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.