Baileys and coffee panna cotta – with salted caramel sauce

The home bar needs some movement; we need to clear some room for the new bottles we will no doubt gather over the Christmas period. We are not alcoholics, honest! But as we enjoy having friends over for dinner regularly, with good food, always comes alcohol! We have boxes of our favourite bottles of wine, a case of 2 of Norman cider, spirits (top shelf, as well as the more obscure) and a selection of craft beers in the fridge. This is a very difficult home to live in, especially when you are having a period of not drinking. It’s literally everywhere you look, taunting you!

Stockpiling alcohol is a learned habit, but lets call it a family tradition! There’s enough booze in my mum’s house to keep the whole of her local community tipsy for at least 2 years. This is how I come to have 2 litre bottles of Baileys sitting there, just waiting to be drunk! My mum brought a litre over as a gift (remembering that I used to enjoy a small glass, back in the 90’s), then on her next visit I was gifted another bottle!

For me Bailey’s is something which is best enjoyed in the run up to Christmas. Since the festive season is nearly upon us, I am going to share with you a couple of my favourite Baileys recipes. Starting with this little beauty….Baileys and coffee panna cotta – with salted caramel sauce. I don’t even like coffee, but in this dessert it seems to work really well. The bitterness of the coffee grounds seem to balance out the sweetness of the Baileys quite nicely. Topped with toasted, desiccated coconut and drizzled with salted caramel sauce, it’s always a big hit! Ensure you make this dessert the day before you want to eat it, to give it time to set properly.

The jelly like texture of panna cotta comes about because of the use of gelatin. As gelatin is a product made from animal collagen, strictly speaking this dessert is not suitable for vegetarians. I have never been that strict luckily and I only really found out what gelatin was after about a decade long love affair with pick ‘n’ mix! If you are making this dessert for a strict vegetarian, it’s worth looking into veggie friendly alternatives to the gelatin sheets we use here.

Ingredients:

125ml Baileys

500ml double cream

2 tbsp sugar

3 gelatin sheets

desiccated coconut, toasted

2 tsp coffee (soluble)

Method:

Combine the cream, Baileys, sugar and coffee in a saucepan and warm over a medium heat for about 10 mins. Remove from the heat.

Submerge the gelatin sheets into a bowl of cold water. Leave the sheets for around 10 minutes, then take them out and squeeze out the excess water.

Add the gelatin to the Baileys cream mixture and stir until the gelatin dissolves.

Pour the panna cotta into small dessert glasses or bowls, only filling them to about 1.5cm from the top of the glass. Put them into the fridge to set, preferably overnight.

Tip the coconut into a dry pan and gently toast, until it’s a golden brown colour.

Make the salted caramel sauce.

To serve, pour some salted caramel sauce on top of the panna cotta and add a layer of toasted coconut. Delicious!

Also try our Baileys Truffles.

French onion soup

Our kitchen has seen a lot of onion action recently, as I made Char’s Sweet ‘n’ Smokey Chipotle Salsa just a few of days ago.

Onion soup has been around for centuries. Dating back to Roman times, it used to be seen a food for the poor, because onions grow in such abundance. It has since developed into a pillar of classic French cuisine, with restaurants all over the world taking pride in their French onion soup. Cooked the right way it can take many hours for the onions to caramelise properly and the full flavour of the soup to develop. You can find much quicker recipes out there, my recipe is somewhere in the middle, with a cooking time of around 2 hours.

This soup in vegetarian, but traditional recipes use beef stock instead of vegetable stock. The recipe is easy, but you do have to stay close to keep the onions moving, so that they don’t burn.

Ingredients:

2kg onions, thinly sliced

100g butter

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp flour

2 litres vegetable stock

1 bulb garlic

2 brown sugar cubes

White wine

Method:

Cut the onions in half and thinly slice each one. Peel the garlic cloves and finely dice them.

Heat the butter and oil in a large pan. Add the onions, fry them on a low heat with the lid on, stirring frequently for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and add the sugar cubes and garlic. Cook for a further 30 minutes, turning the heat up gradually. Keep the onions moving constantly, so they don’t burn. The onions reduce to about a quarter of their original volume. You want the onions to turn a golden brown colour and really start to caramelise.

Sift the flour into the soup, to thicken it. Pour in the wine, gradually, keeping the onions moving. Once all the wine has been added, add the hot vegetable stock.

