on top to serve.  I also sloshed in a little bit of cream.

Everyone to the table!  

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Glass of wine?

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I think someone was a bit jealous…

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A Collection

8th July 2013

Is it really already July?  I have spent the last couple of weeks preparing for, dancing at, and recovering from what has been billed as ‘The Best Glastonbury Ever’.

Being a first timer, I obviously agree with this, and plan on returning next year (if at all possible) to see if it can be beaten.

However, I have realised that as a new blogger, I have been dreadfully lacking on the organisation front.  I did not prepare any blogs before I went away, and I have been lucky enough to be doing lots of nice things.  I am therefore very behind (cross voice) and my camera and phone are full of photos that I want to share.

While I get ready to fill everyone in on what I’ve been up to (and mainly what I’ve been eating), I thought I would post a little collection of my favourites bits and bobs from the last year.  I only started writing this blog in April, and it does seem a shame for anything pre-dating it to be lost to the iPhone archive.

I hope you enjoy them!  (And I promise some high quality ‘food porn’ photographs are coming up very soon!)

A perfect latte in the sunshine in South Kensington

A perfect latte in the sunshine in South Kensington

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Mummy’s Easter ‘Nest’ Cake

Amazing wrapping paper from a little card shop on Camden Passage in Angel (name TBD)

Amazing wrapping paper from a little card shop down Camden Passage in Angel (name TBD)

A wine that I REALLY LIKE

A wine that I REALLY LIKE

A cupcake from Waitrose that was dressed up as an ice cream

A cupcake from Waitrose that was dressed up as an ice cream

Pizza from Franco Manca on Northcote Road (it's the best)

Sourdough pizza from Franco Manca on Northcote Road (it’s incredible)

Burrata cheese, tomatoes, bread and ham - also from Franco Manca

Burrata cheese, tomatoes, bread and ham – also from Franco Manca

Real foodie romance - image from Cargo Collective

True foodie romance – image from Cargo Collective

A holiday twist - Brussels sprouts with chorizo, a balsamic glaze and a sprinkle of pine nuts

A holiday twist – Brussels sprouts with chorizo, a balsamic glaze and a sprinkle of pine nuts

She does it again!  Traditional Christmas roulade (plus Snowman)

She does it again! Traditional Christmas roulade (plus Snowman)

Cheecken Noodle Soup

Cheecken Noodle Soup

Pomegranate, Lime & Soda Water Coolers (with a splash of Vodka)

Pomegranate, Lime & Soda Water Coolers (with a splash of Vodka)

Fried egg in a pepper cut-out - my little sister sent me this but I can't remember if it was her or a clever friend who was the creator! (Let me know and I'll update)

Fried egg in a pepper cut-out – my little sister sent me this but I can’t remember if it was her or a clever friend who was the creator! (Let me know and I’ll update)

Quote found here and brought to my attention  by her

Quote is from here and happily brought to my attention by her

Backgammon completes the perfect brunch

Backgammon completes the perfect brunch

A Valentine's Day treat

A Valentine’s Day treat

Goats Cheese and Red Onion Tarts, created at home by A

Goats cheese and red onion tarts, created at home by A

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My ultimate comfort food, keeping warm on the Aga – cauliflower cheese, toast and bacon (what?!)

Tea Party delicacies...

Tea Party delicacies…

O doesn't cook much, but he nails the caesar salad

O doesn’t cook much, but he nails the Caesar salad

Wine, grapes, and a rooftop terrace

Wine, grapes, and a rooftop terrace

Perfect fish and chips from the East Hill in Wandsworth

Perfect fish and chips from the East Hill in Wandsworth

And finally, a card from Joy that made me laugh out loud

And finally, a card from Joy that made me laugh out loud

Back soon (I promise!)