15:00 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Frozen Blueberries in a White Chocolate Sauce

This pud is my adaptation of a Mark Hix classic that was once on the menu at the Ivy. I wonder how much they charged for it? It's the sexiest pudding ever and I cannot stress enough how easy it is to make!

I love it for two reasons; because it is beautiful, and because you don't have to think about it at all until you're ready to eat it. It's hardly cooking at all! You can knock it up in 5 minutes after your main course, whilst chatting to guests. I am amazed that something so sinfully easy can look and taste this good. You really want to serve it in pretty glasses to show it off a bit, because it definitely has the 'oooh' factor. If you've been searching for the perfect dessert to share with the girls on a night in, this is it. It's a small 'taste' of a pud, ideal after a big meal when you want a lick of something sweet but can't fit much more in!


About 300g frozen blueberries, or your favourite berry.
100g really good white chocolate - I use Green and Blacks white with Madagascan Vanilla.
100ml Double cream, (crème fraiche works too, but use a little less)
A fat strawberry per person, for decoration

Method, although not much of one:

For four people, you want to allow a small palmful of frozen berries each. You can use any type of berry really, or a bag of the frozen mixed summer fruits you can get in the supermarket. I just happen to think that blueberries work best because they freeze so well and don't go soggy. Divide the frozen berries between your serving glasses straight from the freezer. Doing this first allows them a few minutes defrost time so they soften just enough to let their flavour come through.

Break the chocolate into little pieces into a glass bowl. Add the cream, and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. You don't want the water to touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir lazily until the chocolate has melted and you're left with a sauce. It will look too thin, but when you add it to the cold berries it will thicken in front of your eyes. Magic, no?

Pour your gorgeous sauce over the berries, pop a strawberry in each glass and serve, preparing yourself for ill-deserved compliments on your cooking mastery.

18:18 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Pieminister Pies

So, I don't normally do this. I'm not sure if that's on principal or because I rarely eat 'ready-made' stuff that surprises me this much. Lacking lunch inspiration this week, I grabbed a Pieminister pie from Sainsbury's and threw it in the oven expecting to be unimpressed. Well, humble pie for me. These guys know what they are doing when it comes to the art of proper pie. Mine was the Henny Penny, British free range chicken with mushrooms (porchini and field), white wine, cream and herbs. Ooh it was good. I made little 'mmm' noises eating it, the sort of noises I normally reserve for posh ice cream or fillet steak. I can't make pie better than this, my Mum can't make pie better than this (Sorry, Mum). I have not ever eaten pie better than this. AND IT CAME FROM THE CHILLER SECTION IN THE SUPERMARKET. My mind is blown. All I can say is that my politics lie with these guys, long may they reign.

They come in other enchanting flavours aside from my Henny Penny: Shamrock (steak and ale) Moo and Blue (steak and stilton) Heidi pie (goats cheese, sweet potato and veggies) and loads more. Check them out online, not only do they make serious pies but they are also all-round good people, and I like that.


18:01 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Heston's Pea and Pancetta Spaghetti

Another Heston for Waitrose recipe. Can the man do no wrong? This is a dragged up to date version of spaghetti carbonara, it's fresher, lighter, there's more going on, it's gorgeous!

This recipe is becoming a bit of a staple throw-together pasta supper for me, smart enough for company but easy enough for just the two of you on a weekday night. It's pretty much store cupboard stuff as well, just keep some cubetti di pancetta in the freezer, Easy. (you can cook it from frozen, it tastes exactly the same!) Easy is what you want this time of year when the nights are drawing in and the supermarket just seems like to much effort after a long day. Get home, get this down you and let the chillis do their thing.

PS: I reckon this would be just as good with smoked salmon instead of pancetta.... nice idea for boxing day! Oh, and please excuse the steamy picture, this is a dish that needs to go straight to the table, it is not a natural model!

Ingredients. For 6, easily halved.
5 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1–2 fresh red chillies (about 1–2 tsp), de-veined, deseeded, finely chopped
10 oz pancetta, cubed
1 lb spaghetti
6 medium egg yolks
4 oz freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
9 oz frozen peas
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Fill a large saucepan with water, cover with a lid and place over a medium-high heat to bring to the boil.
2. While the water heats up, put the olive oil, onion, garlic and chilli into a large frying pan and place it over a low to medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the pancetta. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
3. Once the water comes to the boil, add the spaghetti and set a timer for 10 minutes. Stir the spaghetti every few minutes to prevent it from sticking together.
4. With 3 minutes left before the spaghetti is cooked, whisk together the egg yolks, Parmigiano Reggiano and a ladle of the spaghetti cooking water.
5. With 1 minute to go before the pasta is cooked, take the pancetta and onions off the heat and add the frozen peas.
6. Strain the pasta and return it to the saucepan. Add the contents of the frying pan and mix together. Add the black pepper and the egg and cheese mixture and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Stir thoroughly to incorporate everything then serve with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano sprinkled on top.

16:49 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category ,

Spaghetti all'arrabbiata, 'Angry' Pasta.

I've been rediscovering my love of pasta recently, so expect a few recipes that will suit carb-lovers down to the ground. This is a classic, and great at this time of year when there is a glut of tomatoes that are still just edible.
This recipe has been adapted slightly from Robin Howe's classic 1979 book, Italian Cooking. I prefer it with a little more sauce than is traditional, and a good rough spaghetti instead of penne or macaroni. I used scotch bonnet chillis, chopped and with the seeds removed for a building heat as well as flavour. If you are less of a chilli fan, leaving them whole in the sauce and then removing at the end of cooking will leave a more subtle, slightly peeved heat, as opposed to my version which is really quite cross.

To serve four people generously, you'll need:

500g of ripe tomatoes, any will do. We had only about 250g in the greenhouse so I made up the rest with tinned chopped tomatoes. (blanching and peeling all those tomatoes is a massive faff, so I won't judge if you make it up entirely from tinned toms).
Enough good-quality spaghetti for four
25g butter, or a tablespoon of olive oil.
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
100g streaky bacon or cubetti di pancetta.
1 whole scotch bonnet chilli, or two small cayenne peppers (these are what you'll commonly find in the supermarket) very finely chopped
50g grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese.

Cut a cross in the tops of your tomatoes and blanch for a minute in a bowl of very hot water. Peel and chop, discarding the seeds as they make the sauce too acidic. Heat the butter and oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic and bacon, stirring well until the fat runs freely, then add the prepared tomatoes and extra tinned tomatoes if you're using them. Add the chilli and stir. Continue cooking gently, adding about 3/4 of the cheese. Stir from time to time, and allow to thicken over a medium-low heat for about half an hour. With 10 minutes to go, cook the pasta, drain and return to the saucepan. Stir about half the sauce through the hot pasta to coat well. Serve to warmed pasta plates and top with the rest of the sauce and a sprinkle of the leftover cheese.