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.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Seared Swordfish Steaks with Salmorglio

I love almost all kinds of fish and was really pleased when I was given Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes Book. There are lots of lovely recipes in the book from all over the Mediterranean area. One of the recipes that caught my eye was for seared swordfish. I have only ever had swordfish couple of times before and have never cooked it myself. So I took a trip to my local fishmonger and bought two wonderful swordfish steaks. This recipe is from Sicily where grilled fish is very popular. I have never been there but would love to visit one day. According to Rick Stein salmoriglio is the only show in town in Sicily where grilled fish steaks are concerned. This was delicious so I think I am inclined to agree with him. The combination of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and oregano was perfect. The swordfish steaks were delicious with this simple dressing and we will definately be having them again. I think that tuna would also make a good alternative if you can't get hold of swordfish.

This recipe serves 4 but I halved the amounts as there were only 2 of us.

4 200-335g swordfish steaks that are about 2 cm thick

A little olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peperoncino or crushed dried chillies

For the salmoriglio:

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons water

1 and a half tablespoons of lemon juice

1 garlic clove, very finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

1 tablespoon chopped celery herb or celery tops (optional)

1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

Firstly make the salmoriglio. Whisk the olive oil and water together in a bowl until thick and creamy and then whisk in the lemon juice and some salt to taste. Stir in the garlic, oregano, celery herb if using and the parsely. Leave to one side until serving.

I cooked my swordfish steaks using a ridged cast iron griddle pan. Put the pan on a high heat and let it get smoking hot, then reduce the heat to medium. Brush the swordfish steaks generously with olive oil and season with salt, peperoncino or crushed dried flakes and black pepper. Cook over a medium high heat for about 4 minutes on each side.

When they ready move to a plate and pour over the salmoriglio. I served my swordfish with home made potato wedges as that is what my husband requested. I think this would be lovely in the summer when you could cook it outside on the BBQ and serve with some lovely salad.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Chick, Chick, Chicken

I have been watching a lot of foodie programs on the TV this week. They are one of my favourite kind of programs. The one that has the biggest impact on a lot of people is Hugh's Chicken Run. This was a 3 part program that was presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to raise awareness of how cheap chicken is farmed. He has a campaign running called Chicken Out which is to try and raise our awareness and understanding of how the chickens are kept.

I have never been a vegetarian but I am very aware of where my food comes from and how it was treated before it got to my plate. I believe that as long as the animal has led a happy life then the consumption of meat is OK.

I think it is terrible that of the 850 million chickens that are consumed in this country, 95% of them are reared inside in awful conditions. The reason for this is that the majority of people want to eat meat regularly but they don't want to pay very much for it. I never buy intensively farmed meat and I am very lucky to have a wonderful butcher near me where I can buy all of my meat.

I know that people think that their individual actions don't make a difference. They do though. Imagine the impact on the industry if everyone stopped buying cheap chicken and bought a free range one instead.

I do understand why people buy cheap food especially if they are on a budget. Personally I would rather have a more expensive free range chicken but have it less often.

Please sign up to the campaign. It does matter and you can make difference.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Budget Cooking

Cooking on a budget is not a concept that I entertain very often but I am up for the challenge this month. This is my second challenge from Violet's Pantry. All those who want to take part have been challenged to cook a meal for 2 people on a budget of £5. This is the budget that they have on the TV program Ready, Steak, Cook for those of you that know it.

I do not budget for my shopping. Instead I just add items to my basket or trolley without much thought as to how much they actually cost. The only time I mind is when my dear husband comes shopping with me and starts adding CD's and DVD's to the trolley.

I was really not sure how I could come up with a meal for 2 people for just £5.00. My first thought was to make beans on toast as this would certainly come in under budget. That wasn't a very inspired thing to make though so I quickly left that idea behind. It took me a little while to think about it and actually the challenge wasn't too difficult to achieve. I had a look through my cupboards and fridge to see what I had and in the end I came up with a pasta dish. We eat quite a lot of pasta in our house so I thought I would see if I could come up with something suitable.

