Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

We have had some lovely food over the festive period. We started on Christmas Eve with Whole Roasted Carp with Capers. I made potatoes boulangere to go with it. The texture of the fish was far too soft for me though, I much prefer a meatier fish, but it was good to try it.

Opening the presents on Christmas Day was accompanied by lovely canapes made by my sister. We had vol au vents filled with olives and spicy peppers,

salmon and creme fraiche blinis and basil pesto and cheddar palmiers. They were delicious.

For our main course on Christmas Day we had Venision Wellington, Red Cabbage, Spaghetti Squash, Mash Potatoes, Roast Potatoes and Mangetout with Gravy.

Then for pudding my sister made Chocolate Truffle Cake from Nigel Slater's Real Fast Puddings. It was gorgeous but very rich so we only needed a small slice. We had some more for pudding on Boxing Day with raspberries and cream and the tartness of the raspberries cut nicely through the rich chocolate.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Mince Pies

I had my first go at making mince pies this Christmas. The local history group who meet where I work every other week were having a Christmas party, to which I was invited, so I wanted to make some mince pies to take along. So I got my Mum, who has been making mince pies for years, to show me how to make them. Sadly because of the weather the party was cancelled so the staff in the library got the pies instead! I had lots of people telling me how good they were though and I never realised how simple they were to make!

Mince Pies (from Cordon Bleu Cookery Course)
(Makes about 18)

For rich shortcrust pastry
8 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
5 oz butter
1 oz shortening, or lard
1 egg yolk
2-3 tbsp cold water

For the filling
about 1 1/2lb mincemeat
caster sugar for dusting

Make the pastry
Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Drop in the butter and cut into the flour until the small pieces are well coated. Then rub them in with the fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. mix the egg yolk with the water and tip into the fat and flour and mix quickly with a palette knife to firm dough.

Turn onto a floured board and knead lightly until smooth. Chill in a refrigerator wrapped in clingfilm for 30 mins before using.

Make the mince pies
Preheat the oven to 200C.

Cut the pastry into two lumps. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the pastry fairly thinly and stamp into rounds for the lids with a cutter. Put the rounds to one side. Add trimmings to the second half and roll out a little thinner than the first half. Stamp in rounds a little larger than the first.

Put the larger pastry rounds into patty tins, with a good spoonful of mincemeat to fill well. Place the smaller rounds on top, using a pastry brush and water to wet slightly and pinch the edges together. Brush lightly with cold water and dust with sugar.

Cook for 15-20 mins until nicely brown. Cool slightly before taking from the tins.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Chicken Caesar Salad

Chicken Caesar Salad is one of my Mums favourite dishes. She can't eat tomatoes, so it's one of the salad options that's pretty much guaranteed not to have them in. I don't think I had ever really eaten it before we went Paris, I'm not a big fan of creamy salad dressings much preferring vinaigrette, but the one she had in Paris was delicious and I have been craving it ever since. So I thought I'd try and make my own version with some left over roast chicken from last weekend and the results were pretty good. The sauce has the right consistency and flavour and was much better made from scratch than bought in a bottle, and the salad as a whole was really good. a lovely classic Caesar Salad.

Chicken Caesar Salad (adapted from Good Food Magazine June 2006)
(Serves 4)

1 medium ciabatta loaf (or 4 thick slices crusty white bread)
3 tbsp olive oil
leftover roast chicken
1 large cos, romaine or 2 little gem lettuce, leaves separated

For the dressing
1 garlic clove
2 anchovies from a tin
medium block Parmesan or Grano Padano cheese for grating and shaving
5 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Tear the bread into big, ragged croutons or, if you prefer, cut with a bread knife. Spread over a large baking sheet or tray and sprinkle over 2 tbsp olive oil. Rub the oil into the bread and season with a little salt if you like (sea salt crystals are best for this). Bake for 8-10 mins, turning the croutons a few times during cooking so they brown evenly.

Bash the garlic with the flat of a knife and peel off the skin. Crush with a garlic crusher. Mash the anchovies with a fork against the side of a small bowl. Grate a handful of cheese and mix with the rest of the dressing ingredients. Season to taste. It should be the consistency of yogurt - if yours is thicker, stir in a few tsps water to thin it.

