Author Archives: tara

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Flourless Chocolate & Almond Cake with Orange Ganache

I know it’s January and indulgent an recipe is kind of going against the grain but as I stare out the window at freezing lashing rain and gale force winds, I just want the comfort and endorphin release of this cake! I LOVE this cake! Almond, chocolate, orange…what more can you want from a cake?

Ingredients:

200g butter

300g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

100g  Amaretti biscuits

200g ground almonds

350g sugar

8 eggs

Zest of 1 orange

For the Orange Ganache:

300g dark chocolate, at least 70 % cocoa solids

300ml cream

2 tablespoons Grand marnier or Cointreau

 

Method:

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C ,Fan 170°C ,Gas Mark 4, grease 2 spring 22 cm/9 inch release tins and line the bases with baking paper.
  2. Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and stand over a saucepan of just simmering water until melted, ensuring the bottom of the bowl is not in contact with the water. Allow to cool slightly
  3. Put the biscuits, almonds and sugar into the food processor and blitz until all are finely ground, add the eggs (one at a time) and blitz again.
  4. Add the melted chocolate to the food processor and blitz, the sir in the orange zest.
  5. Pour half the mixture into each cake tin.
  6. Bake for about 35 minutes – when the cakes are ready, they will have risen started to crack at the top.
  7. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then release the clips. They will come out of the tin very easily. Allow to cool fully on a wire rack.
  8. Peel the paper off the bottom of the cakes and cut in half widthways.

For the Orange Ganache:

Place the cream in a pan over a gentle heat and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat and add the chocolate & Grand Marnier. Stir until the chocolate has melted.

To assemble the cake:

Place one disc of the cake on a plate or cake stand and cover with some of the ganache

Layer the cakes on top of one another using the ganache in between each to hold each piece together.

Using a palette knife, spread the rest of the ganache over the cake. You can keep a jug of boiling water beside you to dip the palette knife into if it is getting a bit sticky.

Decorate with some of the orange zest sprinkled on top.

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Mini Christmas Cakes

Individual Mini Christmas Cakes

I have been making these mini Christmas cakes for about 5 years now and they always go down very well with both my family and with the students at my Christmas cookery classes.

I took inspiration from Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Christmas cake with the addition of chestnut puree. I like the texture and earthy flavour of it in these cakes but leave it out if you wish.

 I love these mini cakes for two reasons! Firstly, they are very quick and easy to make and don’t take weeks of planning in advance. You can decide to make them a couple of days before Christmas and make them at the drop of a hat! Secondly, I love individualising them for the various different members of my family. Sometimes I write everybody’s name on the top of each in icing.

If you are struggling to find mini cake tins, just do what I did and use empty tuna tins! I also use mini loaf tins too.

You can of course make just one large Christmas cake if you would prefer. If doing one cake, use a 9” tin and increase the baking time to 1 ½ hours.

Mini Christmas Cakes

(Makes 10-12 mini cakes)

Ingredients:

225g Sultanas

225g Raisins

110g Candied Peel

75g Dates

75g Apricots

50g Currants

25g Crystallized Ginger

125mls Sherry

175g Butter

250g Light Muscovado Sugar

250g Chestnut Puree

Juice and Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 Lemon

3 Eggs, beaten

250g of Plain Flour

½ Teaspoon of baking powder

¼ Teaspoon of cinnamon

¼ Teaspoon of ground cloves

¼ Teaspoon of ground nutmeg

¼ Teaspoon of mixed spice

To decorate:

Apricot jam, smooth

1  pack of marzipan or homemade almond paste

1  pack of ready to roll icing

Method:

 

  1. Place the sultanas, raisins, candied peel, dates, apricots, currants and crystallized ginger into a bowl.
  2. Pour sherry over and mix thoroughly
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 150˚C , 140˚C Fan, Gas mark 2
  4. Grease the mini cake tins and line with grease proof paper
  5. Place the fruit into a wide bottomed pot with the sugar, butter, chestnut puree, orange juice and zests
  6. Bring to the boil gently and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then
  7. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes
  8. Add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and ginger and stir
  9. Add the beaten eggs
  10. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins
  11. Bake for 1 hour, checking regularly as the length of time depends on the size of your cake tins
  12. Check the cakes are ready by inserting a skewer, if it comes out clean they are ready, if the skewer comes out wet they need to be returned to the oven
  13. When they are ready, leave to cool and then remove from the tins.
  14. To decorate the cakes, heat the apricot jam and brush onto the cakes
  15. Warm the marzipand a little in your hands to make it pliable, but no too much or it will start to seep oil
  16. Roll out the marzipan with a little icing sugar if it is sticky
  17. Cut out the shape of the cake in the marzipan and place a the marzipan on the top
  18. Roll out the icing and using the tins you have made the cakes in, cut out the icing so that it is bigger than the cake (allowing enough for the side of the cakes to be covered)
  19. Place the icing over the cake and tuck in at the bottom, trimming as necessary.

