Asparagus and Hot Smoked Salmon Puff Pastry Bundles

These are a delicious combination of asparagus, hot smoked salmon, cream cheese and lemon zest, all wrapped in buttery puff pastry. I’ve used 4 asparagus spears per bundle here, but it really depends on how thin your asparagus is – you could get away with more, if using the very thin ones. I wouldn’t use the very thick spears for this.

Salmon and asparagus bundle

I think puff pastry – especially ready-made puff pastry is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have on hand. I love homemade puff pastry too, but it’s super time consuming and the all-butter pastry you can get is really very good. The ready rolled stuff – even better!

These asparagus bundles are really delicious to eat and are nice served warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, cold on a buffet table and make a great portable snack to take on a picnic. Like all things made with puff pastry though, they will lose their crispness, so they are best eaten within 24 hours of making them.

Salmon asparagus parcels

Leave the puff pastry in the fridge until you have all the other ingredients ready to assemble.  It can behave badly if it gets too warm and not puff up as much as it should do.

Ingredients:
1 sheet of ready-made, ready-rolled, all-butter puff pastry
150g (approx) cream cheese – I used Philadelphia, full fat
24 (approx) trimmed asparagus spears – I used 4 per bundle
2 fillets of hot smoked salmon – I used honey roasted, ready to eat
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Salt and pepper
1 little olive oil
1 egg, beaten

Salmon and asparagus parcels

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tin with parchment or a non-stick liner

On a lightly floured surface, cut the rectangle of ready-rolled puff pastry into 6 equal squares. I used a pizza cutter to do this.

Then, on a diagonal, spoon a little cream cheese onto each square and flake the salmon on top.  You really don’t need a lot, or you won’t be able to close your parcel.

Rub a little oil onto the asparagus spears with your hands, just enough to help it cook in the oven.

Season with salt and black pepper and then sprinkle over the lemon zest.  This really helps lift the flavours.

Brush the visible edges of the pastry with beaten egg and draw up two opposite corners to form a bundle, press the edges together to seal.

Salmon & asparagus parcels

Place the pastry bundles ontp the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle over a little extra salt and pepper if you like.

If it’s a very warm day and the parcels have warmed up too much, put them in the fridge to chill out and firm back up for 10-20 minutes.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  Serve warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, or cold for a buffet or picnic

Baked Eggs with Mushrooms and Spinach

I love making baked eggs!  They feel special, but are so easy to make and are not nearly as much effort as poached eggs or an omelette.

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For a perfect Sunday brunch dish, these really hit the spot and are full of flavour and pretty substantial too.

I’ve used Gruyere cheese here as its such a good melting cheese, but cheddar or any other melting cheese would work well.  The vegetables I’ve used with my eggs are sauteed onions, mushrooms and wilted spinach, with just a little cream to give it a rich and decadant feel.

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You really need to serve this with hot buttered toast to mop up the creamy mushrooms and runny yolk and my favourite is always sourdough, which I think makes the best toast.

This recipe is so easy and can be scaled up or down.  Use a ramekin for one egg, or a large oven-proof dish to serve a crowd.

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Here, I have made enough for 2 people with 2 eggs each.

Ingredients:
4 extra-large eggs
1 large bunch of spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 punnet of mushrooms, sliced – wild/Portobello/button – the choice is yours
150g gruyere cheese
Small pat of butter and a little oil
4tbs double/heavy cream – 1tbs per egg
Salt and pepper
Some nice bread for toasting, I’ve used sourdough

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Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and lightly butter the dishes

Melt the rest of the butter with a tiny splash of oil and sauté the sliced onion with a pinch of salt and pepper until translucent.  The little splash of oil will help ensure the butter doesn’t burn.

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Add in the mushrooms and continue cooking until everything is softened and the mushrooms are just starting to colour.  Stir in the spinach, it will wilt really quickly and then remove from the heat and set aside.

Divide the vegetable mixture between the dishes and add half the cheese.

Break two eggs per person into each dish – taking care not to break the yolks.  Season with a little salt and pepper, add 2tbs cream and top with the remaining cheese.

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Place the dishes on a baking tray and bake until the white is just set and the cheese is bubbling. You want the yolk to be runny enough to dip the toast in, so don’t overcook.  It should take around 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them.

Serve immediately with hot buttered toast.

Baked Eggs

Perfect for brunch, lunch or add a salad for supper. I’ve added some roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine here too.

Buckeyes

We all love peanut butter in my house, especially Reece’s peanut butter cups.  Not overly keen on the chocolate though, sorry!  These are very similar to a peanut butter cup, but homemade and – well, nicer chocolate too!

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I’ve seen buckeyes around on the internet for a few years now and they are traditional in Ohio as they resemble the buckeye tree nut – basically just like a conker.  They are traditionally served around Christmas time, so I thought I would have a go and bring buckeyes to the UK.

They are really easy to make and take no time at all to make a batch.  I have a double recipe here, which makes practically a whole tree full, but you can halve the recipe, or halve the dough, freeze it and make some another time.  They are really rich and indulgent, so you wouldn’t want to eat too many anyway, but great for a crowd.

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I have used a mixture of dark and milk chocolate, but you could go all dark to offset the sugar a little if you wish.

Ingredients:
500g smooth peanut butter – I used Skippy
120g softened butter
pinch of salt
1tsp vanilla extract
450g icing sugar – seived
200g dark 70% chocolate
100g milk chocolate

Method:
Beat the peanut butter, butter, salt and vanilla in bowl until smooth. I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but this is easily done by hand.

On low speed (and with a towel wrapped around the mixer) beat in the sugar until combined. You are looking for a fairly stiff and mouldable mixture that you can easily roll into balls without getting in a mess. If it looks too sticky, add in a little more icing sugar. Similarly, if it is too dry and turns into crumbs, add another spoon of peanut butter. Its a very simple mixture, you can’t really go wrong.

Taking around a tablespoon of mixture for each one, roll into balls and place on a non stick liner, or waxed parchment. Skewer each one with a cocktail stick and chill, or freeze until firm.

Buckeyes

When you are ready to dip, break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in the microwave, stirring the last few lumps in the residual heat to completely melt.

I like to transfer to a smaller bowl at this point as you want to dunk the balls to coat them.

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Dip each ball into the molten chocolate and let the excess run back into the bowl and place back onto the non stick liner. As the peanut butter balls are so cold, the chocolate will set immediately and leave you with a nice, thin, crisp shell.

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Finish coating all of the balls, tipping the bowl as the chocolate runs out and leave to set.

Pull out the cocktail sticks and leave the chocolate to completely set, before smoothing out the hole with a clean finger, or the back of a teaspoon.

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I prefer them kept refrigerated, but you can place them into little paper cases in a festive box and give them as gifts.