Jubilee chocolate trifle

In the run up to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee there was a competition to find the best pudding to celebrate at a Jubilee party. A lemon trifle won and I’m sure it was lovely but my chocolate and coffee version with chopped pears and stem ginger was a real winner at our party. Definitely should have entered it! Trifle is a good make-ahead pudding for a lot of people but you do need a nice tall glass bowl so that you can show off all the layers – I found this one in a charity shop for a fiver! You could also make this in individual jars – this quantity would easily fill about 10 Bonne Maman jam jars. This trifle is super-easy to make and uses store cupboard ingredients available from most supermarkets. It is nicer if it’s made the day before, just take it out of the fridge half an hour before you want to serve it though to take the chill off it as it deadens the complex combination of flavours otherwise.

Jubilee chocolate trifle
  • 1 200g pack of Arden and Amici chocolate Savoiardi trifle sponge fingers (Waitrose)
  • 10 tbsps good quality instant coffee made up with 300ml of boiling water
  • 1 tbsp of Kaluha coffee liqueur stirred into 1 500g carton of Jude’s Belgian chocolate custard (Tesco or Sainsbury’s)
  • 2 x 420g cans of pear halves in syrup, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces mixed with 3 balls of stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped and a tablespoon of the syrup
  • 1 300ml carton of whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks with a tsp of vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsps of flaked almonds toasted in 20g melted unsalted butter and 10g of icing sugar
  • 25g Green and Black’s cocoa powder for dusting

To make…

  • Prep all of your layers to begin with and then it’s just an assembly job i.e. make the coffee, mix the chocolate custard with the Kaluha, whip the vanilla cream, chop the drained pears and mix in the stem ginger and syrup. In a small non-stick frying pan melt the butter and icing sugar and add the flaked almonds. Allow them to toast so they are lightly golden and candied by the butter and sugar. Taste all of your components and if you fancy a bit more Kaluha in the custard or more ginger in the pears you can adjust it at this stage.
  • Line the trifle bowl with the Savoiardi fingers – stand them upright in a circle and then add the remainder to the base which will help to stabilise the upright ones – you might need to break them in half. Working quickly, gently spoon over the coffee mixture so that the fingers get a good soaking without them being too soggy or they will collapse before you start to add your filling. Press the fingers into the side of the dish with the back of a spoon if they look like they will fall over. You might not need all of the coffee but it’s best to make enough in the first place.
  • Spread a couple of tablespoons of custard into the base. Dust lightly with cocoa powder.
  • Next layer in the pears mixed with the stem ginger.
  • Now pour the chocolate custard over the pears. Dust lightly with cocoa powder.
  • Cover the custard layer with the softly whipped vanilla cream. Dust lightly with cocoa powder and sprinkle evenly with the candied flaked almonds.
  • Refrigerate, preferably overnight and remove half an hour before serving. Serve the first spoonful from the side and work your way around to make sure everyone gets a good distribution of all of the layers.

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Hassleback squash

I usually roast butternut squash in chunks but roasting it whole in this hassleback style is a lovely variation. It looks special and makes a great centrepiece for vegetarian guests or as a side dish for roast and BBQ meats. I used half a squash here to cook for 2 or 3 but you can just as easily double it up in a bigger roasting tray.

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 6 banana shallots, peeled but kept whole
  • 40g butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace
  • 1/2 tsp salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • Flat leaf parsley to garnish
  • 1 dessertspoon each of toasted pine nuts and pumpkin seeds

To make…

  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • Peel the butternut squash and slice the ends off. Halve it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Very carefully, make incisions into each squash half – about 2/3rds deep and a couple of millimetres apart to create the hassleback effect.
  • Place it in a shallow-sided roasting tray. Add the shallots around the squash.
  • Melt the butter in a pan with the mace, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and fennel seeds.
  • Spoon the melted butter over the squash and shallots.
  • Roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Take it out and baste it with the butter. Roast for another 15 minutes until it’s soft, caramelised and unctuous.
  • Remove from the oven and dress with the toasted pine nuts and pumpkin seeds. Scatter with chopped parsley.

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Feta stuffed roast chicken with orzo

A roast chicken is a welcome family favourite at any time of the year but this Greek-inspired recipe is especially good in the summer. This is based on a recipe by Diana Henry but I’ve changed the cooking method and made a few other tweaks that I think improves it. First, slow roast the chicken stuffed with tomatoes, bread and feta cheese and then add the orzo to soak up all the delicious chicken juices. It’s a fantastic one-pot supper that just needs some green beans, courgettes or a green salad on the side. Once I made my first version of this, I liked it so much I made it again and again. You will too!

orzo chicken
  • 1 large roasting chicken
  • 80g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (you could use sun blush tomatoes too)
  • 75g bread, preferably sourdough or country-style, torn into small pieces
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 225g orzo
  • 500ml boiling chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

To make…

  1. Get the chicken out the fridge and bring it up to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150C.
  3. Put the chicken into an ovenproof dish which has enough room around the edge to add the orzo later. Make the stuffing: mix the feta, tomatoes bread, olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, the dried oregano and a good pinch of salt and black pepper in a bowl. Stuff the chicken cavity with it. Pull the chicken skin flaps either side of the opening over the stuffing and secure it with a couple of cocktail sticks.
  4. Rub the chicken with the paprika, sprinkle with a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Roast in the oven for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and spoon away any excess fat but retain the juices.
  6. Turn the oven up to 200C. Sprinkle the orzo evenly around the chicken and pour on the boiling stock. Return to the oven for a final 20 minutes. Check to make sure the orzo isn’t becoming dry. Just top it up with a little boiling water if needed.
  7. The chicken should be cooked after 2 and a half hours. Always check by piercing it between the leg and body, the juices that run out should be clear, with no traces of pink. The orzo should be tender and the stock should have been absorbed.
  8.  To serve, as epic as this looks whole in the dish, I like to remove the chicken and carve and joint it or it’s a nightmare to share out; the carcass makes a great stock. Stir the fresh chopped herbs into the orzo and push it to one side of the dish, add back the chicken to the other side and spoon out the stuffing to lay it out in the middle. Let everyone serve themselves and add green veg or salad on the side.

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Tabbouleh, Pigeon Cottage-style

Tabbouleh, a salad with a base of bulgur wheat and soft green herbs, is a classic Middle Eastern dish we love to eat all through the summer. There are lots of different recipes for this, some have more herbs than wheat but this is the mix we like that also includes celery and cucumber for extra crunch. It’s perfect as a side dish with BBQ meats and fish although sometimes I just eat it by itself for a quick lunch with some crumbled feta stirred through to add more protein.

Classic tabbouleh
  • Serves 4
  • 85g bulgur wheat
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped into small pieces
  • 10cm chunk of cucumber, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 30g pack of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • Optional: 1 small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
  • 3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

To make...

  • Put the bulgur wheat into a bowl and cover generously with cold water. It should plump up as it absorbs the water. I usually leave mine about an hour and then drain off any remaining water thoroughly.
  • Chop all the herbs and vegetables whilst the wheat is soaking – small pieces look best. Make sure you use a very sharp knife especially when chopping the herbs as this prevents them from bruising.
  • Make the dressing. Add the salt, spices and garlic to the lemon juice first, then add the olive oil.
  • Mix the drained bulgur wheat, chopped salad and herbs and the dressing. Check and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.

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