Thursday 29 December 2011

Parsley and Parsley Recipes

The Herb, Parsley

Parsley, Petroselinum crispum is one of the most commonly used herbs in European cookery, being one of the four French 'fines herbs' (fine herbs). Parsley itself comes in two leaf varieties, flat-leaf parsley (sometimes known as Italian parsley), Petroselinum crispum var neapolitanum and curly-leaf parsley, Petroselinum crispum var crispum. Curly-leaf parsley is valued for its decorative qualities and is typically used as a garnish whereas flat-leaf parsley tends to be more used as a culinary herb.

For more information about parsley as an herb, please see the Celtnet Herb Guide entry for Parsley.

Below is a classic recipe that uses parsley as a main flavouring ingredient.

Arroz Español (Spanish Rice)

4 medium tomatoes, quartered
540ml water
1 small onion, chopped
150g brown rice
2 tsp garlic, pounded to a paste
1 tsp salt
Tabasco sauce, to taste (typically 5 or 6 drops)
1 tsp treacle (molasses)
200g chopped tomatoes
50g freshly-chopped parsley
120ml tomato purée
8 rashers streaky bacon
1/2 large green bell pepper, diced

Combine the tomatoes, water, garlic paste, salt, Tabasco and treacle in a blender along with the tomato purée. Blitz to a smooth purée then add to a large pot along with the onion. Bring to a boil then add the rice.

Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid (about 45 minutes) then add the chopped tomatoes and parsley. Stir thoroughly and cover. Meanwhile, fry he bacon in a pan until crisp then remove and set aside on kitchen paper to drain. Add the green bell pepper to the bacon fat and fry until soft then stir into the rice mixture.

Take the mix off the heat then pour the rice into a 1l casserole dish that's been lightly-greased then crumble the bacon on top. Place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is completely tender. Serve hot.

(This recipe is kindly reproduced from the Celtnet Arroz Español (Spanish Rice) recipe page

For more information on culinary herbs (with over 90 catalogued and described) please see the Celtnet guide to herbs.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Gluten-free Cookery

Gluten is a protein found predominantly in wheat and barley, but also in their close relatives, rye. Gluten is what makes baking possible, as, when the dough is worked the gluten molecules cross-link and bind together giving you a smooth and elastic dough.

However, those suffering from ceoliac/celiac disease are intolerant to gluten and cannot eat products based on wheat, barley or rye.

It is possible, however, to create a Gluten-free Dry Flour Mix that can be used to substitute for wheat flour in a number of baked goods and you can use this flour to replace plain flour in cakes, pastries, pies and tarts.

Below is a classic gluten-free recipes that uses the gluten-free dry flour mix.

This is a classic individual Christmas cake alternative that uses gluten-free flour mix in its creation:

Gluten-free Cardamom, Orange and Plum Cakes


200g unsalted butter, chopped
100g soft brown sugar
120g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp finely-grated orange zest
330g Gluten-free Dry Flour Mix
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cardamom
180ml milk
4 tinned plums, drained, patted dry and halved
1 tbsp demerara sugar

Cream together the butter and sugars in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly to combine after each addition. Now stir in the orange zest. Sift the flour, baking soda and ground cardamom into a bowl. Fold the flour mix into the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Continue stirring until the batter is smooth.

Grease and flour eight 250ml ceramic ramekins. Divide the batter between these then place a plum half, cut side down, into the top of the batter. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar then arrange the ramekins on a baking tray and transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the tough.

Serve warm, accompanied by thick double cream or ice cream.

For hundreds of gluten-free recipes, check out the Celtnet gluten-free recipes page
For more classic and modern Christmas recipes, visit the Celtnet Christmas recipes page

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Classic Leftovers Recipes

With Thanksgiving almost upon us and Christmas only a month away, rather than the usual festive recipes I'm presenting here two traditional recipes to make the most of any leftovers after the main feast.

Below I present an adaption of a classic Francatelli recipe for a dish cooked ‘a la Gitana’ (Gypsy Style)  that, in the true spirit of Francatelli has been modified to be suitable for left-over turkey (he would have used game birds, fowl or even fish). This makes an excellent and frugal way of doing something different with left-over Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey (it was Charles Dickens, the quintessential Victorian who popularized turkey as the centrepiece of the English Christmas dinner).

Turkey Leftovers à la Gitana


400g (about) turkey leftovers, sliced
225g streaky bacon, cut into 2.5cm squares
30g butter
1 garlic cloves, sliced
2 white onions, thinly sliced
4 rip tomatoes, thinly sliced
300ml sherry
1 tsp paprika


Melt the butter in a large pan, add the turkey, bacon and garlic and fry over medium heat, turning the turkey over until it is gently browned all over. Pour off all the fat from the pan then add the onions and tomatoes.

Pour in the sherry, secure a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the turkey is cooked through. Occasionally stir or shake the pan during the cooking time to ensure the contents do not catch and burn.

Just before serving, stir in the paprika then transfer the turkey pieces to a serving dish, pour over the sauce and serve.

If you want to know more about the Victorian chef Francatelli and his recipes, then check out the page on George Francatelli and his cuisine.

The next recipe is a much more modern one:

Turkey Risotto

3 tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1l turkey stock (make with the turkey bones)
400g risotto rice (eg arborio rice, carnaroli rice etc)
1 tbsp whole green peppercorns
2 tbsp butter
250g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
500g leftover turkey meat, finely chopped
1 tbsp mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (eg thyme, sage, parsley, tarragon, rosemary, chives)
4 tbsp freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil to a heavy-based pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and fry for about 3 minutes, or until soft but not coloured. Now add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes more.

In the meantime, pour the turkey stock into a pan and bring to a simmer. Stir the rice into the pan with the onion and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the rice is coated in the oil and looks translucent. At this point add two ladlefuls of the stock to the rice and stir well to combine before adding the green peppercorns.

Continue cooking until all the stock has been absorbed then add a further ladleful of stock. Continue cooking in this way, adding more stock as soon as the rice begins to dry out, until the rice is creamy and cooked through but is still al dente (about 20 minutes).

In the meantime, heat the remaining oil with the butter in a pan. When foaming, add the mushroom slices and fry for about 2 minutes, or until tender. Take off the heat then fold the mushroom mixture into the cooked risotto. Now add the turkey meat and fold through the rice to combine. Finally add the herbs and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and black pepper then divide the rice between four serving dishes and bring to the table.

For hundreds more recipes for leftovers, check out the Celtnet leftovers recipes page where you can find hundreds of recipes for Christmas and Thanksgiving leftovers as well as leftovers form other meals.

Friday 11 November 2011

Mincemeat Recipes for Christmas

Today, mincemeat is essentially vegetarian, being a blend of dried fruit, butter, suet, fruit juice and alcohol which is a classic British Christmas staple.

However, as the name suggests, it actually evolved from 'noumbles' of the middle ages. When the wealthy on the top tables were eating venison and roast meats, the poorer echelons of society had to make do with the the cast-offs, the offal and the intestines. To make these go further they would chop them with dried fruit and use this mixture to stuff pies. This product was called 'mincemeat'.

