Croque Madame

This is a kind of a pimped up Croque Monsieur (fried cheese and ham sandwich).

I first had this years ago in France in a little café, when I was nursing a particularly rabid hangover and it was miraculous.

It also makes a super quick and easy meal at any time of day. If you’re vegetarian you can leave out the ham, and maybe swap it for some sauteed mushrooms (also delicious).

There are fancier recipes that involve bechemal sauces etc. I have stuck with the simple version I first ate years ago and it literally takes 5 minutes.

Per person

2 Slices of bread

Enough sliced/grated cheese to cover a slice of bread (gruyer is traditional, but use what you have)

1 slice of smoked ham

1 Egg

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Butter

(Plus a little extra oil to fry the egg)

Method

  1. Add the oil and butter to a pan and heat over a medium heat
  2. Lay the ham and cheese over a slice of bread and top with the other slice before carefully adding to the pan
  3. Cook for a few minutes and press down gently with a fish slice/spatula until the bottom is brown and crispy, and the gently turn the sandwich and cook on the other side
  4. In a small pan, add a little oil and heat before frying your egg until the white is cooked but the yolk is still soft
  5. Transfer the sandwich to a plate and top with fried egg, and voilà

Blackberry Ganache Tart, with Meringue Shards

If you have read this blog for a while you’ll know I enjoy a good forage.  Collecting blackberries always takes me back to being a kid.  Wild blackberries also have a much more intense flavour than the farmed variety.  So with a glut of Autumn berries I had to come up with something delicious. If you can’t get hold of blackberries, frozen blueberries also work really well.

I don’t do fancy desserts that often, but for things like birthdays it’s nice to push the boat out.

I have included some meringue shards for decoration but this is totally optional.  I only made this because I had egg whites left from making the pastry and I didn’t want to waste them.  Full disclosure, they were meant to be little meringue kisses but I was beaten again by baking nemesis, meringue!  When I tried to pipe it everything just spread, so I decided to make free hand swirls and ended up a kind of meringue bark.  It still tasted fine.

When your meringue decides not to behave, just go abstract.

Ganache sounds complicated, but its really only chocolate and cream.  I made a rich sweet biscuit pastry for the base, but you can use shop bought short crust pastry or even a ready made pie case if you’re short on time.

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

80 Grams Icing sugar

100 Grams Butter (chilled, and cut into cubes)

4 Egg yolks

For the ganache

300 Grams White chocolate

300 ml Double cream

150 Grams Blackberries

For the meringue (optional)

4 Egg whites

200 Grams Caster sugar

1/2 Tsp Food colouring (optional)

Method

  1. Put the flour and icing sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the cubed butter and blitz until it looks fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks one a time and pulse until the pastry starts coming together
  2. Turn the pastry out until a floured surface. Form into a ball and wrap in cling film, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Grease a 9in loose base tart tin, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius).
  4. Because the pastry is so rich I think it’s easier to roll the pastry out between two sheets of grease proof paper. Roll out the pastry out until it’s approx half a centimetre think. Remove the top layer of paper and flip onto your tart tin. Make sure to press the pastry into the edges of your tin, pierce the base of the tin all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 mins
  5. Put a sheet of grease proof paper across the pastry base and top with baking beans (I just keep a jar of old rice that I reuse). Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the grease proof paper and baking beans, return to the oven to bake for another 10-15 minutes (Be careful, because of the sugar in the pastry it browns very quickly). Remove from the oven when brown and allow to cool.
  6. For the meringue, whisk the egg whites until double their size, gradually add the caster sugar, and spread on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. With a cocktail stick swirl the food colouring through the meringue
  7. Bake for an hour at 120 degrees (Celsius), although to cool and then break into shards
  8. For the ganache, break the chocolate into chunks in a large bowl.
  9. Add the cream and blackberries to a pot and heat until just before boiling. Pour the cream and blackberries through a sieve onto the chocolate, press the berries with the back of a spoon until only the seeds are left (then discard). Whisk the chocolate and cream together until it melts. Allow to cool a little before pouring into the cooled pastry shell. Refrigerate until the ganache has firmed up.
  10. Before serving, top with chards of the meringue. You can also use other toppings like fresh blackberries, or white chocolate curls

Key Lime Pie (with an Oreo crust)

Like everyone else I have been binge watching TV series during lockdown and had got back into Dexter, and an episode put Key Lime Pie back in my head.