Shave the cheese with a peeler. Tear lettuce into large pieces and put in a large bowl. Pull chicken into bite-size strips and scatter half over the leaves, along with half the croutons. Add most of the dressing and toss with your fingers. Scatter the rest of the chicken and croutons, then drizzle with the remaining dressing. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top and serve straight away.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Work's Christmas Meal 2010

Last Friday we had our works Christmas dinner at Little Bay Restaurant on Farringdon Road, London. We had a lovely evening out and the meal was fairly cheap as works dinners go, the first and main course were absolutely delicious. I got to try pig's cheeks which I have never had before, and they were very tasty, lovely with the garlicky mash. The dessert, however was not so good, I went for a white chocolate cheesecake, which had a weird grainy texture to it. I would definitely recommend going there for their savoury food though.

Pig's Cheeks with Garlic Mash, Crispy Bacon and Gravy

Breast of Duck with Red Cabbage, Sultanas, Paprika Potatoes and Duck en Croute

White Chocolate Cheesecake with a Passionfruit Coulis

Monday, 20 December 2010

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup

Last week my sister stayed with me as she had some things to sort out in London. On the Sunday evening she made a beautiful Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup for us for dinner and served it with Naan Bread. It was delicious and we had some leftovers that I froze, so I get to eat it again soon.

And for no other reason than she looks very cute in this picture, this is Smudge fast asleep on the back of a chair.

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup (from Glamour Magazine December 2010)
(Serves 4)

2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
600g carrots, washed and coarsely grated
140g split red lentils
1l hot vegetable stock
125ml coconut milk
plain yogurt and naan bread, to serve

Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas. Scoop out about half of the seeds with a spoon and set aside. Add the oil, carrot, lentils, stock and milk to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have swollen and softened.

Whizz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth (or leave it chunky if you prefer). Season to taste and finish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of the reserved toasted spices. Serve with warmed naan breads.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Baked Beans with Chicken Nuggets

I remember when I was much younger, going shopping with my Mum. We always went to John Lewis for lunch as a treat and I would always have baked beans with chicken nuggets, it was cooked with the chicken nuggets in with the beans, and I loved it. I wanted to try and replicate this but with homemade baked beans. This was really simple to make and was lovely and warming on a cold evening. I also had lots of leftovers and froze the, which was good as they were very easy to heat up in the microwave when I was ill and the last thing I wanted to do was cook.

Baked Beans with Chicken Nuggets (adapted from Olive Magazine January 2006)
(Serves 4)

olive oil
16 chicken nuggets
6 rindless bacon rashers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
700ml passata (or use 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes)
400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 onion, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven

heat a little oil in a large pan, add the bacon and onion and cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Put the chicken nuggets into the oven or under the grill and cook according to the instructions on the packet, they take roughly 12-15 mins.

Pour in the passata, add the beans, paprika and sugar, then season and mix well. Bring to a simmer and cook everything together for 15 minutes. Once the chicken nuggets are cooked add them to the bean mixture and cook for about 5 mins. Serve.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Daring Cooks December 2010: Poaching Eggs

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Ok, so I cheated with this. I have poached several eggs over the last month but I never managed to have enough time to make hollandaise sauce to go with it, so unfortunately I just had poached egg on toast. It is one of my favourite quick breakfasts and I used it to practice poaching eggs. I also seem to have had the busiest month ever and have been sick for the last week, so forgive me for not doing this properly but I did do the poaching bit and it was very tasty!

Eggs Benedict

4 eggs (size is your choice)
2 English muffins
4 slices of Canadian bacon/back bacon (or plain bacon if you prefer)
Chives, for garnish
Splash of vinegar (for poaching)

For the hollandaise (makes 1.5 cups):
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. (5 ml) water
¼ tsp. (1 ¼ ml/1½ g) sugar
12 tbsp. (170 g/6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3 g) kosher salt
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside.

3. Whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp. (5 ml) water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.

4. Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes (it only took about 3 for me) until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon.

5. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.

6. Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using).

7. Keep the hollandaise warm while you poach your eggs in a thermos, carafe, or bowl that you’ve preheated with warm water.

8. If the water simmering in your pan has gotten too low, add enough so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer.

9. Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do). I added about a tablespoon of vinegar to my small saucepan (about 3 cups of water/720 ml of water), but you may need more if you’re using a larger pan with more water.

10. Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.

11. While waiting for the eggs, quickly fry the Canadian/back bacon and toast your English muffin.

12. Top each half of English muffin with a piece of bacon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place on top of the bacon. Top with hollandaise and chopped chives, and enjoy!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Salmon with Coriander Dahl

More lentils! This time Indian style lentils. I decided to have this just on it's own without any naan bread or rice and it was very filling without all the extra carbs. I also added some frozen spinach in at the last minute to add some more veggies to the meal, plus spinach always goes well with lentils. This was not really spicy enough for me, but it did have a nice flavour.