Decorate however you wish!

 

 

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Saffron & Cardamom Baked Custard Tartlets with Pistachio Dust & a visit to L’Aube Safran, Provence

I made my annual visit to Paula at A Table en Provence a few weeks ago. Paula runs food & wine tours as well as cookery lessons from Vacqueras every summer. For more about Provence, click here.

As always, I had a lovely time-Provence is a wonderful place for a food lover (not to mention the wine!). One of the highlights this year, however, was a visit to L’Aube Safran, an organic saffron producer near the village of Barroux in the heart of the Dentelles mountains. Francois, the owner explained to me that the saffron threads he produces tend to be thicker and more robust in flavour than saffron produced elsewhere as the weather & soil conditions in Provence are unique to that region. In other words, it benefits from the same dry, clay that vines thrive on with hot summers and bright, sunny winters.

L’Aube Safran is also a gorgeous B&B with cookery classes given by Marie, Francois’ wife in a purpose built demo kitchen.

Francois from L’Aube Safran

 

 

Saffron & Cardamom Baked Custard Tartlets with Pistachio Dust

I have been playing around with the saffron over the last few weeks and I will post a couple of recipes but here is the first one!

These tartlets are refreshing and subtly flavoured, ideal after a strongly flavoured or heavy meal.

 

Ingredients:

(Makes 6)

For the sweet shortcrust pastry:

100 g Plain white flour

50 g chilled butter

1 tblsp icing sugar

1 egg yolk

For the custard:

4 Egg Yolks

250 ml Single Cream

60 g Caster Sugar

7-8 Cardamom Pods

A  large pinch of Saffron threads (about 1 tsp)

To finish:

A little gently whipped Cream (how much is up to you!!)

A handful of Pistachio nuts, very finely chopped (a pestle & mortar or coffee grinder is good for this!)

You will need 6 x 10 cm tartlet tins with removable bases

Method:

Make the pastry first. You can either use a food processor for this or use your hands.

To make by hand, place the flour and butter together in a bowl

Using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter with the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Tip it out on to a lightly floured work surface and,using the heel of your hand, bring together with a little of the egg yolk (try to only add a little of the egg yolk at a time as the less you use the better for a light texture)

To use a food processor, place the butter and flour in the bowl with the blade attachment.

Pulse until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add a small amout of egg yolk.

It should come together very quickly now.

When the pastry has formed into a smooth ball, flatten into a disc shape.

Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan, 350°F or Gas Mark 4

Roll the pastry out quite thinly (about 1/2 cm)

Using the tartlet tins, cut the pastry into the shape of the tin. Roll these circles out a little more.

Place the pastry in the tins, ensuring the edges are pressed up around the sides

Using a fork, pierce each tartlet a couple of times

Place the tins on a baking tray that is lined with baking paper or tin foil

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 mins

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 mins while you make the custard.

To remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, either crush in a pestle & mortar or slit open with a knife and remove seeds

Now make the custard.

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved into the eggs and the mixture becomes pale in colour. Set aside.

Place the cream in a saucepan with the saffron and cardamom and heat very gently until it just about reaches boiling point. You will be able to see the surface quivering.

Turn the heat off and allow the cream to infuse with the saffron & cardamom for  3 or 4 minutes

Place a strainer over a jug and pour the cream in, removing the saffron & cardamom seeds

Pour a small amount of the flavoured cream into the eggs and whisk (this is to temper the eggs)

Pour the mixture back into the pot along with the rest of the cream

Over a gentle heat, stir the custard until it thickens

When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from the heat and return to the jug.

Pour the custard into each tartlet case until it comes right up to the top

Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 mins or until golden brown on top

Allow to cool for 30 mins before removing from the tins.

Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of the pistachio “dust”

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Atul Kocchar’s Mackerel Rechado from Taste of Dublin 2011

With Taste of Dublin coming up this week, it got me thinking of last year’s event and all the fabulous dishes that were cooked at it. I often work backstage at Taste of Dublin with the team from Fairyhouse Cookery School. It is hard work but also great fun. The amount of planning and coordination that goes into ensuring the smooth running of the chef’s demo theatre is phenomenal!