The pie is usually made with a digestive biscuit (graham cracker) crumb base, but I’ve made mine with an Oreo crumb base mainly because I just like the contrast in colour (please don’t be tempted to add green food colouring the lime layer) . I’ve also added a whipped cream topping which you can leave out if you don’t like creamy desserts. A traditional pie apparently never had cream because it was difficult get and keep cream fresh in the Florida Keys where the pie originally came from. I also used supermarket own of Oreos which worked out to be much cheaper. Some places sell ready made Oreo pie cases, so if you’re short on time you could also use one of these.

Feel free to revert to the original pie, but I’ve only ever had thumbs up for this version. It’s really good as a dessert that you can make a head and take out of the fridge when you are ready to serve, or treat yourself and enjoy a slice with your afternoon coffee.

Ingredients

For the Crust

400 Grams Oreos

70 Grams Butter (melted)

For the Filling

1 x 397 Can of Condensed milk

3 x Egg yolks

4 x Limes (juice and zest)

300 ml Fresh Cream (whipped)

1 Tbsp Icing sugar

Extra Lime zest to decorate

Method

  1. Add the Oreos to a food processor and whizz until you have fine crumbs. I had to do this in 2 batches but it will depend on the size of your processor. Transfer the crumbs to large bowl and stir in the melted butter. Pre heat your oven 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Line the base of a 21-22 cm spring form cake tin with baking parchment and grease the sides of the tin with butter.
  3. Pour the Oreo mix into the tin and with a glass or the back of a spoon press the crumbs up the sides of the tin, until there is a crust of around 4-5cm. Make sure the base is well covered too. Bake for 15 minutes and allow to cool
  4. Add 3 egg yolks to a bowl or mixer and whisk until the yolks lighten in colour and increase in volume
  5. Add the condensed milk, and lime juice and zest and whisk for 2-3 minutes
  6. Pour the filling into the cooled pie base and bake at 160 degrees (Celsius) for 15 minutes before removing from the oven and allowing to cool
  7. When the pie is completely cool, whisk the cream and icing sugar together until it forms soft peaks. Spread over the top of the baked pie and add some finely grated lime zest for a finishing touch

Crab Claws in Garlic Butter

Some ingredients are so good that you need to do very little with them. Crab claws are one of these ingredients.

Butter and garlic can make most things taste better but match them up with sweet meaty crab claws and within 5 minutes you have one of the most delicious things you’ll ever eat. It might seem like a lot of garlic and butter and you can scale it back if you prefer, but this isn’t an everyday dish, so I think it’s worth the splurge.

If you don’t cook fish at home because you think it can be a bit like hard work, this is really quick and easy. Crab claws usually come ready cooked so there is no preparation, All you’re really doing is heating them.

Ingredients

250 Grams Crab Claws

50 Grams Butter

3 Cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp Parsley (finely chopped, optional)

Method

  1. In a large pan heat the butter, when it starts to melt, add the garlic and the crab claws
  2. Cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the crab claws are heated through. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with a salad or crusty bread, yum!

The Elvis Sandwich!

Friends of mine told me about this, they had visited Graceland and ate this in a local café, who swore that these were one of the King’s favourite dishes. I don’t know how much truth there is in this, but I like to imagine Elvis eating these in a white jumpsuit.

A fried Banana and peanut butter sandwich is a pretty scrummy combination, but on occasion I’ve also tried swapping out the peanut butter for chocolate spread which is also delicious.

This isn’t the healthiest sandwich, but is a nice treat occasionally if you fancy something quick and tasty.

