Friday, 5 December 2008

Strawberry Cloud Cupcakes

The other day my husband dropped some enormous hints to me about baking a cake. I haven't done any baking since my mammoth session to make all the malteser cakes for our running club. I didn't have a lot of time so decided to make some cupcakes. I'm not very adventurous when it comes to cupcakes and normally just do a normal sponge mix and top with some butter icing. I have been known to experiment with chocolate ones too.

Well I fancied something a bit different and was inspired by some pictures in an old magazine I found laying about. These little cakes are delicious and so simple to make. I made mine to be strawberry flavoured but I think raspberry, cherry or even lemon would be srumptious too.

For the cakes:
  • 90g softened butter
  • half a teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry jam

For the fluffy frosting:

  • 220g caster sugar
  • 80ml water
  • 2 egg whites
  • pink coloured sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper cases.
Beat the butter, vanilla extract and sugar in an electric mixer. I used my Kitchen Aid here but you could use a hand mixer. Add the eggs, flour and milk and beat on a slow speed until the ingredients are just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture is fluffy and a paler colour.
Divide the mixture between the paper cake cases and smooth the surface of them. Divide the jam over the tops of the cakes and using a skewer swirl the jam into the cakes.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes until golden and they spring back when touched.
Allow to cool.

To make the fluffy frosting combine the sugar and the water in a small saucepan. Stir over the heat without boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Boil uncovered and without stirring for about 5 minutes or until the syrup reaches 116C on a sugar thermometer. The syrup should be thick but not coloured.
Remove from the heat and allow any bubbles to subside. Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. While mixer is operating add the hot syrup in a thin stream. Beat on a high speed until the mixture is thick and cool.

To make the coloured sugar, place the required amount in a plastic bag such as a small freezer bag. Add a tiny amount of colouring and work the colour through the sugar by massaging the plastic bag. My sugar was a little bright so my tiny dot of food colouring was still too much. Coloured sugar will keep in a jar indefinately.

When the cakes are cool decorate with the fluffy icing and sprinkle with the coloured sugar.

Tip - When you have poured the sugar from the pan, place the pan in a bowl of warm water. This will make it much easier to clean than if you leave the remainder of the syrup to set on the pan.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Chocolate Malteser Cake

My husband Paul and I are members of a running club. He is a much more serious runner than I am and also a lot better than me. I only started running about 6 months ago and entered my first 10K race back in the summer. I started running as a way to keep fit as I was getting bored with going to the gym. Paul has been running for a while now and persuaded me to give it a go. Well I'm so pleased I did as although I don't feel that I'm all that good I can see that I have improved a lot and I have really started to enjoy it.

You'll probably wondering what running has to do with a chocolate cake. Well I'll let you know. Our running club Wimborne AC organise a race every November called the Wimborne 10. This is a ten mile race around the beautiful area of Wimborne. I didn't run the race this year as I'm yet to attempt that distance but Paul did. I volunteered to help out as a marshall on the day and along with 2 other people manned a water station for the thirsty runners.

One of the best things about this race is that it is so well recievd by everyone that takes part. For the last few years everyone gets a cup of tea and a slice of cake when they have finished the run. So this calls for volunteers to make the cakes. There were 700 runners in the race this year so this called for a lot of cake.

I volunteered to help with the cake and decided on the chocolate Malteser Cake from Nigella Lawsons Feast. I have made this once before and it is delicious. Sadly I didn't get a slice this time around as all the hungry runners has eaten all the cakes by the time I got there. I made three of these to take along on the day and they went down very well with everyone that ate them. There wasn't a crumb left at the end which is definately a good sign.

Makes 8 - 10 slices

For the cake:

150g soft light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
175ml milk
15g butter
2 tablespoons Horlicks
175g plain flour
25g cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of sode

For the icing and decoration

250g icing sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa
45g Horlicks
125g soft unsalted butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 x 37g packets of Maltesers

Preheat the oven to Gas 3/ 170C. Butter and line two 20cm cake tins with baking parchment.

Whisk together the sugars and eggs until they are light and fluffy.

Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks in a pan until the butter melts and it is hot but not boiling. Beat into the sugar and egg mixture. Then fold in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Divide the cake mixture between the tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Once the cakes are cold you can ice them. I used a processor here but you could make the icing by hand if you wish. Put the icing sugar cocoa and Horlicks in the processor and blitz to remove any lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop and then slowly add the boiling water and beat until you have a smooth buttercream.

Sandwich the cold cakes together with half of the buttercream. The ice the top of the cake with the remaining half. Decorate with the Maltesers and enjoy.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Goodbye Pistashio

It has been a very sad week this week and I have had to say goodbye to my friend Pistashio. Although we never met in real life, she was a real friend to me as well as many others. She will be sorely missed on the Pantry which is an online foodie forum I am a member of. She was a wonderful inspiring person and a great cook too. Her blog was and will remain one of my favourites.
Goodbye Pi. May you rest in peace.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Off to a cookware party tonight

I have been invited to a party tonight. It is for Pampered Chef cookware. I have just been browsing their website and it looks as though they sell some wonderful things. I will have to be careful and make sure I don't spend too much this evening. Apparently the consultant will use some of the products to cook something that we can all taste. I've never been to anything like this before so I'm really lookin forward it. It sounds vaguely similar to Tupperware parties that my mum used to go to. I couldn't resist the chance to go to party that is all about kitchen goodies and cookware. If nothing else it will be lovely to spend the evening with some friends.

I'm liking the look of these pretty spotty cups and bowls. There is a whole lot of stuff in this range and from the pictures on the website I think it looks lovely.

Has anyone else been to one of these parties? If so are there any products that you would recommend? I'll let you know how I get on and if I can resist the temptation to buy anything.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Molten Chocolate Babycakes

I adore chocolate couldn't imagie a world without chocolate in it. I wanted to make a chocolate dessert and as I was flicking through Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess I came across these. The picture in the book is wonderful and I wanted to dive in and eat the ones on the page. Nigella says in the book "These are the acceptable face of culinary cute: their intensity guarantees the triumph of chic over prettiness". I couldn't agree more with that statement.

These are so easy to make and if you want to then you can make up the mixture a few hours in advance. I found the most fiddly bit of this recipe was preparing the individual pudding moulds but the end result was definately worth it.

I served these up to my husband and my inlaws. They went down a storm and my father in law has requested them next time he comes for dinner. Perhaps I should pass on the recipe and he could make them himself. These really were delicious and I will definately be making them again.

This recipe makes 6 little chocolate desserts. I served mine with a little cream but I also think that some vanilla ice cream would be scrumptious with these.

The recipe:

50g soft unsalted butter plus more for greasing the moulds
350g very good dark chocolate
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs beaten with a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g plain or Italian 00 flour

You will need 6 individual pudding moulds and some baking parchment.

These need to be cooked just at the moment you are ready to eat them.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6 and put a baking sheet in the oven. Lay 3 of the moulds on a sheet of doubled baking parchment. Draw round them and then cut out the disks. Grease the pudding moulds with unsalted butter and place a parchment disk in the base of each one.

Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly. Cream together the butter and sugar and gradually beat in the eggs and salt, then the vanilla. Now add the flour and when it is all smoothly combined scrape in the cooled chocolate, blending it to a smooth batter.

