Sunday, 28 December 2008

Boxing Day Meal

Christmas been really good this year and it was lovely to have my older sister, her husband James and my niece Arabella with us. The food was fantastic, the goose was delicious on Christmas Day and we had venison for lunch yesterday which was also really good. We are off up North for New Year, where I'm hoping to make bread and more Canapes for guests who are coming over. It should be very peaceful and relaxing.

We were all fed up of cooking and washing up after the big meal on Christmas Day, and were also still full from all the food, so we had a very simple supper on Boxing Day. My Mother went to the A Taste of Christmas cookery demonstration done by Teresa Bovey, with a friend a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed, whilst there she tried a Celeriac and Apple Soup which I decided to make for Boxing Day. I also made a basic white loaf to go with the soup.

Celeriac and Apple Soup (from Teresa Bovey Cookery Demonstration)

1 onion, chopped
a knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 celeriac (approx. 750g), diced
1 small cooking apple, diced
1 litre hot chicken or vegetable stock (I used Knorr Stockpot)
3-4 tbsp double cream
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (I didn't have any so left it out)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place the onion, butter and oil in a saucepan and fry gently for 3-4 mins

Add the diced celeriac and apple and fry for a further 3-4 mins

Pour over the hot stock, cover pan and simmer for 15-20 mins

Stir in the double cream, chopped parsley and season to taste.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas Canapes

As my Mother usually does the main cooking for Christmas, this year I decided to make Canapes for both Christmas Day, and today when we had relatives for lunch. They were used as a starter so that she didn't have to cook an extra course. The Canapes were inspired by the drinks party I went to a couple of weeks ago where they had fantastic Canapes. I chose quite simple recipes, and there were only six of us on Christmas Day and eight today, so it was a good number to practice on. I made some Hummus and some Muhummara, as made by Were rabbit, do check out her blog as the bento's are beautiful, for earlier in the day but these were eaten before I had a chance to take a photograph. For a first attempt these Canapes were a success.

I made Lemon Chilli Prawn Sticks and Lemon Marinated Tortelloni with Olives.

To go with these there were Mini Jacket Potatoes with Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese (from Delia Online), and Cumin scented Kofte with Minted Yoghurt Dip, from Canapes by Eric Treuille and Victoria Blashford-Snell.

Cumin Scented Kofte with Minted Yoghurt Dip (from Canapes by Eric Treuille and Victoria Blashford-Snell)
(Makes 20)

350g lean minced lamb
1 medium onion, chopped or grated
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

175ml Greek yoghurt
15g mint, finely chopped
15g parsley, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
salt, cayenne pepper

Place lamb, onion, garlic, cumin, ground coriander, lemon, fresh coriander, salt, and cayenne pepper in a food processor and whizz until combined and slightly pasty.

Divide into 20 equal sized pieces, with wet hands roll into balls, cover and refrigerate for 30 mins
For the dip, combine yoghurt, mint, parsley and lemon. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 30mins so that the flavours combine.

Grill the Kofte for roughly 5 mins on each side until browned, serve hot or cold with the dip.

Today's canapes were Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche Blinis, more of the Minted Yoghurt Dip, Avocado Lime Cream Dip, Herbed Pitta Crisps, Hummus and Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus. The avocado dip was delicious, I put in about a quarter of the amount of chilli, as we are not a big chilli family, and it had a delicious hint of heat at the end that was just right.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Crazy Insomnia and a Mini Roast

I travelled to my parents house yesterday and finally finished my Christmas shopping. Hurray! I had a delicious meal last night of Moroccan Lamb with Couscous and Salad, made by my mum and there are leftovers, which I fully intend to eat for lunch today. There was wine a plenty and I went to bed very happy. However at about 3am this morning I was hit by crazy insomnia and could not go back to sleep, argh. So I finished my book, Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs which is really very good and have now wrapped all my Christmas Presents as well, and it is only 7.45am and I'm still awake and functioning!

Anyway moving on from the lack of sleep, last weekend I made a Mini Roast just for me. I love the experience of a roast and I do think its worth doing with smaller birds just for one, plus I had plenty of leftovers for a chicken sandwich and I made stock from the bones, no waste here! This was an adapted version from Nigella Express and I apologise for the strange picture, I was hungry and ate the skin before taking the picture!

Roast Poussin with Sweet Potato (adapted from Nigella Express)
(Serves 1)

1 poussin
2 tbsp garlic oil or wok oil (or use a blend of vegetable oil, sesame oil and crushed garlic)
1 sweet potato, skin on
¼ tsp ground cumin (I used Paprika instead of Cumin)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
large bunch watercress
squeeze lime juice, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

Place the birds into a baking dish or deep baking tray and drizzle over one tablespoon of the oil.

