Plums that are hard and boring when raw, can be transformed into something delicious when poached in a simple syrup. Here the syrup is half water and half red wine, the wine adding a lovely warming depth to the flavour. The star anise, a lovely spice, is perfect with the plums. The cooked plums should be holding their shape perfectly, but still tender enough to fall away from the stone with a gentle push of a fork or spoon. Serve these plums warm or chilled and they are delicious with whipped cream, yoghurt or crème fraîche or with yoghurt and star anise mousse. Any of the wine and plum syrup left over after eating the plums can be made into a lovely jelly. The syrup also makes an excellent cocktail when diluted with sparkling water and stiffened with a splash of vodka.
This mashed potato is flavoured with old fashioned English mustard powder and is perfect to serve with beef dishes or oily fish like mackerel. This is a slightly richer version of mashed potatoes, but you can decide if you want to cut down a little on the egg and cream. I make it according to the recipe and just serve it in smaller quantities. It pairs really well with tomato dishes and also with a simple cabbage dish.
I could bore you to tears extolling the virtues of cabbage. It is a wonderful vegetable and, in my opinion, much undervalued. There are many lovely varieties of cabbage and I particularly like the crinkly green leaves of the Savoy cabbage. Essentially, the important thing is to buy the one that's in season when you are making this purée. I avoid the white cabbages, especially the canon-ball like 'Dutch' cabbage. In my opinion, it would be better used in target practice than in the kitchen. This purée is good with most meats and poultry. I sometimes serve it with venison and wild duck and it has been successful with roast and grilled fish.
This is a Middle Eastern recipe which I like very much and I serve it as a dessert cake. I sometimes serve it in the winter months with a seasonal Salad of Dates and Oranges rather than the Sherried Raisins. This cake rises in the cooking and then falls a little to present itself looking like a cross between a cake and a tart. A thick, Greek-style yoghurt is best for this cake.
A great starter.
Another great dish for your repertoire.
In this master recipe we are aiming to achieve a smooth and silky soup, packed full of flavour and nourishment and bright green in colour. By varying the green ingredient, you need never tire of this recipe. The choice of green vegetables that can be used here are many, but we have to choose one to get us going, so my choice is spinach. Choose strong, handsome and really fresh looking leaves and the results will be dazzlingly green.
I don't buy into the smallest is best approach when it comes to choosing vegetables; clearly there is an optimum size for different vegetables. For me, the carrot picked from the ground to be consumed as soon as possible in its raw state needs to be as thick as my little finger, but for this method for cooking carrots, the carrots need to be at least as fat and as long as your thumb. These small carrots can be cooked whole. Larger ones, which need to be sliced, also work perfectly here. There are several variations to the master recipe, and I think this method for cooking carrots can open your eyes as to how good carrots can be.
Crème Anglaise is one the classic dessert sauces. It is flourless, thin custard. The classic version is flavoured with vanilla but many variations exist. Lemon, orange, chocolate and coffee are some of the many other flavours that might be introduced. If possible use a vanilla pod or bean, but natural vanilla extract can also be used. The vanilla pod will give a superior flavour and the sauce will be flecked with the tiny vanilla seeds whose appearance in the sauce adds visual interest. Best quality eggs make an enormous difference to the colour and flavour of the sauce.