As autumn begins, the nights draw in and offer us the chance to snuggle down to a warmer, more comforting style of eating. We are all guilty of wanting that 'hug' from certain foods and in this issue I want to share my spice blend recipe and show, with a little imagination, how easy it can be to achieve beautiful, warming winter spiced meals and drinks.
For the spice blend just add together the following ground spices:
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp ground nutmeg
½ tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp ground ginger
½ tbsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp ground star anise
¼ tbsp ground black pepper
Zest of one tangerine
This blend can be added to any bread or cake recipe or even scrambled eggs to give them a lovely winter feel. It's perfect in Welsh cakes, with the only problem being you can't stop yourself at just one!
To create a simple but beautiful warming soup, take one large head of cauliflower and chop into chunks. Dice one medium onion and a clove of garlic, and sweat off in a drizzle of olive oil until soft, then add a small tablespoon of the spice mix and cook out for a further few minutes. Once the spices have cooked out, add in the cauliflower and 500ml of stock (either chicken or vegetable) and cook for around 10 to 15mins. Add 100ml of double cream then blitz to whatever consistency you like. Season with salt, then pour into big bowls and top with some crispy bacon or some extra cauliflower florets roasted in the spice mix, and – of course – some warm crusty bread.
As this is the season for entertaining another great idea is to add a good sprinkle of the spice mix into some sausage meat along with a handful of sultanas, some green chilli, fresh parsley and coriander. Mix well and season. Chill the mix for one hour then take out a sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry. Roll up the sausage meat to create one long sausage roll. Return the sausage roll to the fridge for 30 minutes. Once chilled, cut in to bite-sized pieces, brush with egg yolk and cook in an 180C preheated oven until golden brown and the juices run clear. Serve warm and, for that special touch, add a large pinch of mild curry powder and good squeeze of lemon juice to some mayonnaise and mix well. Grab these while you can because they wont be around for very long!
Spice also work well in desserts. I mentioned the mix is perfect for baking, but certain spices are great in cold desserts too. For a lovely addition to a crème brulee take 400ml of double cream, 100ml of milk, a splash of vanilla extract and 3-4 cardamom pods, then bring to the boil, leave to infuse and cool to room temp. Whisk together 8 egg yolks and 75g of caster sugar then pour the cooled cream and milk onto the eggs and sugar, whisking well to avoid lumps.
Pour this mix through a sieve into oven-proof dishes or ramekins. Place these in a roasting tray, then pour water into the tray until it's half way up the side of the dishes. Bake at 95C for around 30-40 minutes until set, but with a little wobble. Serve with some fresh orange segments and grate over a little dark chocolate. You can even get that trademark crack by covering the tops with caster sugar and using a cook's blowtorch or grill to caramelise it. There really is no limit to what you add a lovely autumnal touch to.
You can change the amounts or add in new spices to make it your own mixture. Just have a go and see what magic you create!