Quick plum chutney

Time to use all the beautiful ripe plums in a seasonal chutney. Think chutney takes too much effort? Think again… This chutney can be yours all in two steps! It’s so glossy that it puts all other chutneys to shame so make it and see the finished product for yourself !

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Ingredients- makes 2 jars
900g red plums- halved and stones removed
240ml cider vinegar
360g caster sugar
Cinnamon stick and 2 star anise

1. Prepare the plums and pop into a large heavy based pan with the sugar,  vinegar and spices.

2. Simmer on a low heat for around 45-60 minutes until the plums have reduced and thickened to a glossy chutney. Sterilize a couple of jars,seal well and store in the fridge.

Quick chutney is ideal with hams and cheeses and beautiful with rich duck so dig in!

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Sausage, squash and sage pasta bake

Pasta has to be one of the most used ingredients in the average household however what you do with it needn’t be average. Butternut squash has to be one of my favourite autumn vegetables and it brings an appealing flash of colour to any dish. Fresh sage must be used here as the flavour of dried sage is too harsh with the delicate flavours of the squash and cheeses.

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Ingredients: serves 4  (can be halved for 2)
1 butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
Handful of fresh sage roughly chopped
8 seasoned pork sausages
Pinch of nutmeg
350g rigatoni or conchiglioni
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
850ml milk
50g parmesan
Small ball of mozzarella chopped
Drizzle of truffle oil (optional)

1. Get cracking on the squash by peeling and deseeding it. With a sturdy knife, cut the squash into small cubes and place in a microwaveable dish with a tablespoon of water. Pop it in the microwave on a high heat for approximately 10 minutes or until tender.

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and cook the sage leave for 1 minute until fragrant. Pop the sausages out of their skins and roll gently into balls which are the size of hazelnuts. Add these to the pan with the sage and cook until golden.

3. Add half of the squash to the sausages. Take the remaining squash and mash with a pinch of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper before setting aside.

4. Heat the oven to 200c/ 180fan and cook the pasta according to the packet. Rigatoni works well with the sausage but conchiglioni also works well as the sauce fills the shells so choose whichever you prefer. Whilst the pasta simmers, take a saucepan and melt the butter before adding the flour and keep it moving until it forms a base. Carefully and slowly add in the milk and continue to stir to avoid any lumps forming. Next add the mashed squash, parmesan and more seasoning.

5. Take a large baking dish and layer the left over squash over the bottom. Drain the pasta and stir through the sausage and cheese sauce. Grate over the parmesan and dot on the chunks of mozzarella before baking for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. You may also drizzle over a little truffle oil before baking to give it an extra richness.

An indulgent pasta to warm up a chilly Autumn day!

Chestnut mushroom and porcini risotto

Picture the scene: you come home from a hard day in the office and want to spoil yourself with a luxurious yet simple dish. Well this hits the spot so kick off your shoes, throw on your apron and get stirring!

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Ingredients- serves 2 (double for 4)
50g unsalted butter
1 banana shallot finely chopped
1 crushed garlic clove
100g chestnut mushrooms sliced
10g rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms
175g arborio rice
600ml good vegetable stock
60ml dry white wine
40g grated fresh parmesan
Handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
Drizzle of truffle oil

1. Heat half of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until softening. Pop in the chestnut and porcini mushrooms and cook for a couple more minutes. Make sure your mushrooms are finely sliced so any natural water can evaporate quickly.

2. Stir the rice through the mushrooms so the rice is well coated before adding your first ladle of hot vegetable stock. Stir and then stir some more until the stock had been absorbed. Carry on doing this until all the stock had been added and the rice has become soft and plump. This should take around. 20 minutes however some arborio rices may take a few minutes longer. If you need an extra splash out two of stock then go ahead as you want to achieve a creamy risotto.

3. When the rice is ready pop in the wine and stir well to absorb. Risotto purists may put the wine in first before any stock has been added however putting it in afterwards adds an edge which you just don’t get the other way around. When the wine has absorbed add the remaining butter,  parmesan and parsley. Cover the pan for a minute or two.

4. Serve your creamy risotto in warmed bowls and drizzle a little truffle oil over as well as an extra grate of parmesan.

Unctuous, silky risotto- the perfect midweek treat.

Dark chocolate and bacon truffles

Now this is a match made in heaven! The delicate bitterness of the chocolate with the savoury yet sweetness of the bacon makes for a unique truffle. These truffles are great if you use a 70% cocoa dark chocolate so try and use the best chocolate you can find to make an indulgent treat. Of course (if there are any left!) you can dress the truffles up and give as gifts. You could also add a shot of rum or bourbon to pep the truffles up!

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Ingredients- makes 25- 30 truffles
6 slices streaky smoked bacon
3 tbsp light brown sugar
250ml double cream
250g chopped dark chocolate
100g cocoa powder for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 220c/ 180 fan. Lay out the slices of streaky bacon and rub 1/2tsp of the sugar onto each slice. I then transfer them to a wire rack placed on a baking tray so any drips of fat can be caught as the bacon cooks, making it easier to clean.

2. Cook the bacon for 10 minutes on each side before removing from the oven and allowing to cool. The sugar on the bacon will caramelise in the oven and the bacon will harden as it cools. Try to resist the temptation to have a nibble! When the bacon is cool finely chop the bacon and set aside.

3. Over a medium heat, add the double cream to a saucepan and heat until it just begins to simmer. Take it off the heat and then stir through the chopped chocolate until combined well.

4. Add the cooled bacon pieces to the chocolate mixture. I then transfer the mixture to a bowl to pop into the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight if you can.