Cut the unpeeled sweet potatoes into 5cm/2in cubes and place them into another baking dish.

Drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle over the ground cumin and cinnamon. Gently shake the tin to combine the ingredients.

Transfer both the poussins and the sweet potatoes to the oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until the poussins are completely cooked through and the sweet potatoes are tender.

Season, to taste, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and squeeze over a little lime juice and serve with the watercress.

Noodle and Dumpling Soup

Today is my last day at work before the holidays and I am so looking forward to the break. I have cleared out my fridge here in London, and not wasted anything! I have my last present to buy this afternoon and I need to buy all the ingredients for the canapes I want to make for Christmas, so I suspect this afternoon is going to be busy.

I thought I'd share with you one of my other favourite dishes, Noodle Soup. I'd never before thought of adding dumplings to the mix until I came across this recipe from Dishing Up Delights, that, and trying it on my escapade to Yo! Sushi. I love experimenting with Japanese food and it is fast becoming one of my favourites. Here is my version of the Dumpling Noodle Soup.

I basically followed the recipe in the link in terms of timings, but I used Dashi instead of Vegetable broth, as broth is impossible to buy ready made in the UK, and I added sugar snap peas and spinach to the soup to bump up the veggie content. Needless to say it was delicious and very warming after a cold evening at the Winter Wonderland.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Creamy Pork

Last week seemed to go very quickly. I managed to almost finish off my Christmas Shopping, only one more to go! I also saw friends and went to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, where I sampled Gluhwein and Bratwurst, two of my favourite things, which always remind me of trips to Vienna and Berlin and German Markets at Christmas.

One of my favourite quick warming dishes is Creamy Pork. I make it up as I go along so its always slightly different depending on what I have in the cupboard, and although it doesn't look hugely appetising, it is incredibly simple and delicious.

I make this by feel rather than a recipe so its not going to be accurate.

Creamy Pork
(Serves 1)

Diced Pork
3 Mushrooms
1 Small Onion, chopped
1 clove Garlic, chopped
Half Glass of Wine
Half Fat Creme Fraiche
1/2 tsp Paprika (more if wanted)

First heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until soft but not brown then add in the garlic, mushrooms and pork, cook until the pork is cooked and the mushrooms are brown, this shouldn't take that long, about 5-6 mins. Then add in the Paprika and stir until it kinda coats the pork.
Add the wine to the pan and wait until the alcohol has evaporated, ie until it doesn't smell vinegary any more, then add in the creme fraiche and let that heat through.
Serve it on top of pasta or rice.

Menu Plan Monday

This week's Menu Plan Monday is very short as I go home for the Christmas Break tomorrow lunch time. I'm going to spend Christmas with my family at my parents house and it will be my 5 month old nieces first Christmas. As I only help with the cooking rather than actually plan the Christmas meals, this is not really my menu plan!

Lunch: Ham, Cheese and Orzo Casserole and Salad
Dinner: Sausage and Red Pepper Parcels (if my red pepper isn't too dead)

Lunch: Leftover Poussin and Watercress Pitta Bread

After that it gets a little hazy...
We do have a tradition for Christmas Eve, although we are not a Catholic family we stick to eating fish for dinner, and this year its Fish Pie, with smoked haddock, salmon, prawns and some sort of white fish covered in mash potato.
Christmas Day lunch is going to be Goose with all the trimmings, as no-one in my family like Turkey and I am hoping to make some little Canapes to start with.
So all that remains to be said is Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Mash and a Bookmarked Recipe

I am slowly remembering to photograph my meals, especially if they were particularly good. Yesterday lunchtime I had Fried Rice Mix. This is a staple out of my freezer, I usually make a big pot of this and then freeze it in individual portions but it can also be made from scratch in no time at all. Its basically rice with anything I can find in the fridge in it! I remember this being cooked for me when I was younger, by my mum when she hadn't got anything out of the freezer. It is such a good standby when people unexpectedly cancel, or you have loads of leftovers.

All you need to do is cook some long grain (or short grain) rice in boiling water, add some frozen peas, if you have them for the last 3 mins of cooking, and then drain it.

Whilst the rice is cooking I stir fry my veggies, in this case red pepper, mange tout, sugar snap, asparagus, but you could use almost anything. I then added egg to the stir fried veggies and cooked that, like you would for egg fried rice.

When the egg is slightly cooked but still runny add the rice back to the pan and mix it all up, Then I add things like cooked chicken, ready cooked prawns, garlic sausage or spring onion and leave it on the hob until everything has heated up.

Serve with a little Brown Sauce.

