Homemade Guacamole

1 12 2010

 No party would be complete without some sort of crisps or chips and something to dip them into.

 For me that “something” has to be guacamole and I’m not talking about the rank tasting plastic tubs of crap that most is sold in most supermarkets and that personally I wouldn’t give to my chickens. I like guacamole to have texture and flavour as opposed to just being green coloured mush.

So here is my recipe for great homemade guacamole


2 ripe hass avocados 
1 tomato
1 onion
1 handful of coriander
2 spring onions
2 jalapeños
Juice of 1 lime
pinch of cayenne pepper
fresh ground pepper
sea salt
2 cloves of garlic

Peel and chop all of the ingredients other than the avocados. This garlic and onion should be as fine as you can get them and the tomato should be in a fine dice with the seeds removed, you can also deseed the chillies if you so wish.

Take the skin off of the avocados and ensure that you keep one of the stones.

Using the back of a fork mash the avocados until you have a nice salsa like consistency with some definate chunks of avocado left intact.

Mix the avocado in with the rest of your chopped ingredients and the lime juice, season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a little extra coriander.

Take the avocado stone that you kept hold of and pop that into the middle of the bowl holding the guacamole, this will help to keep the avocado from going off quite so quickly. Cover the bowl in clingfilm ensuring that there is as little air trapped under it as possible.

Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.


Fresh and Smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche and Cucumber Dressing

30 11 2010

This recipe is for one of my party favourites; a mixture of smoked and fresh lime marinated salmon is combined with a wondering cucumber, creme fraiche and dill dressing that is fantastic on melba toast or with a nice light salad of crisp leaves and some new potatoes.


500g smoked salmon

500g fresh salmon

300ml creme fraiche

Juice of 3/4 limes

1 cucumber

1tbsp pink peppercorns

2/3 tbsp white wine vinegar

Fresh dill


First things first you need to remove the skin from your fresh salmon and cut it into small cubes of about 1/2 inch.

Place the fresh salmon into a bowl and squeeze in the juice of 3/4 limes ensuring that you have enough to cover the salmon, as with ceviche the lime juice is going to “cook” the fresh salmon.  Cover the bowl with some cling film and set aside for at least 3 hours.

When the fresh salmon is suitably marinated you can start to prepare the rest of the dish; cut the smoked salmon into the same size cubes as before and place into a clean bowl.

Drain the liquid from your fresh salmon and mix in with the smoked salmon. Set aside in the fridge for the time being.

Cut the cucumber into 4 lengthwise and remove the seeds and discard, cut the flesh of the cucumber into small cubes and place into a bowl with enough white wine vinegar to cover the cucumber and add in a good handful of fresh dill.

Cover the bowl and pop into the fridge for about 30 minutes before draining off the vinegar.

Take the salmon from the fridge, again discarding any liquid that has come off of it and add in the cucumber and dill.

Mix in the creme fraiche and the pink peppercorns, you can also add some more dill for extra colour.

Refridgerate if you are not serving immediately.

Mini Chicken & Beef Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

29 11 2010

Continuing on with my selection of top party foods for the festive season I have decided to post my recipe for delicious mini chicken satay.

Obviously the satay marinade can be used with whatever you want but in this case I have chosen bite size pieces of chicken and beef so as to make the skewers easier to hold and eat.

These chicken and beef satay sticks are particularly good served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce for which I have also included my recipe.

I know that a lot of people like to include peanuts or peanut butter in the marinade itself but I prefer not to. Not only is this recipe better in my opinion but it is also safer for people with nut allergies as they can still enjoy the marinated skewers and can avoid the dipping sauce.


12 skinless chicken thighs  or breasts cut into bite size cubes

1kg  flank steak cut into bite size cubes or thin strips


250g lemongrass

2 shallots or 2 small onions

6 cloves garlic

4/5  fresh red chilies

4 inch piece of fresh ginger

2 tsp turmeric

4 Tbsp ground coriander

4 tsp cumin seeds

6 Tbsp dark soy sauce

8 Tbsp fish sauce

4 Tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil

10  Tbsp brown sugar


Soak the wooden skewers in water over night so that they don’t burn, if using metal skewers this step is not needed.

Cut the chicken and beef into pieces and place into 2 separate bowls

Peel the onion/shallots,the garlic cloves and remove the woody section from the lemongrass.