Of all the dishes that were cooked, my favourite one by a long shot was Atul Kocchar’s mackerel rechado. Everybody that tasted it agreed that it was really superb. A fantastic use of spices with a great delicate pairing of star fruit & gooseberry compote. This dish is a fantastic summery meal-light but with plenty of flavour. There is a long list of ingredients but please don’t be put off by that as you may have most of them in your storecupboard and the  method is very straightforward. If you can’t get your hands on all the spices, just use what you can-you will still have a great tasting dish even if it is not exactly as complex as the original. I have omitted the chutney on occasion and still had a great meal!

 Ingredients:

Serves 4

4 mackerel, filleted, pin bones removed

For the spice paste:

2 dried red chillis

3 cloves

10 large garlic cloves

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

8 peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

6 green cardamom pods

2 tsp ground turmeric

6 Dutch red chillis

1 tsp brown sugar or palm sugar

4 tblsp tamarind pulp

red wine vinegar

Gooseberry Chutney:

200g gooseberries, fresh or frozen

50g apples, cored & chopped

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp punch phoran (equal quantities nigella seed,  fenugreek, fennel seed, black mustard seed & cumin seed)

1 tsp ginger, chopped

1 tsp coriander powder

1/4 tsp red chilli powder

a pinch of garam masala

1/4 tsp turmeric

50ml red wine vinegar

70g granulated sugar

salt to taste

For the Salad:

2 star fruit, sliced

1 tsp lime juice

1/2 tsp toasted cumin seeds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan then crushed

a handful of micro greens

1 tsp olive oil

Blend all the ingredients for the spice paste together, adding enough vinegar to make a thick paste. Apply and smear the paste well on the fish fillets.

Cook the fish in a hot oven for 7-10 mins or heat a thin layer of oil in a large frying pan, add the mackeral and fry for about 2-3 mins on each side, until just cooked through.

For the chutney, heat oil in a pan. Add punch phoran-sauté until it crackles.

Add the powdered spices and add the vinegar & sugar followed by the rest of the ingredients.

Cook for 30-40 mins until chutney is cooked and sticky.Cool and serve with the fish.

Mix all the ingredients for the salad together and toss well. Serve the fish, chutney & salad together.

 

 

éThis is a fabulous recipe for mackeral from last year’s Taste of Dublin.

Rosemary & Sea Salt Bread Rolls

These bread rolls are super tasty and easy to make. They require some time to make but are not complicated. They are very pretty and you are sure to impress guests at a dinner party with them! It is also a handy recipe as you can freeze one batch & bake at a later date.

 

(Makes 2 batches-you can freeze one)

 Ingredients:

 650g strong white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

14g pack fast acting yeast (2 x 7 g packs)

3 tablespoon olive oil

350-400ml lukewarm water

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons of good quality sea salt (I used Irish Atlantic sea salt)

 

Method:

 

  1. Put the flour and salt into a large bowl, add the sugar and yeast.
  2. Make a well in the centre, add the oil and water.
  3. Gradually work into the flour to make a soft dough.
  4. Sprinkle over a little flour if the mixture feels too sticky, but make sure it is not too dry- the dough should be pliable and smooth.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead for 10 minutes  (sprinkling a little flour on when needed) until the dough is smooth and stretchy (soft but elastic).
  6. Sprinkle most of the rosemary and sea salt into the dough (saving some for decoration)
  7. Pull pieces of the dough off and shape into balls by rolling between your hands
  8. Place the balls of dough into a round cake tin in a circle, placing one in the middle( I found a spring release 9” or 23 cm tin useful to do this)
  9. Cover with cling film and let rise in warm spot until double in volume, about 1 to 1½  hours.
  10. Preheat the oven to 220 C˚ / Gas 6
  11. Brush a little olive oil on top of each roll and sprinkle a little salt and rosemary on top to decorate
  12. Bake for 15-20 mins or until they are golden brown.

 

Laura Santini’s Five Spice Minced Pork & Tenderstem Broccoli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a recipe from Flash Cooking, Laura Santtini’s book. I had the pleasure of working on this book, testing all the recipes. I love this pork as it is so tasty but also very quick. A perfect “mid week” meal.

In the book, there are recipes for making your own spice blends. I have made my own Chinese 5 spice blend and it is delicious but feel free to use commercial Chinese 5 spice-you will still get a great result!