Salmon with Coriander Dahl (adapted from Olive Magazine July 2010)
(Serves 2)

75g red lentils
400ml chicken stock
1 small onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala, plus extra for the salmon
pinch chilli flakes
small bunch coriander, chopped
2 fillets salmon
groundnut oil or sunflower oil

Heat some oil in a pan and saute the onions until soft. Add in the tumeric, garam masala and chilli flakes and cook for a minute or so. Then add in the tomatoes and cook for another minute. Finally put in the lentils and the stock and bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until lentils are tender. Stir in the coriander.

Rub the salmon with oil, seasoning and a little garam masala. Grill for 6-7 minutes until just cooked. Break into large chunks and gently stir through the dahl. Serve with the rice and naan bread, if you like.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

I am trying to incorporate more fibre into my diet, which is proving much more difficult that I thought it would be. I don't really eat much fruit at this time of year, I much prefer summer fruits which just don't taste the same in autumn/winter. I also don't really like wholemeal bread and detest granary bread, so the easy things to get into my diet I don't like to eat all the time. I have opted for eating more lentils and beans instead as I like both of them and they are quite easy to use instead of potato for a meal. This Vegetarian Shepherds Pie is one of the meals that I've tried. It was really filling and I didn't miss the meat at all.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie (adapted from Jamie Oliver)
(Serves 4-6)

2 red onions
2 carrots
2 cloves of garlic
a small bunch of fresh rosemary
2 x 400g tins of lentils
olive oil
1 x 400g can of plum tomatoes
200ml vegetable stock, preferably organic
1.5kg Desiree potatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g Cheddar cheese, grated
100ml whole milk
a large knob of butter
1 fresh nutmeg, for grating

Peel and roughly chop the onions and carrots. Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Pick the rosemary leaves, discard the stalks, finely chop half of leaves and put the rest to one side. Drain the lentils.

Heat a large pan on a medium heat and add a tbsp oil. Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the pan. Cook gently with the lid on for 8 to 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.

Add the chopped rosemary leaves, tinned tomatoes and stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, then add the drained lentils, reduce to a low heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until thick.

To make the mash topping:

Peel the potatoes, cut them into halves and quarters depending on their size, and put them into a pan of salted, boiling water. Boil for about 10 minutes until tender. Stick a knife into them to check they’re soft all the way through.

Drain in a colander and return them to the pan. Grate the Cheddar cheese. Add the milk, butter, most of the cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pan. Mash until smooth and creamy.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Transfer the lentil mixture to a large ovenproof baking dish. Spoon the mash evenly over the top, poke the remaining rosemary leaves into it to decorate and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, then cook in the hot oven for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Potatoes Boulangere

Potatoes Boulangere is one of those side dishes that you always get in French restaurants and love but never try to make at home. I never knew that it was so simple to make. The stock makes the potatoes so tasty and this dish is so easy to prepare. It's literally layering everything together, pour over the stock and the put in the oven to bake. It definitely takes me back to the many fantastic trips I have had to France.

I had them with chicken stuffed with cream cheese wrapped in bacon, broccoli and courgettes.

Potatoes Boulangere (adapted from Good Food Magazine January 2008)
(Serves 4)

1 onion, thinly sliced
few thyme sprigs or some dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
750g potatoes ,peeled and sliced thinly
300ml vegetable stock

Heat oven to 200C.

Spread a layer of potatoes over the base of an oiled gratin dish. Sprinkle over a few onions and some thyme and continue layering, finishing with a layer of potatoes.

Pour over the stock and bake for 50-60 mins until the potatoes are cooked and the top is golden and crisp.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Tomato and Courgette Tortellini Soup

It is definitely the time of year for warming and comforting dishes. Walking to work this afternoon my hands and face were freezing and according to the weather it's going to snow later in the week. I used my last courgette this week, so summer has definitely gone! I found a last one lurking when I took the plant out last week, part of it went into this tortellini soup. It was lovely on warming on a freezing cold day.

Tomato and Courgette Tortellini Soup
(Serves 1)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small courgette, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
350ml vegetable stock
1/4 pack fresh filled tortellini
chopped basil or parsley
grated parmesan, to serve

Heat oil in a pan. Fry the courgettes for 5 mins until starting to soften, add in the tomatoes and garlic and fry for a minute. Add the stock , then simmer for 5 mins.

