Valentine’s Treats

Is it really Valentine’s Day on Sunday? I can’t believe it has come round so quickly.

During my lunch hours I have been painting a picture of Venice (where he proposed) for my fiancé as a gift. However, as it is only about a fifth complete I think I might have to resort to plan B – cook!

Perhaps the lamb shank recipe (Quick & Easy Dairy Cookbook), which I cooked for our first date?

I think we should definitely start the day with Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and perhaps finish with a really nice bottle of red and Duck with Plum Sauce. Both these recipes are from Just One Pot Dairy Cookbook, which is now back in stock after selling out twice!

I know Valentine’s Day is a bit commercial but we all neglect to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us, so why not give your special someone a real feel-good treat on Sunday?

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Duck with Plum Sauce

A bed of noodles with rich and succulent duck breasts and fruity sauce.

Duck with Plum SaucePreparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
Calories per portion 733 Kcal
Fat per portion 21g
of which saturated 3.9g
Serves 2

For the plum sauce
Red plums 200g (7oz), halved, stoned and quartered
Cinnamon stick 1, halved
Dried red chilli 1, crumbled
Preserving or granulated sugar 75g (3oz) (or to taste)
Red wine vinegar 3 tbsp

For the duck
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Red onion 1, peeled and finely chopped
Root ginger 5cm (2in) piece, peeled and chopped
Skinless, boneless mini duck fillets 225g packet, or larger fillets, sliced
Pak choi 3, trimmed and sliced
Straight-to-wok noodles 300g packet

1 For the plum sauce, cook the plums in a wok with the cinnamon, chilli and sugar over a gentle heat for a minute or so. Then add the vinegar, stir well and simmer for 5–10 minutes or until the plums are tender and the liquid has reduced. The exact time will depend on the ripeness of the plums. Stir often to prevent the mixture from sticking to the wok. Tip into a bowl and remove the cinnamon stick. Rinse the wok.

2 To cook the duck, heat the oil in the wok, add the onion and ginger and stir-fry for a minute or so. Then add the duck and stir-fry for about 6 minutes or until the meat is golden and tender. Add the pak choi and noodles and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

3 Add half the plum sauce, mix well and serve on warm plates with the rest of the plum sauce in a separate bowl.

Cook’s tip
Oriental food specialists Amoy make great straight-to-wok noodles. After cooking your stir-fry ingredients, you just add to the wok and cook for 1–2 minutes.

Recipe taken from  Just One Pot Dairy Cookbook

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon

A European twist on this classic breakfast dish.

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon

Preparation time 4 minutes
Cooking time 3 minutes
Calories per portion 766 Kcal
Fat per portion 55g
of which saturated 25.2g
Serves 2

Butter 75g (3oz), softened
Tomato purée 2 tsp
Chopped dill 2 tbsp, plus a few fronds to garnish
Capers 2–3 tbsp, well drained and roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Mediterranean-style bread with olives 4 slices, approximately 2cm (¾in) thick, cut diagonally
Eggs 5 large, beaten
Smoked salmon slices 100g packet, cut into thin strips
Beefsteak tomato 1, deseeded and diced, to garnish (optional)

1 Put 50g (2oz) of the butter into a small bowl, then add the tomato purée, chopped dill and capers. Season with black pepper, then mix well together and set aside.

2 Toast the bread and keep warm.

3 Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan (preferably non-stick), add the eggs and half of the salmon strips. Then cook over a moderate heat, stirring continuously, until the eggs are softly scrambled – taking care not to overcook, as they will become dry.

4 Spread the toasted bread with the tomato butter and put onto two serving plates. Spoon the scrambled eggs on top, garnish with the remaining strips of salmon, dill and the chopped tomato, and serve immediately.

Cook’s Tip
For quick assembly, prepare all the ingredients before starting to cook and toast the bread while scrambling the eggs.

Recipe from Just One Pot Dairy Cookbook

Frugal but Fabulous Food?

On our office bookcase sit many, tantalising and beautiful cookbooks. They have huge ‘kerb appeal’ but in reality with (much) closer inspection are rarely practical…

and their authors seem to exist in some parallel universe where there is always time (and money) to shop at the local farmers’ market or quirky deli to buy some obscure ingredient, and always vast amounts of time to spend on preparation and food presentation.

Most of us though, live in the real world, where time is a rare commodity, that elusive deli is probably 25 miles away and the farmers’ market falls on the day when we have to stay in and wait for the electrician. Life is just not that perfect. That’s why part of my job is to create a cookbook that is tantalising and beautiful but also practical – this is the reason dairy cookbooks have been so popular for so many years.

So, what subject matter does the next cookbook tackle?
One idea is to create a book that focuses on how to shop, cook and eat cheaply. But is that not why “mums go to Iceland”? Can we make a book that will compete with these bargain convenience food shops? Hopefully not all of us want to fill up on junk. Many of us love food and know the importance of eating well, but perhaps not how to eat well on a budget (including me, if I’m honest).