During the Elizabethan period, the quantity of meat was reduced to about 1/4 of the total, and through the ages the meat content reduced more and more, until there was no meat left, and the only meat component was beef suet. This was the classic Victorian mincemeat. Today vegetable suets or butter tend to be used, so that most mincemeats are truly vegetarian.

Mincemeats are readily available commercially and you can pep-up a basic commercial version by adding more exciting fruit (sour cherries, blueberries, cranberries etc), by adding chopped nuts or stirring in more alcohol. However, if you want to make your own, then why not check out these home-made mincemeat recipes.

The mince pie is, of course, the classic recipe made with mincemeat. Below is a recipe for a twist on the mince pie, using chocolate pastry instead of plain.

Chocolate Mince Pies

For the Chocolate Pastry:
275g plain flour
125g icing sugar
50g cocoa powder
pinch of fine sea salt
200g chilled butter, diced
2 egg yolks

For the Filling:
500g good quality mincemeat
juice of 2 clementine oranges
finely-grated zest of 2 clementine oranges
2 tbsp whole milk
1 large egg, beaten

Sift together the flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour mix with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the egg yolks and mix into the batter until the mixture comes together in clumps (you may need to add a little cold water). Use your hands to lightly knead the mixture until it comes together as a solid dough. Cover in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill in the refrigerator for 60 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the mincemeat, orange zest and orange juice together in a bowl then set aside. Once chilled, turn the chocolate pastry out onto a lightly-floured work surface and roll out to about 5mm thick. Use a 7.5cm diameter fluted pastry cutter to stamp out 12 rounds from the pastry. Use these to line the wells of a 12-hole bun tin. Fill each piece of pastry with 2 tsp of the mincemeat mix and brush the edges with a little milk.

Now take a 6cm diameter fluted cutter and stamp our 12 more rounds from the pastry. Use these to cover the tops of each mince pie, pressing the edges of the two pastry pieces together to seal. Re-roll the remaining pastry scraps and use a snowflake or star-shaped cutter to stamp patterns from the dough.

Brush the tops of the pies with the beaten egg then gently sit the patterns in place then brush the tops of the mince pies again. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 200°C and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through. Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes then carefully slide out onto a wire rack to cool further. Serve warm with a dollop of clotted cream.

Find more classic and modern Classic Christmas Recipes Here.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Kindle eBook to Support the Celtnet Site

Ok, so today I am making a massive plug. Having dipped my toe into the publishing world (after having been out of the business for over 12 years now), I have my first kindle eBook for sale on Amazon:


This is a proper book, published as a kindle eBook. Indeed, there are over 500 recipes in the book, all available for less than $3.50. The eBook covers everything you need for a classic traditional Christmas, from the roast, the accompaniments, cakes, desserts, drinks and even recipes for the left-overs.

All proceeds go into helping keep this website and the main Celtnet Recipes site going so that I can keep making recipes and ancient cookery books freely available on the web.

The eBook will give you all the recipes you need for a classic Christmas and will help me keep working to make ancient and classic recipe texts freely available on the web, as well as providing thousands of recipes freely available to everyone.

Why not check the eBook out and help this blog and the Celtnet Recipes site keep running.

Thursday 3 November 2011

A Warming dish for Bonfire Night

With Bonfire Night only a few days away now, here is a classic sausage-based dish to warm any revellers.

Note that in English parlance, sausages are often colloquially referred to as 'bangers'

Bonfire Bangers with Beans


3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 tbsp tomato purée
800g (ie 2 tins) chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 sprigs thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
400g cooked haricot beans (tinned is fine), drained
400g cooked barlotti beans (tinned is fine), drained
2 red bell peppers, de-seeded and chopped
12 herby sausages (about 900g)
4 tbsp parsley, chopped, to serve

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large flame-proof casserole. Stir in the onion, celery and bacon and fry for about 6 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Increase the heat then stir in the tomato purée. Continue cooking for 2 minutes then add the chopped tomatoes, sugar, mustard, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and 200ml water. Stir to combine then bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for 15 minutes. At this point add the beans and bell peppers. Return the mixture to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes more, topping-up the water, as needed.

In the meantime, add the sausages to a baking tray, toss with the remaining oil and spread out in the pan. Place in an oven pre-heated to 190°C and cook for 30 minutes, or until well browned all over. After this time remove the sausages from the oven and arrange them in the bean mixture. Cover the casserole and place in the oven.

Continue cooking for 20 minutes more then remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle the parsley over the top. Serve immediately, accompanied by baked potato. This dish can be made up to two days in advance and can be re-heated in a low oven (or on the hot). Indeed, if made before hand and re-heated it will taste even better as the flavours have a chance to meld and intensify.

Serve hot.

For more Bonfire Night recipes, and for a brief history of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire night, see the Bonfire Night information and recipes page.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Cooking with Green Tomatoes

Green Tomato Recipes and Cooking Ideas

For anyone in northern Britain, this year has been a bumper year for growing tomatoes, but a truly terrible years for getting those tomatoes to ripen. As a result I've been dusting off all my green tomato recipes, as well as learning new ones.

As well as the usual pickles, chutneys and mincemeats I've been making hashes, fried accompaniments and even cakes. Yes, that's right — cakes. After all the tomato is a fruit and it actually works very well as an ingredient in fruitcakes and pies.

Below is a recipe for a green tomato pie that's based on an original from the American South.

Green Tomato Pie

enough rich shortcrust pastry for a double crust 22cm diameter pie
8 medium-sized green tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp freshly-grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground mace
120g granulated sugar
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tbsp butter

Thoroughly wash the tomatoes, peel them and then slice quite thinly. Place the tomato slices in a saucepan and mix with the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt cinnamon and mace. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the tomatoes have begun to break down.

At this point, stir together the sugar and cornflour and beat into the tomato mixture. Continue cooking this mixture until the liquid is clear and forms threads as you remove the spoon from the pan. Stir in the butter then take off the heat.

Set aside to cool as you roll out the pastry. Take just over half and roll out until large enough to cover the base and sides of your pie dish. Spoon in the green tomato mix then roll out the remaining pastry to form a lid.

Crimp the edges sealed and trim off any excess pastry. Use a sharp knife to cut a few steam holes in the top and dust with a little caster sugar. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 210°C and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through and the filling is piping hot.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. This pie can be served either warm or cold.

Date, Green Tomato and Walnut Loaf

160ml boiling water
140g dates, de-stoned and chopped
100g green tomatoes (weighed after peeling, de-seeding and finely chopping)
1 tsp baking soda
120g margarine
120g sugar
one egg
250g plain flour
70g chopped walnuts
4 drops vanilla extract

Mix the dates, green tomatoes and baking powder and pour over the boiling water and allow to stand. Beat the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy then add the egg and mix well. Add the flour and mix together. Stir-in the date and green tomato mixture (and their liquid) along with the vanilla extract. Mix well and pour into greased and lined loaf tin.

Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 170°C and bake for an hour, until the cake has coloured and cooked through (a skewer inserted into the centre should emerge cleanly).

Allow to cool then tip out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

For many more green tomato recipes check out the Celtnet green tomato recipes links page.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Soul Cakes for Halloween

The baking and serving of 'Soul Cakes' for All Saints' Day (and Halloween) is an ancient tradition.

These were flat cakes flavoured with saffron that were proffered both to guests and to the souls of the dead on All Hallows' Eve (Halloween), for it used to be believed that the spirits of the departed would return to their homes on this night. As a result candles were lit to guide their way and food and drink (including soul cakes) were put out for them.

Recipe for Soul Cakes

50g butter
150g caster sugar
560g plain flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
generous pinch of saffron
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp allspice
3 tbsp currants
2 tsp milk

Gently warm the milk then combine with the saffron in a mortar. Grind these together well then set aside for 20 minutes to infuse.

In the meantime, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat the egg yolks and add to the creamed mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift together the flour and spices then stir into the currants. Add the milk and saffron mixture and enough additional milk to form a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and shape into flat cakes about 5 or 6cm in diameter. Transfer to a well-buttered baking tray and place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Allow to cool on the tray for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

This recipe is adapted, with permission from the Celtnet Soul Cakes recipe page.

If you would like to learn more about the traditions and history of Halloween, and want more Halloween recipes, then please visit the Halloween History and Recipes page.

Friday 30 September 2011

Classic Vindaloo Curry Spice Blend

Here is a recipe for a classic Vindaloo-style curry spice blend that is easy to make and gives you a traditional flavour.

Vindaloo Curry Spice Paste


5 tbsp cumin seeds
4 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 cinnamon stick (about 5cm long), broken into pieces
1 1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
1 1/2 tbsp green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 1/2 tbsp whole cloves
2 tbsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp hot chilli powder
4 tsp hot paprika
1 tbsp salt
30 garlic cloves, peeled
4 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled
8 fresh red chillies
180ml tamarind pulp
250ml white wine vinegar


Separately toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, cloves and black mustard seeds in a dry pan until aromatic. Combine these toasted spices in a coffee grinder with the turmeric, ginger, chilli powder, paprika and salt. Render to a fine powder.

Add the garlic, ginger, chillies and vinegar to a food processor or blender and render to a smooth paste. Mix with the ground spices then work in the tamarind pulp until smooth.

Turn the mixture into a sterilized glass jar. Secure with a vinegar-proof lid and sore in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 3 months.

For making a vindaloo-style curry, the meats are first marinated in a paste made from vinegar, oil, onions, garlic, ginger and the Vindaloo spice blend. The marinated meats are dried, seared in a frying pan and then cooked in the marinade until tender.

The original dish was Portuguese, vinho d'alhos (literally 'wine with garlic') which became the Indian Vindaloo, with the original pork substituted by beef or lamb and the wine substituted by vinegar.

For more classic curries, spice blends, curry powders and curry pastes see the Celtnet Curry and Curry Powder Recipes page

For all the curry recipes on this blog, see the curry history and curry recipes page.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Pressure Cooker Chicken Korma

This is a classic, mild, Indian-style curry (said to have been invented either in Manchester or Birmingham) that's been adapted to be cooked quickly in a pressure cooker.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Korma


675g chicken breasts, cut into 3cm cubes
120g ground almonds
3cm length of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 fresh green chillies, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ground turmeric
4 green cardamom pods
4 cloves
3cm length of cinnamon
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
300ml Greek yoghurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
25g creamed coconut
salt, to taste
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped


Combine the almonds, ginger, garlic and chillies in a mortar and pound to a paste.

Heat the vegetable oil in the base of your pressure cooker. Add the onion and fry for about 6 minutes, or until golden brown then stir in the turmeric, cardamom, coriander seeds, cloves and cumin seeds. Fry for 1 minute then add the almond paste and fry for 1 minute more before stirring in the yoghurt and chicken pieces. Stir to coat in the yoghurt mix then add 300ml water.

Secure and lock the lid then bring to pressure over high heat. Reduce the heat to stabilize the pressure and cook for 12 minutes. Take the pressure cooker off the heat, place under cold, running water to reduce the heat quickly. In the meantime, mix the cornflour to a slurry with 2 tbsp water. Whisk this into the curry mixture in the pressure cooker then bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered until thickened.

Stir in the lemon juice, creamed coconut and coriander leaves then season to taste with salt. Cook until the coconut has melted into the sauce then serve hot, accompanied by rice.

See the following page for more classic pressure cooker recipes.

For all the curry recipes on this blog, see the curry history and curry recipes page.

Friday 12 August 2011

Macaroni with Minced Meat and Bechamel Sauce recipe from Cyprus

The following is a classic Cypriot dish:

Macaroni with Minced Meat and Bechamel Sauce


For the Béchamel Sauce:
1l milk, boiling
60g butter
6 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs
90g Halloumi cheese, grated
pinch of salt

500g thick, long, macaroni (sometimes called tubular spaghetti)
650g minced pork
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp onion, grated
flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
200g Halloumi cheese, grated
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

grated Halloumi cheese, for sprinkling.

Begin with the Béchamel sauce. Bring the milk to a boil then take off the heat and set aside. Melt the butter in a pan, scatter over the flour and stir to form a smooth roux. Gradually whisk in the boiling milk until smooth and completely incorporated. Heat until thickened then take off the heat and set aside for 2 minutes to cool.

Beat the eggs in a bowl. When the sauce has cooled, add two ladlefuls into the eggs then whisk the egg mixture back into the sauce. Add the grated Halloumi cheese and stir to combine then set aside.

Now prepare the meat mixture. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the minced pork and onion. Season to taste and fry over medium heat until the meat has released its liquid and this has evaporated away and the meat is browned.

Add the parsley and stir briefly then take off the heat. In the meantime, bring a pan of lightly-salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. Cook for about 12 minutes, or until just tender. Drain the macaroni then return to the pan. Add the butter, the eggs and the Halloumi cheese and stir to cook in the heat of the pan (do not put on the hob).

Spread 4 tbsp of the Béchamel sauce in the base of an oven-proof dish (about 28cm square). Lay half the macaroni mixture on top then spread 5 tbsp of the Béchamel sauce on top. Cover with the meat mixture then lay the remaining macaroni on top of the meat. Top with the remaining Béchamel sauce and scatter grated Halloumi cheese on top.

Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 170°C and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bubbling. Serve hot with a crisp green salad and rustic bread.

