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Creamy Parsnip Soup, with Ginger & Cardamom

Creamy Parsnip Soup, with Ginger & Cardamom

This delicious soup I am sharing with you today is one I frequently made for dinner parties when I cooked at the Manor.  It is elegant enough for entertaining, making it perfect for the upcoming holidays,  but is also  uses simple ingredients and is very easy to make. Another plus! 

If you are not familiar with Parsnips, they are a root vegetable which is closely related to carrots and parsley. Its long, tuberous root has cream-coloured skin and flesh. Unlike other root vegetables, it is  left in the ground to mature in the autumn, as it becomes sweeter in flavor after winter frosts.

I quite simply adore them, and you will often find them in my soups and stews as they lend a wonderful flavour to these types of things . . .  and on their own they make a beautiful soup.

At Christmas many people roast partially cooked parsnips in the oven with a honey butter glaze as their flavour makes them a beautiful accompaniment to turkey and game.  When I was a girl my mother used to par-boil them and then fry them in butter.  Such a treat! 

This delicious soup makes great use of some of the warm baking spices  . . .  ginger, and cardamom . . .  you will also find garlic, which you might not think would work, but it does  . . .  beautifully!  There is a bit of cayenne for heat, and of course along with the parsnips, there is onion. 

A soup without any onion in it, is sadly lacking in something important in my opinion!  Onions and garlic lend such wonderful savoury flavours to things.  Without them, this soup might be a bit too sweet, I think.

The toasted hazelnut and dried cranberry topping on top gives this simple soup a bit of class.

It is a beautiful garnish with plenty of texture and colour, which helps to set off an otherwise very ordinary looking soup.

The hazelnuts adding a bit of crunch and the cranberry some jewel like sweetness . . .

The creaminess of the soup . . .  that crunch of the nuts, the sweetness of the cranberries . . .  it just all works in harmony to give you a delightful first course for any occasion!

Yield: 4

Creamy Parsnip Soup, with Ginger & Cardamom

prep time: 10 minscook time: 35 minstotal time: 45 mins
Creamy soup with a wonderful hint of sweet spices, ginger and cardamom, along with a toasted hazelnut and cranberry topping.


2 TBS olive oil
1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 TBS butter
large pinch of sugar
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (remove the seeds from green cardamom pods, and
grind them to a powder in your mortar and pestle)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pints chicken broth
1 1/4 pints single cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Garnish:
1 TBS coarsely chopped skinned hazelnuts
1 TBS dried cranberries
1 tsp butter


Heat the oil in a large deep saucepan over medium high heat. 
Once it shimmers, add the parsnips, and onions.  Saute,stirring very
little at first, and then more frequently towards the end, until the
parsnips start to turn golden brown. This should take 7 to 8 minutes. 
Reduce the heat to low and add butter, sugar, and garlic.  Continue to
cook, stirring occasionally until all the vegetables are a rich caramel
colour, some 10 minutes longer.

Add the spices and cook, until
fragrant, then add the broth.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
 Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables
are tender.  This should take about 10 minutes.

Using a stick
blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Stir in the cream and heat until
warm.  Season to taste with some salt and pepper.

Heat the tsp of
 butter for the garnish in a small saucepan.  Add the hazelnuts and
dried cranberries.  Cook until golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

ladle the hot soup into heated bowls and top each serving with a portion of the hazelnut/cranberry saute.  Delicious!
Created using The Recipes Generator

You need not wait for a special occasion to make this delicious soup.  It tastes good any time. I often make it just for a light supper with some crusty bread.  I don't always do the garnish in that case.  (I know, lazy me.)  This is one of the recipes that you will find in my new book coming out in the New Year, entitled "A Year In The English Kitchen".  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Proper  Bechamel - Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese  A tutorial

Proper Bechamel - Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese A tutorial

One skill that every cook should master is the ability to make a proper Bechamel Sauce.  To be able to do so will hold every cook in good stead in the kitchen and in all truth a basic bechamel, or cream sauce as it is also called, forms the basis for many other sauces. 

