A Questionable Arancini for Lunch

~ Menu ~

Leftover Risotto Arancini-ish Thing
Fresh Herb Salad
Balsamic & Chilli Glaze
Cuvée Prestige
Homemade Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

You will remember that I had a delicious risotto the other day – see previous post.   Well I couldn’t eat it all at the time and today I made myself a whopping great arancini like thing with the leftovers. I say “arancini-like” because, as you probably know if you are at all foodie, arancini means “little orange” in Italian but if mine was a little orange it was a seriously flat one. 

Also I deviated in the cheese department; arancini are often stuffed with mozzarella and this caused me to ponder for a while. I had Cheddar, Feta, Brie, Gorgonzola, Parmesan and Boursin to hand to hand and eventually settled for the latter. Thirdly, I would have liked to have coated my arancini in panko crumbs but didn’t have any lying about and I couldn’t be arsed to mess about with breadcrumbs so I just shallow fried my rice patty in olive oil – worked for me!

Mozzarella and panko would probably have been perfect but we must remember that this is a blog about leftovers and stuff in the store cupboard so popping out to the shops would have been out of the question.

How to make arancini …

Really cold, ie. chilled risotto is sticky and easily holds together to make a 'little orange' or other shape.

leftover risotto of your choice – chilled to really cold
cheese of your choice – mozzarella for instance
a little flour seasoned with salt and pepper
a beaten egg
soft breadcrumbs or panko
~ Form cold risotto into balls (about 2 inches across would be reasonable – I was unreasonable).
~ Press a small dice of your chosen cheese into the centre of each ball and then reform the risotto around the cheese to encase completely and seal the cheese in.
~ Coat your balls (madam!) in seasoned flour, then the beaten egg and finally the crumbs or panko. Chill until needed.
~ Deep or shallow fry till crisp and deep golden.
~ Drain and set aside for a minute or two (giving the cheese a little extra melting time) then serve.

Boursin worked well flavour-wise but didn’t make for as gooey a melting heart as I’d have liked.  Nevertheless with some fresh herb salad (from Tesco), little plum tomatoes, red onion and balsamic glaze this was an excellent lunch - rather filling too.

In keeping, however, with the festive time of year I managed to struggle on and have a morsel or two of dessert.
As I have mentioned before I am working on a book of ice creams in which I divulge a wicked easy recipe which can be varied ad infinitum to universal delight. Actually it’s all but finished but I’m beginning to lose my enthusiasm about it. Unbelievable as it may seem there is, in fact, a limit to how much ice cream one person can eat and I need to get it published, move on and lose weight. 
So now I’m full. Again.

News from the future!

My ice cream book, Luscious Ice Cream without a Machine was published in June 2015.  Phew!

Still full!

I am going to try to eat a bit more sensibly today – I am feeling a little gluggy after several days of chocolate abuse  plus a constant slow feed of alcohol and general rich food.

Breakfast didn’t go too well; 

a) it took place at 10.45 am, and 
b) it consisted of strong coffee and a delicious selection of Belgian chocolate biscuits which were a gift from my love.  The perfectly logical reason for this is that I am trying to get rid of them before I start the traditional New Year Diet.  (More on that in a few days time, I do have a rather excellent Cunning Plan).

So today’s lunch …

~ Menu ~

Roast Squash, Red Onion & Chilli Risotto
and, OK, a little red wine
… and um - some Lindt Orange Intense

I bought a pretty little squash the other day just because it looked so appealing and today I thought I’d better use it before it was too late.  So this is the recipe wot I just made up  …

Roasted Squash, Red Onion & Chilli Risotto

1 small squash 
1 small red onion – thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
a few chilli flakes
Another tbsp olive oil
200 g Arborio rice
a splash of white wine
600 ml veg stock
Freshly grated Parmesan