If you want to see more traditional Cypriot recipes, then here you can find More traditional recipes from Cyprus

Zarzuela, a traditional Spanish Seafood dish

Today's recipe is for a classic Spanish seafood dish, Zarzuela:

Seafood Zarzuela

For the Seafood:
12 mussels, scrubbed clean and de-bearded
12 clams, scrubbed clean and rinsed
250ml dry white wine
250g monkfish fillets, skinned and sliced into large chunks
250g halibut fillet, sliced into large chunks
6 king prawns, peeled (but with tail fins left on)
5 tbsp virgin olive oil
6 cooked langoustines (Dublin bay prawns)
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
2 lemons cut into wedges, to garnish

For the Picada:
2 slices of white bread, fried and cubed
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
9 almonds, coarsely chopped
125ml extra-virgin olive oil

For the Sofregit:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp sweet paprika
200g tinned, chopped, tomatoes
1/2 tsp saffron threads, crumbled and soaked in 1 tbsp boiling water
3 bayleaves
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Begin with the picada. Combine the fried bread, garlic and almonds in a small food processor. Process finely, then, with the motor still running, slowly add the oil to form a loose paste.

For the shellfish, place the wine in a large pan and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and clams, cover and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes (shake the pan frequently), or until the shells have opened. Arrange a colander over a bowl and pour in the mixture. Transfer the shellfish to a bowl and cover loosely. Reserve the stock to make your sofregit.

Now prepare the sofregit itself. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic and fry gently for about 8 minutes, or until soft and golden brown. Stir in the paprika, tomatoes and the saffron water. Now pour in the reserved shellfish stock (leave any sediment behind). Add the bayleaves and season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook gently for 10 minutes (add water or wine if the mixture becomes too thick).

Season the fish and prawns liberally with salt and black pepper. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan, add the monkfish and halibut pieces and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside to keep warm. Stir 3 tbsp water into the pan to deglaze and pour this liquid into the sofregit then wipe the pan dry.

Heat the remaining 3 tbsp oil in the pan and when hot add the king prawns and fry until just pink. Add the langoustines and heat through for 1 minute, turning them frequently during this time. Now pour in the sofregit mixture and add the monkfish and halibut back into the pan before stirring in the shellfish. Allow to gently heat through for a few minutes.

Add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid to the picada then fold this mixture into the seafood sauce. Turn into a large serving dish and accompany with the lemon wedges.

You can find many more classic and traditional Spanish recipes on the Celtnet site, as part of the site's Southern European recipes collection.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Greens, Beef and Peanut Stew From Madagascar

Today's recipe is a classic stew of greens, beef and peanuts form the island of Madagascar:

Greens with Peanuts and Minced Beef Recipe

1.5kg kale or cabbage leaves (use savoy cabbage)
1 tbsp salt
2 medium onions
500g minced beef
400g tinned, chopped, tomatoes (with juice)
1 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp curry powder (or to taste)
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper (or to taste)
120g raw peanuts

Place the kale (or cabbage) leaves and salt in a pan. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for about 2 hours until they are no longer bitter and have reduced to the consistency of a paste (add more water as needed and stir frequently).

In a separate pan, fry the onion in the oil for about 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Stir in the beat, breaking any large clumps as you do so. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the meat is done through. Now stir in the curry powder and black pepper then cover the pan and take off the heat then stir in the peanuts.

When the greens have cooked, make the liquid in the pan with them up to 500ml (either add or remove liquid). Stir in the beef and peanut mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the peanuts are al dente and the sauce is thick and reduced.

Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve hot on a bed of rice.

On the Celtnet recipes site you can find more classic recipes from Madagascar, as well as thousands of beef-based recipes and many hundreds of greens-based recipes.

For more African Recipes, see the Celtnet Recipes Blog African Recipes page.

Recipes of Africa eBook
This list of African regions and African recipes is brought to you in association with the Recipes of Africa eBook. With over 1000 recipes covering each and every country in Africa, this is the most comprehensive book of African recipes available anywhere.

If you love African food, or are just interested in African cookery, then the Recipes of Africa eBook is a must-buy. You get information about every region of Africa and every African country along with a selection of classic and traditional recipes from that country.

This is a must-get book for anyone interested in food. Learn about a continent that to this day remains mysterious to many people. The recipes presented here are written by someone who has travelled extensively in Africa and who is a published Author. The book is a properly-produce and published eBook and the collection is immense.

Don't delay, get yourself a copy of the Recipes of Africa eBook today!

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Classic Senegalese Fish Recipes (Sea Bream Stuffed with Peanuts)

With an extensive Atlantic coastline, Senegal in West Africa has a long tradition of fishing and the preparation of fish-based dishes.

This is a classic recipe from Senegal for sea bream stuffed with peanuts and chillies that's cooked in a coconut milk base.

Sea Bream Stuffed with Peanuts Recipe


1 large sea bream
300g fresh peanuts
2 slices of white bread, crusts removed
100ml coconut milk
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 hot chilli, finely chopped
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
juice of 1 lemon

Scale and clean the fish then wash thoroughly and set aside.

Soak the bread in the coconut milk then squeeze out any excess and crumble into a bowl. Grind the peanuts as finely as you can and add to the bowl along with the tomato purée and chopped chilli. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and stir to combine.

Season the fish liberally inside and out with salt. Use the stuffing to fill the body cavity of the fish then sew it closed. Set the fish in an oven-proof dish and drizzle over the lemon juice. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for 40 minutes, basting frequently with the pan juices.

Serve hot, accompanied by white rice.

For more classic Senegalese recipes, see the Senegalese recipes page part of the Celtnet West African recipes site.

For more African Recipes, see the Celtnet Recipes Blog African Recipes page.

Recipes of Africa eBook
This list of African regions and African recipes is brought to you in association with the Recipes of Africa eBook. With over 1000 recipes covering each and every country in Africa, this is the most comprehensive book of African recipes available anywhere.

If you love African food, or are just interested in African cookery, then the Recipes of Africa eBook is a must-buy. You get information about every region of Africa and every African country along with a selection of classic and traditional recipes from that country.

This is a must-get book for anyone interested in food. Learn about a continent that to this day remains mysterious to many people. The recipes presented here are written by someone who has travelled extensively in Africa and who is a published Author. The book is a properly-produce and published eBook and the collection is immense.

Don't delay, get yourself a copy of the Recipes of Africa eBook today!

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Wild Food Guide 'P'

Wild Foods Guide 'P'

This is the sixteenth of my series of 26 postings on wild foods. Each post will deal with a separate letter of the alphabet ('P' today) and will describe a wild food beginning with that letter as well as presenting a classic recipe incorporating that wild food.

Today I'm dealing with the letter 'P', the sixteenth letter of the English alphabet, which includes foods such as Pellitory, Pennywort, Purple Laver, Parasol Mushroom, Penny Buns (Ceps), Pepper dulse, Petalonia, Poppy, Promrose, Purple Salsify, Purslane, and many others and many others. Today, however I am going to devote this page to Pepper Dulse and Parasol Mushrooms.

The Pepper Dulse Osmundea pinnatifida is a small red seaweed that grows profusely on exposed to moderately sheltered rocky shores and is common to the middle and lower rocky shores, often covering large areas with a greenish-yellow turf like growth in pools and on rocks. It typically grows up to 8cm in length which is tough and cartilaginous with flattened fronds. Branching is alternate and occurs in one plane only, with branches becoming shorter towards their apex and broadly rounded.