Divide the batter between the 6 moulds. Quckly whip the baking sheet out of the oven, arrange the moulds on it and replace in the oven. Cook for 10 -12 minutes. The extra 2 minutes will be required if you made these in advance and they are cold from the fridge. As soon as you take them out of the oven, tip them out onto small plates or bowls. Serve with cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Tomato and Basil Soup

Soups are very versatile and can be made using so many different ingredients. One of the great things I find about soup is that you can put a selection of ingredients into a pan with some stock, let the mixture bubble away for a little while and within no time at all you have made a delicious, flavourful, home-made soup with very little effort.

Many soups are very quick and easy to make and this is no exception. You can simply combine a few key ingredients with some herbs or spices and after a little while have a delicious bowl of soup. Some soups make ideal appetizers to a meal while others are enough to be a meal in themselves. I had this soup for my dinner along with some homemade crusty bread and it was delicious. There are light and refreshing soups that are chille and are ideal for summer dining. Then there are rich and creamy soups perfect for an autumn meal shared with family. Whichever kind of soup you choose it is well worth the effort to create your own fresh and flavourful soup in your own kitchen.

I really fancied a bowl of soup last night when I got home. I had a fridge full of tomatoes as my lovely father in law has been growing them in his greenhouse and has rather a lot. So I thought the perfect way to use some up was by making soup. This recipe is so quick and easy to do yet completely delicious.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
25g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
900g ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
750ml vegetable stock
120ml dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomator puree
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil plus a few whole leaves to garnish
150ml double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan until foaming. Add the onion and cook gently for about five minutes, stirring frequently until softenened but don't allow to brown.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes and garlic then add the stock, white wine and tomato puree with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil then lower the heat. Cover the pan and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour the soup into a food processor or blender. Add the shredded basil and blend to a puree. Using a wooden spoon press the soup through a sieve into a clean pan.

Stir in the double cream to the soup and heat through. Do not allow the soup to boil. Check the consistancy and add a little more stock if it is too thick. Adjust the seaoning to your taste and then pour into bowls. Garnish with some whole basil leaves and serve with some crusty bread.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The British One Hundred

As it is British Food Fortnight I thought it would be a good opportunity to post the British food 100. A friend of mine emailed me this list of British Foods that she has tried.

The list is below and the ones that I have tried are in bold. I think I have tried a fair few of them but there are still a lot to go. I'm not sure if I'll ever try them all.

Which ones have you tried?

1. Grey squirrel
2. Steak and kidney pie
3. Bubble and squeak
4. Spotted dick
5. Hot cross buns
6. Laver bread
7. Toad in the hole
8. Shepherds pie AND cottage pie
9. Scotch egg
10. Parkin
11. Welsh rarebit
12. Jellied eels (My Grandad liked these but I have never tried them)
13. Stilton
14. Marmite (I have tried it but I hate it, evil, evil stuff...)
15. Ploughman’s lunch
16. Cucumber sandwiches
17. Coronation chicken
18. Gloucester old spot
19. Cornish pasty (Oh how I love Cornish pasties!)
20. Samphire
21. Mince pies
22. Winkles ( My grandad liked these too but could never persuade me to try one)
23. Salad cream
24. Malt loaf
25. Haggis
26. Beans on toast ( don't like beans)
27. Cornish clotted cream tea
28. Pickled egg
29. Pork scratchings (they are revolting though)
30. Pork pie
31. Black pudding
32. Patum Peperium or Gentleman’s relish
33. Earl grey tea
34. Elvers (I saw Gordon Ramsay cook these on the F Word and it totally freaked me out)
35. HP Sauce
36. Potted shrimps
37. Stinking bishop
38. Elderflower cordial
39. Pea and ham soup
40. Aberdeen Angus Beef
41. Lemon posset
42. Guinness
43. Cumberland sausage
44. Native oysters
45. A ‘full English’ breakfast
46. Cockles (another of my Grandads favourties)
47. Faggots
48. Eccles cake
49. Potted Cromer crab
50. Trifle
51. Stargazy pie
52. English mustard
53. Christmas pudding
54. Cullen skink
55. Liver and bacon with onions
56. Wood pigeon
57. Branston pickle
58. Oxtail soup
59. Piccalilli
60. Sorrel
62. Chicken tikka masala
63. Deep fried Mars Bar (wrong, so wrong)
64. Fish, chips and mushy peas
65. Pie and mash with liquor (I've eaten pie & mash, but not with liquor)
66. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (with gravy)
67. Pickled onions
68. Cock-a-leekie soup
69. Rabbit and Hare
70. Bread sauce
71. Cauliflower cheese
72. Crumpets
73. Rice pudding
74. Bread and butter pudding
75. Bakewell tart
76. Kendall mint
77. Summer pudding
78. Lancashire hot pot
79. Beef Wellington
80. Eton mess
81. Neeps and tatties
82. Pimms
83. Scampi
84. Mint sauce
85. English strawberries and cream
86. Isle of Wight garlic
87. Mutton
88. Deep fried whitebait with tartare sauce
89. Angels on horseback
90. Omelette Arnold Bennett
91. Devilled kidneys
92. Partridge and pheasant
93. Stew and dumplings
94. Arbroath smokies
95. Oyster loaves (sounds interesting though!)
96. Sloe gin I'm going to try and make my own this year
97. Damson jam
98. Soda bread
99. Quince jelly
100. Afternoon tea at the Ritz (I've had afternoon tea but never at the Ritz)

Over to you!!

Monday, 15 September 2008

I Love You This Much Award

The wonderful Nazarina from Giddy Gastronome has sent me this amazing award. Thank you so much. It has made me feell all warm and fuzzy. Do have a look at Nazarina's blog. It is excellent.

Friday, 12 September 2008

One Bowl Chocoloate Chunk Cookies

Over on Violets Panty which is a forum I post on, we had a summer swap. This is where we all send a box of goodies to another member of the forum and it is lots of fun. George from Culinary Travels of a Kitchen Goddess sent me my swap parcel this time. I had a wonderful parcel of goodies which included a delightful book called Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey. I had not heard of this book before I recieved it but I have had such an enjoyable time reading through it and drooling over the recipes and photographs.

This book is a collection of gooey and sticky desserts, cakes and cookies with names such as Coconut Cream Puffs, Mocha Hazelnut Trifle, Butterscotch Pots and Cheesecake Pops. In addition to all the wonderful recipes, the author has included the techniques that are used to create these delightful goodies. Sprinkled throughout the book are are all sorts of tips such as choosing the right cocoa, toasting nuts and making a heavenly ganache. This book is so pretty with glorious photos and is easy to read. The recipes all look amazing and I love all things to do with chocolate and desserts so this is definately my kind of book. Thank you George for a wonderful gift.

I was flicking though the book trying to decide which recipe to try first when the heavens opened and we had a awful thunderstorm here. That put me off venturing outside to the shops so then I was looking for a recipe that I had all the ingredients for. In the end I settle for a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. My little nephews are visiting tomorrow so I'm sure they will love them. Thats if there are any left and we haven't eaten them all before then.

This recipe was so easy to make and uses only one bowl so there is hardly any washing up. Yet it delivers big chunky chewy cookies that are packed with chocolate chunks. According to the author the secret to its easy perfection lies with melting the butter first instead of creaming it with the sugar. This cookie dough was ready in about 5 minutes and was so simple to make. The recipe calls for toasted pecan nuts but I left these out of my cookies so that my little nephews could share them tomorrow. I think these cookies will be even nicer with them and I will definately add them in next time I make them. All in all a delicious recipe from a wonderful book. I can't wait to try something else.

This recipe makes 18-20 large cookies.