Ingredients

2 Slices of white bread

1 Banana (Mashed)

1-2 Tbsp Peanut butter

1/2 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Melted butter (If you’re vegan you can substitute this with coconut oil)

Method

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium heat
  2. Spread the mashed banana on one slice of bread, and spread peanut butter on the other before sandwiching together
  3. Place the sandwich in the pan, and gently push down with a spatula, Cook for 2-3 minutes until sandwich has browned, before gently turning the sandwich to brown on the other side
  4. Enjoy immediately. Thank you very much!

ANZAC Biscuits

I love learning about new recipes from other people and hearing about their food traditions. One of my bosses Amanda, is Australian, and she mentioned these as being a real institution back in OZ. The recipe she shared was from BBC Good Food, and these are scrummy.

The name comes from Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, and legend has it people originally made these to send with care packages to soldiers during the first world war because the ingredients didn’t spoil easily. Other people claim they were never sent in care packages, but were sold at bake sales etc. to raise funds for returning veterans. They’re now baked to commemorate ANZAC day on 25 April each year.

How long you cook these for will depend on the type of biscuit you want (chewy or crisp). I’ve also seen recipes that include ground ginger, and I think this would make a cracking addition. One of my work mates tried drizzling chocolate over hers, which would also be scrummy (thanks for the suggestion Tina). Which ever version you try they will taste pretty amazing and are easy to make from ingredients you might already have. They will live quite happily in an airtight tin for 4-5 days.

Ingredients

100 Grams Plain Flour

100 Grams Butter

100 Grams Caster Sugar

85 Grams Porridge Oats

85 Grams Desiccated Coconut

1 Tbsp Golden Syrup

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 180 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
  2. Add the flour, sugar, oats and coconut to a bowl and mix well before making a well in the centre
  3. In a separate bowl, add the butter and golden syrup and melt in a microwave (I usually do 30 seconds at a time)
  4. In a cup add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in 2 tablespoons of boiling water, before stirring into the melted butter
  5. Stir the melted butter into the dry mix and stir until fully incorporated
  6. Scoop dessertspoonful’s of the mix onto the baking sheet, leaving gaps of 2-3 cm between each biscuit, as they will spread
  7. Cook in your preheated oven for 10 mins for a chewy biscuit, or 15 mins or longer if you want a more crispy biscuit

Creamy Meatballs with Mushrooms

One of the numerous things I’m missing in lockdown is a cheeky visit to a well known Swedish furniture super store. This includes spending twice what I meant to and eating my own weight in meatballs.

You can freeze the meat balls (before they have been added to the sauce), and these make a really handy mid week meal. They can be added to a tomato sauce with pasta or in a meatball sub.

This creamy version is great for anyone following a keto or low carb diet. It’s also great with mashed potatoes or pasta for anyone who anyone who is isn’t reducing their carb intake.

Ingredients

For the meatballs

500 Grams Minced beef

250 Grams Minced pork

1 Egg (beaten)

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Black pepper

1 Tsp Garlic granules, or 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

For the sauce

250 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

1 Tbsp Oil

250 ml Beef stock

250 ml Double cream

1 Tbsp Chopped parsley (optional)

Baked meatballs

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients for the meatballs to a large bowl and mix well with your hands to make sure the ingredients are well combined.
  2. Make meatballs slightly smaller than a golf ball and place in an oven proof dish. When all the mix has been used to make the meatballs, refrigerate for at least an hour to set
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 degree and bake the meatballs for 25 minutes
  4. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the mushrooms stirring occasionally until soft.
  5. Add the beef stock and cream to the mushrooms and alow to simmer over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce has started to thicken.
  6. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce, and simmer for s further five minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and then serve

Mini Egg Rocky Road Bars

You can make an almost infinite variety of rocky road bars. The key thing is include lots of different textures.