Bechamel is a white sauce which is made by combining hot flavoured or seasoned milk with a roux (which you can see in the photo below). One of the basic sauces, the classic recipe calls for milk flavoured by heating it with a bay leaf, slice of onion and a blade of mace of nutmeg.  This is left for about half an hour to infuse and then the sauce is thickened with a roux.

A roux is made from combining equal parts of butter and flour.  Generally speaking, there are three different kinds of roux:  White, straw-coloured (blond) or brown, depending on the colour you want your finished sauce to be, with the difference in colour having been created by browning the flour (or not) to varying degrees. 

After mixing the melted butter and flour in a saucepan over heat, the roux must be cooked and stirred for a short time to help eliminate the floury taste.  The longer a roux is cooked, the darker it becomes.  For a basic cream/bechamel sauce you will  not want it to brown at all if you can help it. 

When thickening a preparation with a roux, it is crucial to respect the hot/cold balance of the mix.  A hot roux must always be mixed into a cold liquid, and a cold roux into a hot liquid.  When using a cold roux (which is made simply by rubbing butter and flour together without heating it) you must allow enough time for the roux to melt and let the thickening liquid to cook for a few minutes.  Then it should thicken nicely without leaving a floury after-taste. 

I scanned this photo from my original Betty Crocker Cookery Book, which I have had for many years.  It best describes the steps to follow when making a basic bechamel or cream sauce and gives you quantities to use for the various thicknesses.  Thin sauces are what you will want when you are using it for a garnish for meats, vegetables, etc.  For a bake you will want the sauce to be of a medium thickness and if you are making something like meat or vegetable croquettes, you will want a thick sauce.

Yield: Makes  1 cup

Bechamel Sauce

prep time: cook time: 15 minstotal time: 15 mins
I think this was one of the first things I learnt how to make in home economics at school.   When well made, this simple sauce has a proper place in homey, creamed dishes, often making leftover stretch or giving cooked foods a new life.  A good bechamal is the basis for many dishes such as souffles, or macaroni and cheese.  The foolproof way to achieve a perfectly smooth sauce is to have the milk hot when you add it to the butter and flour.  It uses an extra pot, but perfection is perfection.


2 TBS butter
2 TBS plain flour
285ml of hot milk (1 1/4 cups)
freshly ground black pepper


Melt the butter in a heavy
bottomed saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook,
whisking constantly until the flour is cooked out and bubbles a bit.  Do
 NOT let it brown.   This will take about 2 minutes.   Whisk in the hot
milk, slowly, whisking constantly until the milk is all whisked in and
the sauce thickens.   Bring to the boil.  Stir in the salt and pepper to
 taste. Lower the heat to very low and continue to cook, whisking, for
an additional 2 to 3 minutes longer.   Remove from the heat.  If you are
 using the sauce later, cover the top with a round of baking parchment
to prevent a skin from forming.  (You can also pour a very thin layer of
 milk over top which works in much the same way.)


 Cream Sauce - Use 3 TBS of flour to 225ml/1 cup of milk.  This is the
consistency needed for souffles and meat, poultry or fish croquettes.

 Cream Sauce - Just before serving, beat in 2 large egg yolks, 6 TBS of
butter (1 TBS at a time) and 1 TBS fresh lemon juice

 Sauce - Stir in 60g/1/2 cup of grated Cheddar cheese during the last 2
minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper.

 Sauce - Add 2 TBS of grated Parmesan Cheese and 2 TBS of grated Swiss
cheese during the last two minutes of cooking.  Stir until blended. 
Just before removing from the heat, beat 2 TBS of the sauce into 1
lightly beaten egg yolk.  Stir the yolk/sauce mixture back into the
sauce and add 2 TBS butter.    Continue to cook, stirring, for one
minute longer.
Note - to make a larger quantity, simply double the ingredients.
Created using The Recipes Generator

One of the most common uses for a bechamal sauce is something you have probably already done if you have ever made a macaroni cheese from scratch, and that is to make a cheese sauce!  That is what I have done here to make a variation of one of our favourite dishes and that is a Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese!

