I love when the blood oranges arrive. In this part of the world it is generally late January, just the time when we need a little cheering up. They have a wonderful flavour and the beautiful ruby coloured flesh and juice is just a joy. I use them in sweet and savoury situations and will be seen in this coldest of months trying to find a few brave shoots of watercress to pair them in what is one of my favourite savoury salads of the year. In this jelly I pair them with our regular oranges, also good at this time of year, to temper the sometimes sharp flavour of the sanguine variety. The jelly can be set in individual moulds, coffee cups or glasses. It can also be set in a large dish and served straight from that. If you want to turn out the jellies for a smart presentation, you need to brush your moulds with a non-scented oil such as sunflower to ensure they will slide out easily.
The sirloin of beef on the bone is a lovely cut and somewhat easier to carve than the more traditional wing rib. It's another of those cuts of meat that will be best if ordered from your butcher a little in advance, so as to give your butcher time to put aside a piece of properly hung beef. Like most cuts, especially the larger ones, this meat will sit quite happily for at least half an hour after cooking before serving. You can make a simple gravy, which would be lovely, or you can pull out all the stops and make the very grown-up sauce that I am suggesting. This is serious cooking: not difficult, but serious. And when you pull off this sauce, you should clap yourself thunderously on the back. I am recommending a 'roast chicken stock' for the sauce, that is to say, the bones either raw or from a cooked chicken are roasted before being made into a stock. The sauce is also excellent with a roast filet of beef or a grilled steak.
If making a Hollandaise sauce strikes fear into you, then maybe this sauce, which is easier, will give you more confidence. The sauce, apart from being delicious with flat fish, is also great with prawns and shrimps and is surprisingly good with oily fish like mackerel and salmon. It is an immensely useful sauce that I predict you will use over and over again. It is rich, so should not be too thick when being served. I usually stir in a few tablespoons of the fish cooking water into the sauce before serving. This thins the sauce to the consistency you require and also adds a little of the flavour of the skin and bones of the fish to the sauce.
Rich and dark with a lacquer-like shine, chocolate sauce is a classic and it is easy. The most important ingredient is clearly the chocolate, so search for the best quality you can find. I use Valhrona, a wonderful chocolate from France, and generally use the 62% cocoa solid version. If I need a particularly intensely flavoured sauce I will use 70% cocoa solids. I serve the sauce with ice creams and some chocolate puddings. The sauce is best when freshly made but will keep in the fridge for several weeks. If I have stored it for a while, I always warm it up gently before serving.
These puddings, soft and yielding, are delicious and, without doubt, made for chocolate lovers. The combination of ingredients is a classic one but with timeless appeal. The cooked puddings will sit happily in a warm oven for at least an hour before serving and, indeed, could be made ahead of time, allowed to cool and re-heated in a bain-marie in a warm oven. The prunes in the recipe can be replaced with cherries - a delicious variation - in which case I would soak them in Kirsch. Cognac can replace the slightly dryer Armagnac with the prunes. The pudding can be cooked in a large dish or in individual ramekins or even tea cups.
There are lots of green vegetables in the summer garden that are suitable for adding to a bowl of mashed potatoes. There are the obvious ones like cabbage, peas and green onions. Some perhaps more unexpected additions are broad bean leaves, pea leaves, chard leaves and stalks and what I am going to use in this recipe, green or yellow courgettes. Generally speaking, I prefer to use courgettes when they are very small, about 10cm, and crisp with a nutty flavour. Here they can be a bit bigger, say 15cm. If your courgettes are any bigger, half the courgettes and remove the watery seeds before cooking. The potatoes are cooked in the normal way for the mash recipes and the courgettes are coarsely chopped, sautéed with garlic, fennel and chilli in olive oil and added with chicken stock and marjoram to the potatoes. The result should be a green and yellow-flecked bowl of comforting potato softness with a little river of olive oil running through it.
Moroccan food is one of the great cuisines of the world and in the hands of the skilled and knowledgeable cook strikes a beautiful balance of sweetness, saltiness, sourness and heady aromatic flavours. In Morocco this soup is traditionally served to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. There are thousands of different recipes for the soup, with each household adding their own twist. I prefer to use lamb rather than beef and find a more balanced flavour is achieved. This is a purely personal preference - and I don't think there is a right or a wrong combination of ingredients. You may find the addition of the rice at the end of cooking to be an unusual choice, but it gives a velvety finish to the soup. Sometimes the rice is replaced with tiny bits of pasta, like orzo. This soup is substantial - I like to serve it with lots of fresh chopped coriander and a lemon wedge on the side. The warmer the weather, the more inclined I am to squeeze a little juice into the soup.
This is a great technique for cooking fillets of fish which are not particularly thick and which don't stand up so well to pan frying or grilling – so haddock is perfect here. I serve the fish and salsa with a green vegetable, and romanesco when in season is a particular favourite.