• Gerry Wilton, chief chocolate officer at events company Chocolate Delight, is aiming to spread a little Christmas cheer with his extreme chocolate truffle making video posted on youtube. In the video, Gerry whisks up chocolate truffles in his own inimitable style while singing instructions to the tune of Mack the Knife, prompting one bemused commenter to write: "I tried this - my hair is now silky soft - thank you."

  • Chilly round the edges, dark nights and dull days call for turning up the heat and that's what the dedicated bunch of oliveers at Olives Et Al have done with NEW Chilli Harissa.

  • Celebrating the birthday of Scotland's national poet, Burns Night on 25 January is the culmination of Scotland's Winter Festivals (including St Andrews Day and Hogmanay) and with so much going on, Scotland is definitely the place to be. Here are some top events for food lovers and some delicious recipes to celebrate.

  • Renowned French chocolate manufacturer Valrhona, will be launching its first culinary classes in the UK during 2012.

    Aimed at the consumer and keen cook, Valrhona will be using recipes and techniques from their book, Cooking with Chocolate. The new classes will replicate the same format as the ones in France, where students are not only taught how to taste, use and store chocolate, but also how a number of techniques can be used to create wonderful cakes, pastries and confectionery.

  • For members gathered in a candle-lit restored tithe barn at Bickham Farm near Exeter in Devon last week for the country's first soup club, there was one question on everyone's lips: what was the tastiest homemade winter soup?

  • Christmas flavoured ice cream is proving a hit for Huddersfield ice cream maker Yummy Yorkshire, which has already sold double the amount it did this time last year.

    The award-winning artisan ice cream producer has to date churned out nearly 500 litres of its limited edition Christmas ices - twice as much as during the same period last December.

  • There is something deceptively simple about these Sugar Wands; they take just 15 minutes to make from basic ingredients.  However, when served alongside ice cream or to along side a crumble, they come alive, soaking up flavours and adding sweetness.

    Ingredients

    375g Ready-Rolled Puff Pastry
    1 Egg York
    1 Teaspoon of Milk
    Caster Sugar

    Method

    1. Fire up your oven to 220C (425F).
    2. Gently unfurl the pre-rolled Puff Pasty and set out on a flat surface.
    3. Whist the Egg Yolk and milk together (the milk helps to loosen the egg yolk for spreading next).
    4. Brush the Egg Yolk over the Puff Pastry covering it entirely; be careful to go right up to the edges.
    5. Sprinkle liberally with Caster Sugar all over the yolked surface.
    6. Slice the Puff Pastry into wands (6-8inches or 15-20cm) in length.
    7. Place the wands on a baking tray.
    8. Bake in the hot oven for 8-10 Minutes until they are crispy and golden brown.
  • A good custard (or crème anglaise) can make or break an awesome dessert.  As a general rule I dislike custard, and would rather have a spoonful of fluffy whipped cream instead.  But for guests I have found this particular method ticks all the right boxes.

    Ingredients

    200ml Milk
    300ml Double Cream
    1 Vanilla Pod
    50g Caster Sugar
    6 Egg Yolks

    Method

    1. Get yourself a pan large enough to comfortably hold 600ml (1pint) of liquid.
    2. Add the milk and cream.
    3. Split open the Vanilla Pod with a knife and scrape the black seed bits out.  Add the seeds and pod halves to the pan.
    4. Bring to the boil.
    5. Whilst the cream and milk is warming up whisk together the caster sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until you get a thick pale and creamy batter.
    6. Managing the heat becomes important now; add half the milk and cream to the bowl of eggs and sugar.  Whisk away at a brisk pace to combine the two liquids.  The yolks will start to cook immediately so the mixture will thicken quite quickly.
    7. Now pour everything back into the saucepan and stir continuously over a gentle heat.  When the mixture holds to the back of the spoon your work is done.
    8. Pour into a jug passing through a sieve on the way to take out any stray lumps.
  • Roasting fish is super simple way to prepare an entire fish in one go.  Roast if you want to crispy well-coloured skin, or bake if you're wanting the fish to take on the flavours of the baking pan.

    Make sure you brush the fish with a little olive oil before placing in the oven.  Other flavours that are delicious and can be added to the pan if you're baking would be...

    • Fennel
    • Herbs
    • Star Anise
    • Pernod

    The Actual Cooking

    Pre-heat your oven to 220 Celsius for roasting, 180 for baking.

    The cooking will take between 20-30 minutes for a whole 1.3-2.2kg (3-5lb) fish.

     

  • Unlike other meats, say chicken, fish in almost all cases has enough of it's own flavour and texture to stand alone after a quick flash in the pan.  This technique is definitely best for smaller pieces of fish or fillets.  Pan-frying a whole fish is probably not a great idea.

    I always bang on about it, but a good frying pan is essential for successful pan-frying.  A cheap and nasty, skinny pan is going to leave you with un-evenly cooked torn fish.  So get a good non-stick heavy bottomed frying pan.  I try not to put more than two pieces of fish in each pan, that way you keep the oil hot and avoid steaming/poaching the fish by accident.

    Great fish for this method; salmon, tuna and other dense fish.

    The Actual Cooking

    A medium heat is probably all you need to avoid leathery fish caused by cooking too fast.  Before the fish touches the pan make sure you dust with flour (to stop it sticking on immediate contact).  Use a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil; add butter in the final 2 minutes of cooking.

    The cooking will take anywhere between 2-7 minutes depending on how thick the meat is.  Remember this tip here to make sure you're cooking just right!

     

  • Fresh produce and ingredients is always important, but never more than with fish.  So how can you tell that you're getting the best fish?

    Smell : If the fish smells fishy, then it's bad.  It's stale and that will not taste good.  Good fresh fish will have a salty, seaweed aroma.  Often times the fishiness associated with a fishmonger's shop is the waste fish (skin/bones/etc) lurking somewhere behind the scenes.

    Eyes : Should be clear, bright/sparkly and full (not depressed and deflated).

    Skin : Shiny with clear slime (not cloudy).

    Gills : Bright and red showing that there's plenty of oxygen in the fish, meaning it's super fresh.

    Touch : Fresh and springy, it should not leave an indentation when you push on it with a finger.

  • After much trial and error I have found the best ways to tell when fish is cooked perfectly.  The key is not to cook the fish through all the way when it's in the pan or on the grill.  You want to warm the fish through, and start the flakes from separately from each other.

    Tip 1

    When the fillet is two-thirds of the way through it is time to flip it, and turn off the heat.  Whilst you work on the rest of the plate residual heat will cook to perfection.

    Tip 2

    Look at the side of the fillet as it cooks.  The flesh will turn from translucent to opaque as it cooks; when it gets two-thirds of the way up, it's time for Tip 1.

    Tip 3

    As fish cooks it gets tougher/firmer.  When you press on the fish with a spatula the flakes should just start to give.

    Tip 4

    Following on with Tip 3, cooked fish is firmer and more brittle.  So when you have a whole fish you can tell it's cooked when you can insert a skewer into the fattest part and go through to the bone effortlessly.  Uncooked fish will be much harder to pierce.

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