Butterscotch Schnapps

butterscotch schnappsThis is what I served my friends and family for Christmas and New Year. Alcoholic sweeties in a glass – well shouldn’t there be something fun and just a little naughty for the adults?

1 litre vodka
5x 135g bags Werthers Originals
520g sugar
500ml water

Put all the unwrapped sweets is a 2lt airtight jar and pour over the vodka. Leave for 4 days, shaking regularly until the sweets have dissolved.

Mix the sugar and water in a pan and heat, stirring constantly, until all the sugar has dissolved. This makes a syrup which should be set to one side and allowed to cool.

Pour 400ml of the syrup into the vodka and stir well. It is now ready to drink.

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A Bonfire Night Porcetta with Roast Onions

The Porcetta is Italy’s superior hog roast. Sold in street markets from the back of vans it is an unexpected delicacy. The first time I tried it we were in Italy for a wedding. We arrived during a festival and every shop restaurant and bar was shut – except for one enigmatic white van, around which a long, chattering queue of little old ladies pushed checked trollies. I joined the queue, in lieu of anything else available, and ordered I knew not what, using international hand signals (pointy fingers, nodding head etc).

Large chunks of pork were sliced off a whole pig, topped with pork liver stuffing, large pieces of crackling and wrapped in wax paper. Oh what joy! It’s hard to describe the surprise and delight that comes with the first taste of Porcetta. Its aniseed laced flavours hit the brain and explode in juicy perfection. With burnt fingers we polished off the salty dripping meat in the burning sun and challenged our teeth on perfect crackling.

It tickles me that a country so warm and full of Mediterranean sparkle should create a meal that I can’t help but crave during the cold, damp nights of a Northern European winter. Particularly Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve – it’s an enigma. Saying that, there is something enticing about the warming spice of chilli and fennel when you’re freezing your proverbials off in front of a bonfire or taking in the amateur fireworks display put on, with great bravado, by EVERY male present. It’s also an incredibly easy way to feed the masses.

So what is that elusive element that draws me again and again to a Bonfire Porcetta? Maybe it’s watching the steam, rising from a hot ciabatta roll in the dark, or burning my fingers on a roast potato near an open fire. Maybe the golden crunch of salty crackling puts me in mind of autumn leaves and crisp frosty mornings. Who’s to tell, but it remains my favourite bonfire treat.

Also goes very well with Honey Roast Butternut Squash with Thyme and Feta

Feeds 25

A whole boned loin of pork with belly and skin still attached – keep the bones and ask the butcher to score the skin
5 Bay leaves
1-2 tbsp chilli flakes
4 tbsp fennel seeds
3 tbsp Maldon salt
Zest of 2 lemons

Roast onions
2.5kg onions

To serve
25 ciabatta bread rolls
3 kg roast baby new potatoes

Put all the dry ingredients together into a blender or coffee grinder and blitz in pulses until they are ground up into itty bitty pieces, but not yet a powder – see the picture below – if you do go too far, don’t worry, it still tastes the same. Stir in the lemon zest.

Turn the pork loin so that it’s skin side down and rub the marinade over the meat, pushing it into all the nooks and crannies so that there’s not a bit of meat left bare. Before you turn the meat back over, tie the pork with string at regular spaces. This needs to be done quite tightly, so get someone to give you a hand, much as you would when wrapping pressies. It’s easier if you use more string than required and then cut the excess off after you’ve made the knots. It should look like below when you’ve finished

Rub generous quantities of salt over the skin, pushing it into the scores. Put the loin to one side whilst you preheat the oven.

Peel the onions and cut them in half, then cut each half into four. Put in a large roasting tin, drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt. Roast in the oven for 45-60mins at 180C until soft, sticky and charred at the edges. To ensure they crisp slightly you want as thin a layer of onions in the pan as possible so that the air can get to them – this may mean using two roasting tins. Stir occasionally to ensure they all blacken slightly and don’t stew in their own juices.

Once the onions are cooked, remove them from the oven and put into a serving bowl. You can throw them in a wok or large frying pan to reheat when it’s time to serve. Don’t clean the roasting tin though, as you’ll use it for the potatoes later.

Turn the oven up as hot as it will go. Once it reaches the maximum temperature put in the loin of pork and turn the oven down to 180 immediately. This should ensure a fantastically crispy crackling. Ahhh, sweet memories.

Leave the porcetta to cook for 2 and a half hours. In the meantime put the potatoes in the tray you used to roast the onions, add a generous sprinkling of salt, a good slug of olive oil and stir so they are covered in onion leftovers. Put the potatoes in to roast an hour and half after the porcetta. Stir the potatoes once or twice during the cooking process to ensure they are  basted in the oil and onion juices.

Cooking time done, remove the porcetta from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Whilst it’s doing so, partially slice the rolls in half so they don’t fall apart and pop in the oven to warm up for 5 minutes. Heat the onions and put the roasted tatties in their roasting tin on the table. Cut the crackling clear of the meat before carving and break into small pieces, carve the pork into generous slices (about 5mm thick)and call everyone in from the cold to serve themselves with a porcetta and roast onion roll with hot roast potatoes.

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Salted Caramel Sauce

caramel sauce

I can’t seem to shake my craving for salted caramel. I’d thought my recent over indulgence would have been a cure – it wasn’t.

I used this recipe, from Nigella Lawson, in the Sticky Toffee Banana Bread Pudding. But it’s been useful for so many, many naughty things that it has demanded its own page

makes a 500ml jug of caramel

100g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
100g Golden syrup
250ml double cream
150g unsalted butter
1tsp maldon salt

In a pan melt the sugar, butter, and syrup. Stir constantly until the sugar has melted. Bring to the boil and simmer for three minutes. Add the cream and salt and simmer for a further minute. Pour into a jug and refrigerate until ready to use.