Cover again, and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with a toasted piece of bread with melted cheese on top. Voilà!

Purple carrots, fennel, ricotta & lime salad

I’ve been chatting to a lot of people recently, who talk about autumn being their favourite season. I do like seeing the colours of the leaves on the trees change as winter approaches, but ultimately I’m a summer baby! I spend most of autumn and winter anxiously waiting the first signs of spring, and therefore summer. It must be my Caribbean roots; I just can’t stand being cold!

One good thing about this time of year however, is the abundance of root vegetables and bulbs on offer at the green grocers. Sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, fennel, they all come into their own! Whether using them in soups, roasting them in the oven or simply slicing them up as crudités, they should be celebrated. Especially the carrot!

I grew up believing that all carrots are orange, and that they help you to see in the dark! Actually around the world you can find carrots in many different hues, including white, yellow, brown, purple, red and black. Today, typically carrots are orange, but they didn’t always used to be. Before 17th century, most carrots were purple. Dutch growers took mutant strains of purple carrot and bred them into the sweet orange root that we see in supermarkets today.

As well as being beautifully inviting, purple carrots contain much more beta carotene than orange ones. They have anti-oxidant and anti inflammatory properties as well as strengthening the immune system and preventing heart disease. They also contribute to good eye health, so maybe that old adage that ‘carrots help you see in the dark’ wasn’t such a silly concept after all.

Purple carrots come from Middle and Far East, but here in Spain you can find them in Cuevas Bajas, Andalucia (see Purple Carrot Festival for information on the annual celebration).

Fennel is a Mediterranean vegetable, also from the carrot family. It has a strong aromatic anise flavour, so you can spot the taste of it a mile off. For this reason a little bit goes a long way, sometimes the striking anise flavour can dominate a dish. The leaves, flowers, bulb and seeds are used for many things, in my kitchen I tend to use dried fennel seeds and the bulb in dishes. Fennel seeds are often sugar coated and eaten as an after meal digestive in the Far East. The fruit of the plant is one of the main ingredients in liquorice. Fennel leaves are brewed into a herbal tea and consumed in many parts of the world. There are so many uses for this plant!

This recipe for an autumnal root salad is bright and exciting enough to cheer up any grey autumnal day. The anise flavour of the fennel, lime zest and coriander make it very aromatic. The addition of tuna, seeds, nuts and cheese increase it’s protein content, which is something I’m aways aware of as a vegetarian.

Ingredients:

6-8 purple carrots

1 fennel bulb, sliced

150g ricotta

120g tuna, cooked and flaked

40g pumpkin seeds

60g hazelnuts, toasted

coriander, small bunch chopped

Dressing ingredients:

1 lime, juiced and zested

2 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

Method:

Using a vegetable peeler, ribbon the carrots into a bowl. Look at these striking colours!

To prepare the fennel, remove any damaged brown parts of the bulb with the peeler. Slice a small section off the root and cut off the fonds, near to the bulb. Cut this in half and cut out a triangular section of the heart which tends to be really hard.

Slice crossways so you have fine slices of fennel. Add the fennel, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and coriander to the carrot and mix.

Combine the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice and zest in a small jar and shake, to mix the dressing. Dress the salad, mix in the tuna and top with small balls of ricotta.

Salted caramel sauce

Oh my goodness, this stuff is to die for! The sweet, salty, sticky, gooey, buttery loveliness….it’s naughty stuff, but it just tastes so damn good! It can be spooned onto desserts, poured over pancakes, added to coffee, drizzled over ice cream, or even just enjoyed on a piece of toast. I made this batch be poured on top of Baileys panna cotta, but it can be enjoyed in so many ways. Just as a safety precaution, caramel tends to splatter a lot, so make sure you wear long sleeves to stop yourself getting burned.

Ingredients:

100g sugar

25g salted butter

125ml double cream

1/2 tsp salt

Method:

To make this sauce we are going to make a dry caramel (meaning the sugar just liquefies and turns to caramel on it’s own, without adding water). Put the sugar in a small sauce pan and heat over a medium heat. Sugar turns to caramel at a high temperature so be careful, it’s HOT! As the sugar starts to melt and dissolve, shake the pan to mix the sugar. Don’t use any utensils like a wooden spoon or spatula, otherwise the caramel may crystallize. Be careful not to burn it, that burn flavour ruins the sauce!