Place all of the ingredients for the marinade into a food processor and blitz until everything is combined together and you have a suitable consistency for a marinade.

Try a little of the marinade to make sure that it tastes ok,  the main tastes you are looking for are salty and sweet with the chilli in the background. Adjust accordingly.

Pour equal amounts of the marinade over both the chicken and beef ensuring that all of the pieces are well coated.  Cover the bowls and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour ideally a whole day.

When you are ready to cook thread the meat onto the skewers ensuring that you leave space at the bottom of the skewer for them to be picked up.

Cook the meat under a hot grill or ideally on a BBQ.  Depending on the thickness of the meat used you will need to cook for between 10 and 20 minutes turning every 5 minutes or so.

If you have any left over marinade at the bottom of the bowls you can baste the skewers each time you turn them.

Serve immediately with the spicy peanut dipping sauce.

Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce:

225g sugar free smooth peanut butter

60ml rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp ponzu sauce / lime juice

1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce

1 clove garlic

2 tbsp hot chilli sauce (or to taste)

1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

60ml sesame oil

2tbsp water

Handful of peanuts to garnish


Place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds until you a sauce with a nice thick consistency.

Crush the whole peanuts and scatter over the sauce as a garnish along with a few red chilli flakes

Pigs in blankets

26 11 2010

Pigs in blankets are  great, they make a perfect accompaniment to your turkey on Christmas day, they are great as a starter and make an excellent festive finger food.

I understand that in North America pigs in blankets are little Vienna sausages in pastry not dissimilar to a sausage roll, well these aren’t them.

In the UK pigs in blankets are a chipolata sausage wrapped in a piece of bacon and roasted in the oven and typically most people would have them only at Christmas time.

The trick to serving great pigs in blankets is to make sure you use the best meat that you can afford, there is nothing worse than pigs in blankets made from the cheapest nastiest frozen sausages wrapped in watery bacon full of preservatives.

In recent years I have started using olive oil infused with sage, rosemary and garlic when I cook my pigs in a blanket, all three flavours go great with pork and just really help to lift it to another level.

To make 24 pigs in blankets you will need:

24 good quality pork chipolatas

24 rashers of good quality bacon, I prefer to use maple smoked bacon but it is up to you.

500ml of extra virgin olive oil

24 rosemary stalks with leaves till attached (optional)

12 sage leaves

2 garlic cloves

a handful of rosemary leaves


The first thing you need to do is infuse your olive oil with the rosemary, sage and garlic flavours, I tend to do this well in advance so that you really get the flavour of the herbs coming through in the oil, ideally 2 weeks to 3 weeks minimum.

Bruise the herbs so as to help release their essential oils and drop them into your bottle of olive oil along with the garlic which should be roughly crushed.

I tend to remove approximately half of the oil from the bottle before doing this both to allow for displacement and also so as to have oil to hand to help dislodge any stray herbs that get stuck to the neck of the bottle.

Refill to the top with oil and place in a cool dark place for as long as possible.

Wrap each chipolata in a rasher of bacon, you might want to flatten the bacon out with the flat of a knife

when each pig is safely in it’s blanket I like to secure them, you can use a couple of cocktail sticks but  I like to be a bit fancy and use a woddy stalk from some rosemary sharpened into a skewer.

Lay your pigs in blankets into an oven proof dish and drizzle with the infused oil, if you have any sage leave left over I like to scatter these over before popping the dish into a preheated oven at 185 c for about 35 minutes.

Easy Buttercream Icing

23 11 2010

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I was recently discussing the merits of making your own icing over those of buying those awful tubs of Betty Crocker pre-made icing that you can buy in supermarkets.

The discussion ended with me setting out to prove not only that it is easy to make your own icing but that the end result tastes better to.

I know that a lot of people like to use margarine in or shortening when making buttercream but I flat-out refuse to, the taste is completely different and the heavy greasy taste that it leaves in the mouth is just vile.


250g unsalted butter

600g icing sugar

2 tablespoons of milk

vanilla extract


In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and approximately 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Once the vanilla extract is incorporated into the butter you can start to mix in the sugar adding roughly 1/4 at a time, ensure that the sugar is well beaten in before adding the next batch

Once you have incorporated all of the icing sugar into the butter you will need to add the milk and beat until you have a light and fluffy texture, keep beating until there are no lumps and the icing doesn’t feel gritty.  At this point you can add more vanilla essence if you wish

You can add more or less any flavour that you want to your icing in place of the vanilla and you can also colour it anyway you wish. If you decide to use liquid food colouring then remember that a little goes a long way!

