recipes etc.
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star anise and ginger poached pears


we’ve been eating quite a lot of asian dishes recently, inspired by chinese new year and my new found passion for jiaozi. on workday weekday nights a single course of something hot and steaming is all we tend to have time for but when it’s the weekend and friends are visiting a more leisurely approach is called for, which means pudding!

trying to some up with a light option wasn’t easy until i pushed aside my cookbooks and decided to create something myself. the two bottles of ginger wine sitting in the cupboard, were the starting point. add some star anise, cinnamon and a chilli kick and this recipe for chinese-spiced poached pears was born.

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raspberry and chocolate meringue stack


meringue is a favourite of mine and whenever i’m cooking for friends i often consider whether or not a i can squeeze a meringue pudding into the menu. eton mess is a particular favourite and i now have something that i can use when the soft fruits of summer are not available.

this meringue stack was inspired by a nigella lawson recipe although she uses a chocolate crème patisserie filling and sprinkles her stack with shards of pistachio. my version is definitely not a healthier option but it less time-consuming, relying on a filling of double cream whipped with a bought chocolate sauce.

and what a chocolate sauce – i used napa valley belgian chocolate sauce with cabernet sauvignon, a gift from a well-travelled friend. the alcoholic kick added an additional touch of decadence making this the perfect dinner party dessert.

hopefully it is also perfect for foodie chickie ani's event in honour of her passion for nigella lawson. it’s not a nigella recipe but i think it fits perfectly with her philosophy of decadence and short cuts where practicable!

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pea and rocket soup


at the moment i’m on a mission to use up all the food in our freezer. this includes the many bags of broad beans and peas (the frozen version of both are fantastic, try them if you haven’t already) which i’ve stashed in there, with thoughts of summer risottos in mind.

sadly the weather is not playing ball so i’ve been forced to consider more robust and warming meals. hurrah for robust and warming - this pea and rocket soup is truly fabulous and definitely worth trying!

the best bit is that i now have a new favourite food. okay, it’s true, i do change my mind about what qualifies as my favourite food several times a week, but it’s still quite exciting. or maybe the best bit is that this involves a vegetable which i rarely eat. and a cheap storecupboard vegetable at that.

or maybe, and actually i think this might be the clincher, the best bit is that it tastes delicious topped with crispy pancetta or, to ring the changes when you eat it two days in a row (guilty as charged m’lud!), a gruyere-topped crouton or two.

you should make this soup.

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dumplings… or should i say jiaozi...


growing up, dumplings were always the best thing about some of the soups that my mum used to make. chicken and vegetable soup with fluffy dumplings was a comforting dream of a dish. i still occasionally indulge myself but all too often chicken stock and leftovers get turned into a healthier miso broth which is served with noodles.

however, i have a new plan – chinese dumplings! in honour of the recent chinese new year celebrations i have been looking east for inspiration and i made up a couple of batches of jiaozi. both were scented with ginger and spring onion but half were a combination of pork mince and prawn while the others were prawn and wood ear mushroom. both were served in broth made from good homemade prawn stock and both were delicious.

i’m now planning an afternoon making up several batches of dumplings which can be frozen and then quickly served in broth, steamed or shallow-fried. my cooking mojo is back, with a bang, and it’s all thanks to dumplings!

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new flavours, new inspiration


over the past few weeks my cooking mojo has been a bit elusive. too many longstanding and faithful dishes have been the focus of my cooking and, while some have continued to be truly fabulous, i’ve been feeling thoroughly uninspired by others.

time for action! i spent a few hours at the weekend going through a couple of magazines and a pile of torn/printed out recipes and drew up a hit list. top of which was a skye gyngell recipe for chicken with orange peel, black olives, tomatoes and thyme.

orange is not something i use very often to flavour savoury dishes, relying more on lemon for a citrus tang, so it was nice to try something a little different. the peel is added to the sauce and it gives it a subtle fragrant taste, which lightens the more traditional casserole flavours and injects a hint of sunny days yet to come.

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