On Mondays I work until 8pm and last night was very slow, I had no customers from 6.30pm onwards, so I was looking forward to getting home to my Sausage and Mash. I love experimenting with Mash, adding mustard or horseradish to it, making Colcannon and Champ, using oil or milk or creme fraiche as the liquid ingredient, but I had never tried it with cheese before last night. This was inspired by Nicole of Bay Area Foodie's Camembert Mashed Potatoes, but I had some left over Brie that needed finishing up, so I used that. It was delicious and went really well with the Sausages and onion gravy.

My last offering is one of my bookmarked recipes it comes from Bobby of BlogChef and is Cheesecake Brownies. These were really simple to make and a great hit with my family, I also managed to cook them just right so that the centres were still slightly gooey. I totally forgot to photograph them when I made them so had to snatch the last one to take a picture of! This I will enter into Bookmarked Recipes this week, the fantastic event held by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Its Menu Plan Monday again! This week is not too busy, I'm only out once this week at my works Christmas Party, I was supposed to be out on Wednesday as well but that's been cancelled. I'm also, amazingly, spending the weekend at home so I have that to plan for too! Last nights dinner was a triumph, I made snail pasta for my sister and it was delicious, I was expecting the snails to be rubbery as they were out of a tin but they were really soft and smooth in texture.

At Home for Lunch
Dinner: Pasta with Snails alla Calabrese

Lunch: Fried Rice with Ham, Garlic Sausage, Prawns and Veggies, (I'm still trying to finish that Garlic Sausage!)
Dinner: Sausages with Onion Gravy, Brie Mash and Veggies

Lunch: Mummy's Home Made Quiche Lorraine (From Cordon Bleu Cookery Course) and Salad
Dinner: Work's Christmas Party

Lunch: Tartiflette and Salad
Dinner: Smoked Haddock and Colcannon (I'm making my own Colcannon)

Lunch: Noodle Salad with Pak Choi, Red Pepper, Sugar Snap Peas and a Peanut sauce
Dinner: Pasta with a Creamy Pork and Mushroom Sauce, Salad and Garlic Bread

Lunch: Roasted Red pepper and Lentil Soup with Bread Roll
Dinner: Out at Hyde Park Christmas Market

Lunch: Pesto and Prawn Pasta Salad
Dinner: Poussin with Sweet Potato Chips, Watercress and Wasabi Dressing (From Nigella Express)

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Christmas Parties

So I am completely failing to find the time update this blog more than twice a week, I'll keep trying. This week has been full of Christmas Parties. Last Saturday I went to my former works Christmas party, and they had a home made buffet which had been made by two of my old colleagues, they had made so much food and it was all delicious.

On Wednesday I went to my sister's flat for drinks and nibbles, her flatmate had made the most delicious canapes, everything from beef with horseradish in mini Yorkshire puddings to home made cheese straws and this was all washed down with mulled wine. I had a really lovely evening talking and getting to know people.
I then hosted a Christmas party of my own at work for the Friends of Islington Museum, this for me was basically a networking event, something which I am not very good at, but I had a go and met a few people who could really help with some projects I have coming up. The food here was mainly just mince pies and wine with crisps and nuts and things but all in all a good night.

Cooking wise it was a very lax week and most of the pictures below are from the week before as I spent most of the week out of the house.

This is the Ham and Cheese Casserole which I cooked for Sunday lunch last weekend. The recipe comes from Heather of Gild the (Voodoo)lily, and I have to say is one of the most delicious things I have ever made, I will definitely be cooking this again. I loved the addition of veg into the mix. I didn't have any green beans and so i used mange tout instead and it worked just as well.

Sunday Dinner was Toulouse Sausages with Creamy Leeks, this again was fabulous, the creaminess of the leeks complementing the flavour of the sausage, this was sat on a potato rosti cake which i have rediscovered, its such an easy way of cooking potato.

My final offering this week is Beef and Ale Pie. I grabbed this out the freezer, I made a two individual pies quite a while ago and froze them for late working nights when all I want to do is shove something in the oven and have a rest. This is a recipe from Good Food, its really a casserole with dumplings recipe but I had some left over puff pastry, so I left out the dumplings and made them into pies. I had this with lovely bottle of wine that I brought back from my trip to Lille, this was definitely my idea of heaven on a freezing night.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I'm really enjoying Menu Plan Monday, it means that I have food to look forward to over the week and this week is crazily busy with christmas themed things and a trip to Dublin at the end of the week, which I am so excited about. I really need to try out some of my bookmarked recipes, I will have a go at that next week.