Whilst researching this concept I have come across some great money-saving advice. The first and REALLY important point is to reduce food waste. Try following these great tips from www.myzerowaste.com

FridgeMenu plan.
Think about the meals that will cook and make a menu plan for the week. Write down the ingredients you need for each meal on a list. Stick to this list when you shop (and don’t shop when you’re hungry). I always plan for two fewer meals than we need as there are bound to be some leftovers to be used up.

Use up your leftovers.
Before you begin to cook or shop, look what’s left in the fridge and plan meals with anything in there. Vegetables which are starting to go soft can be made into soup or pasta sauces. Over ripe fruits can be made into pies or blended to make smoothies. Half a tin of tuna could be tonight’s pasta bake and a few spoons of cooked mince could be made into pasties.

Take a look at what you throw away.
Be honest with yourself and start writing things down. Do you throw away half a loaf of bread a week? Then why not freeze it and take out slices as you need them. Take individual slices out for sandwiches the night before you need them, or use straight from frozen for toasting. If you regularly throw away vegetables then maybe you need to buy them loose and reduce the amount you buy each week.

Check your fridge.
Are the seals good and is the temperature set to between 1 and 5 degrees? This ensures your fridge will keep your food fresh for as long as possible.

Portion control.
Make smaller portions so less food is thrown away.

Our cookbook Clever Cooking for One or Two was specifically created to reduce food waste (any leftover ingredients will have a long shelf life). Try these two recipes, Cheese and Ham Souffle Omelette/Ham and Green Pea Soup, which share one 250g pack of good quality cooked ham.

Cheese & Ham Souffle Omelette/Ham and Green Pea Soup

Our cookbook Clever Cooking for One or Two was specifically created to reduce food waste (any leftover ingredients will have a long shelf life).

Try these two recipes, which share one 250g pack of good quality cooked ham.

Cheese & Ham Souffle Omelette

Cheese and Ham Souffle OmelettePreparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 7 minutes
Calories per omelette 492 Kcal
Fat per omelette 37g
of which saturated 15.8g
Makes 2 omelettes

Eggs 4, separated
Finely chopped tarragon 2 tbsp, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cheddar cheese 110g (4oz), finely chopped
Cooked ham 125g (4½oz), chopped
Olive oil 2 tsp

1 Beat the egg yolks with the tarragon, if using. Whisk the egg whites to a peak, then fold into the yolk mixture with the seasoning, half of the cheese and all of the ham.

2 Preheat the grill to hot. On the hob, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a small omelette pan (with a heatproof handle), pour half of the egg mixture into the pan and cook for 1–2 minutes until just beginning to turn golden underneath.

3 Pop the pan under the preheated grill and, when the mix begins to rise, sprinkle over half of the remaining cheese and return to the grill until the cheese melts – about another 1–2 minutes. Fold the omelette in half as you turn it out onto a warm plate and serve with a little extra pepper. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the second omelette.

Cook’s tip
If you are cooking for one, simply halve all of the ingredients and follow the method as usual. It makes a deliciously easy meal.

Shopper’s tip
For a special treat, substitute the smoked salmon for the ham and enjoy the omelette with a glass of chilled fizz.

Ham and Green Pea Soup

Ham and Pea SoupPreparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 20 minutes
Calories per portion 825 Kcal
Fat per portion 54g
of which saturated 26.1g
Serves 2
Suitable for freezing

Olive oil 1 tbsp
Onion 1, peeled and chopped
Garlic 1 clove, peeled and finely chopped
Frozen peas 450g (1lb)
Cooked ham 125g (4½oz), chopped
Chicken or vegetable stock 450ml (¾ pint)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Double cream 142ml pot
Toasted croutons 60g pack

1 Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until softened. Add the peas and 75g (3oz) of the ham and mix well. Add the stock, bring slowly to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, skimming off any scum that forms.

2 Pour into a food processor and blend until smooth. Return to the pan, heat gently and season with salt and pepper.

3 Serve the hot soup in individual bowls garnished with a swirl of cream, the remaining chopped ham and croutons.

Cook’s tip
Making a ham sandwich? Use up the leftover ham by making this brilliant and filling soup! It’s a meal in one.

Shopper’s tip
Look out for packets of fresh croutons to serve with this soup. They are found in the salad section of the supermarket.

Farmhouse Breakfast Week

Farmhouse breakfast and tedious work week! Yawn, my most dreaded job of the year is now upon me – editing the mini Dairy Diary; hours spent changing days, months, planners, phases of the moon etc.

Not the most exciting task in the world! To make this week more bearable I will be enjoying a delicious homemade breakfast each day to celebrate Farmhouse Breakfast week.

Taking place this week, Farmhouse Breakfast week is a real opportunity for everyone to get into the healthy breakfast habit and celebrate the rich wealth of breakfast foods found across the country. Health professionals all agree we should start the day with a healthy, balanced breakfast. Breakfast can boost energy levels, help concentration and can even help to manage weight.

For a scrumptious, filling treat, try this Egg and Bacon Toastie from Hearty & Healthy Dairy Cookbook – available now for only £2.99 (plus P&P)! For more breakfast ideas visit the Farmhouse Breakfast Week website.

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