~   Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~   Halve the squash across its equator.
~   Peel, seed and dice the flesh of the top half.
~   Toss the diced squash together with the onion, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and chilli flakes and roast till tender and browning - about 40 minutes.
~   Remove the seeds from the bottom half, brush the inside with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast alongside the diced squash till tender but still holding its shape.
~   Meanwhile, as they say, toss the rice together with the other tablespoon of olive oil to coat and cook a minute or two, stirring, till it starts to look a little translucent.
~   Add the white wine splash (to be honest this is supposed to be warm so as not to “shock” the rice but mine wasn’t) and stir in till gone.
~   Add half the stock and simmer, stirring a lot till that has almost gone too.
~   Continue adding stock, stirring, simmering, tasting etc. till the rice is just cooked in a sort of savoury soupy gloop.
~   Taste and season, stir in plenty of Parmesan and then the lovely roasted squash.
~   Pile into the other half of the squash.

~   Eat.

Pin for future reference!
The Lindt chocolate, a whole selection of Lindt chocolates in fact, was another gift from my love.  I wonder if I should just forget the diet altogether – perhaps he is subtly hinting that he’d prefer me a little fatter!

It’s been lovely to have a white Christmas and to be warm and cosy instead of all that tropical sun we’re used to!  Do you know I even mean that a bit!


Christmas Eve Lunch!

~ Menu ~

Creamy Chicken Liver Pâté with Cranberry Port Glaze
Various Toasts
Cuvée Prestige
Egg Nog

= a great Almost Christmassy Lunch

Chicken livers are really luxurious – we used to have them on the menu in Cornwall sautéed in butter, deglazed with brandy and finished with cream.  I don’t know why but I always seemed to cook one liver too many per order and had to eat it.

They make a delicious pâté; I have read a lot of recipes for it but I don’t know what all the fuss is about, making chicken liver pâté is a very quick doddle. The following recipe, my standard for my entire adult life, results in a rich, luxurious and delicious pâté in about 10 minutes – and no messing.

Chicken Liver Pâté

380 g chicken livers
15g butter, oil or (really good) bacon fat (don’t try and be healthy because the next ingredient is …
60 g butter
1 tsp tomato purée
good grind of black pepper
medium sized slurp of brandy

~ Prepare the livers by separating the lobes (the nice bits) from the sinew (the nasty bits). Throw away the nasty bits.
~ Season the livers and sauté them in your chosen fat over high heat till they have firmed up and have brown crusty patches. Don’t over cook – they should be a little pink in the middle.
~ Transfer to a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and purée as smooth as poss.
~ Taste and season.
~ Transfer to a pretty dish and cool.
~ If not eating immediately you need to seal the top to stop oxidization – melted butter is good for long term storage, cling firm works too but is less tasty!

Of course you can add things to this and in the past I have had on various menus such things as Chicken Liver and Toasted Walnut Pâté, Chicken Liver and Calvados Pâté (with little dice of caramelised apple in it) and Chicken Liver Pâté with Frazzled Prosciutto but its all the same stuff, subtly fiddled with.

So I made this pâté yesterday whilst I had a spare 10 minutes and then, being in a strange kitchen, couldn’t find anything to put it in. Finally found this glass dish in the back of the pantry. With such a large surface area I didn’t want to cover it with butter to seal so I spread some recently made Cranberry and Port Conserve (as I like to call it – recipe below) on top – the sweetness is, in any case, a great foil to the unctuousness of the pâté.

The wine is the one I usually drink – it is a cheap red from Tesco called Cuvée Pestige which my friend Carol I both find most acceptable.

Cranberry Port “Conserve”

500 g fresh or frozen cranberries
200 g sugar
juice of 1 orange (or the equivalent in water)
75 ml (or whatever) of ruby port

~ Put the cranberries, sugar and orange juice or water into a pan and stir over low heat till the sugar has dissolved or melted or whatever it does.
~ Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat and cook gently, stirring from time to time till the berries are popping.
~ Stir vigorously (but carefully so as not to receive a burn) to a chunky sauce.
~ Stir in the port to taste.
~ Cool – or at least I think so!
Now then I don’t know about you but there is no time in the year that I feel more like a nog than Christmas morning. Egg nog is a serious Christmas tradition in America and also, therefore, in the Caribbean Islands and I have become acclimated to it as the Americans say. It is often served with an additional little something if you know what I mean. I haven’t seen any in the shops so here is what I made …

Very Quick and Easy Egg Nog

If you are worried about raw eggs then I’m afraid this isn’t for you.