I used mini eggs because they are basically my crack cocaine. My other more recent addiction is Bishoff biscuits. I’ve used these here, but you can use any type of crunchy biscuit or cookie you prefer.

Ingredients

400 Grams Chocolate (I used half milk and half dark chocolate, but use what you prefer)

125 Grams Bishoff biscuits

100 Grams Marshmallows

250 Grams Mini Eggs

3 Tbsp Golden Syrup

50 Grams Butter

Method

  1. Break the chocolate in to chunks, and add to a microwave proof bowl along with the butter and golden syrup. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the butter and chocolate have melted
  2. Place the biscuits in a freezer bag any bash with a rolling pin (if you don’t have one a tin can will do). The biscuits should be be broken into bits but not too small or all crumbs. Put the broken biscuits in a large bowl
  3. Add half the mini eggs to the freezer bag and bash these too. Add to the broken biscuits and add the Marshmallows
  4. Pour two thirds of the chocolate mix into the bowl and stir until combined. Line a 12cm X 18cm dish with baking paper and transfer the rock road mix into it. Spread evenly.
  5. Cover the rocky road mix with the chocolate you held back. I use a wet palate knife to smooth the top (an ordinary knife is fine if you don’t have one, as rocky roads are bumpy)
  6. Sprinkle the remaining half of the crushed mini eggs and refrigerate for a minimum 1-2 hours before cutting into slices

Hummingbird Cake

I’ve loved this cake ever since I tasted it in the States years ago. Not only does it have a cool name but your house will smell unbelievable.

This is also a good way to use up over ripe bananas if you can’t face banana bread (this is much nicer). Cinnamon can be swapped for ground ginger if you’re not a fan.

Ingredients

For the cake

130 Gram Tin of pineapple in natural juice (chop the pineapple finely, and keep the juice)

2 Ripe bananas (mashed)

280 Grams Caster sugar

210 Grams Self raising flour

2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

60 ml Pineapple juice (from the tin of pineapple)

170 ml Oil

2 Eggs

For the frosting

60 Grams Butter

120 Grams Cream Cheese

180 Grams Icing sugar

75 Grams Pecan nuts (Chopped)

Grated zest of one lemon (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease a 20 cm (8 inch) cake tin and line with baking paper
  2. Add the banana, chopped pineapple and sugar to a large bowl and mix until combined. Add the flour and cinnamon and mix well
  3. Whisk the oil, eggs and pineapple juice together before adding to the banana mixture. Stir until properly combined
  4. Transfer the cake mix to the baking tin and bake for 1 hour or until you can insert a skewer in the centre and it comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before topping with icing
  5. To make the icing, whisk the butter and cream cheese together (I use an electric whisk). Gradually add the icing sugar and orange zest.
  6. Spread the icing evenly over the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with pecans

Coconut and Jam Sponge

This is a real reminder of school dinners for me.

If you aren’t confident with desserts this is really easy. All the ingredients for the sponge are dumped in a bowl and whisked together before being baked. The topping is simply ready made jam and coconut.

The sponge also freezes really well, so if you’re super organised make a double batch of the mix. Bake two sponges, and when completely cool, wrap one one of the sponges in cling film and freeze, top with jam and coconut once thawed.

I’ve used margarine in this (Mary Berry claims it’s better for sponge cakes, and who am I to argue), it’s also cheaper. Feel free to use butter if you prefer

Serve with custard for the perfect comforting dessert.

Ingredients

For the sponge

225 Grams Self raising flour

225 Grams Sugar

225 Grams Margarine

4 Eggs

For the topping

200 Grams Jam

25 Grams Dessicated coconut

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients for the sponge in a bowl. Mix with an electric whisk for 5 minutes until light and fluffy
  2. Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees
  3. Line a 30cm x 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment. Transfer the sponge mix into the tin and spread evenly with a spatula
  4. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, and allow to cool
  5. Stir the jam and if it’s too thick to spread add a table spoon of hot water and mix well
  6. Spread the jam evenly across the sponge and sprinkle with coconut