2 cups pecan halves

1 cup unsalted butter

3/4 of a cup dark brown sugar

3/4 of a cup of caster sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 and a quarter cups plain flour

half a teaspoon baking soda

a quarter of a teaspoon baking powder

2 cups of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C. Place the pecans on a large baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are warm and fragrant for about 6-9 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Place the butter in a large bowl and microwave uncovered on high for one minute. If you don't have a microwave then melt the butter in a pan over a gentle heat. Remove from the microwave and stir until completely melted. Using a large wooden spoon stir in both types of the sugar. When combined add the salt, vanilla and the eggs. Stir until smooth then incorporate the flour, baking soda and baking powder until a soft dough forms. Carefully fold in the chocolate chunks and the pecans.

Line 2 trays with baking parchment and then using an ice cream scoop or a dessert spoon measure out the dough. Make sure to leave some space between the balls of dough as the cookies will spread when they are baking. Then place the trays of cookie dough into the fridge and chill for 45 - 60 minutes until they are firm. Towards the end of the chilling time preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180C.

Bake the cookies in the oven until they are crisp and golden around the edges but still a little soft in the centres. 15 - 18 minutes should be about right. Transfer the baking sheets to wire rack and let them cool slightly. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the cookies onto the wire racks and leave to cool completely

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Lamb Chops with Oregano and Tatziki

After a flick through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls Meat book, I discovered that contrary to popular belief spring lamb is not the best. These lambs would have been born in November or December of the previous year and are sometimes reared indoors. For a long time we have been led to believe that the first lambs are ready for our plates with the first rays of the spring sunshine.

By the laws of nature spring is the time when lambs are born not when they are ready to eat. They need a few months to mature which takes us into the summer time. The lambs born in the spring will have eaten the new fresh grass which has to be good news for us as surely it will improve the flavour and quality of the meat. With this in mind I went to my local butcher and bought some lamb chops. My lamb chops were brushed with a little olive oil and some oregano from my garden. This was a delicous meal and the lamb was very tasty indeed.

This recipe serves 2

For the tsatzki:
half a cucumber
250g natural yoghurt
2 spring onions
a handful of chopped fresh mint
Grate the cucumber into a sieve, sprinkle it lightly with sea salt and leave to drain for about half an hour. Tip the yoghurt into a bowl. Finely chop the spring onions and the mint leaves then stir them into the yoghurt. Squeeze any excess moisture from the cucumber then stir it into the yoghurt mixture. Keep it into the fridge until you need it.
Now for the lamb. I used the grill which is built into my oven but I think it would be fine to cook them in a griddle pan too. In a small bowl mix some olive oil with the oregano and some salt and black pepper then brush it over the lamb chops. Cook the lamb in a hot grill or in a griddle pan until it is dark and sizzling on the outside, the fat is crisp and the inside of the meat is a juicy pink. Serve with the tsatziki. I also served my lamb with some delicious buttery new potatoes.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Small yet perfectly formed, who can resist a tempting little treat of a cupcake. These little cakes are adored by both children and adults. I love making cupcakes and trying out different combinations and decorations. Whether they are topped with sugar flowers or chocolate curls, I believe that there is a cupcake for every occasion.

These chocolate chip cupcakes are a tried and tested recipe in my kitchen. I have lost count of the amount of times I have baked these so thought it was about time I blogged about them. For a really intense chocolate hit, I decorate them with melted chocolate or chocolate fudge icing. Today though I decided to leave them plain and enjoy them just as they are.

This reicpe makes 12 cupcakes.

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 00g chocolate chips

  • Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5.
  • Put 12 cake cases in a cake tray.
  • Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until fluffy.
  • Add the eggs and beat in.
  • Fold in the flour
  • Finally stir in the chocolate chips and then divide the mixture between the cake cases.
  • Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and place the cakes in a rack to cool.
  • Enjoy

Monday, 1 September 2008

Arte Y Pico Award Time

The lovely Sally from Pink Bytes has given me this fabulous award. Thank you so much Sally. Do have a look at Sally's blog. It is such a wonderful read.

The rules for this award are quite simple.

1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and their contribution to the blogging community.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize has to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show these rules.

I read so many wonderful blogs and it is difficult to just stick to five to send this award to.

I have decided to send this award on to these fantastic people. Do have a look at their blogs as they are extremely good.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Happy Birthday Mary

It was my lovely mother in laws birthday at the weekend and we had a little celebration for her. I volunteered to make a cake which she thought was a lovely surprise. She is normally the one that makes the cakes and as they are so yummy I felt that I had a lot to live up to. I didn't realise it but apparently no one has ever made her a cake before. She has always had cakes that have been bought and she was chuffed to bits to have one made especially for her.

I decided to make a chocolate cake and used a recipe from the Divine Chocolate book. I sandwiched together 2 chocolate cakes with white chocolate ganache and then spread the ganache over the tops and sides of the cake. I melted some dark chocolate with a little butter and when it was cool I spooned it into a piping bag and piped the message onto the top of the cake. I think I need a bit of practice at this. I decided to decorate the outside of the cake with white chocolate curls. These were so easy to make yet look stunning if I do say so myself. I was planning on having a go at making the flowers but sadly I ran out of time. I took a quick trip to my local cake shop and bought the floral decoration instead.

To make the white chocolate curls melt a bar of white chocolate with a knob of butter. Leave it to cool slightly then spread very thinly onto a granite or plastic board. Place the board in the fridge and let the choclate completely set. Then remove from the fridge and place the board on a work surface or table. Draw a sharp fine bladed knife across the chocolate at an angle of 45 degrees. This will create the chocolate curls. If the chocolate breaks off in brittle pieces then it is too cold so leave at room temperature for a few minutes. If teh choclate is sticky and clings to the knife put it back in the fridge for ten minutes and try again.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Mushroom Risotto

I really enjoy risotto and often choose it from the menu of my favourite Italian restaurant. I have never attemtped to make it myself before now so thought it was about time I had a go. I was a bit daunted to start with as it is something that I haven't made before. I looked at several recipes and finally decided on one by Georgio Locatelli. His book called Made in Italy Food and Stories is wonderful and I have made several delicious meals from it.
There is a huge chapter in the book all about risotto. It goes into detail about the rice and the stock and after reading it all I was a little apprehensive. So I gathered all my ingredients and set too. It was actually not that difficult to make although adding the stock and all the stirring took a while. It was actually quite hypnotic watching the rice slowly absorb the stock. The results were definately worth it and this was so tasty. I will be making risotto again and am looking forward to trying some different ingredients.
Classic Risotto with mushrooms and grana cheese - Serves 2
1.25 litres good chicken stock
25g butter
half an onion, very finely chopped
200g superfino carnaroli rice
125ml dry white wine
salt and pepper
chopped mushrooms
For the mantecatura
35g cold butter, diced
50 finely grated Grana Padano cheese
Chop the onion as finely as you can and grate the cheese. Put the stock into a pan and bring it to the boil. Then reduce the heat so it is just simmering.
Put a pan on the heat and add the 25g butter so it melts. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes so it softens. Turn up the heat to medium and add the rice. Stir until the grains are well covered in butter and heated through. Once hot, add the wine and let it reduce and evaporate. Continue to stir until the wine has virtually disappeared.
Now its time to add the stock. This is the bit that takes a while. Add the stock a ladleful at a time. Let each addition be almost absorbed before adding more stock. The idea is to keep it runny and never let it dry out. You need to keep stirring the rice so that it cooks evenly. As you add the stock you will begin to see the rice swell as it absorbs the stock. After about 15 minutes start to test the rice. It is ready when it is plump but still has a slight firmness. I added my mushrooms at the this point and stirred them in for a couple of minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and let it cool slightly. Then quickly beat in the cold butter and then the cheese. Serve the risotto quickly as it will carry on cooking for a few minutes.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Love Food Hate Waste

Apparently nearly a third of the food that we buy is thrown away. I'm sure that sometimes we all buy too much or don't use what we have bought and end up wasting something. I know that I have occasionally been guilty of throwing away food. I've started to think more about what I buy and I don't want to waste perfectly good food. I've started to plan our meals for the week and then I can buy what I need. I used to just walk round the supermarket and buy what I fancied and then not use it because I didn't know what to cook with it or what to have with it. It sat in the fridge while I deliberated and then it went off.

