Kentish Cherry & Dark Chocolate Ice-Cream

The English cherry season is so very short,so I get really excited when the first of the Kent cherries start to make an appearance. Fat, juicy and the most beautiful deep red, they really are in a different league to the smaller, tasteless imports available all year round in supermarkets.

I invested in an ice-maker a few months ago. Just a cheap and cheerful one, nothing fancy. Not sure it was the wisest move in terms of keeping my waistline trim, but I’m trying to be really good and use only occasionally (by occasionally, read twice a week so far – eek! Excitement gets the better of me some times. Must do more cycling…). The difference a machine makes is quite remarkable: no crystals or lumps. I’m a very happy camper indeed.

My recipe is currently featured in Crumbs Magazine too, but I’ve slightly tweaked the cream/milk ratio here.

So, here’s my current seasonal fav. The combination of sweet cherries & bitter chocolate is pretty special.

You will need
250g fresh cherries

3 tbsp golden caster sugar

80g good quality dark chocolate (70%)

150ml semi skimmed milk

150ml double cream

50g caster sugar

Serves four
1.)  De-stone the cherries and cut into halves. Place in a saucepan with the caster sugar and cook over a low heat until softened. Set aside to cool.
2.) Once cool, blend in a food processor until you have smooth puree.
3.) Break your chocolate into tiny pieces (alternatively, place it in a sandwich bag and crush gently with a rolling pin if easier).
4.) In a large measuring jug, add the milk, cream and sugar and cherry puree and mix gently until combined.
5.) Pour the mixture into your ice–cream machine and allow it to churn for a few minutes before gradually adding your chocolate pieces, one spoonful at a time. Timings will vary depending on the type of machine you have.All photography © Heather Elizabeth Wilkinson 2012

 

Spicy sweet potato soup

I know my last post was a soup recipe, but the weather has been so ridiculously cold and snowy here in Sussex this week that I’ve been eating little else. Knowing that I’ve got a warm and satisfying lunch to look forward to is about the only thing that makes braving the arctic temperatures in the morning bearable.

I think this has to be one of the simplest soups I’ve ever made: quick to prepare, healthy and a really short list of ingredients. My kind of recipe.

You will need
A glug of olive oil
1 onion, chopped 
½ teaspoon of dried chill flakes or ½ fresh red chilli, deseeded.
1 tsp ground coriander
2 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced
750g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks
1 pint of warm vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste.

1.) Warm the oil in a large pan, add your onions, garlic, chilli flakes and ground coriander and cook until soft.
2.) When your onions have softened, add your sweet potato and mix it in with the other ingredients. Leave it to cook in the pan for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
3.) Pour your warmed stock over the mixture, bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for about 10/15 mins, or until the sweet potatoes soften.
4.) Blend your soup until smooth. Serve with fresh crusty bread (this soda bread is ideal). If you find the soup too spicy then add a dollop of crème fraiche.

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2012

Cosy winter vegetable soup

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2012


The temperature has really plummeted here this week. It’s the kind of cold weather that means you have to hop from foot to foot just to generate enough heat to stop your toes going numb. I basically live off soup when the weather’s like this, and I luckily had enough root veg to whip up a batch today. Soups of this nature can be a tad bland, so I add just a pinch of dried ginger to give it a subtle lift.


You will need

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 leek, sliced
150g potato, peeled and diced
150g swede, peeled and diced
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp dried ground ginger
1 litre milk
Single cream


1.) Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry until soft.
2.) Add your garlic, carrot, leek and celery, stir it all together and continue to fry for about 5 minutes.
3.) Next, add your swede, potato, nutmeg and ginger, salt and pepper. Add the milk, bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the vegetables have softened.
4.) Add your soup mixture to a liquidiser and blend together until it is smooth. You can run it through a sieve if you want it extra smooth.
5.) Return the soup to a clean pan, add a little cream, mix and heat thoroughly. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Forced rhubarb, mascarpone and ginger semifreddo

Forced Rhubarb:  available January – Feb/March

I really like rhubarb but hadn’t ever tried the ‘forced’ variety before, so I eagerly bought a big bagful when I spotted it in my local fruit and veg shop.

