Monthly Archives: August 2012

Chocolate Chestnut Tart


Last night a friend from law school and her husband came over for dinner.  We’d been at A Man’s dad’s for lunch, so I didn’t want to do anything too involved for dinner because I didn’t think I’d have time – roast chicken it was.  However, I was also determined to make something for pudding, and decided upon this simple but classy dessert, which I more or less created on the spot.

I’ve already mentioned the garlic and saucisson sec we brought back from France, but they weren’t the only culinary treats we came home with.  One of the gifts our French friends gave us was a large tin of chestnut purée.  Following a suggestion by my mum, I decided to make a tart using the chestnuts as a base.  I planned to serve it with either cream or ice cream, but had neither so improvised the chocolate brandy sauce, which was pretty successful.  The chocolate I used was in fact left over from the strawberries I decorated my friend’s hen party cake with and seems to have been quite happy to sit in the fridge since then.  Oh, I’m good at dealing with leftovers!

Speaking of which, there’s now half a tin of chestnut purée in my fridge.  Any ideas of what I can do with it?

Love love

Gemma xx

Chocolate Chestnut Tart

150g dark chocolate
200g chestnut purée
2 eggs
Caster sugar to taste
Filo pastry
Melted butter

For the sauce
Dark chocolate
White chocolate

I served the sauce in the teapot because it was the most appropriate receptacle I could find 🙂

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie.  Whilst it is melting, beat the chestnut purée with the eggs.
  2. Once the chocolate has melted, add it to the chestnut mixture.  Stir in a little sugar.  One of the great things about this pudding is its richness, so don’t add too much.
  3. Unwrap the pastry according to the packet.  Brush each sheet with a little melted butter and layer in a tart tin.  Spoon the chestnut mixture into the pastry case and bake in a medium-hot oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. For the sauce, melt together the chocolate with about 50g butter.  Once it has melted, add enough milk to reach a pouring consistency, and about 4 tablespoons brandy.  The tart and sauce are both very rich, so you only need a tiny slice.

Creamy Trout Fusilli


Yesterday I planned a quick dinner because I figured it would be more relaxing than spending hours in the kitchen.  As it happened, I spent hours in the kitchen anyway as water was streaming through the ceiling and flooding the place.  Not impressed.  It’s just as well dinner was quick because I definitely didn’t have the energy to do something time consuming after so much mopping!  Had I not already thawed the fish you can absolutely bet we’d have had takeaway.

As I’ve already mentioned, this meal is quick (it only takes as long as the pasta takes to cook) and tasty.  You can add different veg to it, take the fish out if you don’t fancy, use salmon or ham instead, grate some cheese on top etc.  Play around with the ingredients depending on what you’ve got in.

Love love

Gemma xx

Creamy Trout Fusilli

Fusilli (or any pasta will do)
Spring onions
Courgette (we used a huge one from A Man’s mum’s allotment 🙂 )
Juice of half a lemon
Trout fillet, skinned and boned

I realise this photo is super uninspiring, but I’m not going to apologise for that 🙂

  1. Put the pasta on to cook as per the instructions
  2. Chop the spring onions and fry in a little olive oil.  Chop the courgette (and, if it’s anything like as big as ours was, peel it too!) and add to the spring onions.  Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add some cream to the veg and stir well.  Add a couple of heaped teaspoons of pesto and the lemon juice and turn the heat down to low.  Continue to stir to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain most of the water from it, keeping a couple of tablespoons.  Add to the sauce and stir well.
  5. Just before serving, chop the trout into bitesized chunks and stir through the pasta.  The heat from the pasta and sauce will cook the fish, so serve immediately to prevent it from overcooking.  Serve with lots of fresh black pepper.

Fully Loaded Duck Tacos with Blueberry Salsa


It’s been a beautiful day in deepest Wiltshire, and has involved A Man using his bow for the first time in over a year (which inevitably led to A Happyfaced Man) and a relaxing couple of hours reading by the lake.  Mmmm.  This called for something summery for dinner, which inevitably had to involve using up some leftover duck which was lurking in the bottom of the fridge.

We went with tacos, and I cheated by using the packet of spices which came with the taco shells – simply marinated the roasted duck meat in the spices for a while, fried some sliced red onions, added the meat and a tin of black eyed beans (with the water) and left it to reduce a bit.  I served the tacos with guacamole, grated cheese, shredded red cabbage dressed in lemon juice, carrot ribbons with coriander, the salsa which came with the tacos and a blueberry salsa which I improvised after managing to buy some blueberries for 19p.