I made a creamy mushroom and bacon tagliatelle dish. This was based on a recipe that I had made before which used parma ham instead of the bacon. Changing the recipe to use bacon was very easy and although the flavours were slightly different, it was still a very delicious meal. Another bonus of this dish is that it was very quick to prepare. It took around 10 minutes to make altogether so I think would be a great meal to cook when you are a little short on time.


Everything except for the chicken stock and bacon was bought from Tesco but is easily available in any supermarket. I had previously made some chicken stock when we had roast chicken just before Christmas and had frozen small portions of it. I am not quite sure how to price this up and as I had it in the freezer already, I have not included it in the cost. I have priced it up for the exact amount that I used. The only other item that I haven't included in the price is the olive oil as this is somthing that is always in my kitchen cupboard.

Small pot of double cream - 56p
Mushrooms - 35p
Tagliatelle pasta - 52p
Bacon - £1.00 (I bought a lot of bacon from my butcher and used 4 slices for the recipe)
Garlic - 10p (I bought a head of garlic for around 50p and just used one clove for the recipe)
Parmesan - 75p

Total £3.28

I was very surprised that the recipe came in under budget and by quite a lot too. I really thought that I would struggle to cook a delicious meal for 2 for £5.00. I am going to embrace the challenge and see how many more meals I can create that come in on or under budget. It just goes to show that it is possible to cook a delicous meal from scratch without spending a fortune.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

New Books

I was very lucky and got several new cookery books for Christmas. I love looking at all the different recipes and some of them are great just to read and flick through as well. I have lots of different recipe books. Some of them have been given to me and others I have bought myself. I also have some books that have been passed on to me by my Mum and Gran. I love looking at these ones and seeing the notes that they have written in them. I also love chatting to them both about the recipes and what they liked about them.

The first book that I got was Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me by Denis Cotter. This is the first book that I have by him and it looks really good. This book is a wonderfully written collection of anecdotes about his favourite food. There are some amazing looking recipes and I can't wait to try them out. There are lots of wonderful photographs too. His descriptions of the food are inspiring and I am really looking forward to getting stuck into this book and giving some of the recipes a try. There are no meat or fish recipes in this book but the ones that are there look delicious. I love the design of the book and the writing is wonderful.

The next book that I kindly received was The River Cottage Fish Book. Although I do love to eat fish, I am not very adventurous when it comes to cooking with fish. This book is huge and there is a lot of information as well as loads of scrummy looking recipes. Hugh and Nick seem to know and love fish. The book is really informative and comprehensive. I'm not sure if I will actually ever go fishing myself as I wouldn't have a clue where to start. I have found a local fishmonger and have been inspired to cook more fish and try out some more adventurous recipes. The photos are amazing too and make me feel like rushing out and buying some fish to try out one of the recipes.

This book is amazing and is one of the nicest books I have seen. It is huge and sumptuous and comes with its own case. The recipes look truly amazing although I'm not sure if I would ever be able to do them justice. The book is divided into two sections. The first section shows the recipes as he presents them in his restaurant kitchen. The second shows how the recipes can be created in the home. There are step by step instructions and the recipes do look truly amazing. I've had a good look at the book and although I do feel confident in the kitchen I don't feel confident to try these recipes just yet. I will try and pluck up the courage to give one a try so look out on my blog for the results one day.

I was also give James Martin's Desserts book. I am definately a dessert person so this is my kind of book. I watched the series that accompanied the book last year and I can remember how scrummy the recipes looked. I have made two recipes from the book already and am sure that I will trying them all out at some point. The recipes are easy to follow and there are lots of hints and tips. There are fabulous pictures in the book and the recipes make my mouth water. I don't think it is going to be very good for my waistline though.

