Juicy Beef Skewers with Horseradish Cream

This scrumptious skewers can be served as a entree or as a nibble with drinks.

1 lb. beef rump
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbs. freshly grated horseradish or prepared hot horseradish sauce
2 tbs. rosemary needles or 1 tsp. dried
1 1/2 tbs. red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs. port
1 cup creme fraiche of sour cream
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped chives

Cut the beef into 1″ squares and put into a resealable bag or large bowl. Add 1 tbs. of the horseradish, the rosemary, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and port. Combine well and set aside for at least 20 minutes, or chill overnight.

Let the meat come to room temperature if it was chilled. Soak about 10 bamboo skewers in water at the same time, then thread 3 – 4 pieces of meat onto each.

Make the dip by whisking together the creme fraiche or sour cream with the remaining horseradish, mustard, salt and most of the chives. Place in a bowl and sprinkle the remaining chives on top. Set aside.

Heat a grill or griddle and cook the skewers for 2 minutes per side for rare, then remove to a plate. Serve with the horseradish dip.

Crab Mac ‘N’ Cheese

There are few words to describe this. We are forever indebted to you Nigella!!!

1 cup (packed) grated Gruyere cheese
2 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
1/8 tsp. Aleppo pepper or hot paprika, plus more to sprinkle
250 whole milk
1 tsp. tomato paste
2 tbs. butter
1 fat clove garlic, grated
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
7 oz. conchigilie rigate pasta (or other large shell shape)
100g mixed white and dark crab

Stir together the cheese and set aside. Stir together the flour and spices and set aside. Pour the milk into a jug and stir in the tomato paste, then set aside.

Melt the butter in a smallish, heavy-based saucepan over a lowish heat. Stir in the garlic, then whisk in the flour mixture to make a foaming, orange paste. Take off the heat and gradually whisk in the tomatoey milk until completely smooth. Put back on the heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, then add the Worcestershire sauce. Take off the heat and stir in the cheeses. Cover and leave until the pasta is ready.

Cook the pasta according to package directions in boiling, salted water. Using a spider, ladle the pasta into the sauce and stir to combine. Fold in the crab and serve sprinkled with more Aleppo pepper or hot paprika.

Serves 2

Dark and Sumptuous Chocolate Cake

Although the frosting here is divine, for a less rich, but still wonderful cake, leave off the frosting and dust with powdered sugar.

For the frosting:
1/4 cup cold water
5 tbs. coconut butter (this is not the same as coconut oil)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tbs. unsweetened chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), chopped

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup hot water, from a recently boiled kettle
6 tbs. coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

Heat the oven to 350°F, then start with the frosting. Put all the frosting ingredients except the chopped chocolate in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to a boil. Once everything is dissolved, turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan to melt the chocolate, then whisk into a dark, glossy frosting. Set aside to cool.

Line the bottom of a 8″ springform pan with parchment paper. Put the flour, baking soda, espresso powder and cocoa in a bowl and fork to mix. Combine the sugar, hot water, coconut oil and vinegar and stir to melt. Add to the dry ingredients, then pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean apart from a few crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool in the pan.

Back to the frosting, give it a good stir to check the consistency. It should be runny enough to cover the cake but thick enough to stay mostly on the top. Unmold the cooled cake and place on a serving plate. Pour the frosting over the top. At this point you can decorate the cake with edible rose petals, chopped pistachios, etc.. Leave to stand for 30 minutes before slicing.

Spaghetti with Chard, Chili and Anchoves

Although the recipe indicates spaghetti, I only had linguine. Believe me, it was equally as wonderful.

1 bunch rainbow chard
3 tbs. olive oil
8 anchovies fillets (from a jar or tin)
3 fat cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. dried chili flakes
125ml hot water from a recently boiled kettle
7 oz. dried spaghetti
2-3 tbs. freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, plus more to serve
drizzle of olive oil, to serve

Strip the leaves from the chard, then roll them and finely slice. Cut the stalks into pieces.

Heat the oil and anchovies in a large pan until the anchovies start to melt in the oil. Take the pan off the heat and grate in the garlic cloves and add the chili flakes. Put the pan back on the heat and turn it up to medium. Tip in the chard stalks and stir well. Add the water, cover and cook 5-7 minutes to soften the stalks.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously and cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.

Add the chard leaves to the pan with the stalks, replace the lid and cook for 2-4 minutes to wilt. Turn off the heat and leave until the pasta is cooked.

Use tongs or a pasta fork to transfer the pasta directly from it’s pot to the pan with the chard. (You need to add about 4 tbs. of the cooking water to the sauce and this is an easy way to do that.) Toss everything together well and add the cheese. Spoon into warmed bowls and grate over more cheese, then drizzle with a little olive oil.

Serves 2 heartily

Potato and Mushroom Gratin

These savory potatoes are the perfect to serve alongside almost anything.

1 1/2 lbs. baking potatoes (about 3 average-sized), thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tbs. white wine
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs. butter
2 tsp. garlic-infused olive oil
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, finely sliced to make 4 cups

Heat the oven to 425°F and butter a shallow baking dish or gratin pan.

Bring the sliced potatoes, milk, white wine and salt and pepper to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a skillet over a medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Pour the mushroom and any juices into the potatoes and stir to mix. Pour in the gratin dish and bake for 45 minutes, until the top is crisp.

