Some ingredients are just made to go together and pears and almonds are two of the them.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with pears. When they are perfect they’re hard to beat. The only issue is that they are like granite and inedible, and then turn to mush within about 20 minutes. They are the ultimate passive aggressive fruit!
This recipe is great for using pears that are too hard to eat if you can’t be bothered with the game of chicken involved in waiting for pears to ripen.
This is a pretty rich recipe, but isn’t meant to be eaten every day and looks really impressive if you’re cooking for friends.
You can make the pastry case and the frangipane filling in advance, which means you can have more time with your guests. You could even use shop bought pastry if you don’t have time (home made is better though). This is really good on it’s own but a little fresh cream or ice cream also doesn’t hurt if you want to be properly indulgent.
For the pastry case
200 Grams Plain flour
100 Grams Butter (chilled and cut into small cubes)
1 Tbsp Caster sugar
1 Egg yolk
For the frangipane filling
115 Grams Butter (at room temperature)
115 Grams Caster sugar
115 Grams Ground almonds
1 Tsp Vanilla extract (optional)
2 Large pears
In a food processor add the flour, sugar, and butter. Whizz until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs (you can run the butter and flour in together by hand if you prefer)
Add the egg yolk and a small amount of cold water and whizz again until the mix starts to come together. Start to press the mix together to form a dough, adding a small amount of cold water if necessary. Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes
Grease a 9in x 9 in loose bottemed flan tin. When the pastry has chilled, place on a floured surface, and roll out in a circle approximately 1/2 cm thick.
Lay into you prepare flan tin making sure that it’s pressed into the edges. Place a sheet of baking paper on top and baking beans (I use old dried rice) to weigh down the pastry and blind bake in an oven pre heated to 180 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes before taking the case out if the oven, carefully lift the the baking paper by the 4 corners taking care not to spill any of the baking beans/rice onto the pastry case.
Return the pastry case to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes before removing from the oven and allowing to cool
To make the filling, add the butter and sugar to a bowl and mix with an electric whisk until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, almonds and eggs and beat in until combined
Peel, core and quarter the pears, before cutting into slices about 1cm thick
Spread the almond mixture into the pastry case. Arrange quarter of the pear so the narrow part is towards the centre of the tin and wider part is towards the outside work as quickly as you can to prevent the pear discolouring
Once you have arranged the pears, return the flan tin to 180 degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the centre is just starting to set (it will continue to cook as it cools). Allow to cool in the tin for another 15 minutes before attempting to cut.
This takes a bit longer than my normal recipes, but since we’re all stuck at home, time is the one thing we all have plenty of.
In my bid to use up what’s been hanging around my cupboards I found some pearl barley. I was craving carbs and since selfish wingnuts have cleared the super market shelves of rice and pasta this made a nice change. It takes a bit longer to cook, but is worth the time.
I used chicken thighs with the bones left in, and removed the skin to make “chicken crackling” . I know this is probably not especially healthy but sometimes a little indulgence does no harm, it’s not like you’re going to eat it everyday. If you want to give it s miss, this still makes a really delicious and satisfying meal.
150 Grams Pearl barley
4 Large chicken thighs
10 Grams Dried mushrooms
100 Grams Fresh mushrooms
250 Grams Spring greens (you can use broccoli, spinach or any other green vegetables you like)
250 ml White wine
250 ml Chicken stock
Large sprig of rosemary (finely chopped)
2 Cloves of garlic (minced)
1 Tbsp Oil
Large knob of butter
Salt and pepper
Soak the dried mushrooms in a small amount of warm water
Heat the oil and butter in a pan
Roughly chop the onions and mushrooms. Add to the pan and fry until soft. Remove from the pan and set to one side
Remove the skin from the chicken, and set to one side
Add the chicken thighs to the pan and seal on both sides
Add the barley, dried mushrooms and the water they soaked in, wine and stock to the pan. Cover with a lid, bring to boil and simmer over s low heat for 30-40 minutes (check the cooking instructions on the packet of barley, and cook for the recommended time
Trim the chicken skin and flatten on a baking sheet before sprinkle with salt. Place another baking tin on top of the chicken skin to keep it flat and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees for 20-30minutes, or until golden brown
if using Spring greens, remove the stalks and roll up the leaves, cut these into 2cm strips
After 30 minutes of cooking, check on the barley, adding more water if necessary
Add the garlic, rosemary, and spring greens to the pan, cover again and cook for a further 10 minutes until the barley is tender and has a creamy consistency, and check the seasoning (a bit like a risotto)
Serve chicken and barley with shards of the chicken crackling, you can also crumble it across the dish
The last couple of months have been cold, wet and sh*tty. I needed something that reminded me of sunshine, so I made this. It’s relatively easy to make, and looks impressive when you bring it to the table if you’re cooking for people.
