Butter Poached Lobster (sous vide), with Girolles and Hazelnuts

Girolles and hazelnuts are just the most glorious combination - both sweet, nutty and earthy, they complement each other well.  The lobster was actually just a vehicle for the girolles, and it could just as easily have been baked squash I made last week, or any number of roasted vegetables.

Girolles are a beautiful colour - they look (and are said to smell) like apricots.  They generally grow in a group together, and are best picked a few days after rain, to allow a decent amount of growth.

Braised Ox Cheek

In January I found myself tucking into a braised ox-cheek, in the middle of a horrific snow storm.  We were in Cheltenham to shoot, a shoot which would subsequently be called off due to 5ft snow drifts. We'd lunched at the fabulous Le Champignon Sauvage and were supposed to have an early dinner in the dining room at the Ellenborough hotel.  With the storm raging around us however, the chef had abandoned us in a fit of pique - apparently he had set up for a conference of two hundred people, and the whole thing had been cancelled at the last moment.

Sweetcorn Fritters

It must be autumn, I'm craving all manner of autumnal veg, from pumpkin to sweetcorn, and every variety of squash and mushroom I can find.  I genuinely think we eat too much meat in our diets, and there is no reason not to have a delicious warm lunch, where the star is the vegetable.

One of my favourites is sweetcorn fritters - but I tend to mix an additional ingredient in, just to add a little variety.  Today's variation was raw orange pepper.  I love raw peppers, but some people find it indigestible, so you could add anything else you fancy.  Crab perhaps? Always delicious. Spring onions? Grated courgettes?

Lemon Drizzle Cake

All bow to Mary Berry, the queen of baking.  And it's true, if I'm looking for a traditional bake, I'll usually look at her recipe first and then move on to check out any variations.  In this case we've never moved beyond Mary's recipe, and it's the cake the children ask for most.  If made using the all-in-one method in a food processor, it literally can be in the oven in five minutes... C'mon - who doesn't have time for a five minute cake???

Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Burger

Yay, it's finally BBQ season... It may look like I only cook chocolate delice and frangipane tarts, but hey, my kids like a burger as much as the next person.  Of course that wouldn't be a generic supermarket burger, and so finally the opportunity to try Heston's perfect burger recipe.  I'd seen this recipe on his How to Cook Like Heston show, but we didn't fire our BBQ at all last year, and so the itch grew and grew.

Stir-fried prawns, pork and squid with glass noodles, chilli and mint

The sun is coming out, and so it's time to eat 'cleaner' food.  I'm a huge fan of Japanese cuisine, but there's something very appealing in Asian salads from all over the continent.  This Cambodian salad, from Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey, really hits my buttons.

Best of all it cane be made in advance - perfect for Sunday evening when you're trying to recover from the post-Sunday lunch blow-out!

Chocolate Delice

I realise that I don't usually pay homage to a chef when making a recipe, but the legendary Monsieur Blanc is no ordinary chef!  Nearly as important to my culinary journey as the Roux Brothers, Raymond is completely self-taught, and his Manoir aux Quat'Saisons has held two Michelin stars since 1985 - no mean feat.  As well as sharing my birthday, Raymond is a most amusing and very brave man - he served both his first and second wife a croquembouche on their wedding day...

Almond and Citrus Drizzle Cake

The girls are always asking me for lemon drizzle cake - it seems that the school makes a fabulous one for snack time.  Of course I couldn't go with a standard version, and wanted to incorporate a couple of different ideas. As well as lemons, I wanted to use blood oranges for a fuller scent load, and a pink icing.  And given my recent obsession with frangipane and nut flours, I also wanted to include a little ground almond into the cake, though I suspect you could probably swap that for polenta too.

Beautiful bergamots

I'm going to shamelessly copy an article
by Sudi in the Independent, not just
because it's an interesting piece on the
versatility of bergamot, but also because
I'm mentioned.

Caraway Blini

I happened to have some smoked salmon which needed using up - you know, like you do - and I wanted a new blini recipe.  The problem with blini is that by about the third, you're feeling their leaden grip in your stomach.  They stop being a vehicle for the topping and become a hindrance.  I'd had my eye on Felicity Cloake's recipe for a while now, as it's a variation on Richard Bertinet's, and I think we all know I love Richard's gallic charm (and his excellent online baking shop).

Pea, Goat's Cheese and Mint Quiche...

It's the annual School Quiz, and the endless battle to create something that can be transported like a picnic, but is more gourmet than soggy sandwiches... I made the mistake of asking Hubby what he fancied, and he requested quiche... Quiche!  I've never made quiche, primarily because my mother-in-law makes such a fantastic one, and, well, just because... But if I was going to have to make quiche, I wanted something really unusual, vibrant and delicious...