Once all the sugar has melted, add the butter and whisk vigourously. Keep whisking for 2 or 3 minutes, until the butter has melted, and the ingredients are well mixed. Warm the cream until it’s hot and add to the caramel slowly.

If the cream is cold the caramel tends to splatter and bubble away! Boil the caramel for a minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the salt.

Char’s tip: Make the sauce in advance. The caramel thickens nicely, as it cools down. Once made it can be stored in a sterilised jar.

Chasing heat! Char’s Sweet ‘n’ Smoky Chipotle Salsa

Winter is coming! I really don’t like being cold and as a sun worshipper I’m always chasing the heat! I often add some sort of spice or hot sauce to my food, especially at this time of the year. It’s like a constant quest, searching for the perfect amount of heat. The typical food in Cataluña rarely contains any heat or punch (called ‘picante’ here). This means at home, I’m always overcompensating.

As well as a selection of hot sauces for different occasions we have a variety of chilies to hand, in various forms. Fresh, dried, flaked, powdered, they all have their uses.

These little chilies don’t grow here in Spain, maybe that’s why the cuisine never incorporates them in their dishes. Our potent little friends are always on hand to add to curries or soups. In the summer I often leave them out on a tray, to dry in the sun. In the winter however, with less sun around, these can be dried in the oven. Spread them out on a baking tray and bake on a low heat for a few hours (until all their moisture has gone). These chilies were dried for 5 hours at 80º. Make sure you don’t use too high a heat, otherwise you kill off their potency.

Scotch Bonnet peppers are one of the most potent forms of chilli (in terms of heat rating) and are used a lot in Caribbean food. My grandparents are from Antigua, Nevis and Jamaica in the Caribbean, to honour my roots I cook Salt fish and Ackee from time to time, always buying more Scotch Bonnet peppers than needed.

My love of chipotle started when travelling through Mexico in 2008. For those of you who don’t know, a chipotle is actually a jalapeño chili, which has been left on the bush to ripen. When they turn a deep red colour and have lost a lot of their moisture , they are picked and then smoked. What a fantastic combination, a smoky flavour which packs a real punch! They look like dried old bits of tree bark, but what they bring to a dish is fantastic. Their warm, smokiness adding another layer of complexity to the flavour of any dish. Most of the heat is in the seeds. For people who don’t like too much heat but like the flavour they just scrape the seeds off. Chipotles are very en vogue now, and you often see Chipotle Blood Marys on menu in Brunch eateries.

Rich is a friend and fellow Chipotle enthusiast, here in Barcelona. This time last year we got together to make a mammoth batch of Sweet ‘n Smoky Chipotle Salsa to give away as christmas presents (clearly saving ourselves enough salsa to keep us going for a good while). The salsa went down a treat, with many friends asking for the recipe. One old friend Leah, managed to finish her jar before the end of January. Respect Leah!!

The salsa is pretty easy to make and leaves your house smelling of sweet, smokey chipotle for a long while! It goes well with many things, in soups, stews, on a Jacket potato with cheese, in a marinade for fish. So many options! My recent joy was pairing it with hummus. Delicious! This recipe makes a HUGE quantity, we got 12 jars of salsa (twice the amount shown in the photo at the bottom of the post). You could easily make a quarter of the amount and have enough Salsa to last a while. If you get as addicted to the stuff as we are, it will won’t last very long and you will simply have to make another batch. By the way, Rich agreed to help me chop onions and be a hand model in a couple of the shots. We decided however, that he has a face that’s perfect for radio! Only joking Rich, he does have a good voice for radio, but that’s another story!

Ingredients:

2 litres apple cider vinegar

2 litres water

400g brown sugar

500g chipotles

12 onions, chopped

2 bulbs garlic, peeled and crushed

2 cinnamon sticks

8-10 cloves

2 tsp garam masala mix

1 tbsp dried oregano

4 bay leaves

1 tbsp salt

8 tbsp olive oil

Method:

The most labor intensive part of the recipe is the prep. Chop the onions and crush the garlic. The rest is just stirring, and enjoying the sweet smells!

Heat the water, vinegar and sugar in a large saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Add the chipotles, garlic and herbs and boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the onions, cloves, garam masala mix and cinnamon sticks, then simmer for another 15 minutes.