2 lovely fresh eggs
90 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract – the real stuff, of course
225 ml double cream
300 ml cold milk

~   Whisk together the eggs and the sugar till starting to thicken.
~   Whisk in the vanilla and the double cream till well combined.
~   Lastly whisk in the milk.
~   Chill till needed.
~   Add a tot of brandy, rum or whisky to the glass when serving.  (See handy hint below picture.)

HANDY HINT! - For storage I decanted mine into an empty Brandy bottle I had (where do they come from?) so that the aroma can infuse into the nog. See I even hate to waste smells! Serve chilled with a tot of brandy, rum or bourbon in it and sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.

From my Caribbean stash! …

Just a quickie!

When quiche was a newfangled thing in Britain I was asked for "A quickie and salad" on more than one occasion! 

~ Menu ~

Garlic Ciabatta Pizza Toast type thing
Red Wine

We’ve just been shopping in Tesco at Kingston Park and It Was Bloody Awful. The store is so big that on occasions (not today) I have seen some of the staff getting about on roller skates.  Despite its size there was almost a gridlock of trolleys.  They had sold out of all but the small frozen turkeys and have no more coming in, customers were miserable, moans and groans all over the place.  All the checkout chaps in their Santa hats, were either glassy eyed or scowling and I don’t blame them.  

In the midst of all this a tiny “curly haired moppet” as I believe they are called, only about 2 years old, was belting out Jingle Bells at the top of his voice.  Bless him - he was the only cheerful person I could see in the whole store.

Didn’t know what to have for lunch when we got back (obviously we are not allowed to touch the several tons of food we now have stockpiled for Christmas) but my darling reminded me that I had some garlic Ciabatta so I made a quasi pizza, topping it with Tesco’s Cherry Tomato & Chilli Pasta Sauce, quickly sautéed red onion and halved baby plum tomatoes and then some scraps of Boursin and Feta.

It was gorgeous and so pleasant to sit in front of the fire wining, dining, relaxing and warming up.

Right I’m off to start dinner – roast leg of lamb with all the accoutrements, see how we suffer up here – and looking out the window, quelle surprise, it’s pissing down with snow.

Oh, so far as the sparkly silver stuff I saw the other day is concerned the most sensible (indeed the only so also the stupidest) suggestion I have had is that they are fairies.

10.00 pm. - ADDENDA - just been to the huge Tesco again (bag of potatoes was rotten) and there are no frozen turkeys now but, on the plus side, the staff all seemed loads happier.  Happy Christmas to them all, poor things.  Kingston Park makes our local Tesco seem really cosy.

Embarrassing Pringle Situation

~ Menu ~

Fresh Pappardelle
A totally inappropriate Spicy Fresh Tomato Salsa
White Wine Spritzer
No Pud

Bit of a strange lunch today – a sort of fusion dish that could have been better!

I had half a bag of fresh pappardelle left over from my recent trip to Waitrose. I ate the first half of the pack a few days ago with a delicious …

Creamy Chilli Roasted Tomato Sauce 

Enough to coat 225 g (raw weight) pasta and feed 2 people

about 8-10 cherry tomatoes
drizzle olive oil
salt and pepper and a few chilli flakes
1 tsp tomato paste
15g butter
200 ml double cream
50g freshly grated Parmesan plus more for sprinkling

~ Halve the tomatoes and toss together with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and a light sprinkling of chilli flakes to taste.
~ Pop into a hot oven for about 10 minutes, during which time …
~ make the sauce.
~ In a medium sized sauce pan melt together the butter and the tomato paste.
~ When melted add the cream and bring to a boil.
~ Immediately turn down the heat, add the cheese and stir till melted.
~ Simmer, stirring, till thick.
~ Add the roasted tomatoes and any juices.
~ Toss with the hot pasta and sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.

