Recipes

Favourite foods for March

Bara Brith

Makes 1 large loaf

Always a favourite with it’s rich buttery flavour, Bara Brith has the same weight of fruit as flour - which is why it is so delicious. It needs loads of butter when sliced (!) - and either a glass of Penderyn Welsh whisky or The One from the Lakes Distillery which has some Penderyn in the blend.

Bara brith

Bara brith

  • 350g strong plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 25g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 25g butter
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 150ml/ ⅔ cup warm water
  • 350g mixed cake fruit
  • Milk and caster sugar to decorate
  1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and spice in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the yeast.
  2. Beat the egg into the warm water then add to the flour and mix to a soft but not sticky dough. Knead thoroughly on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic - this will take upwards of 5 minutes.
  3. Flatten the dough into a circle and return it to the mixing bowl. Add the fruit, then repeatedly fold the dough over and give the bowl a quarter turn until the fruit is incorporated. Shape into a smooth round loaf and place on a buttered baking sheet. Cover with a damp teatowel and leave in a warm place to rise until almost doubled in size - this will take at least 1½ hours if not 2, because of the richness of the dough and the weight of the fruit.
  4. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 180℃, 350℉. Brush the Bara Brith with a little milk and sprinkle with caster sugar, then bake for 35 minutes, or until the base of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. (Cook in the Baking Oven, or the Roasting Oven of an Aga on the wire shelf on the floor of the oven and with the cold shelf on the top set of runners for 30 minutes.) Cool on a wire rack before serving sliced and buttered.

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Carrot, bacon and ginger soup

Serves 6

I am always reluctant to be too pedantic about quantities for soup recipes: the best concoctions are often made with whatever is in the fridge or vegetable basket! This combination works very well, but you can vary it as you will. I always add any broccoli stalks to the soup pot as they have so much flavour and nutrition and carrots are always good as they are very sweet. 

Carrot, bacon & ginger soup

Carrot, bacon & ginger soup

  • 1 onion
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 500g carrots
  • 100g bacon, rashers or lardons
  • 1tbsp oil
  • 1-2 tsp ground ginger, or a little less and some freshly grated root ginger
  • 150g red lentils (the orange ones!)
  1. Finely chop the onion, slice the celery and peel and slice or dice the carrots. Rind the bacon and cut into strips (if not using lardons).
  2. Cook the prepared veg with the bacon and oil in a large covered saucepan for 4-5 minutes over a low heat, until the onions are softened. Add the ginger, cook for 1 minutes, then add the lentils and sufficient water or stock to cover the ingredients by about 2.5cm. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables and the lentils are tender.
  3. Cool the soup slightly then blend, adding extra stock or milk to get the consistency that you like best. Season to taste and then reheat to serve.

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Winter chicken and squash pot roast

Serves 6

Pot roasts are great as they are so easy and produce the most wonderful comfort food, perfect for the mitigation of late winter colds. I made this a few days ago and we have had it as a pot roast, then as soup, then with pasta added to some of the juices, left-over squash and chicken. Still lots of chicken, so it might be a pilaf today! The picture is not ‘strictly’ correct as a pot roast is a pot roast ….. except the picture has prunes.

Winter chicken & squash pot roast

Winter chicken & squash pot roast

  • 1 small squash, or a piece weighing about 400-500g
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp oil 
  • 1 large chicken, about 1.75kg
  • 1tsp each ground allspice, ground cloves and a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 200-250g cavelo nero black cabbage or curly kale
  1. Prepare the squash and cut into 2cm dice, then cut the celery into similar sized pieces. Cut the onions in quarters and the garlic in half.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan that will snuggly take the chicken. Brown the bird on all sides then set it on its back with the breasts uppermost in the pan. Pack the prepared vegetables around the chicken, add the spices then cover the pan and cook slowly for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add enough water, stock or beer to come almost to the top of the chicken’s drumsticks, and the bay leaves with some salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer very slowly for about 1 1/2 hours, until the juices run clear when you pierce the thickest part of the chicken. Prepare the cabbage or kale by washing, removing any thick stalks and shredding the leaves.
  4. Remove the chicken and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Bring the ‘soup’ back to the boil and add the prepared greens. Cook for 4-5 minutes then serve the chicken in pieces with the vegetable ‘soup’ spooned over.

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Red lentil dhal with wild garlic

Serves 4

Wild garlic is just starting to poke its way through into the sunshine. It must be spring! The first leaves are to be treasured but once the plants are in full swing try cooking lost of leaves until wilted like spinach. This dhal is always my first wild garlic dish of the year.

Red lentil dhal with wild garlic

Red lentil dhal with wild garlic

  • 250g red lentils
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 2 tbsp oil 
  • 4-6 cloves and 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • a handful of wild garlic leaves
  • Fried onions and freshly chopped chilli for garnish (optional)
  1. Wash the lentils in a sieve and shake dry. Finely chop the onion and crush the cardamom pods lightly.
  2. Heat a pan, add the oil with the cardamom, cloves and cumin and cook for a few seconds until fragrant, then add the onion. Cook, covered, over a low heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is softened.
  3. Add the lentils with sufficient water to cover them by about 1cm. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add a little more water during cooking if necessary. Beat the lentils frequently to make them creamy.
  4. Wash the garlic leaves and shred them finely. Beat the lentils again, add the garlic then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with curries, or just with some vegetables and chutney.

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Fruits de mer with fennel and cream

Serves 2-3

I used to always make this with a pack of frozen mixed shellfish, but I recently looked at the bag and saw the ingredients had come from virtually every corner of the earth. That doesn’t really make sense to me, so now I get a mix of fish from the fishmonger: if it is to be a really special feast I had a dressed (Selsey, of course) crab to the sauce and heat it through just before serving.

Fruits de mer with fennel & cream

Fruits de mer with fennel & cream

  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 435g pack frozen fruits de mer, defrosted, OR
  •   400g fresh mixed prepared raw fish and shellfish, or shellfish cocktail
  • 3 tbsp Noilly Prat or other vermouth
  • 150ml double cream
  1. Trim the fennel and celery, reserving any celery leaves, then slice them thinly. Seed and finely chop the chilli. Skin and cut fresh fish into 5cm pieces - it will break up a bit in the cooking. No worries.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add all the vegetables and cook slowly for 5 minutes or so, until slightly softened, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the fish or fruits de mer, turn up the heat and cook quickly for 3-4 minutes until any frozen prawns have turned pink and everything is piping hot.
  4. Spoon the Noilly Prat into the pan and stir, as it bubbles, to lift any sediment from the bottom of the pan. Add the cream (and the crab meat of using) and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until the cream starts to take a slightly caramelised appearance. Season to taste, then garnish with the reserved celery leaves, shredded. Serve with crusty white bread to mop up the juices.

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