Monthly Archives: January 2011

Three sweet treats with Rachel’s organic yogurt

After much excitement and plenty of experimentation and tasting I came up with three delicious and universally popular recipes (well in our house and among my friends they were anyway), using Rachel’s gooseberry, honey and coconut yogurt.

We’d already used the cream in the Tipsy Laird, eaten the rice puddings and small pots of yogurt for our lunches (yum) and various flavoured and natural yogurt had accompanied crumble and cake, so it was time to try out a few new recipes.

a rather messy mess…half demolished by the kids

I started with the gooseberry yogurt which I combined with home-made meringue, crispy on the outside, soft and gooey in the middle, broken into rough pieces and topped with a tart gooseberry puree to make a gooseberry Eton mess. It really was a very gooey mess, but the silence round the table and smacking of lips said the experiment was a success.

mmmmm fresh ice cream every day!

In the meantime I received some new kitchen equipment, one of the items being a Magimix Gelato 2000 professional ice-cream maker. Set on giving it a try out, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, try the new machine and make some ice cream with one of the pots of yogurt, so off I went in search of frozen yogurt recipes. Most of them were American and referred to the frozen yogurt dessert annoyingly as a ‘fro-yo’, popular in the 80’s and now experiencing a bit of a renaissance. There were one or two coconut fro-yo recipes so I had a look then went off and had a tinker.

The combination I came up with used

Half a cup of castor sugar (in American measurement), 1 large tub of Rachel’s organic Greek style coconut yogurt and half a tin of thick coconut milk.

Stir together to dissolve and combine the sugar then put in an ice-cream maker until it forms a thick creamy consistency. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker then you will need to transfer it to a rigid container and put it in the freezer. Stir every hour or so to prevent ice crystals building up until set.

Frozen yogurt ice-cream with toasted coconut and passion fruit sauce

I served mine with toasted coconut on top and some passion fruit sauce (which was simply sieved passion fruit spooned over the top).

muffins all ready to bake

I used the Greek style honey yogurt  in honey banana muffins. I used a Hugh Fiercely-eats-it-all (as my friend Molly has christened him) recipe and substituted the plain yogurt for the honey variety and added a couple of small mashed bananas.

The recipe for 12 was

225g plain flour 2 t-spoons baking powder Pinch of Halen Mon sea salt (it’s the best) 100g castor sugar 1 medium egg 125g Rachel’s organic Greek style honey yogurt 125ml milk 75g Rachel’s unsalted butter 2 small mashed bananas Put twelve muffin cases into a muffin tray and preheat the oven at gas mark 4/180 degree C. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Mix the egg, milk, yogurt and melted butter in a jug. Pour into dry ingredients and mix lightly. Be sure not to over mix as the muffins will be stodgy. Add mashed bananas and stir a couple of times to incorporate into the mixture. Spoon into the paper cases and cook for 30 minutes until golden brown. When cooked transfer to a wire rack to cool and eat! These muffins barely lasted an hour, the poor sick little un who has barely eaten all week (very unusual for him) managed two and the descending teenagers finished the rest….but then I did say they were best eaten fresh!

the cooked muffins

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New secret supper dates

New dates added for the coming couple of months starting with a romantic Valentines dinner….roses on the table, roaring fire, candles, soft music and a menu of lovely local produce….

This will be followed by secret suppers on the 26th of February, 12th March and the 19th March. Keep an eye out for menu’s and themes (still to be confirmed) but email soon to reserve your place

Denise x

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Tipsy Laird trifle TV and Rachel’s organic dairy

It’s been an exciting few weeks, almost like having a bit of Christmas all over again, which is just what a girl needs in the grim dull month of January. First my new kitchen equipment arrived; brand new cooker, ice cream maker and grill which heralded a big kitchen clean up and overhaul…the big spring clean came early. Then I received an invite to attend auditions for ITV’s Britain’s Best Dish, which after some consideration I attended on Saturday (with some trepidation I might add! Sure I’d like my cooking to be a success, but I’m certainly not a TV wannabe, so I’m not too sure how I will feel If I’m picked to go on the show) . I also received several consecutive listings on various blogs as one of the top five supper clubs in the UK (outside of London)…so, where usually January leaves me feeling sluggish and blue, I am actually feeling the opposite!

One other exciting first for me as a food blogger was an approach from a company PR department. Reviewing products is something that food bloggers get asked to do from time to time and due to my focus on local produce, the PR agents for Rachel’s organic dairy in Aberystwyth contacted me to ask if I would like to try some of their products and perhaps review them on the blog. Well I love Rachel’s stuff and so, overjoyed at the prospect of receiving some yummy goodies to use in my recipes I agreed.