Lunch: Crunchy Pasta and Broccoli Bake
Dinner: Beef Burger stuffed with Gorgonzola (from M&S), Linguine with Pesto, Salad

Lunch: Salad with Cheese, Garlic Sausage and Artichokes (Not eaten last week)
Dinner: Treated by my Dad

Lunch: Ham and Mustard Sandwich
Dinner: Rabbit, Mushroom and Tarragon Stew with Potatoes Dauphinoise

Lunch: Sticky Rice with Honey and Mustard Frankfurters and Carrot Kinpira (Again not eaten last week, this will be the third time!)
Dinner: Chinese Buffet in China Town

Lunch: Flatbread with Hummus, Garlic Sausage, Artichokes and Lettuce. (Again not eaten last week due to leftover noodles from the night before)
Dinner: Out with Friends

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Final Catch Up (Fingers Crossed)

So I have a couple more dishes to catch up on which I cooked sometime in the last month. I went home to my parents, which has a much bigger kitchen than the one I have and did some baking. I made some delicious Lemon Muffins that I saw made by Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef and just had to try. If you love baking her blog is a really good on to get subscribed too. I am always getting tempted by the lovely thinks she bakes. Mine turned out quite well, even if I did over fill the cases, and they were such a hit with my sister that she missed her stop on the tube and got very jealous looks from those sitting around her!

I'm hoping to do some more baking this weekend, when I again go back to my parents for my bimonthly dehairing session, read haircut and leg wax, which is oh so much cheaper back at home than in London. This time I think it will be Cheesecake Brownies.

This lunchtime I'm going out for Sushi with my friend Liz, she has never tried sushi before and I am kinds intrigued by the conveyor belt, plus Yo! Sushi in St Pancras is doing a free hand roll when you spend over £5, which I think we will do easily! We will also have earned it as I'm off to the gym for my 3rd Steps Assessment thing. I don't actually seem to have lost any weight but I am definitely finding it easier to use the equipment and I'm using up all my surplus energy. So I think the Sushi is definitely deserved.

My parents have also just returned from a 3 week trip to India, where they thankfully missed the chaos in Mumbai but did meet a girl at the airport who had spent 12 hours lying on the floor in a cafe next to the Taj Palace. As I was with them the weekend before they left I got the contents of the fridge to bring back to London with me. So luckily for me this meant some Parma ham, which is a luxury I love but unfortunately very rarely have as its so expensive. I then had to decide on a recipe which would use up the Parma ham and struck upon Pesto Stuffed Chicken Wrapped in Prosciutto With Pesto Cream Sauce by Dragon of Dragon's Kitchen. This was delicious, and I changed the cream for some creme fraiche as that's what I had in my fridge. I served it with a green salad and Spinach Tortelloni with Leeks & Gorgonzola from Delia's How to Cheat. It was such a good combination.

Spinach Tortelloni with Leeks & Gorgonzola (from How to Cheat at Cooking by Delia Smith)

300g fresh spinach and ricotta tortelloni
2 leeks, cut in half lengthways and chopped small
200g Gorgonzola, cut into cubes
200ml of creme fraiche
whole nutmeg for grating
1 heaped tbsp of breadcrumbs
1 heaped tbsp Parmesan grated

Heat the creme fraiche, in a wide pan, then add the leeks along with some seasoning. Keep the heat low and let them cook gently for about about 7-8 mins without a lid until tender.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the grill and fill a saucepan with boiling water and bring it up to the boil. Give the leeks a stir and grate in about 1/4 of a while nutmeg and remove from the heat.

When the water bubbles, add the tortelloni and cook it for 2 mins. After that, drain it quickly in a colander and with some of the water still sticking to it, tip it into the saucepan to join the leeks. Give it all a good stir, then spoon it into a gratin dish, stirring in half the Gorgonzola and scattering the rest on top.

Finally mix the breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan together, then sprinkle this all over, put it under the grill for 3-5 mins, or until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are brown and crisp. Serve in warm bowls.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Menu Plan Monday, My First One!

This is for Menu Plan Monday, which I am having a go at for the first time. I have been planning my weekly meals for a long time, I have a wall chart which I print out each week. I usually plan my meals on a Saturday as that is when I have the most time, its slow at work if I'm there, or I sit in the afternoon and plan. I have found that its made me use up the food in my fridge, freezer and store cupboards more effectively and stopped me wasting so much food, plus I love having meals to look forward to and dream about!

Lunch: Ham Cheese and Orzo Casserole, Salad
Dinner: Toulouse Sausages with Creamy Leeks

Lunch: Macaroni Cheese, Salad
Dinner: Steak and Ale Pie, Mash, Veggies

Lunch: Squash Soup, Bread Roll
Dinner: Lentil Curry, Rice with Saffron

Lunch: Salad with Cheese and Garlic Sausage
Dinner: Being Treated by my Dad

Lunch: Bento – Honey and Mustard Frankfurters, Carrots with Soy and Sesame, Sticky Rice
Dinner: Thai fishcakes, Noodles

Lunch: Flatbread with Hummus, Artichokes and Garlic Sausage
Dinner: Out for a meal with friends

I also need to make Squash Soup this week.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Food for the Cold

We seem to have gone into something of a cold snap in the last few days in London, which makes me crave warming soups, casseroles and pies and red wine. I keep forgetting to take photographs of my cooking though and also my camera is not very good and so its difficult to get good quality shots, but I'm learning.

