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Has it really been 5 months since I wrote a post? Needless to say, like everyone else I’ve been busy!

Since my last communication I have

  • Taken and passed my Wine exam with a distinction
  • Sat through the Leiths diploma theory exam and stood through a 5 hour practical and passed!
  • Enjoyed a lovely long weekend with my family on the outskirts of Rome
  • Spent a month taking in the sights, hospitality and divine food of Hong Kong, Cambodia and Vietnam
  • Fed nine hungry golfers for a week at a gorgeous villa in the hills of Catalunya
  • Worked freelance for various catering companies
  • Baked an enormous and rather delicious chocolate cake for a 50th birthday party
  • Run my first independent canape and bowl food events to great success

So whats’ next?

You might remember my post: Lessons from work experience as I considered my options post Leiths. One of the greatest things about a life in food is that it is constantly evolving, you can never stop learning new styles, techniques and recipes, from yourself and from others. I wanted to do something I loved and to be my own boss so I have taken the first steps to setting up my own catering and events business. Details of what I will be doing will follow, and cookery classes are comings soon. But in the meantime here is a recipe (especially for Hayley) that makes use of a fabulous ingredient currently in season: Fennel

Fennel and lemon risotto with prawns
Serves 2

1 fennel bulb
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, plus 1 tbsp to finish
1 onion, finely chopped
180g risotto rice
1 large glass of white wine or vermouth
600ml vegetable stock
zest of 1 lemon, and juice to taste
25g parmesan, grated
6 peeled, raw large prawns

Finely chop the onion. Trim any green fronds from the fennel bulb and reserve for a garnish. Cut the fennel bulb in half and thinly slice three slices from each side using a mandolin or sharp knife. Finely chop the remaining fennel.

Very gently simmer the stock. In a separate pan gently sweat the chopped onion and fennel in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir until coated in oil. Turn the heat up and add the wine or vermouth. Stir until evaporated. Turn the heat down and add a ladleful of stock, stir from time to time until it has reduced. Repeat until the rice is al dente (has a slight bite). You may not need to use all of the stock.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan and add the fennel slices. Cook until golden and then gently flip over. Add a ladleful of stock and allow to simmer until the stock has evaporated and the fennel is soft and golden.

Devein the prawns, make a shallow cut along the length of the black line and lift the intestinal tract out using the tip of a knife.

When the risotto is al dente, add the zest, butter and parmesan. Season to taste. If you would like a more lemony flavour, add some lemon juice. Cover  the pan and leave for 5 minutes while you cook the prawns.

Push the fennel slices over to one side of the pan. Turn the heat up and fry the prawns on each side until pink.

Spoon the risotto into bowls, top with  three fennel slices, three prawns and the fennel fronds.

p.s apologies to any followers that received an earlier email notifying them of a new but only half written post. The new changes (probably not so new anymore) to wordpress temporarily confused me!

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The demands of my stomach to try authentic cuisine from around the world often dictates holiday destinations so it was with no surprise that Mr W. and I travelled to Morocco to sample many of the culinary delights this country has to offer. Cinnamon, cardamon, cumin, ginger, apricots, dates, chermoula, mint tea, rosewater, saffron, ras el hanout, pastilla, tagine … the list of delicious ingredients, flavour combinations and dishes goes on and in my opinion – what is not to love! I wish I could say the same for the treatment of animals, the vast gap between rich and poor, and the almost aggressive insistence of some hawkers.

The aromatic scents that hit you at every turn are almost intoxicating and it is very difficult not to dine well (though a bout of two of food poisoning at some point is sadly to be expected). In the safety of my own kitchen Moroccan influenced flavours often appear in my cookery and no doubt, over time this influence will be felt in the content of this blog.

A traditional Moroccan meal begins with a delicious array of hot and cold salads, often accompanied with or followed by briouats, little triangular or cylindrical parcels of meat, seafood or cheese wrapped in warqa, a paper-thin Moroccan dough. Whenever I have a dinner party with a Moroccan influence I like to serve some of these little parcels. Favourites include butternut squash, spinach, pinenuts and cinnamon but it is this filling that is always the surprise success of the evening.  I caution now that this version is not authentic, I use filo pastry for starters rather than warqa, spring wrappers would be another alternative. This particular recipe uses smoked mackerel and I’m not sure you would find this particular combination in a traditional Moroccan restaurant or kitchen. The combination of Moroccan spices, sultanas, pinenuts and corriander create a delicious and moreish snack that have so far had my guests coming back for more, I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t like them.

Adapted from a recipe in a Waitrose magazine.

makes 10

150g smoked peppered mackerel, skinned and flaked
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
25g sultanas
15g pinenuts
2tsp Ras el Hanout
1 clove garlic, crushed
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp chopped coriander
5 sheets of filo pastry
2-3tbsp olive oil

Heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and saute the onion until soft. Add the flaked mackerel, garlic, sultanas, pinenuts and Ras el Hanout and continue cooking for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the coriander and lemon zest.

Lay 5 sheets of filo pastry on the worktop and cut into 4 strips widthways. Take one strip and brush it with a little olive oil. Lay another strip on top. Place 1-11/2 teaspoons of the mackerel mixture in the top left corner of the strip and fold over to form a triangle. Continue folding in a triangle shape until you reach the end of the sheet. Repeat to make 10 parcels.

Place the parcels on a non stick baking tray and brush with a little oil. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Leave to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.

These parcels can be made in advance and reheated in the oven for 5 minutes, or they can be frozen for up to a month and baked from frozen for about 25 minutes.

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