A very generous selection of Rachel’s organics produce

Rachel’s were the first ever certified organic dairy in the UK and they now produce a range of goods including butter, yogurt, cream, crème fraiche, milk and desserts which are available in most supermarkets across the UK.  There are surprisingly few organic dairies in Wales and Rachel’s are one of perhaps three that supply North Wales (plus they have the best choice of yogurt by far, my personal favourite being the low-fat vanilla which is divine simply used to top off a big bowl of porridge in the morning with some chopped banana on top!)

When our parcel of goodies arrived the kids couldn’t contain their excitement, we opened the box wide-eyed and brimming with eager anticipation to find a huge choice of produce so I have to say thank you to Rachel’s, for the very generous parcel, we have had much fun coming up with ideas for luscious puddings.

The first things I used were the butter and cream went into the dishes I cooked for Britain’s Best Dish, one of which was my slant  on Tipsy Laird, a Scottish sherry trifle and a perfect Burns Night alternative to Crannachan. It’s the pudding I made for my own Burns Night supper last year and I have since modified and tinkered with it to perfection!

Tipsy Laird

For my Tipsy Laird (serving 4 to 5) you need….

6 tablespoons Glayva liqueur, the juice and zest of one to two oranges, home-made trifle sponge (about 5) for which you need 30g Rachel’s organic unsalted butter, 60g plain flour, pinch sea salt, 2 medium eggs, 60g caster sugar, about 400g fresh raspberries, loganberries or tayberries,  1 pint home-made custard…. 500ml full cream milk, a vanilla pod, 5 egg yolks, 5 tablespoons caster sugar (or you can use a carton of fresh), 400ml Rachel’s organic double cream, a tub of mascarpone cheese, toasted flaked almonds and medium oatmeal, fresh honey and some orange zest to top.

First make the trifle sponges:

Prepare a swiss roll tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180 degree C. Melt butter in a small pan and set aside to cool. Sift the flour and salt into a small bowl. Put the eggs and sugar in a heatproof bowl that will sit snugly inside a saucepan then half fill the saucepan with boiling water and sit the bowl on top. Whisk the eggs with an electric hand whisk until pale thick and creamy and mousse like.

Sift in the flour and fold into the egg mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Turn into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown and springy to touch. While that’s cooking very lightly whip the cream and combine with the mascarpone, set aside in the fridge until needed. Prepare, wash raspberries, wash oranges and using an orange zester pare the zest from the one or two oranges being used and put into a bowl all but a few strands for decoration later. Squeeze the oranges and add the juice to the bowl. Mix in the Glayva liqueur and leave aside.

Remove the sponges from the oven and leave aside to cool completely. In the meantime make the custard. Pour milk into a saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod down the centre with a sharp knife and add to the pan. Bring the milk slowly to the boil. Once it reaches almost boiling point, remove from the heat and allow to stand so the vanilla can infuse into the milk.

Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar until thick and pale in colour then add the milk and stir. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape the black seeds from inside into the custard. Pour the custard into a clean pan and put over a low heat stirring constantly until it thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and pour into a jug and refrigerate until needed.

Once cool cut the sponges into small blocks and soak them in the liqueur mix then put in the base of 4 dessert / trifle glasses with flat bottoms or a trifle bowl. Spoon over a good layer of raspberries, then top with the custard. Finish off with the whipped cream mixture. Lay out a good handful of slivered almonds and medium oatmeal on some foil and toast lightly under the grill until golden. Cool for a few minutes then sprinkle over the top of each trifle. Finish with a drizzle of runny honey and some of the reserved orange zest.

Enjoy on Tuesday whether you are Scottish or not and look out for more Rachel’s recipes which will follow shortly.


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Dinner at the headmasters

This was our one supper club that survived the December snow, a private event booked a year ago, and one which required us to pack up our boxes and bags and head off on tour along the A55 to Llandudno and the home of St. David’s College headmaster Stuart, to celebrate his 40th birthday.

The origins of this booking go back even further, to the summer of 2009 to be exact, four months before I’d even started the secret supper club. It was the St. David’s College ‘Auction of Promises’ an event scheduled to raise funds for the schools charity project in Uganda, specifically to build a maternity unit.