The seaweed is highly aromatic and though the its tough nature tends to make it unpopular as a direclty useful edible species it can be used in small quantities, if shredded, to flavour stir-fires where it imparts an interesting peppery taste. Indeed, it used to be collected in large quantities in Scotland where it was dried and used as a pepper substitute.

Below is a classic Scottish recipe for a Scotch Broth variant that's flavoured with dried pepper dulse:

Scotch Broth with Pepper Dulse

1kg scrag end of lamb or neck fillet
50g washed pearl barley
3 medium carrots, cubed
2 medium onions, cubed
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 swede, cubed
200g baby turnips, cubed
3 leeks, shredded
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
1 sprig thyme (wild thyme in the original)
2 tbsp dried pepper dulse, ground, to season
sea salt, to taste

Trim any excess fat from the meat, then place in a large heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and begin skimming any fat the raises to the top. Once the surface is clear replace any lost water, bring back to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and add the pearly barley. Add the vegetables, thyme and pepper dulse and cook for a further two hours. The broth can be served immediately, but actually tastes much better the following day. At this point you can add fresh greens such as peas, french beans, new potatoes, broad beans etc. Cook for 20 minutes then adjust the seasonings to taste and serve.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Scotch Broth with Pepper Dulse Recipe from the Celtnet Guide to Edible Seaweeds collection.

Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera, is a fairly common parasol-shaped mushroom typically found on well-drained soils that fruits from August to November and often forms fairy rings.

This is a very large mushroom that resembles a woman's parasol (hence the name). The cap is never less than 8cm in diameter and may reach up to 40cm. They are also ideal for drying and re-constitiute in water particularly well and they have a pleasant, nutty aroma. They are a very sought-after edible mushroom and the firm texture makes them ideal for a wide range of culinary uses. They are also good eaten raw.

Care should be taken, however, not to confuse smaller specimens of Parasol Mushrooms with the Shaggy Parasol mushroom.

The recipe presented below is for a classic starter of Parasol Mushroom fritters.

Parasol Mushroom Fritters

4 large, open capped, Parasol Mushrooms
50g plain flour
1 egg
125ml milk
pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed fresh herbs, chopped
black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp butter, melted
oil for deep frying

Wipe the mushrooms clean, remove the stems then cut into quarters and set aside.

Beat the egg and milk together until smooth then add the flour and beat to a smooth paste. Season and add the butter and black pepper.

Dust the mushrooms with flour then dip in the batter and immediately deep fry in hot oil (at least 180°C) cook until nicely browned then drain on kitchen paper and serve.

This recipe is reproduced, with permission, from the Parasol Fritters Recipe from the Celtnet Guide to Edible Mushroms and Fungi.

This guide is brought to you in conjunction with the Celtnet Wild Food Recipes collection.

You can find more wild foods beginning with the letter 'P' on the Wild Food Guide for the letter 'P', part of the Celtnet Wild Food Guide.

Friday 22 July 2011

Vegetable and Chocolate Loaf

With young root vegetables just starting to come into season (and being at their sweetest), today I am posting a rather unusual, but delicious, recipe to use these vegetables.

There is a long tradition of using sweet root vegetables to prepare sweet cakes and pies. They marry well with sugar and with chocolate and give you a moist cake with considerable lasting power.

Beetroot is one of my favourites, as it gives an intense colour (the recipe below is for a Beetroot and Chocolate Loaf, but carrots and sweet potatoes also work well.

Beetroot and Chocolate Loaf


240g self-raising flour
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
120g caster sugar
pinch of salt
90g dark chocolate (at least 80% cocoa solids), melted
90g butter, melted

120g beetroot, peeled an grated (raw is the best, but whole, pickled, baby beetroot can be used)
2 eggs, beaten


Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Meanwhile place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and set over a pan of lightly simmering water to melt. When melted stir to combine then add the sugar and grated sweet potatoes. Lightly whisk the eggs and add the chocolate mix to this. Stir the egg and chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients until you have a smooth batter then turn into a well-greased 1kg loaf tin.

Place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 50 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges cleanly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin then tip onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

If you have enjoyed this recipe, then you can find more traditional and modern cake recipes here.

Monday 11 July 2011

The Demise (and Rise) of British Truffles

British Truffles

It's little known today, but the rather unassuming British Summer truffle, Tuber aestivum was once the centre of a major industry.

This is a black truffle, about the size of a squash ball that's native to Europe. Though it's not as strongly flavoured as the more famous Perigord truffle, it is still flavoursome and is widely hunted for in France and Italy. Indeed, during the Victorian period it was much gathered and during its fruiting period (May to August in the UK) it was much gathered and hundreds of kg were collected for sale in major markets.

This is why Victorian chefs such as Charles Elmé Francatelli were so liberal in the use of truffles in their recipes. An example of this being Francatelli's recipe for d'Uxelles Sauce:


Chop fine the following ingredients in equal proportions, according to the quality of sauce required for present use: viz.—mushrooms, truffles, ham, parsley, and shalots; put these into a small stewpan with an ounce of scraped fat bacon, and stir the whole over the fire for six minutes; then add about half a pint of sauce, the juice of half a lemon, nutmeg, pepper, and salt, a good pinch of sugar, and four yolks of eggs; stir again over the fire to set the eggs, and use the d'Uxelles as herein directed.

Blow is a Modern Redaction of this recipe:

Francatelli's d'Uxelles Sauce

60g mushrooms, finely chopped
2 truffles, finely chopped
60g ham, finely chopped
4 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
60g shallots, finely chopped
45g bacon fat
300ml brown sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
generous pinch of sugar
salt, freshly-ground black pepper and freshly-grated nutmeg, to taste
4 egg yolks


Melt the bacon in a pan, add the mushrooms, ham, parsley and shallots. Fry gently for about six minutes, or until lightly browned then add the sauce, lemon juice, sugar and seasonings. Bring to a simmer then take off the heat.

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and, whilst whisking constantly, add the add about a ladle of the sauce to temper the eggs. Pour the tempered egg mix back into the pan and whisk to combine. Set over low heat and continue to cook until thickened. Take off the heat and serve immediately.

Over 60 years ago, the British truffle industry died out and interest in British truffles withered away. However, with summer truffles retailing for £120 per kg there is now renewed interest in this fungus and truffle hunting dogs are being imported from Perigord and Italy to hunt these black gems.

Indeed, recent dry summers seem to have been beneficial for Summer Truffles and some dedicuous forests (those with alkaline soils on a bed of chalk and a preponderance of beech) are generating hundreds of kilograms of these fungi, generating renewed interest in these native culinary delights.

If you would like more information about edible mushrooms, then check out the Celtnet Edible Mushroom Guide.

For all the wild food recipes on this blog, see the wild food recipes page.

UPDATE! The complete text of Francatelli's Cook's Guide has been edited and published!