Once veg is tender, stir in the pasta. Return to the boil and simmer for 2-3 mins until the pasta is just cooked. Stir in the basil or parsley, if using. Season, then serve in bowls topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Rice Noodles with Hoisin Lamb

I got an amazing deal on lamb cutlets a little while ago and stored them in my freezer. I had eaten the other eight cutlets just simply grilled with risotto on the side, but for the last two I wanted to do something different. I stumbled across this Asian inspired and it seemed to be just what I was looking for. The lamb was really good, but the noodles could have done with a bit more of a sauce rather than a dressing.

Rice Noodles with Hoisin Lamb (adapted from Good Food Magazine February 2007)
(Serves 2)

125g rice noodles
6 lamb cutlets , fat trimmed off
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 courgette
1/2 carrot
10 sugar snap peas
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

Cook the rice noodles following the packet instructions then rinse with cold water and drain.

Brush the lamb cutlets with the hoisin sauce. Cut the courgette and carrot into batons and stir fry for about 3-5 mins. Mix with the rice noodles and remaining ingredients.

Grill the lamb for 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through but still pink. Serve on top of the noodles.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Daring Cooks November 2010: Rocket and Cheddar Souffle

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Souffles as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate souffle recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I made souffle! I can't believe it! I put off this challenge for so long and I finally made the souffle about 30 mins ago and I am so glad that I did and it worked! I made one individual souffle with one egg as I had left it so long that I only had time to make it for me. I used the watercress souffle recipe but put rocket and cheddar cheese in instead, as I don't really like Parmesan and I had rocket in the fridge already. It was actually really nice, it rose a little too much and went down the side of the ramekin, but you can't have everything! I am just so glad that it basically worked and was lovely and fluffy.

Rocket and Cheddar Souffle
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp 1 oz/30g butter plus additional for the soufflé dish
3½ Tbsp (55 ml) 1 oz/30g plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup/8 fluid oz (240ml) milk
½ cup (120 ml) 2 oz/60g cheddar cheese, finely grated plus additional for the soufflé dish
1 cup (250ml) 2 oz/60g finely chopped rocket
4 large eggs, separated
½ tsp (2½ ml) (3 gm) (.1 oz) prepared mustard
¼ tsp (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) (0.05 oz) cream of tartar*
Salt and pepper to taste
* If you can’t find cream of tartar, a dash (~ ½ tsp) of lemon juice can be substituted

1. Butter the soufflé dish(es) thoroughly, then grate a small amount of cheese in each dish and tap so that the sides are evenly coated with the cheese. Place the dish(es) in the refrigerator until needed (according to some sites, this helps the soufflé climb).

2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350º F / 180º C / gas mark 4

3. Wash and chop the watercress if you haven’t already.

4. Finely grate the parmesan cheese

5. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook 1 minute, then add the milk, a little at a time, and stir until just thickened, about 1 minute. Add the cheese and stir until it’s just melted. Remove from heat then add the watercress and salt and pepper.

6. In a larger pan, bring water to a gentle simmer. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl set just over this water until pale and slightly foamy – about 6 minutes. (I held the bowl just above the simmering water to be sure I didn’t cook the eggs)

7. Mix the egg yolks into the watercress sauce.

8. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks yet are still glossy.

9. Fold the egg whites into the sauce in 3 additions so that it’s evenly mixed, but you don’t lose too much volume.

10. Remove the soufflé dish from the refrigerator and spoon the mix into it. Use a spatula to even the tops of the soufflés and wipe off any spills.

11. Bake 25 minutes for small dishes or 40 minutes if using a large soufflé dish, then serve immediately.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


I have lots of food that I cooked before I went to Paris still to write about, but I thought that I would write about my trip whilst it was still relatively fresh in my mind. I went with my Mum to Paris for three days last week, we did a Gastronomic Tour with a tour guide. On the first evening we did a three hour walking tour through the area in and around Les Halles, learning about the market, cafes and restaurants and the history behind the site. We then walked to a lovely fish restaurant close to the Bastille for dinner. I had John Dory and got a whole fish really simply cooked with rosemary and my Mum had Sole Meuniere with three fillets of Sole on her plate, it was absolutely divine.

The second day included the highlight of the trip, a three course meal with every meal in a different restaurant and each course being chosen by the chef at the restaurant. We started at 11.30am and had a brief walking tour onto I'le St-Louis, looking at the Hotel Particuliers that still survive on the island. This led us to our first restaurant Le Fin Gourmet, where we were treated to a glass of white wine and Salmon Rillettes with Rocket and a Balsamic Dressing. This was absolutely delicious.