At the time I’d mentioned to Sean (my other half) that I would like to give something or help in some way and I came up with the idea of donating myself, or at least my skills and time to cook and prepare a dinner party for up to ten. The auction came and I was somewhat nervous at the thought that no one would bid for me and even more nervous when the headmaster won me!! But as I said, this was a year and a half ago and following this we’d been unable to find a date that suited, until Stuart asked if I would cook at his house for his birthday. So the dinner became my fulfilment of the commitment I made at the auction as well as staying true to the supper club ethos. The only proviso was that no St. David’s pupils worked as waitresses (that ruled Roisin or any of her friends out) so Anya and her friend Emma came along to help.

I got together with Stuart and we discussed menu, which ended up being based around his favourite dishes. We started with Mini yeast blini canapes with sour cream, smoked salmon and dill or oak roast tomatoes from the tomato stall at Borough market, Champagne or Kir Royale.

To make Kir Royale just add a dessertspoon of blackcurrant cassis to a glass of bubbly to give it a pink glow and a little sweetness.

Then for starters we opted for a classic moules mariniere, with cream, thyme and parsley or smoked halloumi salad for the vegetarians and mussel haters, a dish I’ve made before for a previous supper club.

For main course I did slow cooked lamb shanks with parmesan mash and broccoli (another dish I’ve served before) or an Ottolenghi inspired squash and chickpea stew with lemon couscous. We finished with a very dark and rich chocolate mousse cake (from one of my new Christmas recipe books) with bitter orange sorbet, followed by coffee, Port and cheese.

Green and Blacks Dark chocolate mousse cake:

1 tablespoon ground almonds, plus a bit extra to dust the tin, 300g dark chocolate or 200g dark chocolate plus 100g Maya Gold orange chocolate, 275g caster sugar, 165g unsalted butter, a pinch of sea salt, 5 large eggs and a pot of edible gold dust (Waitrose sell it if you don’t have a specialist cake shop near you)

Preheat the oven to 180 degree C/350 degree F/gas mark 4. Brush a 23cm loose bottom cake tin with some melted butter and dust with ground almonds.

Melt the chocolate, caster sugar, butter and salt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of very gently simmering water. Once melted remove from the heat.

Whisk the eggs with the ground almonds and when light and airy fold into the chocolate mixture which will begin to thicken after a few minutes. Pour into the cake tin and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.

When its slightly cooled remove the sides of the cake tin but leave the cake on the base. When its cold dust the top with a little sieved icing sugar or brush the top with edible gold dust.

The only hiccup that threatened the event was the snow, which also meant I’d struggled to get some of my local produce. I screwed up on the lamb front missing the butcher on Christmas eve so I ended up having to get the lamb from elsewhere (it was still Welsh lamb though) and the Conwy mussel man left me sweating until the night before, when he finally rang to confirm he had some for me. The only thing I failed to pick up was the local purple sprouting broccoli and it pained me to do it but I had to buy from the supermarket (it was British though at least). I left the house with a grumpy Roisin shouting after me

“You better tell me everything that happens when you get back!”

It seemed odd cooking at someone else’s house, although I have to say we soon got into the swing of it. We had wine, drinks, music (Stuart’s partner Lucy lent us their young son’s ipod dock which he’d got for Christmas, which left us feeling very guilty as he scowled at us from the corner) and we had lots of space!! Emma got carried away with the ice machine on the fridge (ice in everything!) and I seriously coveted their work surface and made very the most of it, amazed at how much difference it made to ease of preparation.

unpacking the crates, supper club kit on tour

lots of space!!!!

Stuart, his family and guests crept into their own kitchen sheepishly and almost apologetically at times, which was quite funny, and apart from the three of us still feeling shattered from Christmas, snow and various lurgies it all ran remarkably smoothly. No really, it did and this surprises me because it was the first time we’d taken supper club on tour!

I avoided the wine and Champagne until the meal was underway, so everything took shape nicely. The girls were the perfect cocktail waitresses and I deliberately kept a low profile. I wasn’t sure for a time if it was weird cooking at the home of my daughter’s headmaster, but in the end it didn’t feel that way at all. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, the food appeared to go down well and as the girls and I left everyone eating cheese, drinking Port and coffee and about to head outside to their fire, they all seemed to have a full and happy smile on their face.

In my usual style I forgot to photograph the mussels and the main course. I need a food photographer as I get too stressed about getting the food to the table hot to worry about whether I’ve taken a picture of it and when you have twelve lamb shanks to serve with mash the last thing on your mind is the photography!

making mini yeast blinis topped with smoked salmon and dill and oak smoked tomatoes from the tomato stall at Borough Market


finished blinis

Kir Royale to celebrate being ready!