As I sit drinking my lovely Rioja that I bought on my recent trip to Lille, I'm thinking back over the last couple of weeks and seeing if anything exciting has happened. Last weekend I went to Bath to see my sister, her husband and my 4 month old niece, who is absolutely adorable. I had lots of lovely food over the weekend and didn't cook at all. On the last night they cooked me a Salmon and Creme Fraiche dish from Nigel Slater's The 30-minute Cook: Best of the World's Quick Cooking. It was really good. We also went to Wagamama's for lunch and I was amazed by how baby friendly they were.

We spent the weekend gossiping and sharing stories, it was really lovely to see her as I don't get to see her very often. We also got to talking about careers and work in general, whilst I like my job, its not what I thought it was going to be, and I'm heading towards wanting a career in the food industry, I'm not sure what as yet. I have such a passion for food and spend all my time looking at foodgawker and recipemuncher and recipes online, which I then go home and try out. I don't think that I could handle the pressure of working in a restaurant kitchen, but would quite like to cook for a family or dinner parties, or cook someones weekly meals that freeze and they could just get out the freezer. Does anyone know how to go about starting something like this? I am not a trained chef, which is all anyone seems to want, although I have completed a basic cookery course. I also miss cooking for other people now I'm single and live on my own without a large enough space for dinner parties.

Right down to the cooking.

A couple of weeks ago I went to my younger sister's for dinner, we now have this tradition of either going out for dinner or one of us cooking for the other on a Sunday night, it makes a really nice end to the week and we try different restaurants for food each time. This is what she cooked for me last time:

Its pasta with ricotta, spinach and red onion, which was originally cooked for her by her friend Georgie and it was delicious. I love trying other people's cooking.

Next up is a meal out the cupboard, I was originally meant to be going out for dinner but it was cancelled at the last minute and I found a packet of lentils in the cupboard and decided on Lentil Curry. The Recipe came from Matzo and Rice and I had it with Naan bread, it was scrummy.

This is my weekend meal, Grilled Lime and Parsley Plaice Fillets with Salt and Vinegar chips, this is again originally a Leiths Recipe, but I didn't have all the ingredients for the Breadcrumbs, so made it up as i went along. The chips also didn't come out all that well, they are home grown potatoes from my Parent's garden and I think they have a really high water content, as the outside was really crunchy but there was nothing in the middle.

I still have more catch up to do from previous cooking and baking efforts.

Grilled Lime and Parsley Plaice Fillets with Salt and Vinegar Chips (from Leiths)
(Serves 4)

675g/1 1/2lb potatoes
7tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp white breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest of 3 limes
small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
8 plaice fillets, skinned
1 egg, beaten or a tbsp yoghurt
coarse sea salt and pepper

Set the oven to 200c.

Cut each potato into 6 wedges, length ways, and put them into a roasting tin. Pour over 3 tbsps of the olive oil. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Put the roasting tin in at the top of the oven and cook for 50-60 mins turning occasionally or util the potatoes are crisp and brown. Pour over the balsamic vinegar and toss the chips in it.

Preheat the Grill.

Meanwhile prepare the plaice. Mix the dried breadcrumbs; lime zest and parsley together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Dip the fish in the egg or cover in yoghurt, and then press the breadcrumb mixture onto both sides.

Grill the fish for 2-3 mins each side until the crust is golden and fish is cooked.

Put a pile of salt and vinegar chips onto each plate and top with the plaice fillets and drizzle the potato juices around the plate.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Another Catch Up!

I'm not finding a lot of time to do my blogging, work is keeping me busy and with this new fitness thing I seem to not have a lot of time! I have finally had my gym induction today and the start of my steps plan! Basically I get to have a meeting with an instructor once a week to check how i'm doing and if i've lost any weight etc. This is all included in my gym membership, so i'm really happy! I now have a programme to go round the gym with, including 15mins on a cross trainer and lots of weights! I'm hoping this works! I also would like to do some yoga and pilates as well.

I've also been to Lille, France this week! I went for a shopping trip on Eurostar! My family have been going to France every year since I can remember, to stock up on cheese, alcohol an all things french, and now that I have left home, i'm hoping to carry on this tradition. So off I went for the day! I arrived at about 1pm and headed straight to a restaurant for lunch, I went to La Compostelle which had been recommended by my parents. I got a two course lunch for €17.90! I started with croquettes of goats cheese, with endive and spinach with a dressing. his was delicious and went so well together, then for main course I had Confit de Canard with parsley roasted potatoes, it was so good to be eating french food again!