If you’re super organised you can use this recipe to use up leftover roast vegetables. I made my own pasty, but as always you can use shop bought if you’re short on time.
Alot of people aren’t fans of goat’s cheese. If you’re one of them, you can swap it for another soft cheese like brie or camembert.
For the pastry
200 Grams Plain flour
1/4 Tsp Salt
100 Grams Butter
1 Egg yolk
(Plus 1 Egg to brush the pastry with)
Sesame or onion seeds (optional)
1 Onion (cut into 8)
1 Red pepper (cut into 8)
1 Aubergine (cut into 2-3 cm cubes)
125 Grams Soft goat’s cheese
200 Grams Cherry tomatoes still on the vine
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tsp Dried oregano or thyme
Salt and pepper
Prepare the vegetables, and place them in a flat oven proof dish. Drizzle with oil and bake in an oven for 30-40 minutes until starting to chat at the edges a little. Allow to cool before using.
In a food processor, add the flour and butter and pulse until this looks like breadcrumbs (the rubbing in method if you prefer).
Add the yolk, and gradually add the cold water, mixing until the dough comes together in a ball. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes
After chilling, allow the pastry to come to room temperature. Roll the pastry out in as neat a circle as possible, place on a sheet of baking parchment, and then lay on a baking sheet
Break up the goat’s cheese and sprinkle across the centre of the pastry, leaving an edge of 3-4cm around the pastry
Top the goat’s cheese with roast vegetables (having squeezed out any liquid). Top with the vine tomatoes
Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Gently fold in the edges of the pastry and pleat the pastry to create a crust for the galette
Brush the exposed pastry with beaten egg, and sprinkle the pastry with sesame or onion seeds for some extra colour and flavour.
Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve with salad
I’ve loved moussaka ever since I first tasted it. But it can be very rich, so this version even though it’s still packed with protein is a little lighter.
This is based around a Jamie Oliver recipe and it’s proper comfort food. I added some roast red peppers, as I think it brings a little bit more freshness to it. There’s still enough cheese to make it still taste decadent.
The only draw back is that this is a time consuming recipe. I usually wait to make this at the weekend when I have more time, but it’s worth the time and effort, and tastes so much better than some gloopy supermarket version. This is also a great dish if you have a group of people to cook for.
4 Roasted red peppers (I used a jar of red peppers to save time)
500 Grams Potatoes
2 Tins Chopped tomatoes
2 Tins Chick peas
1 Sprig Rosemary
1 Small bunch of sage
100 Grams Green lentils, boiled until soft (or 1 can of lentils)
2 Onions, sliced
400 Grams Feta cheese
50 Grams Butter
50 Grams Plain flour
25 Grams Parmesan (or other strong, hard cheese)
Salt and Pepper
Heat your oven to 200 degrees, peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm slices. Rub the potatoes with a little olive oil, place on baking trays and bake until tender and golden brown
Peel strips into the aubergines, and then cut into 2 cm rounds before sprinkling with salt and leaving to drain a colander for an hour
Wipe off any excess moisture and the salt, and sprinkle the aubergines with a little olive oil and place on baking trays and bake in the oven until tender, just as you did with the potatoes
Add 1 Tbsp of oil to a large frying pan and add the onions and herbs to pan. Cook gently until the onions have softened (I keep the herbs on the stem so that they are easier to fish out of the sauce later.
Add the cooked/tinned lentils and chick peas to the pan along with the tinned tomatoes. Simmer over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened, check the season and add salt and pepper if necessary
When the vegetables have finished roasting and the sauce is ready, it’s time to start assembling the dish
Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of a large oven proof dish, then top this with a layer of the cooked potatoes and crumble over some of the feta cheese. Top this with another layer of sauce and then add a layer of roasted peppers sprinkle with some of the feta cheese. Top again with the sauce and add the cooked aubergines and any left over feta
To top this you will need to make a white sauce, in a medium sized saucepan, melt your butter over a medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a smooth paste. Continue to stir as you add the milk (if you find that you are getting lumps there is no shame in breaking out a whisk to beat the living daylights of the sauce to get rid of rid of them).