Add the oil and oregano and salt and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and leave the sauce to stand for 2 hours. It is important to leave it to stand before you transfer it to the jars, because the ingredients continue to cook and infuse the flavours.

In a food processor blitz the mixture a bit. Not too much though, it’s nice to leave some texture to the salsa.

Ladle the salsa into clean jars, clean the rim and seal. We recommend you sterilise the jars before you fill them. Once filled, leave the jars in a pan of boiling water for around 20 minutes, to pasteurise them. Please remember, the recipe amount made twice the amount of jars you see here. Feel free to half or quarter the amounts for a more normal quantity of Salsa. Enjoy!

Courgetti with salmon, rocket and spinach pesto

I´ve been really inspired this week, cooking lots and on a bit of a posting frenzy! Once I have got to grips with the admin side of the blog I will send you all a fortnightly roundup, highlighting the latest Pescetarian Pleasures recipes. I don´t want to spam you, so in the mean time if you are getting fed up with the posts, you can adjust your subscription setting to only receive notification emails weekly.

This delicious, super healthy and quick meal ticks all the boxes! I could eat this time and time again, without it getting boring. Since it´s high in protein and low in carbs, you don´t have to think twice about going back for seconds (or thirds)!

Ingredients:

2 courgettes

250g salmon, filleted

50g rocket

2 tbsp spinach pesto

30g pumpkin seeds

30g parmesan shavings

Method:

Make the Spinach pesto in advance.

Using a Spiralizer turn the courgettes into spaghetti – or courgetti! To be honest,  I´m a total sucker for a kitchen gadget and I can´t pass a kitchen shop without accidentally wasting an hour. I have easily got my money’s worth out of the Spiralizer as I use it quite a lot. If you don’t have one however,  you can julienne the courgettes by hand with a knife. You want to end up with long, thin strips of courgette that are uniform length and looks like spaghetti (see the How to julienne a pepper).

Meanwhile boil a pan of water, remove from the heat and pop the salmon fillets in to poach gently. After about 5 minutes, remove the salmon from the water. Take off the skin and flake the fish onto a plate.

Heat a little olive oil in a pan and sautée the courgetti for a few minutes, stiring constantly. Don´t over cook the courgetti, otherwise it turns to mush.

Tip the courgetti into a bowl and season. Pour over a few glugs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the pesto. Mix thoroughly, adding the rocket and the pumpkin seeds. Top with the salmon and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice. Et voilà!

Ricotta stuffed courgette flowers – Pescetarian Pleasures

If you are lucky enough to have a big garden or allotment, it probably provides you with an abundance of edible flowers. Courgette flowers; what a delight!

It always excites me when I see these beautiful, courgette flowers on a menu. The delicate structures are simple, light and take on any flavours you decide to fill them with. You are going to LOVE this recipe because the heat from the chilli, the saltiness of the feta and zesty citrus compliment each other so well.

Ingredients:

10 courgette flowers

sunflower oil, for frying

Filling ingredients:

400g Ricotta

150g Feta, crumbled

1 lemon, zested

coriander, small bunch chopped

1 chilli, finely diced

Tempura ingredients:

100g plain flour

175ml iced water

1 egg

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

salt and pepper

Place the Feta in a bowl and crumble it with a fork. Make sure there are no big lumps otherwise they block the piping bag. Add the other filling ingredients, season and mix thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a nozzle (if you don’t have one use a sandwich bag and snip the corner off).

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, flour and bicarbonate of soda, adding the iced water bit by bit. Keep whisking until the mixture has the consistency of pancake batter.

Carefully open each flower and put the piping bag nozzle inside, filling each one with about a tablespoon of the mixture. Carefully wrap the leaves round to close the flowers.

These are filled and ready to be dipped in tempura.

We rarely deep fry things at home, so don’t have a frier. Instead, heat about an inch of oil in a frying pan, over a medium heat. Dust the flowers in flour, then dip them in the tempura mix. Make sure the flowers are covered and gently lay them into the oil. Be careful, the oil tends to splash a lot. Fry batches of a few at a time, for about 1-2 minutes on each side, then flip over. Remove from the pan. Drain on off the excess oil on kitchen paper and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper!