This recipe and over 1000 other recipes published in Francatelli's 1661 'The Cook's Guide and Housekeeper's and Butler's Assistant' has been published in eBook format. The complete text and all images from Francatelli's book has been re-edited and made available with an introduction and new biography. You also get essential Victorian recipes for basic pastries and store sauces that are needed to re-create Francatelli's recipes but which Francatelli himself did not publish.

In addition over 100 of Francatelli's recipes, including all the Reform Club recipes have been redacted and published as a separate chapter so that a modern cook can copy them. Using these recipes and the additional Victorian recipes provided you can re-create all of Francatelli's dishes from scratch.

So why not re-create a Victorian dinner party, or a Victorian Christmas meal as described by Francatelli himself in his Bills of Fare? Learn why Francatelli is one of the most well respected of the Victorian cookery writers and get a copy of his book for yourself today.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Classic Mother Sauces

Preparing Classic Sauces

From the Roman cookery of Apicius sauces of one kind or another have been an integral art of European cookery. These evolved into the Middle ages, and from sources such as the Forme of Cury and its French and Italian equivalents we can see the development of modern cookery.

These developed into what the French term 'mother sauces' base sauces from which other sauces can be derived. Of course, one of the true base sauces is French Béchamel sauce, and the recipe below is derived from Mrs Beeton:

Béchaeml Sauce


1 small bunch of parsley
2 cloves
1/2 bayleaf
1 small bunch of savoury herbs (tied together)
salt, to taste
4 mushrooms
1.2l white stock
600ml cream
1 tbsp arrowroot

Combine the stock, parsley, cloves, bayleaf, herbs and mushrooms in a pan. Season with salt (but do not add pepper) then bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes (or until the flavour has been drawn from the herbs) then strain and return the liquid to the pan.

Bring back to a boil and cook until the volume has reduced by half (about 20 minutes). Whisk the arrowroot into the cream until smooth then pour the mixture into a clean pan, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes over low heat.

Whisk the cream mixture into the stock mixture and simmer slowly for 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thick. This is a classic base sauce which can be thinned with milk to make a pouring sauce, if desired.

This can be converted into a range of other sauces, such as Aurore sauce (just add tomato purée).

Another classic base or mother sauce is Sauce Tournée, again from Mrs Beeton:

Sauce Tournée


600ml white stock
1 tbsp butter mixed to a smooth paste with 1 tbsp plain flour (or white roux)
1 bunch of savoury herbs, tied together (must include parsley)
6 mushrooms, chopped
6 shallots


Combine the stock, herbs, onions and mushrooms in a pan. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 30 minutes. Now whisk in enough of the thickening to bring the mixture together as a sauce.

Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes. Skim the surface, strain and serve immediately.

This is a base sauce for Allemande Sauce, Mussel sauce and a range of others.

By learning to prepare a few basic sauces, you can give all your recipes a lift by using variants of those sauces to dress your dishes.

For many more sauce recipes (basic sauces and derivatives), visit the Celtnet Recipes for Sauces Home page where you will see hundreds of sauce recipes from across the globe.


Saturday 21 May 2011

Medieval Cookery

Forme of Cury Recipes and Translations

I love cooking and I love the history of cookery. The problem is, that for early cooking we are left with a small number of sources... Apicius being the earliest (about 400 AD) then we have the beginnings of medieval cookery writing in the 14th Century.

One of the earliest of these cookery books is the Forme of Cury, a cookery book, written at the behest of Richard II of England, about 1390. This is notable for being the first cookery book written in English and for being one of the first books written in the newly emergent language of English itself.

For the first time, the Celtnet website has made the entire text of The Forme of Cury freely available on the web. If you navigate to the Forme of Cury Contents Page you will see the entire recipe list from the book with links to each recipe. Click on these links and you will be taken through to a facsimile version of that recipe with a side-by-side version in English.

The recipes are rendered with a special font so that, in modern browsers they appear as close to the original handwritten manuscript as it's possible using modern Web technology.

This is the first time that a modern version of the text has been made available and it's the first time that the text has been presented in its entirety with an update/translation to modern English.

On the Forme of Cury Recipes pages you will also find a number of links through to modern redactions of the recipes so that you can cook versions of these 700 year old dishes for yourself.

Below is an example of a recipe from the Forme of Cury, that for: Egredouce Recipe from the Forme of Cury:


Take co̅nyngꝰ or kyꝺꝺe +̅ smyꞇe he̅ on pecys rawe +̅ fry he̅ in white grece · ꞇake rayſons of corance +̅ fry he̅. ꞇake oynons ꝑboyle he̅ +̅ hewe he̅ smal +̅ fry he̅ · ꞇake reꝺe wynne · sug᷑ w poudor of peꝑ · of ꝫ̅ꝫ̅ · anꝺ canel salꞇ +̅ caſt þꝰꞇo · +̅ lat hiꞇ ſeeþ w a goꝺe quatite of whiꞇe grece +̅ sꝰue hiꞇ forꞇh·

Meat in Sweet and Sour Sauce

Take rabbits or kid goat and chop into raw pieces and fry them in lard and take currants and fry them and take onions and boil them and chop them finely and fry them and take red wine, sugar with powdered pepper and powdered ginger and cinnamon [and] salt and sprinkle over [the dish]. Let it boil with a good quantity of larde and serve it forth.

Modern Redaction

1kg rabbit or kid goat, chopped
lard or butter for frying
200g currants
2 onions
500ml red wine
100g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp powdered black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g breadcrumbs, for thickening


Melt the lard or butter in a pan. Add the meat and fry until browned then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the currants to the pan and fry, stirring frequently, until just plump then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the meantime, bring a pan of lightly-salted water to a boil. Add the onions and boil for 10 minutes. Chop the onions, add to the frying pan and cook for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

Place the meat in a saucepan, add the currants and onion then pour in the wine. Bring to a simmer, and season with the sugar, black pepper, ginger and cinamon.

Return to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the meat is tender (top-up the liquid with water, as needed). About 15 minutes before the dish is due to be served mix in the breadcrumbs to thicken. Serve hot

Monday 28 February 2011

Braised Brisket for Supper

The beef brisket is both a flavoursome and a frugal cut. However, it's a fairly tough piece of meat that requires slow cooking to extract the maximum flavour.

But this means that you can you can braise the beef over a prolonged period of time, as well as adding your vegetables to the dish. You can even turn the braising liquid into a sauce to accompany the meat.

This recipe is based on the following one for: beef brisket braised in beer, but with a few twists of my own.

Braised Brisket of Beef with Vegetables

1.5kg (about) rolled brisket of beef
2 bayleves
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
6 black peppercorns
6 allspice berries
500ml dark beer
150ml red wine
beef stock
1 tbsp English mustard
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp chilli paste
10 baby onions, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 2cm pieces
6 carrots, cut into 6cm lengths
4 potatoes, cut into 2 cm pieces
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour

Add the beef to a deep casserole dish. Surround with the garlic, bayleaves, baby onions, thyme sprigs, black peppercorns and allspice berries. Whisk the tomato puree, mustard and chilli paste into the beer then pour over the beef. Add the red wine then pour in enough of the beef stock so that the level of liquid comes half way up the beef.