And the last book that I had was The American Diner Cookbook. This was a little present to myself that found its way into my basket on Amazon when I was doing some Christmas shopping. I quite like books that are a bit different and this one fitted the bill. The recipes look like they will be easy to follow as they are clearly written. There are lots of charming pictures of different diners all over America with a little story about each one. I am looking forward to trying out the recipes especially for a traditional burger and a milkshake.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Classic Lemon Tart

We spent New Years Eve with the husband's parents. I took a dessert and spent a little while trying to decide what to make. I have James Martin's Desserts book and there are lots of lovely recipes and ideas. In the end I decided to make a lemon tart. The recipe in the book was for 8-10 so I halved it as there were only 4 of us. There was still some left for us to have another slice the next day. Sadly I forgot to take a picture but I will definately be making this again. It was delicious and and everyone enjoyed it.
The recipe says to use bought pastry which is fine but I made my own. I do sometimes buy pastry but decided to have a go at making my own this time. I also found it quite difficult to caremelise the icing sugar under my grill. I think it would be easier to do with a blow torch instead so I may have to buy one. Here is the recipe:
For the lemon tart:
5 free-range eggs
190g/6¾oz caster sugar
250ml/9fl oz double cream
4 lemons, juice and zest
butter, for greasing
flour, for dusting
225g/8oz ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry
icing sugar, for dusting
For the goats' cheese cream:
110g/4oz mild goats' cheese
50ml/2fl oz double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. For the lemon tart, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk gently to break up the yolks. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the cream and the lemon juice and stir. Pass the mixture through a sieve, then add the lemon zest and set aside.
3. Grease a 20cm/8in flan ring with butter. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to make a circle large enough to fit over the flan ring. Using the rolling pin, carefully lift the pastry over the ring and gently press into the ring. Allow the pastry to overhang the edges of the ring slightly. Line with a circle of greaseproof paper and fill with rice or baking beans.
4. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the beans and greaseproof paper, then return to the oven for five minutes, or until the tart case is lightly browned.
5. Turn the oven down to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and pour the lemon mixture into the tart case. Bake in the oven for about an hour, or until the filling is just set and the pastry is golden-brown.
6. Remove the tart from the oven and trim off the edges of the pastry. Leave to cool completely, then place in the fridge to chill for about two hours.
7. Preheat the grill to medium.
8. Dust the top of the tart generously with icing sugar then place under the grill until caramelised.
9. For the goats' cheese cream, place the goats' cheese into a bowl with the cream and icing sugar and mix well.
10. To serve, cut the tart into wedges and serve with a spoonful of the goats' cheese cream.

Happy New Year

Happy new year everyone. I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed all the celebrations. I hope that 2008 will be a good year for us all. I can't believe that another year has gone by already.
Its a bit of a down day today as I'm back to work after having almost 2 weeks off.
My new resolution is try at least one new recipe each week. I was given some wonderful cookery books for Christmas so will looking through them for some ideas and inspiration. Now I just need to decide which recipe will be first. There are far too many to choose from.
I would like to wish everyone a very happy 2008. I hope it is full of happiness and joy and brings you all you wish for.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Chocolate Truffles

I haven't spent a lot of time in the kitchen over the last few weeks. I've spent a lot of time visiting relatives and friends over the festive period so haven't done a lot of cooking. I spent Christmas with my parents so didn't even have a Christmas dinner to cook as it was all done by my mum who did a marvellous job. I did make the dessert though.

I made some chocolate truffles to give to some relatives. I got some pretty little boxes to put them in and they make a lovely little gift. They were absolutely delicious and I shall definately be making them again. They are so easy to make but look so impressive.

This is the recipe that I used. I think they would be delicious with a little rum in them too.

275g (10oz) 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
250ml (9fl oz) double cream
50g (2oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
50g (20z) cocoa powder

1. Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to the boil and pour it over the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate has melted, trying not to create bubbles. Leave to cool for 2 mins. 2. Add the butter in two stages, stiring gently. Once the butter is incorporated, the ganache should be smooth and glossy with no oil slick on the surface. Set the truffle mixture in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.
3. Remove the ganache from the fridge about 15 mins before you want to make the truffles, depending on room temperature. Put the cocoa in a bowl. Ensure your hands are cold and dry, then dust them with cocoa.
4. Take spoonfuls of the ganache mixture (use a teaspoon or tablespoon depending on how large you like your truffles) and roll the mixture into a ball in your cocoa-dusted hands. Drop each shaped truffle into the bowl of cocoa, turn it around and then toss it between your palms to remove any excess powder.
5. The truffles can then be returned to the fridge and kept in an airtight container.