Well I'm trying hard not to waste perfectly good food any more. I'm just buying what we need and so far its working well. I'm trying not to buy too much food and also to use up everything that is lurking in the back of my fridge.

The Love Food Hate Waste web site is helping to raise awareness of the amount of food we waste and the need to reduce this. There are some easy and practical things that we can all do to help which will not just help the environment but help us to save a few pennies too. To find out more about the campaign have a look at the website. There are some good ideas about how you can save money on your food bill as well as lots of handy tips and recipes. Have a look at the website for some ideas and inspiration and between us we can make a small difference.

Friday, 20 June 2008

A Little Apology

I just want to post and say sorry for not updating my blog very much recently. I've been on holiday and since I've been back I have been very busy. Its not an excuse I know. I have been cooking lots of quick and simple meals and haven't tried anything new for a few weeks now. While we were on holiday our camera decided to give up the ghost and broke. I guess it is a good job that I haven't been doing alot of cooking as I've no camera to take any photos at the moment.

I hope to remedy this over the weekend as I am planning on going shopping for a new camera. There are so many to choose from though. I have been doing a lot of research and have looked at lots of different cameras but have still not made a decision on which one to go for. Hopefully I will come home with a nice new camera tomorrow so will get back in the kitchen and take some photos. I'm looking forward to getting back in the kitchen and trying out some new recipes. If they are any good then I'll post them here and share them with you.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Getting To Know You, Getting To Know All About You

The lovely Sally from Pink Bytes has tagged me.

Here are the rules:
Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
Share six random and/or weird things about yourself.
Tag six random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Ok so here are six random facts about me:

1. I hate baked beans and Marmite. They are both disgusting.
2. I have a terrible cookery book habit and can't look at Amazon or pass a book shop without going in and buying something.
3. One of my hobbies is scuba diving. I go most weekends during the summer with my husband and when we go on holiday it is always somewhere we can do some diving. My favourites places have been the Maldives, The Barrier Reef in Australia and The Red Sea in Egypt.
4. I have a birthmark on my bum.
5. I am addicted to buying shoes and own over a hundred pairs. I would love to have a pair of Jimmy Choo's.
6. I am scared of birds. I have a real phobia of them and especially dislike bigger birds like swans and geese as I am convinced I am going to get bitten by them. I think this stems from being bitten by a goose and an ostrich at the zoo when I was a child.

I am going to tag:


Thanks Sally. Its nice to learn a little bit about our fellow bloggers.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Cuban Mojito's

I have recently returned from my holidays in Cuba. We had a wonderful time and I would definately recommend a holiday there. We went to Varadero which is the Cuba's oldest and most established resort. We did a lot of scuba diving which was very good as well as just relaxing on the gorgeous beach. We also spent a couple of days in Havana which is the capital city. It was so very interesting and we could have spent a lot more time there. The buildings were very impressive although it was a shame that such a lot of them are falling into disrepair.

The hotel that we stayed in had some lovely restaurants which delicious food. We also found a very good sea food restaurant right on the beach. It was lovely to go there and listen to the sound of the waves and watch the sunset whilst eating a delicious meal and enjoying a glass of wine.

Traditionally there has been little variety in Cuban cuisine, which revolves around a basic diet of chicken and pork dishes accompanied by rice and beans. In Cuba this is generally known as Comida Criolla. There are a couple of national dishes that are worth trying in Cuba. Ropa Vieja is a type of meat stew normally made from lamb or beef. It is prepared over a slow heat with green peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. I tried this in a small restaurant in Varadero and it was very nice.

Often found on street stalls, Tamales are prepared from cornmeal, peppers and onions. They are then wrapped in the outer leaves of the cornmeal plant and steamed until soft. They are somewhat bland but are often served with a red pepper sauce to make them a little more lively. Rice and beans invariably accompany most Cuban meals. They come in two main guises, Congris and Arroz con Frijoles. Congris is where the rice and beans are served together whereas Arroz con Frojoles is where white rice is served with a separate bowl of beans which have been cooked into a delicious soupy stew. Other tradional accompaniments to meals are fried plantain, mashed, boiled or fried green bananas which have a buttery almost nutty taste, cassava and simple salads of tomatoes, cucumber and avocado.

Paladares are popular in Cuba. They are privately run usually in the spare room of a house. They were introduced by the state in response to Cubans wanting to earn money through private enterprise. They offer visitors a chance to try Cuban home cooking. Although there are tight restrictions on what can be served, the meals that we tried were generous and well cooked.

If you like rum then you will get on well in Cuba. The national drink is available almost everywhere and can be used in some delicious cocktails. One of the most famous in Cuba and my favourite was the mojito. Ernest Hemingway is reported to have enjoyed a mojito at the La Bodeguita del Medio bar in Havana. I bought a bottle of rum home with me so that I could recreate a mojito when I got back. Although its not quite as nice as sipping one on the beach in Cuba, they are very nice. Here is a recipe if you would like to try one.

  • 8-12 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of caster sugar or 2 tablespoons of sugar syrup
  • light rum
  • half a lime, sliced
  • sparkling water
  • ice cubes
  • sprig of mint and a lime wedge to garnish

In a tall glass gently crush the mint leaves and the lime with the end of a wooden spoon or a muddler if you have one. Add the sugar and a handful of ice cubes. Add a good dash of rum making it as strong as you like it. Fill the glass with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of mint and a wedge of lime. Enjoy.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Sticky Garlic Potatoes

Nigella Lawson's Feast is one of my favourite cookery books. There are so many wonderful recipes and everything I have made is very tasty indeed. These potatoes are a favourite in my house and I made these them last night. The potatoes are boiled first and then after they have been drained they bashed and squashed in the pan along with some garlic, before being cooked in the oven. They are a combination of mashed and roasted and galic caramelises in the heat. They are truly delicious and so easy to make. I think they are my favourite way to have potatoes at the moment.

750g little new potatoes
8 cloves of garlic
125ml oliive or vegetable oil

  • Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil then cook the potates for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to Gas 7/220C. Drain them and then put back in the pan.
  • Peel the garlic clovesby squashing them with the flat of a knife so that they bruise gently and come out of their skins. Put them in the pan with the potatoes and then bash it all with the end of a rolling pin so they are cracked and split.
  • Put the oil in a roasting tin and heat up in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Carefully tip the potatoes and garlic into the hot oil and cook for 15 minutes. Turn them and cook for another 15 minutes.

These are wonderful and if you like potatoes then you will love these sticky garlic roast come mashed ones.

I am off on my holidays to Cuba tomorrow so there won't be any posts here for a couple of weeks. I shall be enjoying some diving and sipping cocktails on the beach. I hope you don't envy me too much. I will be back in a couple of weeks so until then take care and I'll see you all very soon.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

I've been tagged

My friend Brenda from Tea and Wheaten Bread has invited me to play tag. I have to pick six words that describe me and then have to tag six other bloggers to do the same. The idea is to get to know people a little better and let them get to know a little bit more about me. I think it is a great idea and am happy to join in.

