Lemon and Poppy Seed Mousse.

The lovely people at Seed & Bean sent me a little supply of chocolate for me to toy around with. Suffice it to say, the first bar barely saw the kitchen – only my mouth. I regained a little willpower though with the others (marginally!), and knew exactly what I wanted to do with the white chocolate bar; a chocolate mousse. The richness of the chocolate compliments the airiness of a mousse, so although this is a decadent dessert, it’s not sickly sweet.

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I first came across Seed & Bean in a little shop in Bristol Market, where it was actually this lemon and poppy seed white chocolate which attracted me, chocolate fiend I am. But not only do they make bloody amazing chocolate, it’s good for you too! Well, not your figure, but your impact in the world. Ethically traded (they have received 100% ethical accreditation from The Ethical Company Organisation), fair-trade, organic and handmade here in Blighty. Basically, it’s heaven in a bar.

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So go grab yourself a selection (their new Glastonbury range looks to die for!) and make yourself happy – even happier still if you turn one into this mousse!

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Ingredients for two:

85g Seed & Bean Lemon and Poppy Seed White Chocolate

40ml semi-skimmed milk

1 egg white

110ml double cream

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How to:

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie, then take it off the heat and whisk in the milk.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg white until small peaks form, then fold it into the chocolate mix.

In another bowl whisk the cream until stiff (sorry about all the washing up), then fold that into the chocolate mix. If it looks a bit lumpy to you, pass it through a sieve. If not, go ahead and pour it into 2 martini glasses.

Chill for about 3 hours, then serve it up – or put on Bridget Jones and eat them both yourself. Haven’t you heard? Seed & Bean mousse is the new Ben & Jerry’s.

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Roasted Red Wine Mushrooms with Blue Cheese and Spinach Baked Risotto.

You know when you’ve been eyeing up a recipe for sooooo long that you just have to give in and cook in? That’s what this is. It’s hardly the healthiest of meals, what with the wine and cheese, but sometimes you need to eat something hearty like this – we can’t all live off kale forever (yuk!).

My excuse for such a lavish dish was my neighbours birthday and I was volunteered to cook – so this show stopper of a meal had to make it’s debut appearance!

ImageThe recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks, Jo Pratt’s In The Mood For Entertaining. I’ve altered the quantities to suit 4 people instead of 6 as the book intends, and changed the amount of cheese – I’ve decreased the blue cheese, surprisingly! I think any more than 60g would be overpowering and too rich; this amount was, as Goldilocks would say, “just right”.

Ingredients for 4 very hungry people:

For the mushrooms:

  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 Tsp. dried oregano
  • a handful of basil leaves, chopped finely (dried would be fine)
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato purée
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 6 large flat mushrooms (Portobello would work)
  • 150 ml red wine

Put the mushrooms into a heatproof dish. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, oregano, basil, tomato purée, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to make a paste. Rub this paste into the mushrooms, smearing it lightly into the gills. Pour over 100ml of the red wine and leave to cover for at least 1 hour. When the red wine has been absorbed, add the remaining 50ml (you can always add more!).

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For the risotto:

  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 150ml white wine
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 60g blue cheese (I used Danish Blue, but Stilton or Gorgonzola would be fine)
  • 100g grated cheddar
  • 170g spinach leaves
  • 50g pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Melt the butter in a large ovenproof dish (such as a casserole dish) and gently sauté the onion until it’s transparent. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the butter before adding the white wine. Cook until half of the wine has been absorbed.

Put the mushrooms in the oven to cook for about 25 minutes.

Add the hot stock to the rice with a twist of black pepper (omit the salt as the blue cheese will give some saltiness when added). Stir briefly and cover with a tight fitting lid. Place in the oven and bake for 18 minutes, until just cooked. Remove from the oven, stir in the cheese and spinach, until melted or wilted.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven, and cut each one in half.

Lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan.

Serve up! Plate the risotto on warm plates and scatter over the pine nuts. Put 3 halves of a mushroom on each plate, and spoon any remaining red wine juices over them.

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I can’t stress how rich and delicious this is – you HAVE to have it!

Sun-dried tomato tart with goat’s cheese.

Having a dinner party or friends over for lunch? This is great for a starter or a light lunch, and looks impressive, even though it’s simple as pie! I served it for a dinner party the other day as a starter, and as it’s veggie it caters for everyone’s needs! Sun-drying the tomatoes takes the longest, but it’s a no-fuss method so you can basically forget about them (don’t forget for too long! We don’t want burnt tomatoes..). The great thing about this is that you can prepare it ahead of time, then just put the finished article in the oven to heat up – it doesn’t get much simpler!

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Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 5-6 tomatoes, depending on the size
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • A jar of store-bought caramelised red onion chutney
  • 150g soft goat’s cheese

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C. Start by halving the tomatoes and getting rid of the stem. Put in a baking tray and cover generously with olive oil and the garlic. Pop in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, but keep checking. They should retain their shape but be softer and a little mushy (really selling it, aren’t I?).
  2. Whilst the tomatoes are cooking, roll out your puff pastry sheet and cut out 6 circles. Put on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper, and wash with the beaten egg. Pop into the same oven as the tomatoes for about 15 minutes, or until golden. Remove and leave to cool.
  3. Top the pastry with a couple of teaspoonfuls of caramelised onion chutney, then one or two tomato halves, depending on the size of the tomato. Sprinkle each tomato with goat’s cheese. These can now be kept, covered in the fridge, until you are ready to heat them up and serve. They just need 5-10 minutes in the oven from room temperature, or until hot. Serve with a side salad (and a glass of white wine wouldn’t go amiss!).

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Nothing quite like a cocktail…

As you may well know, cocktails are my vice (along with shopping, food, etc). But basically, they’re my downfall.

 
So here’s a roundup of some of the cocktails I’ve had in my time in France! I just hope I can remember what’s in them so as to recreate them.. Somehow I think remembering things and alcohol just don’t mix..
 

Le Parfait, from La Fabrik.
 
And my good-ness, it is perfect. Tasting kind of like gummy sweets, it’s the right amount of alcohol to get you slightly merry but not be able to taste the alcohol – very dangerous, but so worth it. Go on, live vicariously!
 
 
Helen – Strawberry daiquiri 
 

Me – Martini Royale
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




In this instance, I preferred the slushiness and sweetness of Helen’s daiquiri to my rather potent martini, though the champagne in it was a definite bonus!
 
 
I don’t know if you can count these next two as cocktails.. They are twists on the Kir Royale, but instead of using Kir I went for a lychee liqueur, and Alice went for a lavender one. Just what the doctor ordered after an exam!