My next stop was Comtesse du Barry, for Christmas last year my Mum bought me one of their tins to try, they basically do high quality canned foods, along with other speciality dishes. She bought me Confit de canard with sauteed potatoes and I wasn't expecting much from it when I tried it, but it tasted so good! So I bought two more of them, plus a fish soup and a cassoulet. I have high hopes for these too! My next visit was to Phillipe Olivier, Cheese maker extraordinaire! They have the most amazing range of cheeses and when you walk in, you are instantly hit with the heady aroma of cheese. I bought a goats cheese and a Mont d'Or, which is one of my favourite cheeses, I am taking it to my sisters for dinner tonight, I can smell it from the other side of the room! Its the sort of cheese you have to spoon out to eat!

I then just spent time wandering around Lille, unfortunately it was raining, so my feet got very wet by the end of the day. My second to last stop of the day was to Paul, the bakers, for that all important baguette and a tarte aux framboises and a tarte aux citron. All of which were heavenly. There is also a really good cook shop in Lille, which I had a fantastic time wandering around and deciding what things I wanted to buy when I move into somewhere bigger!

My last stop was to the supermarket. There is a large Carrefour in EuraLille, a huge shopping centre close to the train station, very handy for me! There I bought all my staples, mustard, olive oil, wine, as well as chocolate, cakes, pate and the majority of my cheese as it is much cheaper than in a cheese shop. All in all it was a fantastic day despite the rain and I felt very decadent dining out by myself, I think I will try and go back in April time! I might have run out of cheese again by then!

On with the catch up, some time in September I had a huge craving for sausages in cider, this is a recipe that my mum used to cook loads when i was younger and its such a good warming autumny dish. It was made all the better by including home grown apples that she had given me straight off the tree!

The photo was taken in somewhat of a rush as i was so keen to eat it!

Shortly after that I made some really good lentil soup, the recipe came from I have such a huge supply of lentils which needs using up, so expect more lentil dishes! This one was delicious with a lovely hint of lemon coming through at the end.

Sausages in Cider

Pork sausages 2or3 per person
1 Onion sliced
1 Apple sliced
1 pint Cider
1 clove Garlic
Plain Flour

Heat oil in a casserole and fry onions and garlic until just beginning to soften add sausages and just brown. Add enough flour to coat cook for a minute or so and add cider stir well and add apple and sage leaves. Place in oven for 40mins at 180c sauce should have reduced. Serve.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Long time no blog!

Wow! So its actually been months since I last updated this blog, not because I haven't been cooking but mainly because I started a new job and have been horrendously busy. I am now working as a Heritage Assistant at Islington Borough Council in London, which involves 2 late nights a week and one Saturday in three, but is at the same time very rewarding. I'm mainly helping people with their family history and also local history about the Borough, which can be really frustrating but also really interesting.

I have also joined the gym and started going swimming, trying for a fitter me! Along with that I am trying to make my portion sizes smaller, something I am really struggling with as I usually only cook for me and find it really difficult not to cook too much.

I have a couple of recipes to share today and then I think I'll do the rest later on!

When I went to see my parents for bank holiday weekend, we had a feast of cooking. On the Saturday night when we arrived we went to see my Godfather, Paddy and his Partner Paul for dinner, and we brought the dessert. I made a ginger and orange tiramisu, I learnt to make this first at Leiths on my cookery course all that time ago and still make it occasionally for dinner parties now, it is so rich, but so delicious. This is the bottom layer of the dessert, I don't have a finished photo as we were in too much of a rush to get out the door!

I also had a go at the No-Knead bread, that's been floating around for a while, and which i first saw here: No-Knead Bread, made by Em of the Repressed Pastry Chef Blog which I love, the recipe does originally come from the New York Times. We had a few problems with converting American measurements! My Mum and I forgot that grams aren't the same as ml and ended up with way too much liquid, so the dough was kinda well not runny, but not exactly stiff either! It was oozing off the bread board in a very attractive way! But was absolutely delicious once cooked and slathered with butter.

I also made a batch of just plain brown rolls, which I took home with me and froze to eat with soups and make sandwiches with, they were so good, there really is nothing like home made bread!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Jacket Potato

One day last week, when I arrived back home late after a day out, I decided a jacket potato was in order! Its just a simple jacket potato but it tasted delicious and it came from my mum's garden. The weekend before last I met my parents had a day out in London. We started at 202's, a restaurant in a Nicola Farhi shop in Notting Hill, I had an Iced Chocolate and a Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel. There was so much smoked salmon it was unbelievable, I actually took what was left over home with me, and had it in my Jacket Potato. The iced chocolate was delicious as well. We then went for a wander down Portobello Road and I bought lots of lovely fruits for the week. In the afternoon we went to Kew Gardens, which were spectacular and thankfully we had wonderful weather.