Serves 4

Luscious Vegan Gingerbread

This is a moist and squidgy treat that is definitely grown up gingerbread. Both fresh ginger and ground ginger add just the right amount of warmth and flavor.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup black treacle or molasses
2/3 cup golden syrup
125g dark muscovado sugar
8 pitted prunes, finely chopped
2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ready-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
250ml oat milk
300g all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tbs. warm water
2 tsp. cider vinegar

Heat the oven to 325°F and line a 9″ square tin with parchment paper allowing it to hang over the sides.

In a large saucepan, measure in the oil, treacle or molasses, golden syrup, sugar, prunes, ginger, spices and seasonings. Whisk gently over a low heat to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk, then stir in the flour in 3-4 batches to make a smooth batter.

In a jug bigger than you think you need, dissolve the baking soda in the warm water then add the vinegar. Stir into the batter and spread it in the prepared tin.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the top bounces back when you tap it with your finger. Allow to cool in the tin, then wrap in parchment and foil. Leave for a day before serving.

Serves 12-18

No-Fear Fish Stew

This fabulous fish stew is a workout for your spice drawer! Sweet potatoes and orange zest add a lovely sweetness to compliment the tender white fish.

1/4 tsp. ground mace
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. hot smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbs. olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 large sweet potato
small bunch of cilantro, stalks finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped
thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
1 orange, zest and 1 tbs. juice
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbs. tomate paste
1 tsp. sea salt flakes
1 tsp. runny honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 lb. firm water fish, cut into thick large chunks

Measure all the spices in a little bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed casserole that comes with a lid. Add the onions and cook gently until softened, about 20 minutes. Tip in the spices, cilantro stalks, ginger, garlic and the orange zest. Cook for a minute or two, then stir in the sweet potato, chopped tomatoes (fill each can halfway with water, swirl around and add), tomato paste, salt and honey or maple syrup and orange juice.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, clamp on the lid and leave to simmer for 40-45 minutes, or until the sweet potato is completely soft and the sauce has thickened slightly.

Add the fish and bubble for 3-5 minutes without the cover, or until the fish is cooked through. Turn off the heat and leave for 2 minutes longer. Serve with the cilantro leaves sprinkled on top.

Serves 4

Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds

These cold Japanese noodles go wonderfully well with so many things, especially salmon.

1/3 cup sesame seeds
8 oz. soba noodles
2 tsp. rice vinegar
5 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. sesame oil
5 scallions, sliced

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over a high heat until golden brown, then tip them into a bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and cook the noodles for 6 minutes, or according to the package directions. Drain, then plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking further. Drain again.

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey and sesame oil. Toss in the noodles, scallions and sesame seeds. Leave for about 30 minutes for the flavors to develop, then serve.

Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main course

Quick Christmas Cake with Cocoa and Tia Maria

No overnight fruit soaking needed for this luscious and festive fruitcake.

1 1/2 cups chopped soft prunes
1 cup raisins
2 tbs. currants
175ml honey
125ml Tia Maria or similar favorite
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tsp. mixed spice
2 tbs. good quality cocoa powder
12 1/2 tbs. softened butter
7/8 cup dark brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs. ground almonds
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Tip the fruit into a large saucepan and add the honey, Tia Maria, orange zest and juice, mixed spice, cocoa, butter and sugar. Heat gently, then leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 300°F and line the bottom of an 8″ springform tin with parchment paper.

Add the eggs to the cooled fruit mixture, then stir in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well, then spread into the prepared tin. Bake for 2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cover with foil if the top is becoming too brown.

Leave to cool, then remove from the tin and decorate or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Spiced Bulgur Wheat with Roast Vegetables

This is indeed a treat for a vegetarian or anyone who adores wonderful flavors and textures plus it is a visual feast for the eyes. Enjoy!

For the bulgur wheat:

3 tbs. olive oil
small bunch coriander
2 fat garlic cloves
1 orange
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. red chili flakes
1 cup bulgur wheat
1/4 cup red lentils
375ml cold water
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt flakes

For the roast vegetables:

2 large leeks, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces
2-3 red peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. sea salt flakes
3 tbs. olive oil
6 radishes, topped and halved

First, make the bulgur wheat. Heat the oil over a low heat in a heavy pan that comes with a tight-fitting lid. Chop the stalks of the coriander and stir into the oil along with the grated zest of the orange and the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then turn up the heat to medium-low and stir in the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds, followed by the red chili flakes.

Turn the heat to high and stir in the bulgur wheat and lentils. Make a well in the center and pour in the water and the salt. Bring to a boil, then clamp on the lid, reduce the heat to low and leave to cook gently for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean tea towel and replace the lid. Leave for 40 minuets or up to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 400°F. Tip all the ingredients for the roast vegetables along with 2 tbs. of the orange juice and 2 tbs. water into a shallow roasting tin that will fit them all snuggly. Toss everything together well and roast for 30 minutes. Stir in the radishes and roast another 10 minutes.

To serve, fork through the bulgur wheat to fluff it up and scoop it into a large bowl. Fork through a third of the vegetables, then chop the coriander leaves and fork through most the them. Taste for seasoning, then top with the remaining vegetables and coriander.