We then walked to I'le de la Cite, past Notre Dame and through the beautiful flower market, learning more of the history of the area to the restaurant where we had our main course. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, save that it was in what used to be the cloisters of the old Abbey. There we had roast chicken with a mushroom sauce, braised celery, half a grilled tomato and some mashed potato with a glass of Cotes du Rhone. We were not very impressed by the main course, the chicken had a huge bone in it, so not much meat and all in all it just wasn't very inspiring. Also when I asked for an extra glass for water I was told we could only have one glass each. Very bizarre.

Our final walk took us over the Pont Neuf to Rue Dauphine on the left bank, not far from where we usually stay in Paris, and to our final restaurant for dessert. This again was very disappointing, of all the magnificent typical french desserts we could have had, profiteroles is not what I would have chosen. They were fine, but will always remind me of school dinners.

In the evening we only wanted something light for dinner so we took ourselves off to a cafe near the hotel and had salads. I had my favourite, goats cheese salad.

My Mum had Caesar Salad, which was so huge that she couldn't finish it but I did and it was absolutely delicious. One of the things I love about Paris is the cafe culture, that you can get fantastic food relatively cheaply in a really relaxed environment.

On the morning of the third day we went on a walking tour with tastings in and around Boulevard St Germain. The first tasting we had was Macarons from La Duree. I had rose and ginger and my mum had salted butter caramel. They were both sublime, much better than any macarons I'd had before. We then moved on to Rue Jacob and J. Leblanc oils. We tried three different oils, pistachio, hazelnut and the nut from the inside of the kernel of the plum! The last was very bitter. Here is our tour guide talking about the oils with the samples in a basket around her neck.

We went back on our way to the hotel and I bought some of the hazelnut oil, some tarragon vinegar and some raspberry vinegar so I can make some lovely vinaigrette at home. Our next tasting was choquettes and a mini almond cake from the carton bakery in Rue de Buci. We then walked back to Rue Dauphine close to where we had dessert the day before and tasted saucisson and ham from Coeson. Our final tasting was glass of red wine from one of the wine sellers in Marche St Germain. The wine a little strange on its own but would have been really good with food.

We then left the group and went to the supermarket to buy cheese and other bits and pieces and then to the fromagerie to buy yet more cheese! My fridge currently smells delicious and I need to say a big thanks to my Mum for suggesting the trip, I had a really lovely time.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Courgette and Basil Pasta with Pesto Crumbs

Wow, so it's been over a week since I wrote anything here, this last week has been totally hectic. I went to Paris for 3 days on a gastronomic tour with my Mum and had a fantastic time, I will blog more about that later this week. Then I went to Hen party on Saturday for my friend whose getting married in a month and had a lovely time dancing and chatting with friends and in between all that I've been to work and had fireworks in the back garden for Bonfire Night! Fantastic way to spend the week, but very little cooking at home was done.

This dish used up the last of my courgettes, and it was one I saw in Good Food and knew I had to try. It was delicious, I was lazy and used a jar of pesto which I combined with the breadcrumbs, but it worked just as well. I had it with a pork chop seasoned with Old Bay and then sugar snap peas.

Courgette and Basil Pasta with Pesto Crumbs (from Good Food Magazine September 2010)
(Serves 6)

500g pack penne
5 courgettes, grated
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
500g pot crème fraîche
25g Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative), finely grated
small bunch basil, reserve a few leaves for garnishing
85g chunk ciabatta
handful toasted pine nuts , plus a few extra for sprinkling

Slightly under cook the pasta, then drain, reserving a ladleful of cooking water. Rinse the pasta with cold water to cool. Drain again, toss in a little oil to stop it sticking together and set aside while you get the rest of the bake ready.

Fry the courgettes in oil for about 10 mins to drive off most of the liquid; they should reduce down a lot. Add the garlic and onion to the pan, cook for 2 mins more, then season really well and add to the pasta. Stir in most of the crème fraîche and half the Parmesan with seasoning, then tip into an ovenproof dish. Dollop the rest of the crème fraîche over the top.

Heat oven to 180C. Whizz nearly all of the basil, remaining cheese, bread and pine nuts together to make pesto crumbs, then scatter all over the top. Finish with a few more pine nuts. Bake for 20 mins until the topping is crisp and bubbling at the edges. Serve with a few more basil leaves scattered over.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Bacon and Courgette Lasagne

I have, over the past few months been experimenting with different lasagnes. I don't like mince so the traditional lasagne is out, but I've been trying various different none mince ones. Some have been fantastic and some not so good, never to be repeated. This one worked a treat. It did come out a little watery so I think the courgettes need cooking for a little longer to get the water out of them, but as a taste combination it was really good.