I love serving this in little gem leaves-using them as a wrap and picking them up with your hands.If you fancy doing it this way, just chop the broccoli into smaller slices. Laura’s original recipe calls for natural roasted peanuts but I have specified cashew nuts here as they are more easily available in Ireland.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp sesame oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

500g pork mince

250g Tenderstem broccoli

4 spring onions, chopped

1 red chilli, sliced and deseeded

2 tbsp nam pla fish sauce

½ tbsp runny honey

For the garnish:

Little Gem leaves, left whole & washed

Handful chopped coriander leaves

2 tbsp toasted & roughly chopped cashew nuts (simply place on a dry pan and heat until golden brown)

Lime wedges

1 red chilli, sliced thinly on the diagonal

Method:

  1. Heat the sesame oil in a wok and add the garlic, ginger and five spice powder. When sizzling, add the pork and stir-fry until it begins to brown. Add the broccoli and continue to stir-fry until that begins to become tender.
  2. Add the spring onins, chilli, fish sauce, honey and lime juice, and stir fry until bubbling and the pork is nicely browned. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for a minute or so until the broccoli is just tender.
  3. Place a large tablespoonful of the mixture into the little gem leaves and serve topped with fresh coriander, a sprinkling of nuts and a wedge of lime on the side.

Pronto Pork Chops with Lemon, Sage, Rosemary & Beans

This is my first recipe posting since having my baby girl 9 weeks ago. It has been a whirlwind of joy, euphoria, exhaustion & bewilderment. It would be fair to say that the husband and I have been fairly shell shocked! After some complications & lots of hospital food I was very glad to get home. My parents took pity on us and delivered us delicious meals every evening for about 7 weeks. This was absolutely fantastic and was a real highlight of the day- seeing the basket, full of containers arriving and wondering what today’s (often 3 course meal) was with our mouths watering. Alas, all things must come to an end and we have been fending for ourselves again recently. It has been lovely to be able to get back cooking- I have always  loved the ritual of cooking the evening meal and all that it symbolises-the working day is over &  family time is beginning. With a new baby it is, of course, difficult to spend lots of time in the kitchen so some evenings simplicity and speed are key. I love this recipe as it is tasty, filling & nutritious. It really is worth trying to get free range pork chops on the bone as the flavour will be far superior. In Drogheda, my local town, I have been buying them from Tuites Butchers who rear their own but there are lots of others around the country you can buy from online such as Crowes Farm, Oldfarm & James Whelan Butchers

(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

2 Free Range Pork Chops on the bone if possible

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

100 ml white wine

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 lemon, halved

1 400g tin of cannellini beans or butter beans

1-2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

a bunch of fresh sage

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C
  2. Rinse the beans in a sieve or colander
  3. Season the meat on both sides and brush some oil on
  4. Heat a heavy bottomed, ovenproof frying pan until very hot
  5. Brown the meat on all sides & remove from pan to a warmed plate
  6. Add the wine and deglaze the pan
  7. Add the beans to the pan and return the pork with any juices
  8. Add the rosemary & sage and squeeze the lemon over the meat and leave the halves in the pan
  9. Place the pan into the oven and cook for 3mins then turn over & spoon the juices over the other side of the meat
  10. Return to the oven for a further 2 mins
  11. Let the meat rest for at least 5 mins before serving , mash the garlic with a fork and spoon the juices over the meat when serving

Serve with some steamed greens or tossed leaves.

Easy peasy Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemons & Herby Cous Cous

I was on twitter the other evening when Colette from Cakes, Bakes & Other Bits asked the question- What is a Tagine? This opened up a bit of discussion and triggered a funny memory for me. When I was about 10, my parents went on holiday to Morocco returning with a tagine. Lots of people thought it was a hat. My Dad had gone to lots of trouble to get it home from the market (to be fair this was before Ryanair & the tiny baggage allowances we have nowadays) he had bought it in only to find the chimney part had cracked. Anyway, not giving up on the dream of making a tagine at home, he persevered and insisted on using it on our electric ’80’s style cooking rings. All was going fine until he was just about to serve it up when he lifted the chimney part off and it crumbled in his hands and into the stew. Very disappointing after all his hard work! He informed me this morning that the remnants became a flower pot for years afterwards!

This is a dish I frequently make in my cookery classes and always goes down a storm! It’s a great dish for feeding a crowd as all the work is done earlier in the day so that you can spend time with your guests when they arrive.

My understanding is that a tagine is the cooking vessel made of earthenware from North Africa. It is used to slow cook stews using lamb and chicken mainly. Nowadays, we tend to think of a tagine as the stew itself using North African spices such as cumin, turmeric, coriander, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, all spice, cloves etc. The spice blend Ras El Hanout is also often used which contains a small amount of rose petals to give a light fragrance. It will often contain preserved lemons, dried fruits such as apricots, dates & raisins.