The sauce will start thicken as it heats, so continue stirring and reduce the heat and allow to cook for another 5 minutes or until the sauce no longer tastes “floury”. Add the grated hard cheese and mix well
Top the layers of vegetables and with the white sauce and bake at 200 degrees for 30-40 minutes of until all bubbly, brown and delicious
Sorry this event is now sold out. We still have places available at our 21st March Supper Club, and we’d love to see you
Ever wondered what to buy some of the people in your life. Is it better to have experiences in life rather than clutter. Why not buy someone a cracking night out.
Well December will be busy and stressful, January will be crap due to the whole shi**y weather and being broke thing. Wouldn’t it be nice to start February with a slap up meal and the chance to share dinner with a few new people who might be a bit of craic?
February’s supper club will be on the 1st of the month. We’re going Greek!
It may be baltic outside, but the food inside will hopefully transport you to sunnier climes. Greek food has great fresh flavours, and is tasty while still being fairly heathly.
We’ll have the fire lit and a drink to welcome you when you arrive. (We’re BYO)
Everyone eats the same 3 course meal (plus a couple of treats) at a communal table. So you have the chance to meet your fellow diners, and have a bit of craic. We also welcome for vegetarian/vegans, just let us know in advance so we can be sure we have something delicious for you. This menu is also mainly gluten free (and we can adapt things if you have problems with gluten, just let us know before hand).
Greek meze – Small sharing plates, think Greek tapas
Beef stifado (vegetarian option, moussaka)
Spanakorizo (herbed rice)
Flourless orange and almond cake, poached oranges, Greek yoghurt
I did the thing I normally do when I go to a farmer’s market. I bought way too much random stuff because I thought it looked good. I got it home and then had to think what I was going to do with it.
This is a scrummy mix of colours and textures. Delicious Autumn vegetables in a creamy sauce, with a little bit of heat from smoked paprika, topped with crunchy, cheesy garlic bread.
Who doesn’t like garlic bread (weirdos, that’s who). You can use any combination of vegetables you like, pumpkin, butternut squash, or green beans also work well.
I tried this recipe on one of my oldest friends. I was nervous because she owns a steak restaurant and is a confirmed carnivore and got two enthusiastic thumbs up (still sorry I forgot to send you home with a doggy bag Mags, but here is the recipe as promised). Go get your comfort food on.
1 Tbsp Olive oil
250 Grams Brussels sprouts
150 Grams Cavelo Nero (or Kale)
175 Grams Mushrooms
400 Grams Cream cheese
250ml Vegetable stock
1/2 Tsp Smoked paprika
Handful of parsley
25 Grams Butter
2 Cloves of garlic
50 Grams Cheddar Cheese
Cut the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts and halve. Remove the stalks from the cavelo nero and slice. Cook the sprouts and cavelo nero in the vegetable stock for 5 minutes, until just tender
Slice the courgettes, onions, mushrooms and pepper, and fry in the olive oil in a large frying pan for about 5 minutes until soft
Add the sprouts, cavelo nero and vegetable stock to the frying pan. Sprinkle the smoked paprika over the vegetables, and add finely chopped parsley and cream cheese
Mix until thoroughly combined
Crush or mince the garlic and combine with butter
Slice the baguette into 2cm slices, and spread with the garlic butter
Put the vegetable mix into an oven proof dish and top with the slices of buttered baguette
Top with grated cheese and bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees, for 30 minutes until golden brown
A friend recently suggested that I start a supper club in Belfast.
I’ve been to a couple over the years and honestly a great time at each. It was cheaper than eating in a restaurant. I met really interesting people from different walks of life and got to eat some great food.
Let me know if you think it’s a good idea. Have you been to other supper clubs, and what you thought of them. What worked, what didn’t? What you liked and what I should avoid. Maybe you run your own supper club, and if so I’d welcome any insights you might have.
I’m hoping you’ll be my focus group. So let me know what you think, and what you might like to see if I take the plunge.
