What's for Supper - pretty little Tiramisu

Tiramisu is so quintessentially Italian it has become a cliché. That's a shame, as this fairly simple dessert can be blissfully delicious if made properly. The name means "cheer me up" or "pick me up" in Italian. Made without too much fat, and in small portions, that is exactly what a good Tiramisu offers - not least on account of its content of strong coffee.

Some recipes include double cream, which is not authentic and makes for a cloying result. I use Savoyard biscuits, cold coffee, Kahlua liqueur, egg, sugar and Mascarpone. Plus a little grated chocolate, or cocoa powder, to dust on top. I quite like to top with a very inauthentic juicy raspberry, to add a bit of acidity to an otherwise sweet dessert. I have been known to add a few raspberries between the biscuit and cream layer too, but I am aware that this is totally off piste.

First, make a really strong, espresso type coffee and pour it into a shallow bowl or into a small shallow tin to cool down. If you are using proper small espresso shots, use two for this quantity. And the same volume in booze, I reckon.

I tend to start with how many eggs I want to use. For this recipe, which made 10 small desserts, I used 3 eggs which I started by separating. I added 3 tablespoons of caster sugar to the egg whites and used my hand held electric beaters until the whites were firm enough to be turned upside down without leaving the bowl. Next, I used the same whisk attachments to beat the egg yolks with 125g caster sugar until thick and pale. So that's about 3 minutes and only one pair of whisk attachments to wash up! I then add about 180g Mascarpone as lightly as I can, to the yolks, before carefully folding the egg whites into the creamy yolks, taking care not to over work it. The texture is essential - it should be ultra light. If you stir rather than fold the two egg mixtures together you get a heavy dessert.

Next, I add coffee liqueur to the cold coffee.

I can be a little OCD in the kitchen and I love lining things up. When I eat shell-on prawns, which I love if the prawns are proper cold water, Arctic beasties with a good elastic texture and a proper salty  flavour (few things are worse than "pappy" freeze-dried prawns - they should not be eaten), I peel the juicy prawns one or two at a time and greedily dip them in mayo, and then I start to line up the heads around the rim of my plate. It's part of the pleasure for me. Looking at the rows of little black prawn eyes and heads - and shells - afterwards gives me as much pleasure as eating them. I know, I should get out more.

Anyway, lining up my pots or little glasses before filling gives me the same kind of pleasure, as does the repetitive conveyor belt like work which ensues.

Dip a couple of biscuits rather hastily in the liqueur coffee. Break as needed to arrange in the base of your chosen vessels. Scoop in some of the eggy cream. If you choose to make one large dessert then you crate several layers, ideally in a glass bowl and in such a way that the layers show very neatly. When making mini versions, there is only room for a base layer of biscuit and a top layer of cream.

Dust on some cocoa powder, or sprinkle on some grated dark chocolate. Or place a raspberry on top.

Chill before eating.




What's for Supper - it's time for another roast chicken...

A chicken a day probably doesn't keep boredom away but a chicken a week is most defiantly part of my cooking routine. I simply never tire of a really good quality chicken, roasted simply with a lemon and some herbs, plenty of salt, pepper and olive oil, and with whatever accompaniments the season offers.

We are in the middle of the wonderful local asparagus season, which normally brings with it asparagus festivals, picking and special menus. It feels very sad not to have this outstanding vegetable celebrated with the pomp it deserves.

This, to me, remains one of the the most delicious meals I can think of. I just never tire of it and I enjoy it as much when I first cook it, and the chicken meat is juicy and tender, and the skin hot and crisp, as I do the following day when it is cold. That's when I enjoy it with mayo, pickled cucumber and a slice or dark rye bread.

My household is small so I like cooking smaller chicken of just above a kg in weight. I actually prefer smaller chickens to larger ones even when I cook for many. They are more aesthetically appealing to me, and I prefer to roast two small chickens instead of one large one. And they cook quicker, obviously.

I always seek out free range chicken, from smaller producers. The better life the chicken's has had,  the better it tastes on the plate.

