Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Food I have Eaten!

So as I'm not doing meal plans at the moment I thought I'd give you all a quick round up of the things I have eaten in the last month of so.

The first was dinner at Guglee in Hampstead. I had Seabass Nazakat, which was sea bass coated with mint, coriander and chilli paste wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. The sea bass was delicious, as was the tikka guinea fowl we had for starter. The service however, left a little to be desired. We had to ask several times for drinks and were ignored for quite a long time after we walked in.


Secondly we went for an illusionary afternoon tea on the Good Ship Benefit. This is a tea where the food that looked like cakes was savoury and the things that looked like sandwiches were actually cake. It was really fun and definitely messed with my head!


I had lunch at The Parlour in Fortnum and Mason and chose the chickpea, tomato and flatbread salad. It was deliciously different and refreshing.


I also had lunch at The Good Schnit in the City. It was ok, a filling lunch but not brilliant.


I finally got to have cake at Indulgence in Walthamstow, I've been trying for months and it's never worked out before! I had the Elderflower and Lemon Cake and it was so so good. Next time I want to try the Salted Caramel and Apple Cake. 


I met a friend and went for lunch at Bubba Gump's in Picadilly. I had Shrimp with Bourbon Sauce and Mash Potato. The restaurant is full of Forest Gump memorabilia and the waitress even asked us questions about the film! 


We shared the dessert platter for pudding, cookie cake, strawberry shortbread and bread and butter pudding. It was huge! So despite the rather tacky look of the place the food was actually really good and I would definitely go back and try some of the other dishes.


After pilates one evening I went to Patty and Bun in Liverpool Street and had their Chicken Burger. It was ok, there was too much coating really to the amount of chicken but the smoked garlic aioli was delicious.

I also took a visit to Yauatcha for dinner, the dim sum as always was fantastic and for the first time I had pudding. We chose the Raspberry Rose, which was choux pastry filled with white chocolate mousse and rose. 


I also went to Borough Market for lunch one day last week and had a goat salad box from Gourmet Goat and it was very good. I had a barley rusk salad and a chickpea and beetroot salad with kid goat on top. I have also bought some of their meat to cook and that was very good as well. 


Finally I have discovered Konditor and Cook. They do fantastic cake and brownies. I have had the Curly Wurly Cake, Lemon Chiffon Cake and Apricot Cheesecake Crumble Cake, all excellent. I also had a Fudgepacker brownie, which was possible one of the best brownies I have ever had.

Hopefully there is more good eating to come!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Spain

At the beginning of July I spent 10 days in the north of Spain. I started in Barcelona and went via Pamplona, Logrono and San Sebastian to Madrid.

As this is a food blog, I'll concentrate on the highlights of all the delicious food I had, but some of the sights were spectacular too. So as I said I started the trip in Barcelona with a Jamon Iberico de Bellota Salad. This ham is from pigs that have only been fed on acorns and it is rather expensive, but oh so worth the money! It s out of this world.

















I loved Barcelona too, it was I think my favourite place on the trip. I love Gaudi architecture so spent the couple of days I had in Barcelona doing the highlights. The Sagrada Familia is just stunning.

We then moved to Pamplona and went to a Basque restaurant for our first lunch. I had courgette stuffed with gulas and gambas, basically baby squid and prawns, followed by gallo or rooster fish and the Basque tart. It was all delicious.





















We also had a wine tasting in Logrono and although I didn't like either of the wines, too spicy for me, they were served with delicious slices of salami, which I couldn't get enough of!




















The main focus of the food in Spain was Pinchos. Basically, individual things, smaller than tapas to go with wine. In some bars they were all laid out as in the picture, but in others they were freshly cooked and some specialised in just one type. We did a couple of pinchos crawls, going from one bar to the next having a pinchos and glass of wine in each. My favourites are below:





















We also went to a Valencian restaurant in Logrono and had paella. We had both traditional and seafood. It was so good.

















We went to another Basque restaurant in Lescarte, just outside San Sebastian and we had a lovely first course and main and then for pudding they brought out Vienetta!! I don't think I've had this for about 20 years, it definitely conjures up memories of sleepovers as a child!

















There were a couple of things I really wanted to try. One was chicharon, basically pork scratchings.






















The other was churros. I was a bit disappointed by the churros, for whatever reason they weren't as tasty as I thought they would be and it was too hot to drink all of the chocolate, which looked so so good. I'll have to go back in winter time as I'm told that the Spanish don't eat churros in summer, now I understand why!





















As you may have noticed from the above pictures there was very little in the way of veg floating around and side dishes weren't commonly on the menu, so by the final weekend in Madrid I had a very unhappy tummy. So on the last night we went to a Vegetarian restaurant near the Reina Sofia Museum.
