Courgette and Bacon Lasagne (adapted from Good Food Magazine November 2009)
(Serves 6)

3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
300g pack lean smoked back bacon, chopped
3 medium courgettes, sliced
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes in rich juice
20 basil leaves, roughly torn, plus extra to serve if you like
250g pack fresh egg lasagne
2 x 250g tubs cheese sauce
handful grated cheddar

Fry the onions in the oil for about 5-10 mins until transparent. Add the oregano, bacon and courgette and fry for 5 mins more, stirring frequently. Tip in the tomatoes, season and bubble uncovered for 5 mins. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.

Heat up the cheese sauce.

Spoon a third of the tomato sauce on the base of a lasagne dish. Top with a third of the lasagne sheets. Then top with a third sauce, a third lasagne, the last of the tomato sauce and finally the last sheets of lasagne. Pour over the cheese sauce and scatter with the cheese and an extra grating of nutmeg.

Bake at 190C for 40 mins until golden and bubbling. Serve with a salad and garlic bread.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Warm Chilli Chicken Salad

Wednesdays are usually the only day I have enough time to make myself a warm lunch. It's the only day of the week where I am either at home or in the library. For the last few weeks its been in the library studying for an essay which finally got handed in last week, so I celebrated by making myself a warm salad. This salad was so good, I had to ring my mum to tell her how good it was. The sweet chilli works so well with the other ingredients and the lettuce leaves provide that freshness so the dish is not too sticky and cloying.

Warm Chilli Chicken Salad
(Serves 4)

4 chicken breasts, cut into strips
8 medium potatoes
2 peppers, one red one yellow
salt and pepper
salad leaves
for the marinade
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
3 tbsp sherry or white wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 dsp sweet chilli sauce

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a deep dish and marinate the chicken for a minimum of an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cut the potatoes and peppers into squares and toss them in a little oil in a roasting tin. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the chicken on the middle shelf of the oven and roast the veg on the top shelf for about 30 mins or until cooked.

Mix the roasted veg and chicken with the salad leaves. Pour over the juices from the dish (or if you didn't have any, some more sweet chilli sauce). Mix well and serve with some ciabatta.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Barbecued Chicken with Lemon and Garlic

I have had a really good day so far, apart from burning two finger on the grill this morning! I have done some gardening and picked lots of carrots and courgettes, I have spoken to my sister whose currently in Australia. It was lovely to speak to her and she may, if she gets totally bored, do some updates here, as she is probably eating much more interesting food than I am!

Having said that I have been doing a bit of inventive cookery recently rather than my staples. One of these was Barbecued Chicken with Lemon and Garlic, although its too cold for barbecue here so I grilled it instead! It was delicious, really tender and juicy with a lovely flavour. I served it with a tomato, onion and rocket salad, rice-a-roni pilau mix and tzatziki.

Barbecued Chicken with Lemon and Garlic (from Australian Women's Weekly Lebanese)
(Serves 4)

1.5kg chicken pieces on the bone
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cracked black pepper
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tbsp mint, finely chopped
125 ml olive oil
125 ml lemon juice

Make two deep cuts in the thickest part of each chicken piece.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large shallow dish, add the chicken, mix well. Cover, refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Drain the chicken over a medium bowl and keep the marinade. Barbecue (or grill) chicken until it is browned all over and cooked through, brushing with the reserved marinade occasionally during cooking.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Crispy Peking Duck

I have had a duck sitting in my freezer for ages, doesn't that sounds familiar? I go out with an idea of what I want to cook, then I get home with the meat/ingredients and can't remember at all, so they get frozen and left for ages!

I love duck but have little idea of what to do with a whole one. I did have a vague idea of crispy Peking duck, having eaten it so many times in Chinese restaurants but thought it was way too difficult, this recipe actually turned out to be fairly easy. I used a small duck and it fed me for two meals beautifully. The picture is just making my mouth water at the memory of how good this was.

Peking Duck (from Chinese Food in Minutes by Ching-He Huang)
(Serves 8)

1 medium duck
2 ltrs boiling water

for the glaze
5 tbsp clear honey
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
4 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsp brown sugar

for the Peking duck sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
6 tbsp hoisin sauce
6 tbsp caster sugar
6 tbsp water
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp cornflour blended with 1 tbsp cold water

To serve
24 wheat flour pancakes
1 cucumber, deseeded and sliced lengthways into long strips
3 spring onions, sliced lengthways unto long thin strips

Place the duck on a rack over a roasting tin and pour the boiling water over it. Discard the water and pat the duck dry with absorbent kitchen paper.