Stuffed round courgettes, with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan

You can stuff these little round courgettes with just about anything, but my favourite combination so far has to be sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan. This healthy recipe does contain a bit of fish, but for a strictly vegetarian dish just omit the anchovies. Sometimes I add red quinoa or a handful of baby spinach leaves, but I keep coming back to this base recipe below…

Ingredients:

6 round courgettes

2 shallots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

80g sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

60g parmesan, grated

3 anchovy fillets, chopped

25g Panko

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200º.

Wash the courgettes and cut in half. Slice a bit off the flower and stem end of each one, so that they have a flat base and don’t roll around. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh, putting this to one side.

Place the courgettes on a baking tray or dish and roast empty for about 15 minutes.

I used jarred sun dried tomatoes for this recipe, the oil in the jar is full of lovely, tomatoey flavour. Heat a bit of this oil in a pan and start to fry the shallots. Add the courgette flesh (finely chopped) and the garlic. Fry for about 10 minutes, then add the anchovy. Remove from the heat after a couple of minutes, season and stir half of the Parmesan in to the mixture. Spoon the mixture in to the courgette and sprinkle the top with Panko (to make the top a bit crunchy) and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for a further 20 minutes, and serve with some salad. I find spinach and rocket go quite well with the flavours.

Cinnamon Pecan Pie – Pescetarian Pleasures

Pecan pie has to be in my top 5 list of favorite deserts (with sticky toffee pudding taking the gold medal position)! Best served warm, with a big scoop of quality vanilla ice cream, it makes a great end to most meals. With still loads of Barb and Dale´s maple syrup to get through, I decided to make yet another pecan pie. They never get boring, proven by the fact that they never last more than a day or two in my house. The only drawback with this recipe is that pecans can be pretty expensive. I once tried to a similar pie with walnuts, but it wasn´t the same, obviously! Walnuts have a slightly sweeter flavor, and lack some of the depth and richness of pecans.

Ingredients:

500g shortcrust pastry

300g pecans halves

350g maple syrup

60g almond powder

100g caster sugar

3 eggs

75g butter

1 tsp cinnamon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180º.

Make the short crust pastry in advance and roll out, until´s about 5mm thick. Rub the inside of a 24 cm tart tin with butter and line with the pastry. Trim the pastry to the top of the tin, I like to pucker the edges so the pie looks more rustic, but some people prefer a neater looking finish. Prick the pastry all over with a fork. Blind bake it with baking beans on top of baking paper for about 20 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the base is starting to brown nicely.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat. Add the sugar and heat until the sugar grains have melted. In a bowl mix the maple syrup, eggs almond powder and cinnamon. Add the butter and mix with a electric whisk until the mixture is well combined and light.

Add the pecans, and mix them until well coated.

Pour the mixture into the baked pie base and cook for about 35 minutes. Some people like to line up the pecans in neat patterns. Great if you have time, but if you are in a rush, or if you prefer the rustic look like me, just bake it as it is. Leave it to cool in the tin, but make sure you run a knife around the sides, to ensure you don´t have a nightmare trying to get it out of the tin.

Pumpkin and peanut soup

Ingredients:

1 pumpkin (mine weighed 1.4kgs)

6 garlic cloves

400ml coconut milk

75g salted peanuts

1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed

1 tsp red pepper corns, crushed

Hot sauce

Salt and pepper

Water

Peel the garlic cloves and cut them lengthways. In a saucepan, heat a little oil and fry the garlic with the cumin seeds and pepper corns, until brown.

Cut the pumpkin in half, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Peel it, roughly cut into cubes and add to the pan with the coconut milk. Top the ingredients up with water so the pumpkin is nearly covered. Season with salt and pepper and add a few glugs of hot sauce. I like my food pretty spicy and the hot sauce nicely compliments the sweetness of the pumpkin.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, until the pumpkin is cooked. I like to add the peanuts whilst the pumpkin is boiling, so that they cook and soften. On a trip to the Caribbean years ago, I was surprised to see monkey nuts being cooked in a pressure cooker, in their shells. They swelled up to twice the size and had the texture of cooked chickpeas. They were much sweeter than the uncooked ones, and were equally as moreish!

When cooked, blitz the mixture with a hand blender, and serve with a glug of sesame oil or argan oil and some crusty bread.

This is a vegan dish and is the last of my trio of pumpkin recipes. If you still have pumpkin to use up after Halloween, check out…

Olive and bean baked pumpkin

Pumpkin, parsley and pomegranate salad

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