As I am very interested in all things Japanese, I made sure that we went to the Japanese Gardens, this is a picture of the Japanese Pagoda, which unfortunately you couldn't climb up.

The Jacket Potato

I pushed a skewer through the middle of the potato and baked it in the oven for an hour. When the potato was cooked I cut it in half and scooped out the middle into a bowl, I then added some garlic and herb cream cheese, the smoked salmon, some spring onion and a crushed clove of garlic, and mixed all this together. I then put the filling back in the potato skins grated some cheddar and blobbed some ricotta on top and then out it under the grill until it went golden brown. This was then served with a side salad.

I couldn't eat all the jacket potato in one sitting and so that other half went in a bento for lunch the next day. This was joined by a salad, brazil nut and raisin mix, 2 green gages and some water biscuits for a pot of hummus which isn't pictured.

My second bento of last week, was even better than the first one. The bottom layer was brazil and raisin mix, some cherries, a green gage, some gyoza dipping sauce in the container, and two chicken and vegetable gyoza. The top layer, had cold soba noodles, with stir fry courgettes, carrots and beans, with spring onion, pickled ginger and sesame seeds on top. I also had some dipping sauce in a separate pot.

In the end I didn't need this bento as I left work at 1.30pm, but it was just as nice eaten at home!
As this week is my last week at work my co-workers gave me some flowers and these are them. They smell gorgeous!

These are all coming out in wrong order! I will speak more about the bank holiday weekend in my next post I just need to upload the photo's first!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Courgette and Pesto Pasta

So this is not strictly a recipe more just a dinner I threw together, but it was so delicious I thought I'd share! Last week was kinda busy with a trip to the theatre and various other things happening, so not much time for cooking.

All I did was simply cook up some fresh tagliatelle, whilst the pasta was cooking I sauteed some courgette in butter and oil. then I added the two together and stirred in some basil pesto from a jar. I had it with a lamb and apple burger and some green salad and it was delicious!

I also have a bento to share. I got into making bentos a few months ago and joined a couple of communities on live journal, bentolunch and eat_my_bento.
These have fantastic ideas for lunches and I love looking at the pictures! It has now become a regular thing and I find myself packing bento's almost every day, although most are very boring, I still love the thinking that goes into it and it has definitely made me eat a more balanced lunch!

This one contains: matzo fish balls, dried mango, brazil nuts, carrots fried with soy sauce and sesame seeds and rice with furikake on the bottom layer. The blue strawberry has sweet chilli sauce in it and the pig contains soy sauce.

I am coming close to the end of my contract at my current job, I finish in a week or so, and although I have another job lined up, it doesn't look like its going to start directly after I finish this one. This has me somewhat worried as I was originally offered the job back in May, and that I will loose out on pay, so whilst September will be ok, October may be a different matter, I guess I will muddle through. Hopefully the time off will give me a well needed break and also mean that I can do some more cooking, I already have plans to make bread and rolls this weekend, and I need to get some nice warming pies and stews stashed away for the winter, so I'm trying to take positives out of this rather than stressing out too much!

This weekend I am off up North! My parents have a holiday cottage just north of Newcastle, so I'm off to spend the weekend up there with them. On the way up there we'll stop at Morehouse Farm Shop. Where once I asked if they sold pigeon and the gentlemen behind the counter said he could go to the barn and shoot a couple for me. They do the most delicious meat, and I cannot wait to have some of their sausages again. I intend to have a very restful and relaxing weekend, making bread as I said earlier and reading and just generally lazing about! I'll also go to Barter Books and take some books to them and buy some new ones, I cannot wait to look at what they have in the cookery section. It is such a fabulous place, I would be very happy getting lost among the thousands of books they have there. I'm also hoping to walk to the Beach which is about a mile from the house. I'll let you know how my weekend goes!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Macaroni Cheese

Wow, I've been browsing lots of food blogs over the last few months and lots of people have done various versions of Macaroni Cheese. To me Macaroni cheese is one of my favourite and easy meals to cook, it reminds me of coming home in the winter and helping my mum to make the cheese sauce. Its one of those yummy and satisfying dishes, that completely means home. After the disaster of the courgette lasagne last week I wanted something pasta that I knew I could cook! I also wanted to enter something to Presto Pasta Nights, so I hope this is ok! You can find all their lovely pasta dishes here:

I also did a cookery course at Leiths Cookery School a couple of years ago and that was one of the recipes that I've continued to make time and time again, I tinker with the recipe depending on what is in my store cupboard and because I've made this so many times I do it by eye rather than measuring things out. So without further a do I give you Macaroni Cheese:

I had a fantastic time with my niece and sister at the end of last week and actually made a coffee cake for my brother-in-laws birthday which was a huge success, enjoyed by almost every member of his family! I also went shopping in Bath, where they have a wonderful cook shop called Kitchens, needless to say I went a bit crazy! I bought a cuisinart mini blender, a mixing bowl and some American measuring cups, which will come in handy when using recipes from the Internet.