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Homemade Vanilla vodka

porn star cocktail

I want to drink cocktails, lots of them. Unfortunately I can’t. Pregnancy and now breast feeding are keeping me on the straight and narrow – and my liver thanks me for it.

However, that doesn’t stop me from preparing for the day, and so I am infusing vodka with vanilla, because what I really fancy is a Porn Star (vanilla vodka, vanilla sugar, passionfruit juice and a shot of champagne on the side)

70cl Bottle of decent vodka (russian standard)
6 vanilla pods

Slice down the length of the vanilla pods and scrape out the seeds. Put the pods and seeds into the vodka. Leave in a cupboard for 5 weeks – c’est tout.

Drink generously with ice and mixers – preferably after 6 o’clock…but I won’t  tell.

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Robust Barbecued Chicken Satay

disposable barbie

You’ll have the campsite salivating with jealously as the spicy aromas of satay chicken waft across the field (don’t pretend you didn’t know that camping was competitive). Whenever I’m barbecuing chicken I use thigh fillets rather than breast as they maintain a succulence, even when faced with the fiercest of flames.

A quick tip for camping, you can chop them into small pieces and put on skewers, but it is much easier and somehow more satisfying just to grill and eat the fillets whole. Another tip for making easy camping marinades are the squeezy tubes of ready-prepared herbs from the chilled counter in supermarkets. Gourmet Garden is a popular brand, though many supermarkets have their own.

Serves six

12 chicken thigh fillets
4 large tbsp crunchy peanut butter
4 tbsp runny honey
4 tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp squeezy lemongrass
1 tbsp squeezy ginger or 5cm ginger, grated
1 tbsp squeezy garlic or 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
tbsp mild curry powder
2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce

Mix all the ingredients, except the chicken, to make a thick sauce. Throw in the fillets and massage in the marinade so that it gets into all the nooks and crannies.  Leave overnight in the fridge if possible. Obviously if you’re on a campsite or you’re a last-minute chef (like me) then they will still taste great after half an hour.

Cook on the barbecue until firm. If you’re grilling, put under a high heat and cook for about 20 minutes, turning and basting regularly. Check that the chicken is cooked through and not pink in the middle before serving.

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Home made Vanilla Yoghurt with Strawberry dressing


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I’m so hot it’s all I can do to muster the energy to wiggle my fingers over the keyboard. I’ve been flopping round the house like a grumpy slug.  My problem? I’m British – with a Scottish parent. I just don’t survive heat well and I’m not the only bright red thing that goes limp in the heat.

Strawberries – this is a great way to preserve them. After macerating in sugar for a few hours the summer flavour of strawberries are enhanced and their vibrant colour is captured in glorious technicolor. Add a hint of earthy musk with some fantastic balsamic vinegar and you have the perfect accompaniment to simple desserts. 

Serves Four

1 punnet strawberries (400g)
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

500g Full-fat Greek yoghurt
3 tsp caster sugar
1 vanilla pod

Slice the strawberries and mix in the sugar. Cover and leave in the fridge for an hour. After that, add the balsamic vinegar and mix thoroughly. Put back in the fridge for another 4 hours. This allows the strawberries to macerate and the flavours to develop.

Slice down the length of the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Mix into the yoghurt with the sugar. Keep in the fridge.

When you are ready to eat, put a large dollop of the yoghurt in a bowl and spoon over a couple of tablespoons of the strawberry sauce. You could replace the yoghurt with vanilla ice-cream.

Serve with an glass of sweet wine…can someone get me a Gin & Tonic please, I’m not moving from this lounger?

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Sticky Toffee Banana Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

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I want caramel and I want it now – sticky toffee, salty molten gold, oozing, and hot.

Caramel – there was no replacement for what I wanted – no, not even that. Ms Nigella Lawson was as obliging as ever, her recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce claimed to be fast and easy, perfect for my quick hit (and yes I was intending to eat it all with a spoon, and no I was not intending to confess it had ever existed).

As I rushed across the room, to search for the evil ingredients, I brushed past the fruit bowl. The cloud of fruit flies that arose drew my attention to the rapidly blackening bananas and, behold, the Banana Bread Sticky Toffee Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce was born.

Serves Six

Salted Caramel

100g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
100g Golden syrup
250ml double cream
150g unsalted butter
1tsp maldon salt

Banana Bread

350g ripe bananas (peeled weight)
180g plain flour
2½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
160g soft, light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 tbsp melted butter
50g walnuts, roughly chopped

Make the caramel sauce first as this keeps in the fridge for a couple of days (but only if hidden very, very carefully). To bake the banana bread I use a 1½ litre square pyrex dish, a small roasting tin will also work.

In a pan melt the sugar, butter, and syrup. Stir constantly until the sugar has melted. Bring to the boil and simmer for three minutes. Add the cream and salt and simmer for a further minute. Pour into a jug and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the banana bread, preheat the oven to 180C. Beat together the sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric whisk, until they lighten in colour. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt, adding a little at a time until they are completely combined. Finally mash the bananas and fold into the mixture with the nuts.

To assemble the pud, pour about a third of the caramel sauce into the bottom of the dish and pour the cake mix on top. Put into the oven for about 45 minutes or until you can put a skewer in and it comes out clean. Heat the caramel sauce in the microwave for 1 minute, stir and heat for another 1½ minutes.

Serve the sticky toffee banana bread pudding immediately from the oven, topped with oodles of warm caramel sauce, vanilla icecream or a generous dollop of clotted cream.

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