Basically, it is a very simple dish.  Blanched florets of broccoli and cauliflower, put into a baking dish you have lined with some cheese sauce and then napped all over with the same sauce.  I like to add a crispy topping to mine. 

This topping is very easily made by blitzing some bread, butter and strong cheddar together in a small food processor.  It makes a lovely crumble that you can then scatter over top of the whole dish. 

As the dish cooks in the oven, the crumbs crisp up beautifully with a lovely golden finish. 

One key for success is to make sure that your vegetables are drained really well before adding them to the dish. If you don't do this then you could end up with a bit of a watery finish, which is not exactly what you want! 

I could sit down to a dish of this all on its own quite happily!  It also makes a great vegetarian main if you have a veggie coming to supper! 

Whether you enjoy this as a side dish or a vegetarian main there is one thing you can count on for sure and that is that it will be enjoyed by all! 

Make sure you use a well flavoured cheddar for the sauce.  It makes all the difference in the world. 

Yield: 4

Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese

prep time: 25 minscook time: 25 minstotal time: 50 mins
Some people may eat this as a main course, and it certainly makes for a delicious one.  Other's may choose to have it as a side dish.  Whichever way you choose, you will not be disappointed.


1 medium cauliflower, broken into bite sized florets
1 medium broccoli, crown, broken into bite sized florets
1 1/2 pints milk (3 cups)
1 bay leaf
1 onion, halved
a few whole cloves
freshly grated nutmeg
4 TBS butter
4 TBS flour
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp Dijon  mustard
120g mature farmhouse cheddar, grated (1 cup)
5 TBS finely grated Parmesan cheese

To finish:
30g strong cheddar cheese (1 ounce)
1 TBS cold butter
1 slice rustic white bread torn


First make the bechamel sauce.  Place the onion, stuck with the cloves
and the bay leaf into a saucepan with the milk.  Bring just to the boil,
 then remove from the heat and allow to stand for 30 minutes to allow
the onion and herbs to infuse the milk with their flavour. At the end of
 half an hour, melt the butter in a saucepan.  Whisk in the flour.  Cook
 for one minute, then slowly whisk in the infused milk, discarding the
onion, bayleaf and cloves.  Whisk and cook until thickened.  Turn heat
to very low and allow to cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently
as to prevent it from catching.  Remove from the heat and then whisk in
the grated cheddar and Parmesan, along with the mustard.  Flavour with
some grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 4.

 a pot of salted water to the boil and then add the vegetable florets.  Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, until they are crispy
tender.  Drain very well.  Cover the bottom of your baking dish lightly with some of the cheese sauce.  Add the well drained vegetables.  Pour the cheese bechamel sauce over top, covering  it well. 

Blitz the topping ingredients in a small food processor until crumbly.  Scatter these crumbs over top.

Place in the heated oven and bake until it begins to brown in places and the sauce is bubbling.  (20 to 25 minutes) Serve hot.

Created using The Recipes Generator

Broccoli & Cauliflower Cheese

You can make a delicious casserole out of almost any cooked vegetable and a cream sauce.  Potatoes, carrots, swede, turnips, etc.  All work very well.  You can add a bit of horseradish to the sauce when cooking potatoes or carrots.  This is delicious.  Cabbage is really delicious when steamed until crispy tender and then baked in a bechamel sauce with some crumbs on top.  Fish is also lovely when baked with a bechamel.  Once you have mastered this sauce the world really is your oyster as to the number of ways you can use it!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Honey Hot Chicken Burgers

Honey Hot Chicken Burgers

I confess I have a real weakness for chicken burgers of any kind. In fact whenever we go to McDonald's or any other fast food place, I will choose a chicken burger over a beef burger 99% of the time.  Usually they are fairly good. 

I also like to make my own at home.  They are always delicious.  I saw this recipe the other week for baked ones on a blog called Spoon Fork Bacon, and they looked fabulous!  So fabulous that as soon as I saw them I wanted to make them! 