Chicken is often over cooked, which makes it dry and wolly. For a small chicken, just over an hour at 190C is enough. For a very large bird I would assume 1h 45 minutes and for a regular medium sized bird 90 minutes. Stick the tip of a knife in the thickest part of one of the things to check doneness. If the juices are pink, or red, there are still uncooked parts so stick it back in the oven for another 10-12 minutes. If the juices run clear, the chicken is cooked.

To cook, push into the cavity one whole lemon, washed and pierced with a knife to encourage the juices to escape,  and some hole hard herbs such as sage and rosemary, and plenty of sea salt and pepper. I drizzle olive oil over the skin and season again before putting it in an oiled roasting tin.

When 30-35 minutes of the roasting time remains, I add some firm potatoes, halved lengthways, washed, skin on, and turn them in the oil. When adding asparagus, I cut off the tip, and then cut the stalk into one or two smaller pieces. I add those to the pan when 4-5 minutes remain and finally, a couple of minutes before I am going to take out the chicken I throw in the asparagus tips. Make sure they are turned in the salty hot cooking fats and that they don't cook for more than a minute or two.


Remove the tray from the oven. Leave the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes. You can keep the tray of potatoes in the oven once you switch it off, if you prefer them to stay very warm.

Carve the chicken and serve with the juices from the soft cooked lemon, the crispy potatoes and the tender asparagus. It is difficult to describe just how delicious a good chicken roasted like this is.

I sometimes indulge in a dollop of mayonnaise on the side, but not always when the chicken is newly roasted. The next day however, when I enjoy it cold, mayo is a must.





What's for Supper - Tomato and goat's cheese tart

I am going to give you my super simple recipe for Tomato tart based on shop bought short crust pastry. I am a sucker for anything shortcrust, not least very buttery shortbreads with an afternoon cup of Earl Grey or Lapsang Suchong. But if you prefer puff pastry, then go for that, it works just as well and it doesn't require blind baking, as described below.

As you will have discovered, one of my constant kitchen staples are cherry tomatoes. I love them. They are so versatile both in their uncooked form and when roasted, used in sauces or marinated.

Tomatoes are underpinned by acidity, no matter how ripe and sundrenched - and god knows that is not usually how they come from the supermarkets. Combining them with a creamy, lemony goat's cheese works wonderfully well. Both those ingredients take well to being drizzled with Balsamic vinegar or Pomegranate molasses. The latter elevates tomatoes to unexpected heights.

I had a lock down crisis earlier when I realised that all my rolling pins had ended up at work.

So, needs must, and as I scanned my shelves for good substitutes my eye fell on my favourite fizz from the wonderfully talented Mr and Mrs Fox based in East Sussex. Their blender extraordinaire, Mrs Fox, describes their Mosaic fizz as their most versatile wine. And I can only agree. As it turns out, this exquisite fizz also lends itself very well to being used as a rolling pin, and a chilled one at that. What better tool to use for rolling pastry? Placing it back in the fridge after use, I now have both a simple but utterly delicious supper to look forward to and an glass of sublime fizz eminently capable of making the most of the lemony creamy cheese and the acidity of the tomatoes. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.

So, roll out your pastry, short or flaky, to a around slightly larger than the circumference of your tart case. Carefully lift it into the case, lowering it slowly and easing it from the centre and out, making sure not to stretch it nor to create air bubbles.

Line it with a round of baking parchment and weigh it down with ceramic baking beans, or some rice.

The reason is to keep the shape of it and to avoid the edges from collapsing when baking. However, the primary insurance against that is to make sure the pastry is super cold when placed in the oven. That way, the butter and flour will bind as the heat hits. When short crust pastry at room temperature is placed in a hot oven, the butter will start to melt and by the time the butter binds with the flour, the collapse is already a fact.

Place the well chilled pastry case in a hot oven  - about 200C.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Use a metal spoon to scoop out the hot ceramic beans or rice and place in a steel or glass receptacle. Not plastic, as it will melt. Place the bare short crust back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes to bake through.

When cooled, spread a thick layer of mild goat's cheese over it, and top with a mix of roasted and uncooked cherry tomatoes, some salt and pepper, olive oil and some fresh herbs. Basil would be an obvious choice, but new season rosemary and tender sage work well too.