I'm still not really sure what I ate but it was very tasty, full of veg and grains and it sorted my tummy right out!

I enjoyed visiting Spain and I will definitely go back to Barcelona and Madrid and I also have yet to visit the south so that's on my list too!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Cajun Salmon Alfredo Pasta

I made this shortly before I went on holiday to Spain and I loved it. I am getting much better at making a white sauce and this feels quite decadent!





















Cajun Salmon Alfredo Pasta (from The Weary Chef)
(Serves 4)

250g dried pasta
4 salmon fillets
Cajun seasoning
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp garlic powder
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
500ml milk
30g Parmesan cheese
1 spring onion, sliced

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Sprinkle the cajun seasoning over the salmon fillets and bake in the oven for 15 mins.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions.

While the pasta and fish cook, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk until a smooth paste is formed. Add the milk gradually, whisking in between additions.

Add the garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper, and stir. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens. Add the cheese to the sauce and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir until the cheese is melted.

When the fish is cooked, flake into about 2 in pieces. Add the fish, pasta and spring onion to the sauce, and stir very gently to combine. Serve.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Oatmeal Brownie Bars

I made these delicious bars to take to the last Staff Meeting of term as my team was on snacks. They went down really well and are a lovely variation on a brownie.
















Oatmeal Brownie Bars (from The Sweet's Life)

For the oat layers
155g cups plain flour
90g rolled oats
200g packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
75g cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the brownie layer
40g butter
85g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
125g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 23 x 33 cm baking pan with baking parchment.


In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter and rub with fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside one third of the mixture and press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.


Bake crust for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly while you make the brownies.


Heat a pan of boiling water. Add the butter and chocolate to a bowl and put the bowl on top if the pan, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Leave the mixture to melt, stirring occasionally until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.


In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. 


In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, water, and vanilla until well combined. Mix in the chocolate/butter mixture and continue beating to combine.

Using a metal spoon, add the flour mixture, mixing until combined. Spread the brownie batter over oat crust, using a spatula to spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over brownie layer. Bake for 18-20 mins, until the edges are set. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Chicken and Leek Pie

The original title for this recipe is Chicken and Leek Shepherd's Pie - but to my mind you can't call anything shepherd's pie unless it has lamb mince in it. It's the lamb that makes the shepherd's bit not the mash potato. Anyway, enough of my English semantics!

Despite my quibble over it's name it is a delicious pie and a bit lighter than a traditional mince filled one. 


Chicken and Leek Pie (from Healthy Seasonal Recipes)
(Serves 6)

1 tbsp butter
2 large leeks, chopped leek
1 tbsp plain flour
185ml chicken stock
60ml cream or milk
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 small tin sweet corn
salt and pepper
3 baking potatoes, cooked and mashed.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium high heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring often until softened and starting to brown, 3 to 5 mins.

Sprinkle the flour over the leeks and stir to coat. Stir in the stock followed by the cream and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often until the sauce is thick, about 5 mins.

Stir the chicken, parsley, sweetcorn, salt and pepper into the leek mixture, and remove from the heat. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and top with the mashed potatoes.

Put into the oven and bake for 30 mins until the potatoes are starting to brown and heated through and the sauce is bubbling. Serve.




Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Squash and Kale Pasta Bake

I really enjoyed this pasta bake, the squash with all that cheese makes a lovely and rich sauce and I added in the kale and sun-dried tomatoes as I thought they would probably go! Delicious!
















Squash and Kale Pasta Bake (adapted from Jen's Food)
(Serves 4-6)

Approx 700g butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp oil (for roasting)
300g dried pasta shapes
125g grated vintage or extra mature cheddar plus 25g for sprinkling on top
50g cream cheese
4-5 tbsp hot water
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
handful kale, chopped
6 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced

Preheat the oven to 200°C

Put the squash chunks in a roasting dish and toss with the oil, season with salt and pepper then roast for 40-45 mins until tender. When the squash is done let it sit for a couple of mins so it's not too hot then transfer to it a food processor or blender with the cream cheese, cheddar and 4-5 tbsp of the pasta cooking water. Blend until smooth then season with freshly grated nutmeg and ground pepper and pulse a couple of times. Stir the kale and sun-dried tomatoes into the sauce.

When you take the squash out of the oven, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Put the grill on to heat up. Return the pasta to the pan it was cooked in then add the cheesy squash mixture and mix together thoroughly. Next transfer the pasta and sauce to a large baking dish and sprinkle over the remaining 25g cheddar. Grill for 10 mins or until golden and crispy on top. Serve with steamed green veg or a green salad.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Spring Greens Coconut Curry

This is one of the most flavourful curries I have eaten in a long time. It is packed full of fresh veg and tastes amazing. I served it over a bowl of rice.





