My lovely waitresses Anya and Emma who worked very hard all evening



plating smoked halloumi salads for those not having mussels, but then I totally forgot to photograph the mussels




Very simple, but really rich and chocolatey 'Green and Black's' mousse cakes brushed with edible gold dust




doing what I do best...organising!! and looking rather scary brandishing my knife at some unsuspecting coffee cups!



Serving pudding...chocolate cake with bitter orange sorbet (or granita as it turned out!!)




A very happy (and at this point quite merry) party

As we packed up in the kitchen one of Stuart’s friends came and thrust posh chocolates at us made by his sister, an artisan chocolatier, ganache truffles I believe they were and I had a ginger and lemongrass one. They were too delicious to just have one we had to take an extra for the drive back. It was a lovely end to a lovely evening.


We arrived home at about midnight, tired but happy. As we got in the door Roisin was waiting

“well”? she said

“well, what?” I replied

“well, what happened”?

“Everyone had a lovely dinner, drank wine, chatted and had a nice time” I said

“Oh” she said crestfallen “is that all?” and she sloped off to bed.

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New listings in the press

I recently found a nice little listing / review on the uk curiosity blog which describes as as one of the five best supper clubs in the UK, how lovely!!


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A sort of turkey koulibiac for Boxing Day

This year I decided to ditch the Christmas turkey in favour of a lovely piece of pork resplendent with spiced and salted crispy crackling…well that was the plan! At the last-minute the teen, who had up until this point been a vegetarian, decided she was after all going to eat white meat from now on, so just for her I bought a small turkey crown. When I say smal,l I mean small in turkey terms and in the end there was probably enough food on the Christmas table to feed a whole supper club, let alone just the four of us. All went without hitch until the moment I served Christmas dinner, as I put the bird on the table the teen announced

“oh, is that turkey? I don’t like turkey”

“its white meat, you said you were going to eat white meat” I replied

“but not turkey” she responded.

The other three of us ate both turkey and pork but I was left with rather a large amount of the white meat so, instead of facing the uninspiring pairing of cold meat and bubble and squeak for the next three days, I used the rest to make a Russian dish koulibiac. A koulibiac basically consists of rice mixed with fish (usually salmon) and herbs, wrapped in puff pastry. In this recipe I substituted the fish for diced turkey and very effective it was too. I used

1 tbsp olive oil, 1 onion, peeled and chopped, 1 red pepper, deseeded and diced, 1 tbsp plain white flour, about 150m chicken stock, 300g diced turkey meat, 100g cooked long grain rice, 2 tbsp single cream or you could use fromage frais or creme fraiche, salt and freshly ground black pepper, a couple of tbsp fresh herbs including chopped tarragon, parsley or even dill, 300g block of puff pastry, and a little beaten egg to glaze. You could use or add other things too like mushrooms, wild rice, green peppers, different herbs.

First preheat the oven to 220 degree C/425 F.Gas mark 7. Heat the oil in a pan and sweat he onion and pepper for a few minutes without browning. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for two minutes then remove the pan from the heat. Gradually stir in the stock, then return to the heat and cook until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the diced turkey, cooked rice, cream or fromage frais, seasoning to taste and herbs. Cover and leave until cool.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to make a 30 x 15cm / 12×6 inch oblong. Place the cooled filling on one side of the pastry oblong and brush edges lightly with a little beaten egg. Fold the pastry over encasing the filling, then seal the edges firmly pressing them together with the back of a knife. Transfer to a baking sheet and allow to relax in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes. Make a couple of slashes in the top of the pastry and brush with beaten egg. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.

This made such a lovely change from all the Christmas food, served simply with a salad and some home-made cranberry relish. Although i have to say it was still sufficiently comforting on yet another snowy day.

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Chocolate salami

I first came across chocolate salami at my Grandad’s 90th birthday party of all places! For once I wasn’t doing the catering, so got to sample the lovely grub created by the son of a friend and one of the things he made was this. I think I polished most of it off myself!

Despite the name it contains no meat and needs minimal cooking. It is simple, Christmassy and makes an unusual accompaniment to coffee at the end of a meal.

The sweet creation is traditional in Italy and Portugal and it also made an interesting talking point for all the ‘oldies’ at Grandad’s party. I overheard one lady say “I don’t usually like salami, but this was very nice”


80g unsalted butter

200g bitter chocolate 70%

100g icing sugar

200g digestive biscuits

80g flaked almonds

80g dried cranberries

80g pistachios

2 egg yolks

80g Port

2ml vanilla essence

80g  Condensed milk

Pinch of salt

Cocoa powder for coating

Crush the Biscuits into small pieces, but not crumbs. Mix with the almonds, cranberries and pistachios and sprinkle half of the port over the mixture, set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in a metal bowl, placed over a pot of simmering water. Once melted add the icing sugar, salt, egg yolks, the rest of the port, vanilla and condensed milk, mix well and continue to cook over the bain-marie for a further 4 minutes to cook the eggs, stirring regularly.

