Toffee Apples!

Halloween is a fabulous  time of the year, and a great excuse for a get together with friends and family. As a child we used to go to friend’s houses in the country and have a big, spooky party. When my kids were younger, I used to take them trick-or-treating in Notting Hill. People used to get dressed up to the nines, which was a true sight to behold! Pumpkins are perhaps the thing that most people symbolise with Halloween, and are also great fun to create.  My Dad grows pumpkins in his garden, they are huge and hang off the vines. Pumpkin soup is a delicious reward from all your hard work carving and not forgetting pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack. Here’s a recipe for toffee apples, which are a real treat to have at this time of the year.

toffee apples

Makes 8

  • 8 Royal Gala apples, stalks removed and washed thoroughly
  • 8 toffee apple sticks – Burgon and Ball do some great ones
  • 450g demerara sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1tbsp golden syrup
  • 2tsp cider vinegar
  • 150ml water
  • Sugar thermometer
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Clear cellophane for wrapping the apples
  • Ribbon to tie around the tops of the apples

Remove the stalks from the apples and push the sticks into the tops in their place. Put the rest of the ingredients into a heavy bottomed pan and simmer gently until the sugar has melted. Once melted, turn up the heat and put the thermometer into the pan. When the temperature reaches 142°C, remove from the heat. Quickly swirl each apple in the toffee mixture, covering well. Allow excess toffee to drop back into the pan.

Place each apple (stick upright) on the paper until the toffee is hard and cooled. Once cooled, cut a square of cellophane for each apple and pull each corner up around the apple to encase it. Tie the corners together around the stick with a small ribbon and serve in a big basket ready for when you get that spooky knock at the door!

Happy Halloween!

Gorgeous Chocolate Mousse

This is a perfect quick and easy treat to make for National Chocolate Week! Enjoy!

Sophie image for email Halloween

Chocolate mousse served in my Portmeirion espresso cup and saucer from www.sophieconran.com

MAKES 6 CUPS
175g/6oz dark chocolate, chopped
110g/4oz butter, cut into cubes
3 large free range eggs, seperated
2 tablespoons of either rum, brandy or espresso coffee
Melt the chocolate slowly in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Then, remove the bowl from the heat and add the butter. Stir until melted and completely mixed together. Add the egg yolks one by one, stirring constantly. Add either the rum, brandy or espresso coffee (depending on your preference).Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed, then gently fold them into the chocolate mixture. Spoon the mixture into cups or mugs and refrigerate overnight or until ready to serve.

FISH PIE FOR LITTLE PIRATES (PIE RATS)

 

Image: David Loftus

Image: David Loftus

Serves 8 sprogs or 4 grown ups

Get your little pirates to help with this one. Peeling eggs, mashing spuds, measuring and weighing is all good fun for tiny chefs. They will also think it tastes better if they have made it themselves.

Ingredients:

 For the filling:

300 g  smoked haddock

300 g  cod fillet

1  bay leaf

450 ml  milk, or enough to just cover the fish

4  large good eggs

4  handfuls frozen peas

1  handful chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tbsp  plain flour

1 tbsp  butter

 salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

for the mash:

4  largish desiree potatoes, peeled and cubed

100 g  butter

 wine glass of milk

 

Pre heat oven to 220C, 425F, Gas Mark 7.

Place the fish in your pie dish with the bay leaf and milk.

Pop it in the oven for 10 minutes, remove the fish from the milk, reserve the milk. Remove the skin from the fish and any bones. Break into large chunks. Put the eggs in a pan of water on a high heat, bring to a rolling boil.

Boil the eggs for 2 minutes, add the peas and bring back to the boil for a minute or 2. Strain and run under cold water. Peel and quarter the eggs lengthways. Put the eggs, fish and peas in the pie dish while you make the sauce and mash

For the sauce:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan on a lowish heat, stir in the flour and sizzle for a couple of minutes, it should not brown. Whisk in the milk, from the fish and bay leaf (unless it is in the bin) Let it gently bubble away for almost 15 minutes, beating with a whisk from time to time. The whisking breaks down the flour, you end up with a nice creamy sauce without the flour flavour. Stir in the parsley and season with salt, allow it cool slightly before pouring over the fish etc. Stir through carefully so the eggs and fish don’t break up.