9 vegetable chili con carne

21 11 2010

Chili con carne is a great family favourite; it is cheap, filling, easy to make and tastes great.

It can also be a really great way of making sure that you get your 5 a day of fruit and vegetables or of tricking fussy kids into eating veggies that otherwise they might push around  a plate without them even realising they are there.

This works great for pretty much anything that you would normally use chili with more or less the only exception being chili burgers or chili dogs.

If you want to make a vegetarian version of this chili you can use quorn or soya mince in place of the ground beef and some nice meaty mushrooms such as portabello in place of the chorizo sausage.

To make the chili you will need: 

200g chorizo sausage

500g ground beef

2 onions

4 garlic cloves

2 medium carrots

1 stick of celery

2 fresh tomatoes

2 red bell peppers

1/2 tin of kidney beans

1/2 tin of pinto beans

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1tbsp paprika

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp chili powder

2tsp Worcestershire sauce

1tbsp red wine vinegar

1tbsp brown sugar

handful of  fresh coriander

1 pint of beef stock or hot water

olive oil

salt and pepper to season


Peel and roughly chop the garlic, carrots, celery and one of the onions,  take these vegetables and place them in a food processor and blitz them until you have  salsa like consistency.

Pour some olive oil into a large heavy bottomed pan and heat over a medium flame, add the vegetables you prepared earlier and sweat them for approximately 7-10 minutes

Whilst you are sweating the vegetables peel and finely dice the remaining onion and dice the chorizo sausage. Remove the leaves from the coriander and finely chop about half of the stalks that remain

Once the vegetables in the pan have softened add in the chorizo sausage,the coriander stalks, the paprika, the chili powder and the cumin seeds, continue to cook until the chorizo has just started to brown

At this point add in the remaining onion and the ground beef and cook until the beef has coloured

Now add in the sliced bell peppers, the kidney and pinto beans and stir everything together well before adding the tin of chopped tomatoes, the vinegar and about 1 pint of hot beef stock or water, leave over a medium heat for about 45 minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove the seeds from the fresh tomatoes and chop the flesh into  fine dice and roughly chop the coriander leaves add the tomato and coriander leaves into the chili along with the brown sugar and the Worcestershire sauce, stir together well.

Leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes before adding salt and pepper to taste.

You can eat this straight away but I prefer to leave it overnight in the refridgerator to allow all of the flavours to really incorporate into one another.

I like to eat this with boiled white rice, some salsa and some corn chips.

Carbonara Sauce

15 11 2010

When Saturday evening rolled round it became quite evident that the grocery shopping hadn’t been done yet and that the cupboards were quite bare.

No one in their right mind wants to go shopping at 7pm on a Saturday evening and so I had a quick sort through to see what could be knocked together. Luckily for us we had just enough staple items left for me to make a personal favourite; pasta with carbonara sauce.

Carbonara sauce is very easy and cheap to make and yet still you see people loading up their supermarket trolleys with over-priced jars of gloop.

I realise that in Italy cream is rarely added to the sauce however I prefer it this way, if you want to you can leave it out just as easily.

To make your own carbonara sauce you will need the following.

2 shallots

1 clove of garlic

2 eggs

250ml of single cream

100g parmesan cheese

200g pancetta

black pepper

sea salt

Pasta of your choice – Spaghetti or Tagliatelle work best

Dice the shallots as finely as you can and grate the clove of garlic, add the shallots and garlic to a frying pan along with a small amount of olive oil and sweat until they have started to soften.

Add the pancetta to the pan and fry until it has just started to crisp.

Whislt the pancetta is cooking beat together the two eggs and stir in the cream

Once the pancetta has crisped add the cream and egg mixture to the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer

At this point add your pasta to a pan of boiling water to cook

Grate the parmesan cheese into the sauce and ensure that it is well mixed in.

Add salt to taste – not much if any should be needed due to the pancetta and the cheese. Grind plenty of black pepper into the sauce and make sure it is incorporated well.

Once the pasta is just about cooked drain it and add it to the pan with the sauce making sure that all of the pasta is well coated.

Serve immediately.

If you want to add a touch of colour to the dish I sometimes like to add a small courgette cut into a small dice, this adds a different colour and texture to the dish without affecting the flavour.

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