All of the taco ingredients, plus bonus vintage sewing machine in the background 🙂

As we ended up with 10 taco shells (far too much for two people!), I decided to make extra of all of the side dishes, and we’ll have them tomorrow with leftover pulled pork cheek which has been sitting in my freezer.  Perfect as neither of us will be in to make dinner tomorrow.  I can hardly wait!

Love love

Gemma xx

Blueberry Salsa

1 small punnet blueberries
Half a small glass of red wine
1 red chilli, deseeded
Around 2 dessert spoons caster sugar

‘Make me one with everything because I’m going to become a Buddhist’. A Man’s taco, filled with everything he could lay his hands on.

  1. Place the blueberries and wine in a pan and set on a medium heat.
  2. Thinly slice the chilli and add to the blueberry mix, along with a spoon full of sugar.  Stir well.
  3. Turn the heat down and leave to simmer until the blueberries are very soft.  Squash them with the spoon and leave the salsa to reduce.
  4. Taste the salsa and season with more sugar if necessary.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.  Yes, I realise this is very similar to the chilli-cherry sauce I made the other week.  Hush!

Wild Boar Pizza with Allotment Salad


A Man and I went for a cinema date on Friday, and I really fancied pizza for dinner.  He wasn’t in the mood though, so I agreed that we would go to Wagamama’s and make pizza for dinner on Saturday night.

I’ve blogged about pizza a couple of times, so I won’t bore you with that again.  I tried making the dough with some wholemeal flour but it wasn’t as good as before, so I’ll just be using plain white flour in future.  Oh well – lesson learned!

As well as the garlic we also brought back some other culinary delights from France, one of which was a Saucisson Sec de Sanglier – Wild Boar salami.  A few years ago, as A Man and I were preparing to return to the UK after our European tour, we went to a food market in France where we tried some wild boar prepared similarly to parma ham and it was fantastic.  Unfortunately we didn’t have the space in our luggage to bring any back, but the memory remained and A Man was on the lookout at the Rennes market.  As we couldn’t find the ham, saucisson sec was a good alternative and it was a delicious addition to the pizza.

A Man’s mum visited us during the week, and came bearing fresh vegetables from her allotment.  I decided to make up a yummy salad, with some of the red onion, carrots and peas that she brought us.  Yummy!  It’s a fairly robust salad, and adding some pesto to the dressing really helped to bring the flavours of the veg out.  I plan to have the rest with some more saucisson sec for my lunch today 🙂

And, as a final farewell, here are two of her carrots having a cuddle.

Awww, cuddling carrots. How sweet!

Love love

Gemma xx

Allotment Salad

Fresh peas, shelled
Small red onion
Mixed nuts
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Pesto

Allotment salad, with pizza in the background. Mmm, yummy!

  1. Thinly slice the onion.  Peel or scrub the carrots if necessary and chop into fairly small chunks.  Chop the cucumber into cubes and tear the lettuce.  Chop the nuts fairly finely.  Launch all the veg and nuts into a bowl.
  2. Mix the pesto with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Season to taste.  Dress the salad and serve.


Man Cook. Man Hit Food With Hammer.


I’ve been meaning to write up this post for a few days now, but haven’t quite found the time to sit and type it up.  The other day I went up to Bristol to meet up with a friend, and A Man agreed to cook tea for when I got home.  My parents often buy him kitchen equipment for Christmas and birthdays, and one of these recent gifts was a meat tenderiser.  It was generally agreed that, of all his utensils, a hammer is about as manly as it’s likely to get.

The Ikea Värdefull Meat Hammer. My dad insisted on making some lewd comments about it being dual use, owing to the tapered, yet rounded shape of the handle…

I have banned A Man from calling it a ‘Meat Hammer’, because it reminds me of this scene from the hilarious Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog

Anywho, I digress.  We were shopping at the weekend and A Man suggested he could make pork escalopes for dinner which was an excellent plan and what he did.  They tasted so good – highly recommended!

Love love

Gemma xx

Lemon and Rosemary Escalopes

Pork tenderloin
Fresh breadcrumbs (use a cheese grater if you don’t have a food processor)
Zest of 2 lemons
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
Plain flour
100ml milk
2 eggs
100g butter
Olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1 small glass cider


  1. Slice the tenderloin into several pieces.  Lay between two sheets of cling film or baking parchment and bash them to around 5mm thick.
  2. Add the lemon zest, rosemary and some salt and pepper to the breadcrumbs.  Whisk the milk and eggs together.
  3. Dredge the escalopes first in flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs.  Repeat the egg and breadcrumbs to ensure they are well coated.
  4. Heat a large frying pan with some olive oil and around half the butter.  Place a plate to warm in the oven.  Once the butter has melted and is foaming, cook the escalopes on both sides until browned, crispy and cooked through.  Drain on kitchen roll and keep warm until ready to serve.
  5. Once all of the pork is cooked, melt the remaining butter and add the lemon juice and cider.  Turn up the heat to reduce the sauce by half.
  6. Serve the escalopes with roasted onions and butternut squash wedges, and steamed sugarsnap peas.
  7. We had leftover pork that we couldn’t finish.  It was absolutely fantastic chilled in a sandwich the next day!