For the mash:

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water for about 15 minutes or until very tender when poked with a sharp knife. Drain well and mash with the butter, milk and plenty of salt.

Cover the fish with the mash by dolloping it on in large spoonfuls all over the top, fill in the holes by smoothing out with the back of a spoon.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Serve with buttered carrots and runner beans.

 

Aga method:

Cook the fish in the roasting oven on the grid shelf of the lowest set of runners.

Bake the pie on the grid shelf on the lowest set of runners, in the roasting oven.

 

My ‘Mini Book of Pies’ is available from my online shop.

A selection of my Sophie Conran for Portmeirion pie dishes are also available from my online shop. 

 

 

NEW BEDLINEN!

I am so thrilled to launch my brand new collection of bedlinen and nightware, which is exclusive to www.sophieconran.com. The bedlinen collection comprises of two main designs; Moon Tree and Dorothy Dot. The Moon Tree pattern was designed to mirror the eternal nature of the moon’s cycle and the Dorothy Dot pattern takes a modern twist on an old classic. Both patterns have either been beautifully hand-embroidered or meticulously hand-printed by women in their homes in Eastern India, providing them with an income and financial independence. The bedlinen fabrics are 400 thread count pure cotton percale and the pyjamas are 100% linen making them supremely high quality. Scroll down for lots of pictures!

BLOGDorothy Dot Duvet and quilt with cushions copy

Selection of bedlinen

BLOG Moontree  copy

Moon Tree Bedlinen

BLOG Dorothy Dot wash bags large and small  copy

Dorothy Dot Washbags in Large and Small

BLOG Dorothy Dot Pyjama set  copy

Dorothy Dot Linen Pyjama Set

BLOG Dorothy Dot pillow cases copy

Dorothy Dot Bedlinen

 

In my new collection is a gorgeous range of unique, chic  and cuddly cushions. I have designed them so that they look fabulous on your bed or on your sofa. Like the bedlinen, the cushions have also been crafted in Eastern India and the fabrics are all extremely high quality, ensuring that they will last for years to come. I hope you love this collection as much as me and you enjoy shopping the range on www.sophieconran.com. Sophie X

BLOG French knot cushion 3

French Knot Cushion

BLOG Shirring line cushion and dorothy dot cushion

Shirring Lines Cushion- Navy

BLOG Shirring Line Cushion white-linen

Shirring Lines Cushion – White

 

Simple Carrot Cake

Delicious as a pudding or a tea-time treat. I like mine served with a cup of English breakfast tea. The Cake Slice and Cake Plate are both available from my online shop. Happy baking! Sophie X

Cake Slice carrot cake. jpg

Cake Slice and Cake Plate available from www.sophieconran.com

Ingredients:

250g golden granulated sugar

200ml sunflower oil

2 organic eggs

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon marmalade

250g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 medium carrots peeled and grated

A hand full of chopped dried apricots (soft ones)

The juice of ½ an Orange

 

Pre heat the oven to 180C

Butter your 12 x 8 rectangular cake tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.   In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, nutmeg, cinnomon and vanilla with an electric whisk for 5 minutes. Add the marmalade and whisk through. Stir through the flour, bicarb and salt until well combined. Mix in the carrots, apricots and orange juice. Pour into the tin. Cover with foil and bake for an hour or until when poked in the centre with a skewer it comes out clean.

Now make your icing.

For the Icing:

1 heaped tablespoon marscapone

1 heaped tablespoon cream cheese

1 250g tub Ricotta

Grated Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 tablespoons of icing sugar

 

Mix everything together in a bowl using an electric whisk until smooth. Cover with fling film and store in the fridge until needed.

 

 

Gardening

There’s nothing I love better than pottering in my garden and now is the best time to start planting bulbs, I get mine from Blombs bulbs, which have a huge selection. Here are some pictures from my garden which I hope you enjoy looking at. I would love to see some of your pictures so do tweet them to me @sophieconran. Sophie X

Garden blog

garening blog 2

peonie blog

New Pots and Pans!