I adapted the recipe to what I have available here in the UK, with fabulous results. I did cut down on the amount of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper as we I don't like things to be overly spicy.

Pounded boneless, skinless chicken breasts are tender and delicious, having been marinated in buttermilk for two hours prior to coating and baking.  Buttermilk helps to really tenderise chicken, and gives it a nice flavour.

Once you have marinated the chicken you dredge them in a crumb mixture, made by mixing together panko crumbs, flour and some seasonings, etc.  I tend to be a bit judicious when adding spicy ingredients, but that is due to my gastric problems. By all means use the full amount if you don't mind a bit of heat! 

What I liked about these is the fact that they are baked and not fried, although to be honest, there is a fair bit of butter used.  1 TBS of melted butter gets spooned over each breast once you have coated them.  They are placed on top of a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet to cook in a hot oven.  This helps to maintain the integrity of the crumb coating and the butter also helps them to turn a nice golden brown. 

A delicious mixture of melted butter, honey, along with some more smoked paprika and cayenne is brushed on the finished burgers.  I chose to brush them with some of it for the last 5 to 10 minutes of bake time to really get the flavours in there, and then finished them off with the rest after they were finished baking.

This gave them a really delicious flavourful crisp glazed sweet and spicy coating that worked really well!  I added some crisp rashers of streaky bacon to ours, but that is down to you whether you chose to do so or not! 

In my opinion  bacon and burgers go together like peas and carrots!  I like a bit of bacon on my burgers, chicken or otherwise!

Tucked into toasted brioche buns with the addition of shredded lettuce and ranch dressing, these went down a real treat!  I served them with some oven chips on the side!

Yield: 4

Honey Hot Chicken Burgers

prep time: 2 hourcook time: 30 minstotal time: 2 hours and 30 mins
These delicious burgers are simple and easy to make. Do plan ahead as the chicken needs to marinate in the buttermilk for two hours.  We like to serve them with the optional crisp streaky bacon, but its not necessary. Everyone always loves these.  I serve with some oven chips to make a hearty, yet simple weeknight supper.


4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts,
pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
360ml (1 1/2 cup) buttermilk
140g (1 cup) plain flour
120g (1 cup) panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
180g (3/4 cup) butter, melted and divided
85g (1/4 cup) liquid  honey
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Brioche burger buns, lightly toasted
shredded lettuce
ranch salad dressing
Crisp cooked streaky bacon (optional)


Season the chicken breasts lightly on both sides. Place into a shallow baking dish and pour the buttermilk over top.  Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 225*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Grease a cooling rack really well and then place on top of a baking sheet.

Place the panko crumbs, flour, garlic powder, turmeric, smoked paprika, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl and mix well together.  Remove the chicken from the fridge and, working with one at a time, remove them from the buttermilk and dredge really well in the bread crumb mixture.  Place them onto the cooling rack, leaving plenty of space in between each one.  Discard any buttermilk let in the dish. Spoon 1 TBS of melted butter over each coated piece of chicken.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Whisk together the remaining melted butter, the honey,  paprika and cayenne pepper.  Brush generously over each piece of chicken to glaze. Return to the oven for about  5 minutes, then remove from the oven and brush with the remainder of the honey mixture to finish.
Spread the bottoms of each toasted bun with ranch dressing and top with some shredded lettuce.  Place a chicken breast on top of each, then top with more shredded lettuce and some more ranch dressing, finally covering with the top of the buns.  Serve immediately.

Note - smoked streaky bacon, cooked until crisp, makes an excellent addition.  Plan on two rashers for each burger.  You can also marinate and coat the chicken ahead of time if desired, keeping the coated burgers in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.