 

 

 

 

Recipe:

Serves 6

Lamb Tagine

Ingredients:

1.5 kg shoulder of lamb, ask your butcher to bone, trim and cut it into 2 cm dice

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped finely

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

3 tablespoons of honey

500mls of lamb stock

1 aubergine, chopped into cubes

2 preserved lemons, pips removed, quartered

Large handful of toasted, flaked almonds

Bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

For the marinade:

2 tablespoons ras el hanout

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ tablespoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 ½ tablespoons paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Method:

 

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients with 75 mls of water in a large bowl
  2. Add the lamb and ensure it is well coated
  3. Cover and leave for 24 hours if possible
  4. Heat a large casserole and add oil
  5. Brown the lamb in batches, ensuring you keep the pan hot
  6. Reduce heat, add more oil
  7. Add onions and sweat for 5 mins, then add the garlic and stir for 1-2 mins
  8. Return the lamb to the pot and add the tomatoes, lamb stock and honey
  9. Boil and then put in oven
  10. Stir after 1 ½ hours and add aubergine and preserved lemons
  11. Return to oven for 1 hour, cooking for a total of 2 ½ hours
  12. Sprinkle the almonds and coriander over the tagine and serve with couscous.

Herby Fragrant Couscous

Serves 6

Ingredients:

 

300grms couscous

300mls hot chicken stock

2 limes, cut into wedges

Bunch of mint, roughly chopped

Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

Optional: Sml knob of Butter

  1. Place couscous into a bowl and cover with chicken stock, leave for 5 mins
  2. Fluff up couscous with a fork and add herbs (& a knob of butter if desired)
  3. Sprinkle some lime juice over, season and mix
  4. Serve

 

 

 

 

 

Autumnal Salad of Young Goats' Cheese, Roast Beetroot & Fresh Walnut with Vanilla & Orange Dressing

This is not so much a recipe as an assembly job. I love the earthy, autumnal flavours of this salad woken up by the zesty dressing and sweet sourness of the blackberries. I have not given quantities for this (apart from the dressing) as it is up to you how much you make of it! It is extremely simple but I feel it warrants a mention because the mix of flavours is so good. I personally could not stop eating the blackberries with great lumps of the cheese when I was supposed to be tidying up!

This is an effortless starter dish ideal for dinner parties as it looks so pretty and really stimulates the appetite!

Ingredients:

1 Beetroot

Young, fresh goats cheese. I used Ardsallagh

A handful of walnus (if you can, use fresh)

Blackberries

A selection of young baby leaves

Some edible flowers to decorate,

½ an orange, juiced

1 vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla paste if you have it in your storecupboard)

Extra virgin olive oil

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180˚ C

To roast the beetroot, gently wash it and trim the tops, leaving a little root

Drizzle a little oil over and wrap up in tin foil

Place in the oven for about 45mins

When it is just cool enough to handle, peel the skin off using a knife. You may wish to wear rubber gloves for this!

Chop the beetroot into bitesize pieces

Tear the goats cheese into smallish chunks

Make the dressing by mixing 3 tablespoons of oil,3 tablespoons of orange juice & vanilla seeds. Taste and season.

Place all the remaining ingredients in a largish bowl apart from the edible flowers.

Toss the salad with the dressing and serve with the edible flowers.

 

Christmassy Sage & Chestnut Soup

I love chestnut soup! I have made lots of variations of it and taken inspiration from many recipes for this one. I particularly like Nigella Lawson’s version but I have tweaked it so many times that the following recipe is by far my favourite way to do it. By all means, roast the chestnuts yourself if you fancy it but for convenience I use the vac packed type. If you can’t get these, unsweetened puree will suffice.

I made this soup as a starter for Sunday lunch recently. We had 8 adults, 3 children & 2 dogs. The soup went down well with both adults and children alike. Although it is ideal at Christmas time it is not confined to it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :0)

 

(Serves 6 generously)

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 carrot, chopped

1/2 parsnip, chopped

1 stick of celery, chopped

A good glug of olive oil

A couple of Sage leaves, chopped

250 grms of vacuum packed Chestnuts, chopped or 1 tin of Unsweetened Chestnut Puree

1 small tin of Chickpeas

75 mls Marsala, Madeira or Sherry

750 mls of Chicken Stock

Salt & Pepper

3-4 Slices Parma/Serrano ham or streaky rashers

A dollop of crème fraiche for each bowl

Method:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the veg for about 10 mins or until softened with a pinch of salt

Add the chickpeas, sage and chestnuts and continue cooking for another minute or so

Add the most of the alcohol (keeping a little back) and allow to bubble up

Add the chicken stock and simmer for about 30 mins

When all the ingredients are soft, blend the soup and check for seasoning

Add the remainder of the alcohol and stir through

To Serve:

Cook the bacon until crisp and chop up finely

Pour the soup into bowls and place a dollop of crème fraiche on each, topped with the bacon