I wasn't sure how I would describe myself so asked my husband for a bit of help. I think these words describe me quite well

  • Funloving
  • Adventurous
  • Sensitive
  • Thoughtful
  • Passionate
  • Dependable

The people I'm tagging are:







Wednesday, 30 April 2008


Over on Vi's Pantry we have a new challenge running. Every fortnight each member that wants to participate takes it in turns to post three recipes. Everyone who wants to take part makes one, two or all three of the dishes and then votes to choose their favourite.
This is a brilliant challenge as it gets to try things that we might not have made before. I have already made several different recipes that are completely new to me. They have all been delicious and will definately be made again.
This recipe is from Francesca who lives in Israel. This is a dish of hot spicy tomatos with eggs that are poached in the sauce. This is a popular Israeli dish and there are lots of different recipes for it. This is Francesca's recipe which I made as a light meal last night. As recommended by Francesca I served this with some crusty bread to mop up the sauce and the runny egg yolks. This was a delicious meal and one that I'll be having again. I think it would make a lovely brunch at the weekend.
Serves 4
4 tablespoons oil for frying (not olive oil)
4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large red pepper
1 green or red hot pepper
5 large tomatoes, skins removed, or 1 large tin of chopped tomatoes with their juice
4 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
Pinch of ground caraway (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Eggs (2 per person).
Parsley leaves to garnish
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or deep frying pan, and lightly fry the onions and garlic. Add the red peppers and fry for another 4 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, hot red pepper, tomato puree and seasonings and simmer for at least 30 minutes. If it becomes too thick add a small amount of vegetable or chicken stock.
3. Adjust the seasonings now, once the eggs are added you will be unable to stir the shakshouka. 4. Break an egg into a small cup and with a wooden spoon in one hand make a hole in the sauce and with the other gently pour the egg into it. Continue with as many eggs as you need.
5. Turn the heat to low and cook until the egg whites are set (approx 5-7 minutes).
6. Transfer to individual plates and sprinkle with a little parsley. Serve with your favourite crusty bread to mop up the yolks and sauce.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Butterscotch Blondies

Over on Violets Pantry we have been set another challenge. This time the challenge was set by the lovely George whose blog Culinary Travels of a Kitchen Goddess is just wonderful and well worth a read. Each fortnight one of the members sets a new challenge and gives us a choice of three recipes to try.

George chose three delicious sounding recipes for the challenge and I struggled to decide which one to make first as they all sound wonderul. In the end I chose the butterscotch blondies much to my husbands delight.

I often make chocolate brownies but have never made blondies before. With all the butterscotch, white chocolate and caramel in the recipe I did think they might be a little bit sickly but oh my they were just amazing. I had never seen butterscotch chips anywhere but George pointed me in the direction of an online auction site where I managed to get some and they were even delivered the next day.

These blondies were delicious. I wasn't even able to let them cool down before I had to try them. The gave off a wonderful aroma while they were cooking and my kitchen smelt delightful. These were absolutely lovely just as they are but were also wonderful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. They didn't last long at all and everytime I went into the kitchen I ended up having a little bit more.

Thank you so much George for this wonderful recipe. I'll definately be making these again. George has the recipe on her blog so go along and take a peek if you want to try these. I'd heartily recommend them.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Chocolate Buttons

I adore chocolate buttons and when I saw these on a shopping trip today I just couldn't resist them. They are a little box full of vintage shaped chocolate buttons. I am a big fan of Hotel Chocolat as they make some of the most delicous chocolates that I have ever tasted. The champagne truffles are amazing as are all of the wonderful bars that they make. I hadn't heard of this company until last year when I was very kindly sent a box of their chocolates from a friend. Now I am hooked and regularly order my stash of chocolate from the website to be delivered.

I went on a little shopping trip today as I have the day off work. I was intending to go out to get a birthday present for my wonderful mum but ended up spending a small fortune on myself as well. I normally do most of my shopping in my nearest shopping centres of Poole or Bournemouth but I ventured a little further afield today to Southampton. There I found the chocolate shop that I could have spent all day wandering around. It has the most delicious aroma of chocolate and such a wonderful selection of all things made from the cocoa bean. I would definately recommend a trip to one of their shops but if you can't get to one then you can order online. I must warn you that this chocolate is amazing and if you're anything like me then you'll spend a small fortune there.

I also found this which I am going to hang up in my kitchen. Isn't it pretty?

Quack Quack

On a trip to my local butcher the other day, I bought some duck legs. They then sat in the fridge for a couple of days while I pondered over how to cook them. I have never cooked duck before so this was something new for me. I have eaten it many times but it has always been cooked by someone else. While browsing some of my favourite foodie websites I came across lots of different recipes and ideas. I the end I settled on this recipe from UKTV Food.

The recipe was easy to follow and totally delicous. The finished duck was really tasty and we'l definately be having this again. To start with the duck legs are chargrilled in a griddle pan before being finished off in the oven. They are baked in a foil parcel and the honey mixture is poured over the top of them. This makes a lovely sauce while they cooking that can poured over the duck if you want a bit extra. This really was delicious and the potato and chorizo salad is scrumptious too.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Pantry Challenge

Over on Violets Pantry we have been set another challenge recently. Every two weeks one of the members sets a new challenge. They pick three recipes and then each of that are participating can pick one, two or all three of the recipes to cook. This is our first challenge of this type and I am hoping to make 2 of the suggested recipes. I think this is a wonderful idea as we can share our recipes and try something new.

Pi set the first challenge and we had a choice of Macaroni, Cheese and Tomato Bake, Finger Lickin Chicken Wings or Apple and Almond Galette. I decided to start off with the macaroni. I do macaroni cheese fairly often but this recipe is very different from the one I normally use. It was absolutely delicious and the bechemel sauce is wonderful. I will definately use this recipe again.

I halved the recipe as there are only 2 of us. I also only put tomatoes on half of the dish as my husband doesn't like them. The only other change I made was to add a little parmesan as I had a small bit that needed using up. I have never used an egg in my macaroni before but it was really nice and gave the whole dish a lovely light texture. The addition of a bit of cream to the bechemel was wonderful too. I'm sorry there is no photograph of my finished dish today as the batteries in my camera were flat and I didn't have any more. I must make sure that that doesn't happen again.

Here is Pi's recipe if anyone wants to give it a try.

Serves 4

250g macaroni
1 tspn dry mustard or 1 Tbsp Dijon
1 egg, separated
180g Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
450g tomatoes, sliced

Béchamel Sauce:
60g unsalted butter
40g all-purpose flour
600ml whole milk
1 bay leaf a little extra milk
80ml cream, optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Firstly make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to form a roux. Let this cook for a couple of minutes to avoid a floury-tasting sauce. Stir in about a quarter of the milk and beat well over the heat until it thickens. Gradually add the rest of the milk and keep stirring vigorously, still over the heat, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Add the bay leaf and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring the sauce to the boil and then turn the heat down to low. Let the sauce gently simmer for about five minutes. Stir every now and then to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. Thin the sauce by stirring in a little extra milk if necessary. (If you are making the sauce well in advance, do not stir in this extra milk but pour it over the top of the sauce and leave it, to prevent a skin from forming.) When you are ready to use the sauce, remove the bay leaf, and add the cream if using.

Set the oven to 200ºC. Grease a ovenproof dish approximately 20 x 30 x 6cm in size.

Cook the pasta with a tablespoon of salt for about 2 minutes less than recommend on the packet, or until tender but still with some bite. Drain the pasta and tip into a large bowl.