I am so thrilled to announce the launch of my new pots and pans, which include saucepans and frying pans. I have designed these with the lovely people of Portmeirion, who, as ever, have been a total joy to work with. I have designed these new pieces to be not only practical and safe to use in the kitchen but also elegant additions to your cooking utensils. The 2 colours are ideal for showing up the colour in your ingredients while cooking plus I have designed them so that they are very easy to clean, which I’ve always battled with when using other pots and pans! I hope you enjoy using them, why not try out this gorgeous summer frittata recipe using my frying pan? Sophie X

Fritata cookware

SERVES 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 long red pepper- trimmed and de-seeded

1 ½ courgettes – trimmed

1 red onion- peeled and cut into 1/8

3 small cooked potatoes- peeled and sliced

3 cloves of garlic- chopped

½ teaspoon chilli flakes- optional

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

8 eggs beaten

25 grams of grated parmesan

A handful of flat leaf parsley- chopped

 

Heat the oil in your frying pan on a medium to low heat

Cut the pepper lengthways into 4 and then slice each strip into 2cm pieces, do the same with the courgette and add to the hot oil along with the onion, gently stew for about 20mins until all of the vegetables are soft, stirring often.

Add the chopped garlic, chilli flakes and potatoes then season. Continue cooking for about 5 mins.

Beat the eggs, parmesan and ½ the parsley together in a bowl.

Turn up the heat a little and pour in the egg mixture.

Don’t stir but allow to cook for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the bottom.

Pop under the grill until cooked to your liking- I prefer it a bit under cooked as I find it gets a rubbery texture if over cooked.

Sprinkle the rest of the parsley and serve with a crisp green salad and friends!

 

Green & Lean Juice!

Finally the sunshine is back! Why not celebrate with a delicious & refreshing smoothie? Plus if there are any sore heads after the bank holiday weekend then this will be the perfect cure! This is great for breakfast or a tea-time pick-me-up. Sophie X

Juice

A generous handful of spinach

A piece of cucumber roughly 6cm long

1 kiwi, chopped, skin removed

1 pear, chopped, skin left on

½ a large mango, chopped

A few sprigs of fresh mint

A splash of coconut water

A small cup of water (add more to your taste)

Handful of ice

Gousto – 50% off your first orders for my readers!                

Gousto Sophie Blog

The other day I was approached by Gousto, the brilliant recipe box service that provides you with all the ingredients in the right proportions to cook delicious meals at home. They asked me to sample some of their recipes so I picked 3 to cook with my kids, Coco and Felix. I must admit, it was a very hard choice as there are so many exciting recipes and they all look and sound delicious! The ones I finally managed to pick were spiced chicken with Persian style bulgar, poached salmon with courgette latkes and sweetcorn fritters with grilled halloumi and zesty salsa. They were all easy to follow and fun to make, and my whole family thought they were delicious!

I think Gousto is a brilliant concept. It encourages you to put your cooking skills to good use and it is extremely convenient. I found the website to be simple and easy to use and the ingredients were delivered on time and were lovely and fresh. It takes the hassle out of deciding what to cook every night too, which if you have kids can sometimes become a bit of a struggle especially during the long summer holidays! It removes that pressure but still allows you to try new things all the time.

Gousto have kindly said my readers can receive 50% off their first Gousto box! Simply enter the code SOPHIE50 into the discount code box on their website. I promise you will not regret it! Sophie X

Gousto blog

Notting Hill Carnival!

Notting Hill map

Being a resident of Notting Hill, the bank holiday carnival is always a highlight of the neighbourhood calendar and my friends, family and I gather every year for a big party.

If, like me you are a huge fan of West Indian cuisine, then you will be in your element at carnival as there are so many amazing stalls, in particular along Westbourne Park Road. The smell of simmering curried herbs and spices alone will be enough to tickle your tastebuds. A particular favourite of mine is jerk chicken, which is best eaten with your hands!

My brother Tom’s amazing Mexican restaurant, Crazy Homies, will be serving the best margaritas in town over the weekend and his pub the Cow will become home to a reggae dukebox in collaboration with Rough Trade. There will be an upstairs dance hall in the Cow on Sunday and Monday, which will be well worth a look in!

My friend Gazza’s bar on 103 Talbot Road is also worth a visit. He’s been keeping carnival alive since 1976 with his amazing, vibrant and upbeat music.

I hope you have a great time if you go, let’s hope the weather is sunny for it and come and say hello to me if you’re there! Sophie X