Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A return to blogging!

I now understand why people go on maternity leave...... it is near impossible to look after a baby and try and do anything that resembles work at the same time!!! I know a lot of people do manage to do it and hat’s off to them, but despite the yearnings of wanting desperately to sit at my computer and type away, I haven’t been successful! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Wee One has been a high maintenance baby (as he has been fantastic) but it always seems that even when he sleeps or is content playing, there is always so many other things needing done! Yes I have to say..... looking after a baby (and for that matter, any children) is in itself a full time job that should not be undertaken lightly!

However, after an absence of six months, I am determined to make time to lock myself away every week- just for a few hours- to sit back, relax and ramble away about the latest thing I have cooked or discovered. Not only that, but it is officially Summer (my favourite season) and I can’t think of a better time to start up again when there is an abundance of fresh, delicious produce right on my doorstep.

This week’s menu and recipes are what I consider to be the perfect meal for a relaxed Friday night supper in the garden. I have cheated slightly as the main course has been featured already (last August), but to me that just proves it is perfect summer food! The dessert can be made up to 3 days beforehand (but at the latest one day so it has time to freeze) and both the starter and main course take no time at all to prepare and cook. So wipe the cobwebs off the summer furniture, light a few lanterns and sit back in the evening sun and enjoy a relaxed start to the weekend.

Relaxed Friday Night Supper in the Garden

Prawns with spicy dipping sauce

Proscuitto wrapped chicken stuffed with mozzarella & pesto;
Fresh tomato sauce; mixed green salad; French bread

Lemon Icicle

*All recipes serve 4 but can be easily doubled

Prawns with Spicy dipping sauce

In the UK, the classic 1970’s Prawn Cocktail is made using tomato sauce (ketchup), mayo and if you like, someTabasco and is a delicious, rich and creamy sauce perfect for coating juicy, plump and fresh prawns. In the US however, the mayo is missed out and replaced with horseradish which results in a tangy, spicy tomato sauce that is equally as delicious as its UK counterpart. Here I have gone for more of the American style sauce as I find it a little lighter and being such a huge fan of horseradish, find that I am quite addicted to this sauce and look for any excuse to have it! If you can’t find chilli sauce, use all ketchup and add some fresh chilli if you like, or an extra few splashes of Tabasco. Also, if you are able to get your hands on some fresh horseradish grate some of that in as well, but watch as it packs a punch!

For the prawns, if you can get some really good fresh prawns with their shells on, I would recommend using those and let your guests peel them themselves at the table. If that doesn’t appeal or you can’t get any good quality prawns with their shells still on, go for peeled prawns – again, the best quality you can get.

150ml tomato ketchup
125ml chilli sauce
2-3 tbsp prepared horseradish
Juice of ½ a juicy lemon
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp Tabasco sauce

450g Fresh cooked prawns
Lemon wedges

Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. Transfer to a nice serving bowl (unless you are very clean at mixing and can use the same bowl!). Arrange the prawns on a plate or shallow bowl and spritz with a little lemon juice. Serve with some extra lemon wedges and the spicy dipping sauce.

Proscuitto wrapped chicken stuffed with pesto & mozzarella
with fresh tomato sauce

A classic summer meal with pesto, mozzarella and fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes. This is definitely a favourite of mine.

4 chicken breasts
8 slices of prosciutto
1 ball of mozzarella
4 heaped tsp of pesto
Salt & pepper

For the tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
10 fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp sugar (optional)
150ml white wine
Salt & pepper
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

Start by making the tomato sauce so that it can gently simmer away and reduce while the chicken is cooking.

Heat the oil in a medium sized pan and gently sauté the onion for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute before adding the tomatoes, sugar (if needed), wine, salt and pepper. Simmer gently, stirring from time to time. (If it starts to get too thick towards the end of cooking, pop a lid on top to stop if from reducing any further and if need be add a splash more wine!)

Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C/ GM 6.

Slice the mozzarella into thin slices and season with salt and pepper. Cut a deep slit down the side of each chicken breast and open it up like a book. Spread a heaped teaspoon of pesto on one side of each chicken breast and top with a couple of slices of mozzarella. Cut 4 squares of tin foil, large enough to wrap a chicken breast in. Lay 2 pieces of prosciutto on a piece of tin foil, overlapping slightly. Place a piece of chicken on top of the prosciutto and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the prosciutto around the chicken, then using the foil roll everything up like a sausage. Twist the ends tightly to secure in place. Repeat for the rest of the chicken then place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 25 minutes.

When the chicken is ready, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Taste the tomato sauce to check the seasoning then add the fresh basil leaves, reserving a few for a garnish. Carefully unwrap each chicken breast as there will be delicious pesto-infused chicken juices in the bottom of the foil, which you can add to the tomato sauce or simply pour over the chicken once you have plated it. Put a couple of large spoonfuls of the tomato sauce on the centre of each plate. Slice each chicken breast into 5 or 6 pieces and lay on top of the tomato sauce. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and the remaining basil leaves and enjoy at once with a green salad and lots of crusty French bread.

Lemon Icicle

This is a variation of a recipe that my mum used to make for us all the time. It’s in between an Italian ice cream recipe (as you make a meringue base) and a semifreddo, which luckily for us means there is no need for making a custard and churning the ice cream until frozen. It is easy and is the most delicious, creamy, light and refreshing way to end a meal - perfect for summer time.

300ml double cream
3 large eggs, separated
125g (4oz) caster sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp limoncello (optional)
Long strands of lemon zest to garnish (optional)

Lightly oil a loaf tin then line with cling film. Whisk the cream until thickened being careful not to over whisk. In a small bowl gently whisk the egg yolks then add the lemon zest, juice and the limoncello if using and mix well. Add to the cream and gently whisk until it is all mixed in evenly.

Whisk the whites until stiff (so you can hold them over your head!) then gradually add the sugar, beating after each addition until you have a thick, glossy meringue base. Using a large metal spoon gently fold the egg whites into the cream mixture then pour into the lined tin and freeze until firm (roughly 3 hours)*. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before you want to serve and garnish with the lemon zest if using, before cutting into slices.

*Occasionally, for whatever reason the lemon juice sometimes separates from the cream mixture and I end up with a lemon ice layer on top of the cream….while it’s not necessarily a bad thing it isn’t what I want! To try and avoid it, I will occasionally (if I can be bothered and can remember to) stir the icicle with a knife after it has been in the freezer for 1 hour, just to make sure it is all mixed together. This is totally up to you, cause as I said, it doesn’t always happen – just one of those random things!

Unfortunately at this point getting the blog and recipes done is all I have managed so no photos. Sorry, but hopefully some will follow soon with future blogs.

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