Mix together all the ingredients for the glaze and brush over the duck, inside and out. Leave to dry and glaze for about 10 mins, then brush again. Repeat using most of the marinade but reserve 4-5 tbsps.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the duck on a rack in a roasting tin, transfer to the oven and cook for 45 mins. Turn the duck over and brush with reserved marinade. Check that the bird is not getting too dark, then cook for a further 40-45 mins or until the skin is crisp. Remove the duck on its rack from the oven, cover loosely and leave to rest.

To make the sauce, heat a pan or wok and add all the ingredients for the sauce except the blended cornflour. When the sauce starts to bubble slightly, add the blended cornflour and stir well to thicken. Set aside and leave to cool.

Oil the base of a small bamboo steamer and half-fill with wheat flour pancakes. Place the steamer over a pan of boiling water (making sure the water does not touch the base of the steamer), cover with the lid and steam for 3-4 mins until the pancakes are soft and cooked. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.

Carve and slice some duck. Place a tsp of the sauce on a pancake top with some of the duck meat, cucumber and spring onions, roll up and serve immediately. Repeat with remaining pancakes.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Ginger-steamed Fish with Stir Fried Vegetables

I'm still using my veggies out the garden, I have carrot and courgette left and they have been my staples for the last couple of weeks. They are a delicious combination in all sorts of ways. This is a very simple noodle dish and healthy with the steamed fish. I used turbot as that's what I had in my freezer, but you could use any firm white fish you wanted.

Ginger-steamed fish with stir fried vegetables
(Serves 2)

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 firm white fish fillets
120g wheat noodles
1 tbsp oil
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1 courgette, julienned
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp finely grated ginger

Mix together the soy, oyster and hoisin sauces and the Chinese rice wine in a bowl.

Crush the piece of ginger with the side of a large knife. Place the ginger in water in the bottom of a steamer pan and bring to the boil.

Place the fish in a lightly oiled steamer basket, place over boiling water, cover with a lid and steam for 10 mins

While the fish steams, cook the noodles.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat, add the oil and stir-fry the carrot for 3 mins. Add the courgette and stir fry for 3 mins. Add the spring onions, garlic and ginger and stir fry for a further minute. Add the sauce mixture and cook stirring continuously.

Lay the fish on top of the noodles and serve.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Ham, Cheese and Leek Spatzle Bake

My dad bought me a packet of spaetzle back from Germany ages ago as I really wanted to try it, but it's mostly been sat in my cupboard ever since. I tried it with some meat and gravy but I wasn't too keen on that, and then as a pasta substitute with some tomato sauce, which worked really well. This, I guess, is another pasta substitute recipe because it's a lot like how I make macaroni cheese but it worked really well. It was lovely with a green salad and vinaigrette.

Ham, Cheese and Leek Spaetzle Bake
(Serves 4)

8 slices of ham chopped
2 leeks, sliced
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup uncooked spaetzle

for the bechamel sauce
25g butter
25g plain flour
300ml milk

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Cook the spaetzle according to the packet instructions, adding the leeks for the last five minutes of cooking time.

Meanwhile make the bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a non-stick pan, stir in the flour, and cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes.

When smooth, start adding the milk. Stir until smooth, and then add more milk and stir until the sauce is thickened.

Add the ham, cooked spaetzle, leeks and 3/4 of the cheese to the bechamel sauce and poor into an oven proof dish. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 30 mins or until the cheese is golden on top.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Daring Cooks October 2010

Blog-checking lines: Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

I really enjoyed this challenge, it was little fiddly at first and I had to redo several of the rolls as the vine leaves kept splitting, but my kitchen smelt heavenly whilst they were cooking and they tasted so good.

When I went down to Green Lanes, one of the Greek/Turkish/Cypriot areas of London to buy my vine leaves the man in the shop asked whether I knew what to do with them! He thought it was funny than an English girl wanted to make dolmas!

I made the vegetarian version as I don't like ground meat. I ate them with some hummus and pitta bread and a few cherry tomatoes as lunch one day. I now have loads in the freezer just waiting for snack time!

Wara Einab or Dolma/Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food a Borzoi Book, published by Alfred A. Knopf
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

24 – 30 preserved or fresh grape leaves.
1¼ cups (300 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) long grain rice
1- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped or 4 tablespoons (60 ml) (35 gm) finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) crushed dried mint
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) ground allspice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6½ gm) dill
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced **optional**
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or more


If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.
If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.