Stir the mustard, egg yolk and 60g of the cheese into the bechamel sauce. Mix the sauce into the pasta and season generously with salt and pepper.

Whisk the egg white until it is stiff but not dry, then gently fold it into the macaroni mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.*

Arrange the tomato slices over the top, placing them very close together. Scatter the rest of the cheese over the tomato slices, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the inside is lightly set.

Serve with a green vegetable or a salad.

*can be prepared in advance to this point and left, covered with a cloth, for several hours.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Fish and Chips

Diana Henry is one of my favourite cookery authors and when I saw her book Cook Simple I just had to buy it. The recipes in this book are wonderful and Diana Henry shows how it is easy to cook a fabulous meal with a few simple ingredients. The chaptes in the book are based on ingredients such as fish, chicken, pasta and sausages and these simple ingredients are transformed into something special. I have some cookery books that I have looked through but never cooked from but I only got this one at the weekend and have cooked from it already. The book is beautifully written with stunning photographs yet the recipes look simple and delicious. This is the first recipe I have made from the book and I am looking forward to trying some more.

I had some cod in the fridge that I had bought when I was out shopping at the weekend. There are several recipes in the book which use cod but I was tempted by one for roast cod with smoked bacon. As I had all the ingredients at home this is what we had for dinner tonight. Frying the cod to start with gives it a wonderful golden colour. It is then roasted in the oven to finish it off. This was a delicious meal and so simple to make. We will definately be having it again I'm sure. I served this with homemade potato wedges but I think it would be delicious with the pea puree from the book which is what Diana herself suggests. I also think it would be nice to BBQ the cod in the summer and have it outside with some salad. Now for the recipe...

Serves 2

3tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cod fillets
200g smoked bacon lardons
35g unsalted butter
a squeeze of lemon juice
1tbsp finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7. Heat 2tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan that can go in the oven. Season the cod and then place it in the pan, flesh side down. Cook for about 1 and a half minutes until slightly browned. Turn it over and place the pan in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. I don't have a frying pan that can go in the oven so I transferred the fish to a small roasting tin and it was fine.

While the fish is roasting heat the rest of the olive oil in a small frying pan and cook the bacon until it is browned on all sides. Add the butter and melt until foaming. Then add the lemon juice and parsley. Pour the butter bacon and parsley over the cod and serve immediately.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Baileys Chocolate Mousse

Baileys Irish cream and chocolate are two of my favourite things. I am definately a bit of a chocoholic and tend to pick the chocolate dessert from the menu when we go out. We don't often have desserts at home but last night I decided to make us a treat. I had some chocolate in the cupboard and some cream in the fridge so settled on making a chocolate mousse. I just so happened to have a bottle of Baileys too so thought that would make a nice addition.

Here are just a few random facts about Baileys. Baileys was the first Irish Cream liqueur and is made in Dublin. The cream used to make Baileys comes from a co-operative dairy called Avonmore Waterford PLC and it is located about 70 miles from Dublin. Each year more than 4 million litres of Irish cream is used in the production of Baileys. This amounts to 4.3% of Irelands total milk production.

This recipe makes enough for 6 but is easy to scale down if required. They set in the fridge after about one hour.
3 eggs
75g caster sugar
350ml double or whipping cream
350g dark chocolate, melted
100ml of Baileys Irish Cream

Place the eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk them together. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and continue to whisk the mixture until thick and mousse like.
Pour the cream into another bowl and add the Baileys. Whisk together until it forms soft peaks.
Pour the melted chocoloate over the eggs and sugar mix and stir together. Add the whipped cream and carefully fold together.
Pour the mixture into 6 glasses or ramekins ans swirl a little cream over the top.
Place them in the fridge and chill until they have set.
Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, 27 March 2008


People have been baking bread for many hundreds of years, yet many of us buy our bread from the shops. I am guilty of doing this and have never tried to make my own bread from scratch. Bread is a staple in many of the world's cultures. It can be a simple combination of flour, salt, yeast and water but there are many different types of bread. I always think of bread being baked in the oven but that doesn't have to be the case. It could be cooked on a hot plate or a griddle. Remember that in ancient times bread was baked on hot rocks.

I went on holiday to Egypt a couple of years ago and on one trip I had a go at making some bread. We did a camel ride into the dessert and we were treated to a traditional meal. They made us some bread and even let us have a go at making some ourselves. It was a flatbread and was almost like a pancake in texture. This is a picture I have of my bread being cooked on a hot stone in the Egyptian desert.

I do have a bread machine which I have used a few times but although the bread has been OK, it has never been wonderful. I have tried several different recipes but have been quite disappointed by most of them. So I decided to have a go at making some bread myself. I thought it best to start with a basic white loaf so scoured my recipe books for a recipe to use. In the end I settled on the recipe in Nigel Slater's Appetite which was very easy to follow. It did use 1KG of flour so made a huge loaf. Although the bread was delicious it was a bit too much for just the two of us. I think in furture I will half the recipe. I used my KitchenAid to mix and knead the dough which was very successful although the dough did try and escape over the top of the bowl a couple of times.

I was very impressed with my first attempt at bread making and I will definately be having a go at making some more very soon. There is a fascinating array of recipes, techniques and ingredients that are available. Making bread at home is much easier than I thought and I am looking forward to trying some different recipes soon. You can't beat the smell of freshly baked bread and if I can make a delicious loaf then I think anyone can. This is my finished result which was very nice indeed.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Raspberry and White Chocolate Tart

On Sunday I cooked Sunday lunch for my inlaws. It was also Mothers Day here so I wanted to do something a bit special for them. It was actually my husband that invited them as he thought it would be nice for his mum not to have to cook. Note that he didn't actually volunteer to do the cooking instead though.

I had decided to do roast chicken but when I went up to our local butchers on Saturday, he didn't have any left. This meant a swift change of plan and I decided to do beef instead. I got carried away and bought rather a large piece. It was far more than I needed to feed the four of us but meant that we had plenty of leftovers.

I then needed to decide what to make for dessert. I don't normally make a lot of desserts when it is just the two of us but wanted to make the effort and do something yummy. I did think about a crumble but my mother in law makes such delicious ones that I didn't think mine would measure up. I also wanted to try something new and different.

When I went shopping I came across some delicious looking raspberries so bought them and thought I could come up with something when I got home. Raspberries are one of my favourite things and I did think about making a pavlova with them. In the end I decided to make a raspberry and white chocolate tart. This also gave me the chance to try out my new KitchenAid mixer that I had got for my birthday.

This tart had a pastry case that was made using cocoa powder for a delicious chocolate flavour. While the tart case was cooking I melted some white chocolate and whipped up some cream. I then combined the two and filled the cooled tart case with the chocolate cream mixture. The cream was topped with raspberries and I made a raspberry coulis to serve with it. I was very impressed with this tart and will definately be making it again. Everyone really liked it and my father in law even said it was the nicest dessert he had ever had. For that I had to give him a second slice to take home for later.