bowl of pasta in tomato sauce

Pictured before the
embarrassing Pringle situation
Unfortunately I wanted a quick lunch and hadn’t got anything really appropriate with which to dress the pasta. I did, however, have some fresh tomato salsa that needed using up and some parmesan cheese (of course) so I cooked the pasta and tossed all three things together. It tasted well but the sauce was too runny and tended to slide off and lurk about in the bottom of the bowl. I had to eat in a scooping and slurping fashion. 

 The other problem I had was that, as previously mentioned, I do like a bit of crunch with my food and I had none. So I’m afraid I did something rather strange. I am not proud of this but I crumbled a few Pringles over the dish and they did help a bit. I know, I know - I am a complete Palestine!

Fresh Tomato Salsa – some vague guidelines

~ Peel, seed and finely chop about 500g nice ripe red (and yellow and green if you can get them) tomatoes.
~ Seed and finely chop a mild or a hot (or medium heat) chilli.
~ Crush 1 or two garlics to a mush.
~ Finely chop a handful of fresh coriander or parsley.
~ Mix all together, add a mini-glug of olive oil and the juice of half a lime (or an orange is good and a lemon's not bad).
~ Taste and season.

Of course it is pretty cold here and snowy but has been a lovely bright sunny day. This morning the air was full of what looked like tiny silver threads that weren't snow and that drifted about (both upwards and downwards) and sparkled in the sunshine but didn’t seem to lay on my sleeve however hard I tried to catch some. Very pretty and I tried to take a picture but it came out nowt (I am under a severe Geordie influence reet noo!) No-one we spoke to knew what it was or had seen such a thing – any ideas?

snow scene

The Cheeses of my Sister

~ Menu ~

The cheeses of my sister
Pain au Levain
Aloe Tree Shiraz
Lindt Sea Salt Chocky

As expected we spent the last few days in Mersea Island, off the Essex coast near Colchester, visiting my family. 

They have a lovely café there called The Art Café  where my sister, my niece and their staff make lovely food - home-made cakes, breakfasts (fried and otherwise including great cinnamon toast) and interesting lunch dishes.  

My brother-in-law, James Weaver, a talented artist, born and bred on Mersea sells his work, the work of other artists and makes wonderful coffees.


Looking out the window of West Mersea Art Café
(I stole this lovely picture from their blog, The Artist and the Tartist – I hope they won’t mind)

They also run an interesting food shop next door-ish called The Cake Hole. The other night we sampled a range of cheeses from said shop and, just to check, I sampled them again today for lunch, to see if they travel well. They do.


The board comprised ...

~ Milleens – this is an Irish cheese which I had heard was pungent and I was a little nervous, in the way that one is when offered a Stinking Bishop but whilst vigorous and tangy it is really rather good.

~ Keen’s Cheddar “cheddared by hand” and utterly delicious.

~ Norfolk Dapple – a Cheddar-ish sort of chap with just a hint of other things!

~ Mrs. Temple’s Binham Blue – a lovely cheese, soft and creamy with a good blue taste.

~ Comtē – more correctly called Gruyère de Comtē, sweet, nutty, French and traditional.

~ A lovely lightly smoked crumbly item the name of which escapes me – Good-something, I think. Anyone got any ideas please leave a comment. In fact, treat yourself – leave a comment anyway!

The bread was from Waitrose. We don’t have one anywhere near us in Cornwall (nor in the BVI funnily enough) so a browse in one of their stores is always a pleasure for me. The Colchester branch was not the best one I’ve been in but still worth a visit. I think there is one in the Toon so I’m looking forward to that. Anyhoo the bread was very good which is the point.