On Friday night I met up with a Friend and we went to Imperial Bento in the centre of Peterborough for dinner, this is called a buffet meal, but its not a buffet in the conventional style. The waiters give you a menu and you can choose as many dishes as you like from it, but they must be eaten in the correct order, ie once you've chosen your second course, you can't then order another first course. The food was fantastic, really really tasty. For the first course we ate noodle wrapped prawns, ham and prawn (dragon) rolls, salt and pepper squid and satay chicken, this was followed by crispy Peking duck, and then finally we shared beef with green peppers, prawns with ginger, Asian stir fried greens, noodles with bean sprouts and rainbow fried rice. We were both very full after eating all that food but it was delicious and I was in very good company too. No pictures unfortunately! It was all eaten too fast!

I am also trying to clear out my freezer a little bit and keep things circulating. So I had a mini dim sum platter of things that had been sat in my freezer for a while. All of the stuff was shop bought so I can't claim any credit for it but it was a delicious lunch!

Gyoza, duck spring roll, tempura battered prawns, sesame prawn toast, wonton.

Macaroni Cheese Recipe (from Leiths)

110g macaroni
110g smoked bacon, chopped
oil for frying
20g Butter
20g plain flour
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of dry English mustard
425ml fresh milk
salt and pepper
110g strong cheddar cheese, grated
85g stilton, crumbled
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

Preheat the grill to its highest setting. Cook the macaroni according to packet instructions, drain well and rinse under boiling water.

In a frying pan, fry the bacon in a small amount of oil until golden brown, put on a bit of kitchen roll to get rid of the extra oil.

Melt the butter in a different saucepan on a low heat and add the flour, cayenne pepper and mustard, cook stirring for one minute. remove from the heat, pour in the milk a bit at a time and stir, turn the heat up and return to heat and stir all the time until the sauce has thickened.

Stir the macaroni into the sauce and reheat if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in all but 1tbsp of the cheddar, all of the Stilton, the bacon and the chives. Put the mixture into an oven proof dish.

Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle evenly over the sauce.
Grill fairly quickly until the top is browned and crisp.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

What do you do with a lot of courgettes?

Wow! My first post! Hopefully I will keep up with this, I'll try anyway! So what have I been cooking? Well one of my colleagues at work has an allotment and brought in some giant courgettes from the glut that she has from her allotment, and I took three of them off her hands. So this week I've been turning courgettes into various things! The first thing I made was courgette and cheddar soup, from an old recipe of my mum's, it was delicious!

I also made a Camembert, Courgette and Potato Bake, which unfortunately got a bit burnt so I didn't take an pictures of it, and tonight I'm going to try a Courgette Lasagne, more on that later hopefully!

I've had a week off work this week, so I've been visiting museums and art galleries in London. I started at Tate Britain on Sunday and saw the Lure of the East exhibition, which was fantastic. Then on Monday I went to the Hammershoi exhibition at the Royal Academy, this was absolutely amazing, very like Vermeer but slightly more bleak. Yesterday I went to Kensington Palace and saw the Debutant's exhibition, which was so interesting and also the State Rooms there and then to the Banqueting House on Whitehall where many previous Kings and Queens held their Royal Banquets.

This morning I went to Buckingham Palace! I've never been before so it was a new experience, we went around the 19 State Rooms and the Ballroom was set up for a Royal Banquet, it was absolutely magnificent, the floral displays were spectacular and they had 5 wine glasses at each place setting. It is one of my aims in life to see all of the Johannes Vermeer paintings, there are 27 of them scattered around the world, and I have so far seen 9 of them, so I'm not doing to badly, anyway, there is a Vermeer painting in the picture gallery at the Palace, 'The Music Lesson' and I saw that this morning, it was so exciting, I absolutely love his paintings.

Tomorrow I'm off to Bath to see my little Niece and then home to see my parents.

My photos are not all that good at the moment but I hope to make them better with practice, so bare with me, I hope you enjoy the soup!

Courgette and Cheddar Soup
(makes 3/4 servings)

2 large courgettes
2 medium potatoes
2 cloves garlic
500ml stock
2 tbsp creme fraiche
100g roughly mature cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper

This is all approximate as you just keep tasting as you go along.

Chop the courgettes into thickish slices, and peel and quarter the potatoes.

Put the courgette, potato, garlic cloves and stock into a pan and cook until the potato and courgette are soft, 15-20 mins.

Take off the heat and add the creme fraiche, blitz it in a blender or with a hand blender, then add the cheddar and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together so that all the cheddar melts and serve.