Serves 8

For the pastry:

150g/5½oz plain flour
25g/1oz cocoa powder
75g/2½oz icing sugar
125g/4½oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp ice cold water

For the white choolate cream:
200g/6oz white chocolate
1 free-range egg yolk
dash hot water
300ml/7fl oz double cream, whipped
200g fresh raspberries

For the raspberry coulis:
2 tsp icing sugar
200g/7oz fresh raspberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
2. For the pastry, sieve the flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar together into the bowl of a food processor or mixer. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Slowly add the iced water to the mixture and continue to pulse until it comes together in a ball of dough. Place into a bowl, cover in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. Line a tart tin with the pastry. Prick the base with a fork, line with non-stick baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Place the tart tin on a baking tray and blind bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes. Remove the beans and baking parchment and bake for a further five minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and cooked through. Leave to cool.
4. For the white chocolate cream, melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. When melted, add an egg yolk and a dash of hot water and whisk together. Allow to cool slightly. Fold in the whipped cream. When the tart case is cool. fill it with the white chocolate cream mixture and top with the raspberries.
5. To make the raspberry coulis, place the raspberries into a small blender with the icing sugar and process until smooth. Check the sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Then pass the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds.
6. Serve the tart with a drizzle of the raspberry coulis and some vanilla ice cream if you wish.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

It was my 30th birthday on 21st February and I had the most amazing weekend. I haven't done any cooking or baking for a few days so am writing a post about my birthday instead.
On Thursday evening my wonderful husband Paul took me out to dinner to celebrate. We went to The Guildhall Tavern in Poole. We hadn't been there before but it had been recommended to us by a friend so Paul booked it up as a surprise. It was just a short walk from Poole Quay. We both love seafood so this restaurant was fabulous as the menu is mainly delicious seafood that has been caught locally.
After perusing the menu for ages I finally decided on what to have. There are so many delicicous sounding dishes that it was difficult to decide. Eventually I settled on mussles in a cream, white wine and garlic sauce followed by red sea bream filled with mango, pineapple and plum sauce. Paul had scallops followed by halibut in a champagne sauce. After all that we were both quite full so we shared a dessert of creme brulee which was scrumptious.
There was a French themed evening going on while we were there. I'm afraid to say that we didn't do very well in the French quiz and only scored 10 out of 20. That was with a few lucky guesses and a bit of help from a friendly waiter. The food was delicious and the staff were very friendly and helpful. I would definately recommend this restaurant and I hope that we can go back again soon.
After the meal we went for a drink in one of the wonderful traditional pubs on the quay. Paul then surprised me again with another birthday present. He has booked us a holiday to Cuba in May. It is for us to go diving and I am so looking forward to it. Isn't he wonderful? I did joke that he only got me that so that he could have a holiday too!
We then spent the weekend with my parents. My lovely mum and dad have bought me a cream KitchenAid mixer. I have been lusting after one for ages and am looking forward to trying it out. I told them off as it was too generous of them but so lovely all the same. My brother bought me some book tokens as he knows I love buying cookery books but didn't know which ones I would like. I have a bit of a thing about buying shoes and my sister bought me the most amazing pair to add to my collection.
On Saturday evening we went out for a meal with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend. We drove out to a pub called The Winterton Arms which is near Eartham on The South Downs. It was a real traditional country pub with roaring fires and it served the most delicious homemade food. If you are anywhere nearby then I would recommend a visit here. On the Sunday everyone came to my parents house for a roast dinner. My gran, auntie and uncle weere all there too and it was lovely to see everyone. We had a rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and veg. I made a pavlova for dessert which tasted delicious even though it didn't look too good once I'd started to cut it up.
I had the most amazing birthday and weekend. Everyone has been so kind and generous to me so thank you.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Chicken Pie

I love chicken pie but haven't made it for ages. I roasted a delicious free range chicken for our dinner on Sunday and there was so much chicken left over.
We had enough for some in our sandwiches for lunch the next day and for another meal. I decided to use the remaining chicken in a pie and it gave me a chance to use my new red pie dish. I think you just see a glimpse of the wonderful red colour in the picture.
I used a packet of bought puff pastry for the top of the pie. It gives a really flaky, crispy top that is quick, simple and scrumptious. I served this pie with hot buttery mashed potato.

This pie would easily serve 4 I think.

Olive Oil
2 knobs of butter
Around 800g of cooked chicken, cut into chunks
2 medium leaks, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, sliced
a small handful of thyme
2 tbsp flour
1 wineglass of white wine
half a pint of milk
2-3 large mushrooms, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 good pork sausages
1 500g block of puff pastry
1 egg
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/180C.

Put a glug of olive oil and the butter in a large saucepan and heat gently. Add the leaks, carrots, celery, thyme and mushroooms and cook slowly for about 10 minutes. Add the flour and stir in, then add the wine, a wineglass of water and the milk. Season with salt and pepper then cover and simmer on the hob for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Stir it every so often so it doesn't catch on the bottom.

Place the chicken in a pie dish and then pour the vegetable mixture over the top. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins and roll into small balls. Brown them in a little oil and then sprinkle them over the mixture.

Roll out the pastray so it is about 0.5cm thick. Egg wash the rim of the pie dish and drape the pastry over the dish. Trim the pastry to fit. Egg wash the top of the pie then pinch the edges to crimp them. Use the back of a knife to criss-cross the top of the pie. Cook the pie in the centre of the oven for 30 - 40 minutes until golden.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?

I bought a copy of Country Kitchen magazine the other week after reading that Hannah from Hannah's Country Kitchen had written a Valentines day article for them. I've not bought this magazine before but it was very good and there are lots of lovely recipes inside.

I love Rolo's and when I saw a recipe in this magazine for Rolo cupcakes, I just had to give it a try. I thought it was the perfect recipe for Valentines day and it also went well with the February challenge from Violets on the pantry to cook something that was to do with love.

Valentines day is a chance to show that special person just how much you love them. Although it is now quite commercialised, Valentines day is steeped in history. Since the 18th century people have been sending cards to their loved ones or to someone that they secretly admired. For me Valentines day is an excuse to bake something lovely for my husband. We don't normally buy cards or presents but I think a lovely homemade gift is wonderful.

If you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo then these cakes with a squishy Rolo centre are perfect for Valentines day and are really delicious. I made these over the weekend and used my pretty new heart cake cases.


112g softened butter
112g caster sugar
2 large eggs
85g self raising flour
30g cocoa
12 Rolo's

For the icing:
125g softened butter
2tbsp milk
1tsp vanilla essence
heart shaped sprinkles

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180C.
Put the softened butter and sugar in a bowl and cream them together until they are light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time and whisk after each addition.
Add the flour and cocoa to the mixture and fold in gently.
Place 12 cake cases in a bun tray and place a spoonful of the mixture into each case. Place a Rolo in the centre of each and then top with some more mixture. Ensure that the Rolo is covered. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until they spring back when lightly touched.
Leave the cakes to cool completely.
To make the icing, add the icing sugar, vanilla essence, milk and butter into a bowl. Mix until it is light and creamy. Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes and then decorate with the heart sprinkles.

Note: There are only 11 Rolo's in a normal packet of Rolo's so you will need to buy 2 packets. This means that you will end up eating the remaining Rolo's from the other packet. Or maybe that is just me.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Pancake Day

It is Shrove Tuesday today and as I'm sure you all know that means that it is pancake day. Pancakes are a type of flatbread traditionally made from a sweet batter. English pancakes are made from three key ingredients which are flour, eggs and milk. The batter is quite runny and forms a thin layer on the bottom of the frying pan. Pancakes are normally eaten as a sweet dessert and the traditional topping is a sprinkling of sugar and some lemon juice. This is my favourite topping for pancakes but other sweet fillings can include chocolate spread, maple syryp or fruit. Pancakes can also be wrapped around savoury fillings and eaten as a main course.