Forced rhubarb, as the name suggests, it is literally forced to grow. The plants are grown in long sheds where they are subjected to heat and darkness so that the young shoots grow quickly in a desperate search for light. Apparently, it was originally cultivated to fill a gap in the vegetable calendar when there wasn’t much else available.

I wanted to try something a bit different from the usual rhubarb crumble (yawn), so decided to have a go at making a semifreddo. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

The ginger is the first of the flavours to come through, followed by the rhubarb – it’s almost like they politely take it in turns to tickle your taste buds.

The rhubarb flavour is a lot stronger in the sauce and balances the richness of the mascarpone cheese well.

PS: fellow Brightonians, I got my rhubarb from Taj in Western Road.

You will need
For stewing the rhubarb
200g forced rhubarb
Juice and zest of 1 large orange 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g caster sugar
2 pieces of stem ginger (about the size and thickness of a 2p piece), finely chopped


For the semifreddo:
4 eggs, separated
500g mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

1.) Roughly chop your rhubarb and place in a saucepan with the orange juice, orange zest, 100g caster sugar and chopped ginger. Then add enough water to the pan to just about cover your rhubarb.
2.) Bring to the boil and simmer for about 7 minutes until the rhubarb is soft.
3.) Sieve the rhubarb over a clean bowl.  Set the juice aside and pop it in the fridge when it’s cooled.
4.) Next, whip the egg whites into soft peaks with a pinch of salt.
5.) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla for a few minutes and then add the mascarpone cheese.
6.) Whisk the cheese and egg yolk mixture for a couple of minutes until smooth, then stir in your stewed rhubarb (not the juice).  Add one tablespoon of the egg whites and stir in with a metal spoon.
7.) Carefully add the cheese and rhubarb mixture to the egg whites and stir gently. Take care not to knock the air from the beaten egg whites.
8.) Line a freezer-proof container with cling film and pour in the mixture. Freeze for around 4 hours (or overnight).
9.) Remove the semifreddo from the freezer and leave to stand for around 5 mins while you make the sauce.
10.) For the sauce, pour the chilled rhubarb juice into a small saucepan, bring to the boil and cook down until it thickens.
11.) Carefully lift out the semifreddo using the cling film, place it upside down on a serving plate and remove the cling film.
12.) To serve, cut even portions of the semifreddo and drizzle each the sauce. To finish, sprinkle with crushed amaretto biscuits (optional).

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2014

Chicken and leek risotto

Here’s the final recipe in my ‘Give life to your leftovers’ series. This recipe not only makes good use your remaining roast chicken, but also includes delicious leeks, which are currently in season. And the addition of parsley and lemon zest (optional, of course) really brings this dish to life.

The secret to great risotto is to take your time over it, adding the stock gradually and stirring slowly to allow it to be fully absorbed by the rice. This recipe serves 2.

You will need
Your remaining chicken meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
175g Arborio risotto rice
600ml of chicken stock
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
½ large leek, diced
2 tbsp of crème friache
1 small onion, chopped into small pieces
A generous handful of finely grated parmesan cheese
Handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
A teaspoon of grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

1.)Heat the stock
2.)In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and add the onions, garlic and leeks. Fry very slowly for about 15 minutes until softened.
3.)Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes until the rice is coated and glossy.
4.)With the heat on a simmer, carefully add your chicken stock, one ladle at a time, to your saucepan of rice and stir using a wooden spoon.
5.)Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, allowing each to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes. You’re aiming for your rice to be soft but with a slight bite.
6.)When all of your stock has been used and absorbed by the rice, add your chicken, stir, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the parmesan, 2 tbsps of crème fraiche, stir and season to taste.
7.)Divide the risotto between two bowls, top with lemon zest, parsley.

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