A bit more “rustic” than I planned, but I put it down to me trying to make pastry with nuts in it. Save yourself the time and energy and use shop bought short crust pastry. It’s what I plan to do next time. This recipe might be best saved for the weekend, as it’s a bit more labour intensive, but it’s well worth the trouble, (I had to stop myself eating half of it).
If you’re a vegetarian cooking for meat eaters, they’ll love this. The rich and unctuous filling feels really meaty, and unlike a lot of tarts isn’t too eggy. This is delicious hot or cold.
1 Sheet of ready made short crust pastry
2 Onions (thinly sliced)
1 Tbsp Chopped rosemary
3 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
25 Grams Dried porcini mushrooms, (soaked in 50 ml of hot water)
200 Grams Button mushrooms (sliced)
50 Grams Gorgonzola (sliced)
50 Grams Hazelnuts (chopped)
150 Ml Double Cream
Salt and pepper
Grease a 23 cm loose based flan tin, roll you pastry until thin and line the tin, (chill in the fridge for 30 minutes)
Put the porcini mushrooms in a bowl with 50ml of warm water and allow to soak
Take your flan tin out of the fridge and over the base with grease proof paper and add baking beans on top, (I use old lentils that had been hanging about). Bake blind in an oven heated to 180 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the grease proof paper and baking beans, and bake for a further 5 minutes, before removing from the oven
While the pastry is baking add the olive oil and onions to a large heated frying pan. Turn down the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes
Add the button mushrooms, garlic and rosemary to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add the porcini mushrooms and the water they were soaking in to the pan. Cook over a medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated, and leave to cool
Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat (the temperature should be 180 degrees again)
When the mushroom mix is completely cool, spread it evenly across the pastry base
Distribute the gorgonzola on top of the mushroom mix
Beat 2 Eggs, and add to the cream, season with salt and pepper, pour into the tart case and sprinkle chopped hazelnuts across the top
Put the filled tart tin on to the heated baking sheet in the oven and bake for 35 minutes until the centre is set
Allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before cutting
These beautiful speckled little eggs may sound posh, but they can be bought pretty cheaply (I get mine from an Asian supermarket).
This is a really simple canapé if you want to impress dinner guests, or go down pretty well with a few cold beers. They can also be made well in advance so that you’re not running around like a crazy person. (Just remember to leave an extra dish out for your guests to throw their discarded egg shells in).
Put a medium sized pan of water on to boil
Put a small frying pan on to heat
When the water is boiling, add the quail’s eggs and boil for 4 minutes.
After the 4 minutes, take the eggs out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking
In the frying pan add the cumin seeds and toast until you can smell the cumin, remove from the heat and mix with the salt
Serve with eggs in a dish, with the cumin and salt alongside to dip the eggs in
I had these for the first time in New York, with a cocktail in an air conditioned bar which felt like I’d arrived in heaven after pounding the streets on a hellishly warm day.
These make a great
little starter, or are divine with a glass of wine or a cold beer.
If you are
organised enough to have made the mushroom risotto a day or two before then
these are pretty quick and easy. Some
people like these with a marinara sauce, but I think these are delicious enough
on their own.
500 grams Mushroom risotto
100 grams Mozzarella
(dolcelatte also works really well)
2 Tbsp. Plain
*100 grams White
breadcrumbs (See food hack)
Olive oil for deep
Salt and pepper
the mozzarella into 1.5 cm cubes, or you can use the little mozzarella “pearls”
you can buy in some super markets
a tablespoon of the cold risotto mixture in your hand and flatten it. Add a small piece of cheese and form the
risotto around it to make a ball. Do
this until you have used up all the risotto (it’s useful to have a bowl of
water handy to wet your hands and stop the risotto sticking.
and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat oil on a large heavy based pan or deep fat
the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper, which the eggs in a
separate bowl, and add the breadcrumbs to another dish
Heat oil on a large heavy based pan or deep fat
Role the risotto balls in flour, then beaten
egg, and finally the breadcrumbs
Add the breaded risotto balls to oil and fry
until golden brown, remember to drain any excess oil on kitchen paper and
season with salt and pepper.
* Food Hack – When you’re shopping pick up bead that has been reduced because it’s going stale. When you get home, take 5 minutes and whizz the bread up in a food processor until it’s crumbs. Put these breadcrumbs into a large freezer bag and keep in your freezer. Bread crumbs are an amazingly versatile ingredient, that you can use in everything from gratins, deep fried crusts, stuffing or even thickening sauces.