There are many different variations to pancakes in the different regions of the world. Scottish and Irish pancakes are similar to American pancakes and often known as drop scones or griddle cakes. French crepes are very thin pancakes and are usually served with a large amount of sweet or savoury fillings ranging from fruit to seafood. In the Netherlands pancake restaurants are popular and serve many varieties of sweet, savoury and stuffed pancakes. Pancakes in South Africa are similar to English pancakes and are traditionally prepared on gas stoves. They are called pannekoek and are commonly served with cinnamon flavoured sugar. The sugar may be left to dissolve onto the pancake and if eaten straight away it will have a crispy texture.

It is traditional to toss pancakes in the air using just the frying pan. This is a tricky manoevure that I have yet to master.

A popular event on Shrove Tuesday is a pancake race. Each participant carries a pancake in a frying pan and as they run they must toss and catch their pancakes in the frying pan. This event is said to have originated in the town of Olney in England in 1444. A housewife was busy cooking pancakes to eat before the Lenten fast when she heard the church bells ringing to call call everyone to the Shriving service. Eager to get to the church she ran from her house, still wearing her apron and carrying her frying pan complete with pancake. Since 1950, the people of Olney and those of Liberal, Kansas in the USA have competed in an international pancake race. The two towns competitors race along a previously agreed course. The times of the two towns competitors are then compared to determine the winner. After the 2007 race Liberal was leading with 32 wins compared to Olneys 25.

I shall be enjoying pancakes tonight and I hope that you all enjoy some as well. Don't forget to have a go at tossing them in the pan and try not to get them stuck to the ceiling.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

An Extremely Chocolately Mousse

I adore all things to do with chocolate, from a humble cookie to the most decadant dessert. When we go out for dinner, nine times out of ten, I will choose the chocolately dessert. It is definately my weakness and I don't think I could live without a little bit if chocolate in my life.

We don't often have desserts at home. Desserts are a treat for us occasionally or something we have when we go out or have friends or family round for dinner. I rarely make a dessert when it is just the two of us. I just really fancied some chocolate mousse though so decided to make us both a little pot. I think that chocolate mousse is one of the simplest but nicest chocolate desserts of all.

This recipe came from Delia and I have made it a couple of times before. It is very easy to make and delicious. I served it in glass ramekins with a big blob of whipped cream and some grated chocolate on the top. It was very well recieved by my husband and he thinks we should have desserts more often.

Chocolate Mousse

Serves 2

120g dark chocolate
2 eggs, separated
30 caster sugar

First of all melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave if you prefer. When it has melted, remove from the heat and give the chocolate a good stir until it is smooth and glossy.

Let the chocolate cool for a couple of minutes and then stir in the egg yolks.

Whisk the egg whites to a soft peak in a clean bowl. Then whisk in the sugar, about a third at a time.

Next using a metal spoon, mix a spoonful of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites into the chocolate. Be gentle when doing this so that the air is retained which keeps the mousse light.

Divide the mousse between the ramekins or use wine glasses. Place in the fridge and chill for a couple of hours.

When ready to serve, whisk a little cream and spoon on to the top of the mousse. Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Steak With a Peppercorn Sauce

On a recent trip to our local butcher, I bought some pieces of fillet steak. It had been well hung and had a wonderful dark red colour. I think that steak this fantastic deserves the best treatment. So I decided to cook it simply and serve it with some homemade chunky chips and onion rings. Before cooking, I seasoned the steak and then just seared it over a high heat for a few minutes.

I then rested the steaks while I made a pepper sauce to go with them. I have never made this sauce before and when my friend George of Culinary Travels of a Kitchen Goddess posted a recipe for it on Violet's Pantry, I thought I would give it a try. It was very easy to make and also very delicious so a huge thank you to George for posting the recipe. This was a meal made from simple good quality ingredients but it makes a delicoius and satisfying plate of food.

Brocolli and Stilton Soup

I have been making quite a lot of soup recently with varying degrees of success. Some of them have been delicious and others not quite so nice. Brocolli and stilton soup is one of my favourites so I thought I would have a go at making some. My first attempt was only OK but this recipe was really yummy and I will definately be making it again. I love to have a bowl of warm and comforting soup on a chilly evening.

This soup is so easy to make and truly satisfying. I used a stick blender which I find easier than having to pour the soup into a blender. This is a lovely creamy soup and I would really recommend that you try it. It makes a wonderful meal served with some crusty bread.

Brocolli and Stilton Soup

Serves 4

120g cream cheese - I used Philadelphia
75g Stilton, crumbled
a little olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of brocolli broken into florets
1 onion, chopped
900ml vegetable stock
fresh chives to garnish

Pour the olive oil into a large saucepan and heat gently. Then saute the onion for about 3 mintues until softened.

Add the brocolli and vegetable stock to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover and cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes or until the brocolli is tender.

Using a stick blender, blend the soup for about 10 seconds. If you don't have a stick blender then transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend.

Reserve a small amount of the soft cheese and then add the remaining to the soup. Stir the cheese into the soup until it has melted in. Add the blue cheese and blend for a few seconds until smooth.

Reheat the soup gently and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and spoon a little of the reserved soft cheese onto the top of each portion. Sprinkle with some chopped chives and serve.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Another New Book

My wonderful husband gave me The River Cottage Fish book for Christmas. There are some wonderful recipes in the book along with loads of information. As the book was so good, I decided to get the meat book as well. It is a lovely book and I am really looking forward to using it and making some of the delicious sounding recipes. The only conundrum I have is one to make first.

This book has so many amazing recipes that cover both the more familiar cuts of meat along with the less well known ones. The book is also educational and there is a lot of information about where our meat comes from. It is not just a recipe book, but a book that covers everything you would need to know about meat. The book is well written and wonderfully designed and illustrated. The photographs are amazing the food pictures make my mouth water. I am so pleased that I have bought this book and can't wait to try out some of the recipes.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Swimming in soup

After all the excesses of Christmas I have been trying to eat a little healthier. I seem to have a bit of a thing for soup at the moment and have been trying out lots of different recipes. There is nothing nicer than a hot bowl of soup and some crusty bread. It is one of my favourite things to have especially when it is cold and wet outside.

One of my favourite foods is curry. I like all different kinds of curry and when I found a recipe for curried vegetable soup I just had to give it a try. I thought all the vegetables would be good for my new healthy eating lifestyle too.

Luckily I had everything in the house so I set to and made the soup. It was ever so easy to make although did take a little while to chop up the different vegetables. I don't mind doing this at all although chopping up onions always brings a few tears to my eyes. It was very easy to prepare and then just took about twenty minutes to cook through.

I served this soup with some crusty bread as I just love that with soup. I think pitta breads might go really well with this too. I really like vegetable soup and the curry paste that was added to this recipe was really nice. I got slightly carried away and put in a bit extra so my soup was very spicy. If you prefer it milder then it would be fine to just use a little bit. I have bought the left overs into work today to have for my lunch. I just hope that no one will mind the curry smell when I heat it up. I would really recommend this soup as it was lovely and we will definately be having it again.

This recipe makes about 4 bowls of soup.

15g butter or oil of your choice
1 onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
200g mushrooms, sliced
1 litre vegetable stock
1 carrot, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
2 tablespoons medium curry paste
chopped fresh coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper
plain yoghurt

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and saute the onion, celery and garlic until softened but not browned.
Add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 mins.
Pour in the veg stock and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat, add the carrot, parsnip and curry paste and cook for about 20mins untl the veg is tender
Transfer half the soup to a food processor and blend for about 15 secs until smooth. Return it to the rest of the soup in the pan.
Add some chopped coriander and reheat gently.
Ladle the soup into warm bowls and top with a spoonful of yoghurt and a bt of coriander.