Thai Green Curry

Why hello there, long time no see.

I must apologise – over the past couple of weeks I’ve been most unadventurous in the kitchen.  Dinners have consisted of either leftover freezer food or easy easy things which may be tasty but are definitely not blogworthy (spag bol anyone?!).  I have been occupying myself out of the kitchen (shock!), primarily with the assistance of sewing (preceded by incredibly necessary maintenance on my very very pretty but 50-year-old sewing machine), knitting, attempting to crochet and origami.  All with end goals in sight, I swear!  As a result I’ve been neglecting you – I’m very sorry for that.

Today has been gorgeous, and I wanted something fragrant and delicious for dinner.  I haven’t cooked thai food for ages, and the fact that we had to go food shopping anyway seemed like a perfect excuse to make a green curry.  It takes a while to make the paste, but it’s totally worth it.  This one’s almost soupy, the way I like it, but if you prefer a thicker sauce then you don’t have to add as much liquid as I do.  You can also make the paste in a food processor, but I find chopping and grinding it to be quite cathartic (although I did enlist the assistance of A Man when my arm got tired!).

Having never been to Thailand, I’ve no clue whether this is anywhere close to authentic, but it really hit the nail on the head for me.  Definitely what I needed to eat tonight!  You can change up the ingredients to use fish, prawns or veggies if you like.  If you’re making a vegetarian version, just use soy sauce instead of fish sauce.

Both A Man and I have been cooking with a lot of garlic recently, partially because we both love garlic, but also because one of the souvenirs he brought back from our recent holiday in France was a grappe of garlic from the Rennes food market.  The bulbs are really big, less harsh-tasting than supermarket stuff and frankly damned tasty.

Yes, we really did go to France and bring back garlic.  So shoot us.

Love love

Gemma xx

Thai Green Curry

Unveiling the curry 🙂

For the Paste
Root Ginger – about 2 cm
Fresh Galangal – about cm
Shallots – 2 or 3
Spring Onions – 3 or 4
Finger Chillis – 2-4
Garlic Cloves – about 5 fat cloves
Lemongrass – 1 or 2 stalks
Kaffir Lime Leaves – about 5
Zest of 1 lime
Pinch of course salt
A little vegetable oil

For the Curry
Chicken, prawns or whatever you fancy.  I used chicken thigh fillets, chopped into chunky pieces
Red onion, chopped
Butternut squash, chopped into thin slices
Carrot, chopped
Mushroom, sliced
Courgette, sliced
Sugarsnap peas
250ml coconut cream.  Not coconut milk, because the stock dilutes it somewhat.
250ml stock.  I used homemade chicken stock
Fish sauce/soy sauce
Coriander.  Fresh and chopped for preference, but I had to use some prepared coriander from a jar 😦
Juice of 1/2 lime

  1. Peel and grate the ginger and galangal with a microplane grater.  Squeeze the juice from any fibrous gunk and discard the fibrous bit.
  2. Finely chop the remaining paste vegetables and spices.  Use 2 chillis to start with – you will be able to add more later if necessary.
  3. Grind all of the paste ingredients together until it’s fairly homogeneous, although lumps are OK.
  4. Heat a little vegetable oil in a wok.  If using chicken, brown it all over and then remove from the pan.  Fry the paste ingredients for 3-5 minutes on a low heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the onion, squash and carrot to the paste and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Add the mushroom and courgette and fry for a couple of more minutes.  Stir through the coconut and stock and add the chicken/prawns etc to the sauce.  Turn down to a medium-low temperature, cover the wok and cook for 5 minutes or until the meat has just cooked through.
  6. Add the sugarsnaps, a few drops of fish sauce/soy sauce, a heaped teaspoon of coriander and the lime juice.  Stir well and taste the sauce.  Season further with fish sauce if necessary.  If you feel like it needs some more heat, chop up another chilli and fry for a minute or so in a separate pan.  Add to the sauce and taste again.  Remember, you can always add more chilli but you can’t take it away!  It’s taken me a long time to learn this 🙂
  7. Serve with rice noodles and crackers.  And spoons.  Definitely spoons – you don’t want to miss out on all that juicy deliciousness.