Frangipane Tarts

There's something about the scent of frangipane which has haunted me for decades. We have relatives on the French side of the Swiss-France border, and on our very first visit, we had a plum and frangipane tart. The memory has stuck with me for twenty years - served at room temperature - the tart was luscious, creamy, delicately scented - just adorable.

French Apple Tart...

Another weekend, another tart.  This time Ina Garten's apple tart.  Another incredibly simple recipe, this one is a combination of apple slices and puff pastry.  If the quantity of sugar looks a little daunting, I have to say, it did all absorb into the apples, and didn't taste too sweet.  Total prep time is minimal if you use shop bought puff pastry - I think I had the whole thing in the oven within ten minutes!

Banana Bread [Thermomix]

I'm a mother of four - you have to be able to knock-up banana bread to use up all those mushy bananas.  I don't know what happens - some weeks they go through many bunches, others none...  Still, banana bread is a favourite of the 11yo, so it's never a wasted effort.

Moroccan chickpea soup...

My favourite Saturday lunch, always made by Hubby, is this incredibly simple but very aromatic soup. The lemon zest clears your jaded palate and sets you up for the weekend...

As chickpeas are an excellent source of fibre and protein, it's the perfect dish for vegetarians and vegans, without compromising at all on flavour.

Sea trout, with Thai scented stew...

There are so many bugs flying around at the moment, that all I seem to be cooking are stir fries and curries - it's the desperate desire to get garlic, lemon grass and ginger into my family. All four have particular qualities for those suffering at this time of the year - the ginger relieve congestion, lemongrass helps with sore throats, chilli contains capsaicin, and is high in vitamin C, and the garlic has antibacterial properties...

Drop scones with blood-orange compote, and scented crème fraîche...

Now that spring is finally around the corner, it's time to abandon our winter warmers for breakfast, and start awakening our tastebuds.  Citrus fruits are always a delight first thing in the morning, and have the effect of stimulating our palate and our metabolism.  I'm not suggesting you suffer though - this breakfast combination makes a very luxurious treat...  I made it last week for the 11yo during half term, and as today is her 12th birthday, I made it for everyone...

Pumpkin and Peanut Curry

I came across Pure Package in one of the red-tops - the company delivers pre-packaged food on a daily basis for those with specific dietary goals (whether it be weight loss, athletes in training, models etc).  I wasn't particularly interested in the service itself (I enjoy cooking far too much for that), but I was definitely interested in the nutritional aspect.  Browsing through their website, I came across the following recipe from their cookbook, which instantly appealed.  I love anything which uses squash, and as I had everything in my pantry (for once), there seemed no time like the present!

Chorizo and Fennel Seed Sausage Rolls

You may have realised, by now, that I'm catching up on all the recipes I intended to cook in December! A combination of gas leaks, children's flu etc, has somewhat disrupted my schedule.  One thing I really wanted to cook for my annual quiz night were Andy Bates' chorizo and fennel seed sausage rolls...

Fettuccini with lardons and chestnuts...

I came across this great little recipe by Angela Hartnett, in the Guardian...  Angela comes form an Italian family, and often talks about the dishes she learnt at her Nonna's side...  As well as running Murano's, she is working with Luke Holder, Head Chef at Limewood Hotel on a new venture showcasing New Forest produce.

Blood Orange and Fennel Salad

After the best part of a year waiting for their return, blood oranges are finally back in season.  I've made them into sorbet in the past, but sometimes when something is this seasonal it's nice to enjoy them in a very simple recipe.  So - this one is not really a hardship - no waiting for dough to prove - no hanging around! 

Oven-Baked Doughnuts and Knot Rolls

Amongst other things, one of my very dear friends gave me a doughnut pan for my birthday (because that's what dear friends do, when you're an obsessive baker)! The books have been read, the pictures poured over, but the unused pan has remained in my kitchen drawer - silent - mysterious - resolute.  "Try me", it cries, when I open the drawer, "let's make doughnuts"...

Pecan and Salted Caramel Brownies [Thermomix]

Just lately I've been craving Gower Cottage's chocolate brownies, but my secret stash in the freezer was sorely depleted over Christmas!  However serendipity has struck again, as I spotted Ed Kimber's brownie recipe in my in-box this morning.  There's definitely something about salted caramel... It's my favourite filling in Laduree Macaron's, my favourite combination in chocolate bars, there's something about the salty sweetness that becomes utterly addictive!