Created using The Recipes Generator

I really, REALLY, REALLY enjoyed these burgers.  I do think that if you didn't want to go faffing about and coating your own chicken breasts, you could use a good quality frozen crumbed chicken breast.  They would not be quite as spicy as you wouldn't have the spices in the coating, but the spicy glaze would work very well, adding some about 5 minutes prior to the end of the cook time and the remainder at the end.  Whichever way you choose to do these, from scratch or with a cheat you are in for a real treat!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Hot Chocolate & Cinnamon Toast

Hot Chocolate & Cinnamon Toast

Brrr . . . I think we have had a colder Autumn this year than we have had in recent years and the past few days have been filled with cold showers and a wind that seems to bite right through to the bone.  This is what I like to call canoodling weather, snuggle down weather, cosy-in weather . . .  the beginning of hibernation! 

There is nothing quite like going for a brisk walk on a damp and cold, windy day and then returning to your house and snuggling by the fire with something hot to warm up your hands as you toast your toes! 

Not chocolate and cinnamon toast make a beautiful late afternoon light repast  . . .  with hot and creamy chocolate to sip on  . . . . 

and crisp, buttery toast batons gilded with sweet cinnamon sugar to munch on  . . .  the epitome of Hygge in my opinion.

Call me common, but I like to dip my cinnamon toast into the hot chocolate . . . 

That's why I cut the toast into batons instead of triangles . . . there is a method to my tasty madness! 

There is nothing quite so tasty as a hot chocolate built from scratch . . .  from simmered milk and vanilla and a really good chocolate . . .  you want one with a high cocoa content . . . it does make a difference.  

The vanilla goes beautifully.  One whole pod, seeds scraped out. No worries, you can dry the pod afterwards and shove it deep into your sugar jar where it can flavour your sugar.  Mmmm . . .  vanilla sugar.  I love it. 

Just look at how beautifully dark and creamy that hot chocolate is.  I use dark soft brown sugar, which helps to maintain the integrity of the colour and also gives an additional depth almost molasses like flavour . . .  

If you have a milk frother, do use it to froth some milk to spoon on top.  It looks beautiful and adds a depth of creaminess  . . .

This reminded me of when we were in Germany the first time we went together, and we ordered a hot chocolate at a cafe.  They asked did we want cream.  Well  . . .  why not! 

It came to the table with about six inches of whipped cream piled on top . . .  no slight exaggeration!  It was amazing!  I had never seen anything like this.  Frothed milk is not quite as fattening I promise, but every bit as exciting to see. 

Yield: 3

Hot Chocolate & Cinnamon Toast

prep time: 5 minscook time: 15 minstotal time: 20 mins
Proper hot chocolate and cinnamon toast.  Its well worth the time to make something like this to enjoy together in front of the fire on a cold November day.


For the hot chocolate:
500ml whole milk (2 cups)
1 vanilla pod, split length ways and seeds scraped out
75g plain chocolate with 70% cocoa solids (2 1/2 ounces), broken apart
1 TBS dark soft brown sugar

For the cinnamon toast:
3 thick slices of a good white loaf
50g softened butter (3 TBS)
2 heaped dessertspoons caster (fine granulated) sugar
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon


First start the hot chocolate.  Put the milk along with the vanilla
 pod and the seeds into a saucepan and heat over medium low heat, just
until bubbles appear around the edges of the milk in the pan. Remove
from heat and set aside to infuse the milk with the vanilla flavours for
 10 to 15 minutes. At the end of that time add the chocolate pieces and
the sugar to the pan and return to the heat whisking until they have
melted.  Reduce the heat to low and keep warm while you make the toast.

 the grill/broiler of your oven to high.  Whisk together the sugar and
cinnamon. Toast the bread until just golden brown on both sides.  Slather
 one side of each piece with softened butter, spreading it right to the
edges.  Sprinkle the buttered sides with the cinnamon sugar and return
the toast to the grill/broiler cooking just until the sugar begins to
melt and bubble.

Strain the hot chocolate into
warm mugs.  (Save the vanilla pod, dry and put into your sugar bin to
flavour your sugar.)  Cut the toast into fingers and serve along side of
 the hot chocolate.

Note - if you have a milk frother, a bit of hot milk frothed is lovely spooned over top of the chocolate.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Mmmm . . .  this was so good.  I confess I feel quite spoilt when I indulge in something like this.  You will too!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner

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