Spring Greens Coconut Curry (from Cranks)
(Serves 4)

1 head broccoli, cut into small-ish florets
4 new potatoes thickly sliced
8 asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off, and stems cut into 5cm pieces
150g frozen peas
3 tbsp oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cm root ginger, peeled and grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 large chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt
handful baby spinach, roughly chopped
400ml tin coconut milk
handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
juice 1 lime

Put the potatoes into a large saucepan, bring to the boil, add the broccoli and cook for 6 mins. Add the asparagus and peas and cook for a further 2 mins. Drain and return to the pan, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for 2 mins. Add the tomatoes, cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and salt and cook for 5 mins. Add the coconut milk, and simmer for a further 5 mins. Add the vegetables and cook for 2 mins.

Stir through the spinach and half of the coriander, then remove from the heat and squeeze in the lime juice. Serve.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Graham Cracker Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This is the cake I made to take into work for my birthday this year. It was absolutely fantastic but very rich, you definitely only need a small piece. I found myself eating it at 8.30am just to check that it was edible for the rest of the staff!
















Graham Cracker Cake with Chocolate Frosting (from Better Homes and Gardens and BBC Food)
(Serves 12)

3 eggs, separated
24 squares graham cracker, finely crushed
30g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
113g butter
225g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
180ml milk

For the frosting:
100g dark chocolate
200g butter, softened
400g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
milk, to loosen

Take the eggs out of the fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170C and grease and line two 8 inch round baking pans.

In a medium bowl stir together the graham crackers, flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for about 30 secs. Add the sugar and vanilla and0 beat until well combined. Add egg yolks; beat until combined. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, beating on low to medium speed after each addition just until combined.

Thoroughly wash the beaters. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Spread batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 25 mins or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 mins and then remove from the pans. Cool the cakes completely on the racks.

While the cake cooks; Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool until the chocolate no longer feels hot to the touch.

Beat the butter in a bowl until soft, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and beat again. Fold in the melted chocolate until completely incorporated (add a few drops of milk if the mixture is a little stiff).

Place a cake layer, bottom side up, on a serving plate. Spread the frosting on top of cake. Top with the second cake layer, bottom side down. Spread sides and top with the chocolate frosting. Cover and chill until serving time.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Foodie Reads 2016: Afghan Nachos from Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

I really enjoyed reading the  Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and thought I would give the second one a go. Whilst it is not as good as the first it is pretty decent.





















This one sees the action split between Kabul and an Island off Seattle, but this doesn't detract from the story as there are lots of connections made between the two throughout the book. I really enjoyed this book and I now have The House of Carnival Street by the same author to read.

There are a few recipes at the end of the book and one in particular caught my eye - Afghan Nachos, not least because I had all the ingredients in the house already. I added cucumber in to the original recipe as I had some and I knew it would go well. This is a really delicious alternative to normal nachos.























Afghan Nachos
(from Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez)
(Serves 6)

2 tbsp oil
6 spring onions, chopped
1 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
170g Greek yoghurt
1 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped
bunch mint, chopped
4 pitta bread

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the spring onions, fry for 2 mins. Add the chickpeas, cumin and paprika to the pan and cook for 5 mins stirring frequently.

In a small bowl, mix together the yoghurt, salt, garlic and mint.

Toast the pitta bread until crispy, then cut into large pieces.

Assemble but putting the pitta in a bowl, top with the chickpeas and then the yoghurt.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Freekeh Salad with Salmon

I've been struck down with gastritis, which is making eating rather unpleasant, so these are meals from a long time ago that I never got around to posting.

This was a yummy salad I took to work one day.





















200g freekeh
½ large onion
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
salt
4 skin-on salmon fillets
1 tbsp oil
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
juice 1 lemon
60g plain Greek yogurt
4 small cucumbers, cut into rounds
bunch fresh dill, chopped
bunch fresh mint, chopped
bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Put the onion, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth; tie closed with kitchen twine. Drop the sachet into a large pan of boiling water, add the freekeh, and cook according to packet instructions.

Season the flesh side of salmon with salt. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and cook the salmon, starting skin side down, until golden brown, about 4 mins per side for medium-rare. Transfer salmon to a platter and leave to rest for 15 mins.


Whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and yogurt in a large bowl. Add the cooled freekeh, season with salt, and toss to coat. Mix in the cucumbers, dill, mint, and parsley. Divide among 4 plates. Flake salmon into bite-size pieces and arrange over the top.