5. When the chocolate is chilled and hardened enough to handle, start rolling the truffles. You can either use a melon baller or scoop the chocolate with a teaspoon before shaping. When you have rolled the truffles, coat them in the cocoa powder to finish. You could also try a nutty coating such as finely chopped hazelnuts if you like. Keep the truffles in the fridge until ready to devour!

There we have it! Indulgent dark chocolate and bacon truffles to test the taste buds of all your friends!

Long pepper and strawberry panna cotta

This dessert could really not be easier. I have recently discovered Indonesian long pepper courtesy of Sous Chef (www.souschef.co.uk) so couldn’t wait to try it. Long pepper offers a musky, spicy note to balance the heady vanilla and sweet strawberry.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the panna cotta
3 leaves of gelatine
250ml double cream
250ml whole milk
25g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
2 long peppercorns
Small handful of freeze-dried strawberries

For the coulis
350g strawberries hulled and halved
125g caster sugar
125ml water

1. Start off by soaking the gelatine leaves in cold water until softened. This will take around 5 minutes. Make sure the water is cold as warmer water will reduce the setting qualities of the gelatine.

2. Add the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and pepper into a pan and slowly bring to a simmer. If you want a subtle vanilla flavour then keep the pod whole or alternatively split the pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the pan along with the whole pod. You could also break open the pepper corns, grind the seeds and dry roast them in a small pan before sprinkling in a small amount.

3. Take the pan off the heat and prepare the gelatine. All you need to do is carefully squeeze out any excess water and then add to the cream mixture. Stir until the gelatine dissolves before adding the freeze-dried strawberries.

4. Divide the mixture between 4 dessert moulds or ramekins. Pop into the fridge to set the panna cotta. This should take around an hour but you can leave them longer. When ready to serve,  run a tin knife round the edge and gently release the panna cotta. If it needs a little help then dip the base of the moulds into a bowl of warm water and then turn out.

5. If you want to serve the panna cotta with a coulis then add the water and sugar into a pan, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved before taking of the heat. Add half of the fresh strawberries and blitz with a hand blender. For a smooth finish you can sieve the sauce. Pop in the remaining berries and gently combine before serving with the panna cotta.The coulis can also be frozen for another time.

A simple panna cotta with an unusual twist!

Spiced mirabelle plum compote

Spice up your breakfast with this seasonal plum compote. Serve with porridge or yogurt to kick- start your day! It also goes well stirred through vanilla ice cream (obviously not for breakfast though!). You can also use normal plums and you would need about 5- 6 of these.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g mirabelle plums
1 tbsp caster sugar
1\2 lemon
Small cinnamon stick
2 cloves

1. Prepare the plums by removing the stones and roughly chopping.

2. Pop in a warmed pan along with the sugar, squeeze of lemon juice and spices. You can also add a little lemon zest if you like and you can replace the sugar with honey. Bring up the heat until the fruit bubbles before lowering the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer until the mixture thickens. The compote will be ready when you can run a spoon through the mixture and it remains separated briefly before coming back together.

3. Take off the heat and either serve immediately or leave to cool before popping in the fridge. I use a Kilner jar to store the compote and it will keep for a couple of days.

Ultimate macaroni cheese

If you’re counting the calories then look away now! This recipe is sinfully indulgent and you’ll keep wanting to go back for more.

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Ingredients- serves 4
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
1\2 tsp mustard powder
250ml milk
250ml double cream
4 spring onions chopped
1 pack of cubetti di pancetta (approx. 100g)
200g dolcelatte
125g parmesan
Small ball of mozzarella diced
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/160 fan/ gas mark 6.

2.Simmer the macaroni in a large pan of water for 8- 10 minutes (or as per packaging instructions), drain well, return to the pan and set aside.

3. Gently fry off the pancetta cubes in a small pan over a medium heat until they begin to crisp- you do not need to add oil or butter when frying the pancetta. Next add the spring onion and continue to cook until the onions soften. Take tha pan off the heat and set aside.

4. Now it’s time to start preparing the sauce. Make sure all the ingredients are weighed and measured out before you begin as once the sauce gets going it will need your full attention to ensure it is nice and smooth- you don’t want any pesky lumps creeping in!

Take a small pan over a medium heat and add the butter, flour and pinch of mustard powder and cook until the butter melts. Mix the milk and cream and give it a good stir to combine them. Now for the delicate bit so listen up! You need to gradually add the milk and cream to the pan, whisking all the while. By keeping it moving you will end up with a silky smooth sauce. If, however, you find the odd lump then don’t panic and simply remove the pan from the heat and whisk vigorously until the lumps have disappeared.

5. After all the milk has been added turn up the heat to medium/ high and bubble until the sauce thickens.  Make sure the sauce doesn’t boil and stir occasionally to check that it hasn’t caught on the bottom of the pan. Once you are happy with the consistency take the pan off the heat and add in two thirds of the dolcelatte, two thirds of the parmesan and stir well. If you like a blue with a bit more bite and tang, a gorgonzola also works well here. Season well to taste.

6. Stir the sauce into the macaroni pasta which has been set aside and spoon into an ovenproof dish. I like using a Pyrex dish so you can see the cheese bubbling away! Take the remaining cheeses and dot on the top of the pasta. Bake in the oven for half an hour or until golden. Serve and watch everyone go back for seconds! You may like to serve a simple side salad or garlic bread. I like to roast a bulb of garlic and then combine this with softened unsalted butter so make a wickedly delicious garlic butter which you can then slather on a ciabatta before baking.

Next time you make this you may like to add some mozzarella through the pasta before baking or make a simple breadcrumb topping for a bit of added crunch. The macaroni also reheats well for a quick lunch the next day (if there’s any left!).

‘One more cheese shot’ I hear you cry! Oh go on then!

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