The wine is one I hadn’t heard of; Aloe Tree Shiraz. It is not a gently mellow thing like a Merlot but a rich delicious wine that said to me, mind you I’m no expert, “I’M A RED WINE!” (Writing that reminds me of a wine tasting piss-take on the telly years ago when a "expert" likened a wine’s taste to that of a newt on holiday in Tangiers. Tee hee.)

For dessert, knowing how much I like Lindt Excellence Chilli Chocolate (nothing gets past me, you know), I treated myself to their Sea Salt version and very pleasant it was too; not salty in itself just with a happy crunchy hit of salt occasionally, amongst the rich dark chocky. I hope to get my hands on a bar of Marmite chocolate sometime – I wonder what that’s like. (News from the future - I did get to try Marmite's Very Peculiar Chocolate - read more here.)

So anyway that was a good lunch, as they often are.

We are Up North now and the weather is freezing but I am lovely and warm here in my father in law’s home with the aroma of my steak and red wine casserole wafting about.

Keep warm everyone.

Off on our strange wanderings

~ Menu ~

Cheddar and Caramelised Red Onion Chutney on Toast
Glass of Shiraz
4 squares of Bourneville

Neither this picture, nor its description does the teeniest amount of justice to the simple but delicious meal I have just eaten. When I started thinking about lunch I found I didn’t have much to work with, or at least so I thought at first. But even though this was the crust of the loaf and the end of the cheese and the scrapings from the jar it was all just perfect.

The caramelised onion were from M & S which is one of my store cupboard staples, the cheese was Davidstow Extra Mature Cheddar, the toast was crunchy in the right places and soft in the right places. The glass of wine was the perfect compliment. I wish I was still eating it.

The 4 squares of chocolate were not my fault. They were simple eaten to make the menu (above) look a little more interesting.

I do wish I had some parsley (sometimes called either “green shit” or “love” in kitchens that I have worked in) or something else edible and green to garnish the plate with but this is reality, and harsh!

I’m not, however, writing because I’ve had a good lunch or anything like that but just because this I my last day in Cornwall till maybe the end of March. We are off on our strange wanderings again. I’m certainly not complaining because life is interesting and fun but we are always on the move and it really gets on my tits sometimes! Tomorrow we head to Mersea Island in Essex to see my sister and her family. A (lovely, hopefully) few days with them and then Up North for Christmas and the New Year in the Toon. We intend to fly to the sun in January for a couple of months to the beautiful island of Tortola, where we used to live, but, y’know, it all depends.

Do you know what this is a picture of?

Me neither!

Yesterday was my man’s birthday and we wandered into the village and had a bevy at The London Inn. Padstow was quiet for once and pretty in the winter sun. I shall miss Cornwall, but then I always do.

Only joking, by the way, about the picture above - it’s a portrait of a piece of popping candy. They are somewhat in the news at the moment because Heston Blumenthal has devised a yummy looking (not tried it yet) chocky cake with these little buggers in it. Reading his recipe has made me miss my late cat.

Back in the 70s, popping candy was called space dust and our cat was called Mulberry. Sometimes Mulberry and I shared some space dust, I’d put a few grains on his tongue and he’d immediately run around the room with his tail straight up (as did I). After a minute or two he’d come and stand in front of me with his tongue out waiting for more.

The reason I have this lifelike image is a year or so ago I was experimenting with popping candy in my ice cream recipes – to some small success, but more work needed – and wanted to have a good look at a piece to see if it had any small pieces of pop (or bubbles) already inside and from my research I think the answer is yes.


I haven’t blogged for a few days because I haven’t had anything very clever for lunch. I have been eating well, so no worries, but nothing worth telling the world about; chicken and green chilli toasted sandwich, hummus with Vickys bread and a strange fusion meal of naan bread and chilli con carne.

The weather is, of course, much, much colder and so this may be untimely but I have decided to tackle the subject of bananas. This is not easy for me as I am bananaphobic but the coincidence of a bunch of the buggers lounging around the place needing using up and dear friends, Bob and Roberta, having sent me a picture from their Caribbean garden has prompted this post.

