Bailey’s Cookies and Cream Parfaits

Bailey's Irish Cream Parfaits
Bailey's Irish Cream Parfaits

Back in the early days of our relationship, I may have poked some good-natured fun at Matt for being what I would call a “Prom Drinker”. A prom drinker, for those of you who don’t know, is someone who would walk up to a sophisticated bar and ask for a Malibu Sunset, a Midori Sour, or, God forbid, a Mudslide. Matt was nowhere near that embarrassing, but the first time he ordered a Bailey’s on the rocks, I pinched his cheek and called him adorable. And then I tasted it and was like, hot damn, that’s really good.

Bailey’s Irish Cream was invented in 1971, so it can’t really be classified as “classic Irish drink”, but it’s no less delicious for it. It’s rich and creamy, with a whisky bite tempered to a dessert-like sweetness. An indulgence all by itself. So why not use it as the inspiration for a St. Patrick’s Day dessert: Bailey’s parfaits?

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Dumpling-Flavored Sausage Rolls

Dumpling-style Sausage Rolls
Dumpling-style Sausage Rolls

Here’s the story behind these dumpling-flavored sausage rolls. We had friends over at Christmas, and while serving up a plate of pigs-in-a-blanket, my friend pointed to them and said “Hey, what do you British call those? Isn’t there a crazy, funny name you have for those?” I was momentarily nonplussed as, a) we usually DO have a crazy, funny name for things, but b) I had no idea what else we might call them, having been out of the country, and therefore the loop, for about twenty years. (“Her Majesty’s Tiniest Corgis”? “Cheeky Blinders”? Answers on a postcard, please.)

A brief research session reminded me that Brits traditionally reserve the term “pigs in blankets” for small, un-cased sausages (which we call chipolatas) wrapped in bacon, not puff pastry, and that they’re a Christmas staple. (I then asked both my siblings to confirm this and they went straight for the sausage-in-pastry option instead, which, honestly, helps NOBODY.)

But while this post is about sausages in puff pastry, we’re not making pigs in blankets. We’re making sausage rolls. And we’re making them dumpling-flavored – seasoned with ginger, garlic, scallions and chili. Buckle up! 

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Nettle, Leek and Potato Soup with Garlic-Brown Butter Croutons

Nettle, Leek and Potato Soup

Spring is here, and one of the first areas of the garden to poke up green leaves is the stinging nettle patch. If you can avoid the sting, the nettle is one of the healthiest, most delicious perennials that’s super-easy to propagate — and is the superstar of this soup, made with leeks, potatoes, and the green, green nettle. 

There’s no getting around the fact that the stinging nettle is the unloved weed, the lurking Triffid, the snarling Caliban, if you will, of the British landscape. If you thought otherwise, let me show you the plant in its natural habitat:

Wild nettles growing up an English phone booth.

But despite its rather unprepossessing appearance, its urban ubiquity, and the unpleasant electric-shock feeling of walking into one, nettles are one of the most nutritious and tasty spring greens you can cook with. Last spring we made a nettle risotto with garlic and taleggio, and this year we’re combining nettles with leeks and potatoes to create a rich, green soup, sprinkled with brown butter – garlic croutons and wild violets from the garden. 

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Ultimate English Toffee

We couldn’t let Christmas come and go without reposting this. It’s one of our earliest posts, but one of our very favorite recipes and something we make every single year for family parties. It just may be the toffee of your (my) dreams and while I may be indulging in a tiny bit of hyperbole, once you try it, you’ll know that I might be dramatic, but I am not a liar. In the past, I proclaimed this Salted Caramel Sauce the best thing ever and I stand by that. It’s just that there’s room on the pedestal for that sauce’s cousin from across the pond, real English toffee.  

FACT: This toffee is so good, it caused this face from Loki, this one from Arya, and best of all, this one from Matt. Okay, nerd business done.

While other toffee types are available, this toffee is hard and brittle, and thin enough that you won’t need a tiny hammer to break it up.

Why This Toffee Works

I’ve made a lot of toffee recipes over the years and this one is by far the tastiest and the easiest. It not only has a really nice balance of sweet and salty but a clever secret. The addition of a very small amount of corn syrup pretty much eliminates the danger of the sugar crystallizing (this has happened to us a few times, and can be a real bummer). This problem is caused when the sugar crystals start a chain reaction of crystallization (the process of sugar particles clinging together) which makes the mixture grainy. Once it happens there’s not much you can do about it, but there are a few things that will help prevent it from starting.

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