Remove from the heat and stir in the biscuit mixture mixing well. Leave the mixture to cool for about 10 – 15 minutes, this will make it easier to shape as it will thicken and set.  Shape it into a salami shape roll between a double layer of cling film. Put into the fridge to set overnight. Remove the cling film and roll the salami in cocoa powder. Wrap ready for serving in a sheet of greaseproof paper and tie the ends with string, just as a salami would be wrapped. Serve with good strong coffee by cutting on the diagonal.

Not all recipes use nuts and fruit, but i really liked this one and it gave it that Christmassy feel with the addition of cranberries.

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A hand-made Christmas

Despite the disappointment of having to cancel our Christmas supper club I was able, mercifully, to complete my Christmas present making (albeit at 5pm on Christmas Eve). Receiving my hand-made presents has become something of a tradition for my family. What started out of necessity (being skint, but resourceful) has since become a much-anticipated event….and has grown in proportion from the odd pot of jam and bag of chocolate truffles to full-blown hampers, hand-made liqueurs and far more up market gold dust coated chocolates. My family positively drools at the thought of chutney, sweets and Sloe gin (which I make every year).

Now you don’t have to be a chef, or particularly talented to create beautiful, treasured gifts and with a little stylish inspiration they look so much better than those churned out in the posh shops of London and sold at hugely inflated prices. Although I did succumb and buy two ready-made hampers from one of my suppliers everything else given this year was my own (and my children’s) handiwork.

My son and I spent a day making iced Christmas biscuits for all his friends and to put on our tree, then Rosie took over creating mountains of melt in the mouth peppermint creams, so simple but stunningly effective packed in small jars with tissue or even just wrapped in cellophane bags tied with ribbon. Whilst she was creating I made whiskey truffles with gold dust coating and decanted Sloe gin and home-made Cassis. I paired the Cassis with sparkling wine (to skint for champagne unfortunately) and wrapped in cellophane complete with the instructions for Kir Royale (although with sparkling wine it is really Kir Petillant).

I know it’s a little late for Christmas this year, but with the growing economical pinch and the BBC’s obsession with living The Good Life (did anyone see Giles and Sue live the good life on BBC2 on the 28th December?) I think many more of us will be turning our hand to home-made over the coming year, and that’s no bad thing, so hopefully some of these ideas and recipes will help you create your own gifts next year.


iced biscuits wrapped in cellophane and jars of sweets and mini mince pies



Iced Christmas biscuits:

275g plain flour sifted, 1 teaspoon mixed spice, 100g caster sugar, 200g hard butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 egg, 2 egg whites,  1 tablespoon lemon juice, 250g icing sugar, food colourings to decorate and ribbon to thread through the holes.


Mix the flour, spice and sugar then grate the butter into the bowl. Add vanilla and egg and mix to a dough. This might take a bit of work with your hands. Chill in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 350 degree F, 180 degree C. Roll out the dough until it’s about 7.5cm thick, cut out shapes using Christmassy cookie cutters (we used Christmas trees, snow men, stars, hearts and circles) and lay on a greased baking sheet. Make holes in the biscuits using a skewer then bake in the oven for about 12 to 15 minutes. When they come out remake the skewer holes then cool on a wire rack. While they cool beat the egg whites with the lemon juice and gradually add the icing sugar mixing well. Spoon over the biscuits and leave to harden. When dry decorate with food colourings. We painted our Christmas trees with tinsel  and baubles and Aidan painted his friends names on each one. Thread ribbon through the holes so you can hang them on the Christmas tree. These can also be stored in a cool dark place for up to two weeks.


Christmas biscuits decorating the tree


Peppermint creams:

1 large egg white, 350-375g icing sugar, a few drops of peppermint oil and some green food colouring.

whisk egg white until frothy, sieve in half the icing sugar and beat well. Add peppermint oil and rest of the icing sugar and mix until stiff. I used double the recipe above and coloured one lot with green colouring. Turn  on to a surface dusted with icing sugar and knead adding more icing sugar if necessary until the mixture is the right consistency to roll. Roll as thin as possible and using sweet cutters cut out different shapes; we made stars, hearts and circles. Place on non-stick baking paper and leave to dry for 24 hours. Pack in decorated boxes, small jars or cellophane bags tied with coloured ribbon.


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