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.