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.