Cover with a sheet of kitchen foil then add the lid. Place the casserole in an oven pre-heated to 160°C and cook for 2 hours. At this point, add the turnips, carrots and potatoes to the pan, along with the soy sauce. Return to the oven and cook for a further 60 minutes.

At this point, remove the meat from the casserole. Cover with foil and set aside to rest for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid from the casserole in to a jug and place the vegetables back in the oven to keep warm. Melt the butter in a pan, scatter over the flour and stir to make a smooth roux. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, then whisk in the strained casserole juices.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, or until thickened.

Slice the beef and accompany with the vegetables and the gravy. Serve hot.

For more beef recipes see the following Celtnet Recipes page for beef-based recipes where you will find over 1000 recipes utilizing beef as a main ingredient.

Friday 11 February 2011

Recipe Ideas for Valentine's Day

Valentine's day is one of the most romantic days in the calendar. But it can be stressful if you are preparing a meal for that 'someone special'. Below you will find a number of ideas for things you can make and serve throughout the day, as well as links to a range of other recipes and information about Valentine's day itself.

In English-speaking countries Valentine's day is the traditional day, celebrated on February 14th on which lovers display their affection for one another by sending cards, gifting chocolates and flowers or preparing romantic meals.

It must be admitted, however, that the origins of Valentine's day is something of a mystery. It seems to have grown in popularity in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished and is probably named after two amongst the many early Christian martyrs bearing the name 'Valentine' who were buried along the Via Flaminia road connecting Rome with Rimini.

Often, foods considered to be aphrodisiac are included in many Valentine's day recipes. Below is a list of aphrodisiac foods that you might wish to base a Valentine's day meal upon: Asparagus; Almonds, Avocados; Bananas (particularly the sap of the red banana); Basil; Rocket (Arugula); Truffles; Coffee; Dark Chocolate; Coriander (Cilantro); Honey; Vanilla; Liquorice; Raspberries; Carrots; Ginger; Ginseng; Garlic; Figs; Wine (Particularly Champagne); Strawberries; Celery; Ginkgo; Lettuce; Oysters; Saffron; Artichokes; Tomatoes (from the French term pomme d'amour); Passion Fruit.

For breakfast, you might try:

Ginseng Banana Muffins

2 tbsp ginseng powder
2 very soft medium bananas
2 medium eggs
100g sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
210g plain flour
1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp salt


Add 3 tbsp hot water to a bowl and stir in the ginseng then set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. After this time combine the bananas, eggs, sugar, oil, ginseng (and its soaking water) in a large bowl and mash until thoroughly blended.

Sift together the dry ingredients into a separate bowl then add the banana mixture and mix thoroughly. Grease or line 12 muffin wells and spoon in the muffin mix, filling the wells no more than 2/3 full. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 170°C and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the muffins are well risen, cooked through and golden brown.

Allow to cool in the tins for about 5 minutes then turn out onto wire racks. Serve warm.

For a starter:

Angels on Horseback

24 oysters
12 rashers of streaky bacon
12 small slices of toast
butter for toast
small bunch of watercress


Stretch the bacon with the back of a knife then cut each rasher in half. Use these to wrap around the oysters (one half bacon rasher for each oyster). Place the bacon covered oysters on a baking tray (pack them tightly against one another so the bacon doesn't unravel — or pierce with a cocktail stick). Place in an oven pre-heated to 200°C and bake for 8 minutes.

Butter the toast, place two of the Angels on Horseback on each and garnish with the watercress.

As a main course:

Double Heart Pizza

1 large, pre-baked, pizza base
80ml pizza sauce
50g Mozzarella cheese, grated
12 large prawns, cooked
1 medium red bell pepper
extra-virgin olive oil


Trim the pizza base into a heart shape then pace on a pizza pan (or baking sheet). Spread the pizza sauce over the base (leave a small clear rim) then sprinkle the cheese over the sauce.

Place the prawns, in pair,s with their tails touching to make heart shapes. Repeat with the slices of pepper (halve these and arrange in heart shapes) then drizzle with a little olive oil. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the pizza is piping hot.

(you can find a whole range of classic pizza recipes here.

Of course, if you want to be more adventurous, then I would suggest:

Veal Chops Valentino

2 veal chops, trimmed
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 celery stick, diced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, cut into strips
60ml dry white wine
225g passata (tomato sauce)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

For the Seasoned Flour:
1 tbsp plain flour (heaped)
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Prepare the seasoned flour on a plate by mixing all the ingredients together. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy pan until bubbling then dip the chops lightly on both sides in the seasoned flour then place in the pan and fry on both sides for about 5 minutes, or until well browned. Remove the chops from the pan and set aside to keep warm.

In the same pan, add the chopped vegetables and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the white wine and bring to a boil then allow the mixture to reduce for 2 minutes before adding the tomato sauce. Stir to combine then return the chops to the pan, ensuring the meat is covered with the sauce. Cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Adjust the seasoning, to taste then serve the chops coated with the sauce and sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Accompany with pasta or rice.

And not forgetting dessert:

Chocolat Pots de Crème

360ml double cream
240ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tbsp strong coffee
2 tsp vanilla extract
240g plain chocolate, finely chopped
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt

Combine the cream, milk, coffee and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Heat to just under the boiling point then place the chocolate in a glass mixing bowl. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and whisk the resultant mixture until smooth and the chocolate is well incorporated.

Divide the mixture between 8 ramekins (about 150ml) then cover tightly with foil before placing in a baking dish. Pour water around the ramekins so the level comes half way up their sides. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 175°C an bake for about 35 minutes, or until set.

When done, uncover the ramekins and set aside to cool. Once cold transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 5 hours. Serve chilled with whipped cream and strawberries.

Of course, for many, a Valentine's day meal would not be complete without a decadent cocktail:

Raspberry Romance Cocktail

30ml Coffee liqueur (eg Tia Maria)
22ml Chambord
37.5ml Irish cream liqueur (eg Baileys)
club soda


Fill a glass with ice then pour over the coffee liqueur, Chambord and Irish cream liqueur. Fill the remainder of the glass with club soda then serve.

(you can find a whole range of traditional and modern cocktail recipes here.

And finally, there are the treats:

Ungodly Chocolate Truffles

240ml double cream
300g dark (at least 70% cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
500g dark (at least 70% cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped (for coating)


In a heavy pan, bring the cream to a simmer (a microwave and a glass bowl is just as good for this). Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate and butter. (The smaller they are cut up, the easier this will be.) Once the chocolate has been incorporated, allow to cool and refrigerate until firmly set, stirring now and then. In the refrigerator compartment (this will take about 4 hours). Use the freezer and you can cut that down to under an hour, but with much more frequent stirring.

Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop out a tablespoon or so of chocolate and use your hands to form balls about 2 to 3 cm in diameter. Spread them on a baking sheet and freeze for an hour. While the balls are freezing, chop and carefully heat, in a bain-marie (double boiler) or heavy pot, the chocolate for the coating. Stir until melted. Allow to slowly cool until it feels just warm to your skin. The object is to have it just above the melting point so that when the frozen chocolate balls are dipped in it, they gather and congeal a thickish coating around them.

When the centres of the chocolate balls are frozen and the molten chocolate is ready, take each ball and drop it into the coating, roll it quickly about, then remove it with the tines of two forks and drop it onto a sheet of wax paper. If the coating thickens too much, reheat it a little, perhaps using a microwave.

When all the truffles are dipped, you can serve them right away. If they will be stored or transported, refrigerate them a while longer first.

The Last Word

If these recipes have whetted your appetite, then you can find more information about St Valentine's day as well as seeing hundreds of St Valentine's day recipes by following the link on the left.

Whatever you do for St Valentine's day, be sure to share it with the one you love.

Saturday 22 January 2011

The Cookery of Apicius

The name 'Apicius' is that associated with a book of Roman recipes that survives as a fourth century CE manuscript with a fifth century addendum added to it by a man known as 'Vinidaurus'. The book itself is known as the De Re Coquinaria (On Cooking).

The Apicius manuscript is the world's oldest cookery book and contains list of recipes divided into chapters, each dealing with a different subject.

The chapters themselves being:

I.     Epimeles — The Careful Chef
II.    Sarcoptes — Chopped Meats
III.   Cepuros — From the Garden
IV.   Pandecter — Various Dishes
V.    Ospreos — Legumes
VI.   Aeropetes — Fowl
VII.  Polyteles — Gourmet Dishes
VIII. Tetrapus — Quadrupeds
IX.   Thalassa — Seafood
X.    Halieus — Fish
Apici Excerpta — The Excerpts of Apicius

Who was Apicius then? The truth is that the name Apicius is shrouded in some mystery. However, the familial name Apicius seems to have been long-associated with excessively refined love of food, based on the exploits of two early Roman gourmands bearing the name.

The first of these was Marcus A. Apicius who lived about 100BCE during the time of Sulla. He was famed for the reputation of his good table even during later times. However, the Apicius that most authors focus on is Marcus Gabius Apicius (sometimes Gavisu) who lived during the times of Augustus and Tiberius (80BCE to 40CE). He is described by Athenaeus (in his Deipnosophistae), one of the chief writers of the time.

Athenaeus informs us that Apician recipes were famous and that many recipes were attributed to him. However, Apicius is not the only gourmand who has recipes attributed to them in the De Re Coquinaria. The most notable of these is Vitellius (who ruled Rome between January and June 69CE), a famous glutton. He ante-dates Apicius and it would seem that, rather than having been written by Apicius, the book was more likely dedicated to him. Indeed, 'Apicius' may even have become a short-had for anyone who enjoyed their foods. So that a dedication to 'Apicius' in the general would be one to all gourmands.

Regardless of whether Apicius truly existed or not, the cookery book bearing his name is a true treasure-trove of ancient recipe. Below, I resent a classic recipe bearing Apicius' name for what is, effectively, a lasagne-like dish of layered meats and pancakes. This comes from the fourth chapter of Apicius: Pandecter (Various Dishes), I present it here in its original Latin, in English translation and as a modern redaction that you can cook at home.

Patinam Apicianam Apician Casserole

Patinam Apicianam sic facies: frustra suminis cocti, pulpas piscium, pulpas pulli, ficetulas vel pectora turdorum cocta et quaecumque optima fuerint. haec omnia concides diligenter praeter ficetulas. ova vero cruda cum oleo dissolvis. teres piper, ligusticum, suffundes liquamen, vinum, passum, et in caccabum mittis ut calefiat, et amulo obligas. antea tamen pulpas concisas universas illuc mittes, et sic bulliat. at, ubi coctum fuerit, levabis cum iure suo et in patellam alternis de trulla refundes cum piperis grana integra et nucleis pineis, ita ut per singula coria substernas diploidem, in laganum similiter. quotquot lagana posueris, tot trullas impensae desuper adicies. unum vero laganum fistula percuties et super impones. piper asparges. ante tamen illas pulpas ovis confractis obligabis, et sic in caccabum mittes cum impensa. patellam aeneam qualem debes habere infra ostenditur.

Apician Casserole Is Made Thus: Prepare as follows: [Take] pieces of cooked sow's udder, fish fillets, chicken meats, fig-peckers or the breasts of thrushes, and whatever else is best. Chop all this, apart from the fig-peckers, carefully then stir [in] fresh eggs and olive oil. Pound pepper and lovage, moisten with liquamen, wine and passum, put in a saucepan, heat, and thicken with starch. But first add all the different meats and let them cook. [When done,] take a ladle and pour in layers into a pan [seasoning] with peppercorns and pine-nuts. Place under each layer a base of an oil cake [of flour and olive oil]. Place on each layer an ample ladleful of the meat mixture. Pierce the final oil cake with a reed stalk and set it atop the dish. Season with pepper. Before you put all these meats with the sauce into the pan you should have bound them with the eggs. The type of metal dish you should use is shown below.

To Make an Apician Casserole


For the Pancakes:
3 eggs
75g plain flour
80ml milk
80ml water
butter, for frying

For the Filling:
675g cooked firm-fleshed fish, flaked, or 675g cooked pork and/or fowl, boned and shredded
3 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp lovage (or celery) seeds
500ml stock (beef, chicken or strong vegetable)
60ml white wine
60ml passum
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp coarsely-ground black pepper
6 tbsp pine nuts or almonds

Begin with the pancakes. Beat the eggs in bowl, and mix in the flour then beat in the milk and water until you have a smooth batter.

Heat a 20cm diameter frying pan, melt a small knob of butter and when hot add 1/6 of the batter. Spread to coat evenly and fry over high heat until browned on the base then flip over and cook on the other side. Continue this process until you have six pancakes. Stack on a plate and set aside until needed.

Prepare the fish or meat, flake or shred then combine in a bowl with the eggs, olive oil, lovage (or celery) seeds, stock, white wine and passum. Turn into a pan and heat through, adding more stock as needed. Take 1 tbsp cornflour and mix to a slurry with water. Add this slurry to the meat mix and cook gently until thickened then take off the heat. Now mix the nuts and black pepper in a bowl and set aside.

Take a 20cm diameter oven-proof dish and place a layer of the meat mix on the base. Top with a pancake and season with a little of the pine nut and pepper mix. Continue this layering process, until all the meat mix and the pancakes have been used, making certain that you finish with a pancake.

Make a hole in the top pancake to allow steam to escape then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Serve hot, sprinkled with cracked black pepper.

For more information on Apicius and the cookery book attributed to him, see this page on Apicius and the De Re Coquinaria (On Cooking).
If you would like to try more Roman recipes, then here you will find hundreds of Roman recipes for the modern cook.
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