It is a sad fact that I cannot abide a banana but have, of course, often had to work with them in my role as a chef in the tropics.

Something, however, that makes me happy about having an abundance of bananas growing about the place is the usefulness of their leaves. I have often picked a leaf or two on my way to work and walking along the lane with my hair in a headwrap (to keep my hair out of the food at work) and the big floppy leaves over my shoulder, I always felt that I had perhaps, gone a little "troppo" which pleases me.

I also very much enjoyed teaching young West Indians how to “enlimpen” the leaf so that it will fold around food – me, a white woman, teaching them, tsk! Banana leaves cut, in a very easy and satisfying way, into useful food wrappers by just running a pair of scissors either side of the main … what – shaft I suppose, and then cutting into neat pieces. Wipe clean with a wet cloth and then, using tongs hold each piece of leaf over an open flame for a minute or two till soft. You can see the leaf darkening as it softens. I understand you can also iron them but I’ve never tried that.

Mostly I used the leaves to make …

Mahi Mahi baked in a Banana Leaf with Tomato, Coconut & Green Chilli

I say “Mahi Mahi,” which is a white firm fleshed fish very commonly used in Tortola. It is also known as dorado and also dolphin but this last upsets people. Cod or haddock or similar would be just as good. Also foil would work instead of the banana leaf but it’s not quite so splendid.

Tomato, Coconut & Green Chilli um ... Stuff

1 can chopped tomatoes
½ block of creamed coconut
½ tsp green chilli pickle
grated zest and juice of ½ a lime

~   Gently heat together the tomatoes and creamed coconut and stir together till melted.
~   Add the chilli pickle, lime zest and juice.
~   Cool. (That is an instruction, not a comment).

For baked fish …

~   Season a nice piece of fish per person and sear in a little oil till browning on both sides.
~   Place on a piece of greased foil (or a limp piece of banana leaf).
~   Spread a tablespoon or a little more of the coconut stuff over each piece of fish.
~   Fold the foil or banana leaf around the fish and filling and, if using a leaf, secure with a toothpick.
~   Bake in a hot oven till cooked through – about 5 minutes.

You may well have some of the coconut/tomato stuff over – it is delicious as a dip for crudités or tortilla chips or whatever. It is also possible to eat it by the spoonful. However today I just made …

Sticky Toffee Banana Shortcakes

Makes 4 x 3” shortcakes

225g self raising flour OR plain flour and a rounded teaspoon of baking powder
a pinch or two of salt
60g cold butter or margarine
1 tbsp sugar + a little for sprinkling
80ml milk

~   Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6.
~   Stir together the flour and salt and baking powder, if using.
~   Add the butter or margarine and “rub in” with your fingers until a breadcrumb texture is achieved.
~   Stir in the tablespoon of sugar.
~   Add the milk and mix in, by hand is easiest, till you have a soft dough.
~   Lightly knead just a few times to bring the dough together.
~   On a floured surface press or roll the dough out to about 2 cm thick and using a cookie cutter cut into 3” rounds.
~   Transfer the scones to a greased baking sheet, brush their tops with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar.
~   Bake in the oven till risen and golden – about 20 minutes.
~   Transfer to a rack to cool.

Filling …

~   Peel and slice the bananas and toss with light brown sugar and a little rum. Set aside till needed.

Sticky Toffee Sauce

This is also delicious on Sticky Toffee Pudding, obviously, and on ice cream.

125g butter
225g soft dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
175ml double cream

~   Melt together the butter and dark brown sugar, stirring all the time.
~   Add the vanilla extract and stir in.
~   Add the cream and stir in completely bring to a fast simmer but do not boil.
~   Cool. 

Split shortcakes and fill with whipped cream, bananas and sauce.

This is such a useful scone recipe that I have written an entire book on the subject;The Secret Life of Scones which gives over 50 delicious things to make with it including doughnuts, dumplings, biscuits (both English and American) and lots more.