Pour boiling water over the rice and stir well, then rinse with cold water and let drain.

Mix the rice with the chopped tomatoes, onion or scallion, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up.

Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.

Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge. As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.

Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling. (You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)

Pack the stuffed leaves tightly in a large pan lined with tomato slices or imperfect grape leaves Place a whole garlic clove in between them for extra flavor. The tightness will help prevent the rolls from unraveling.

Mix together olive oil, 2/3 cup (160 ml) water, sugar and lemon juice and pour over the stuffed leaves.

Put a small heat proof plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unwinding, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding water occasionally, a cup at a time, as the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Fennel and Courgette Risotto with Scallops and Prosciutto

This is seriously one of the best risottos I have ever made or eaten. I grew my enormous fennel bulb as I said in a previous post, and I looked around for fennel recipes, when I found this one I knew I had to try it. I love risotto and scallops and this is the perfect combination. The original recipe didn't have courgette in it, but because I have loads in my garden, I'm still adding them to anything! The addition of courgettes definitely worked in this recipe. The smokiness of the prosciutto also worked really well with the flavour of the scallops and the creaminess of the risotto. So good.

Fennel and Courgette Risotto with Scallops and Prosciutto (adapted from Delicious Magazine September 2007)
(Serves 4)

50g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fennel bulbs, heads finely sliced
300g risotto rice
300ml white wine
1.2 litres vegetable stock, hot
1 tbsp olive oil
80g pack prosciutto, cut into thin strips
12 fresh scallops
3 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
4 tbsp mascarpone

Melt the butter in a large, deep frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 8 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, fennel and courgettes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir until coated in butter, then add the wine and bubble for 2-3 minutes.

Add the stock, a few ladlefuls at a time, stirring in each addition until absorbed. Keep ladling and stirring until the stock is used up and the rice is al dente but creamy – this will take about 20 minutes at a gentle simmer. Check the seasoning, cover and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan, then add the prosciutto and fry for 1 minute or until crisp. Remove with tongs and set aside. When the pan is hot, add the white parts of the scallops and season in the pan. Cook for 1 minute each side or until lightly golden, then add the corals and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. Stir the parsley and mascarpone into the rice.

To serve, divide the risotto between 4 bowls, top with the crispy prosciutto, scallops and their corals, and season with black pepper.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Snail Pasta

I love snails and this is one of the simplest recipes with snails that I have come up with. I always buy about 5 dozen in a tin and then try and find quick ideas to use them up. They are fantastic with pasta and a tomato sauce.

Snail Pasta
(Serves 1)

10 snails
1 cup tomato sauce, something like Good Food's Tomato and Basil Sauce
enough pasta for one person

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

Make a quick tomato sauce, for the last five minutes of cooking the tomato sauce, add in the snails. If you are just reheating the sauce, add the snails to the sauce and heat up.

Drain the pasta and add to the tomato sauce, serve.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Lentil and Spinach Burgers

I made these fantastic lentil and spinach burgers a couple of weeks ago. When I go to the pub close to work I always have their lentil spinach burger and it is so good that I wanted to try making them for myself. I couldn't find a recipe that was exactly what I wanted on the Internet, so I took inspiration from several recipes and made my own.

I don't like pan frying from scratch, fishcakes and burgers, always seem to fall apart on me, so I baked these first, but that didn't given them enough colour so I pan fried them for a couple of minutes on each side at the end to brown them up. This also makes them easier to cook after defrosting them, all I have to do is fry them.

Lentil Spinach Burger
(Makes about 8 large burgers)

1 large potato, peeled, cooked and mashed
8-10 oz spinach, stemmed and sauteed
1 cup red lentils, cooked
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Mix the potato, spinach, lentils, cumin, coriander, garlic powder and
breadcrumbs in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in
the egg. For the patties by forming a ball in your hand and carefully
pat them into a burger patty type shape. Put them onto a baking sheet
and then put the mixture in the fridge for 30 mins.

Put the burgers in the oven for 30 mins. The heat a frying pan on a
medium high heat until the oil is pretty hot and the fry the burgers
gently on both sides until golden, flipping in the middle.

Serve on a bun with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Marinated Tuna Kebabs

I grew some fennel in the garden this summer, but only one of them grew into a proper fennel bulb, and it was huge! I used it in these kebabs and also in a delicious risotto. It worked really well with the tuna and lemon flavours. I served the kebabs with ratatouille and rice and toasted orzo mix.

Marinated Tuna Kebabs (adapted from Australian Women's Weekly Greek)
(Serves 4)

1kg tuna

for the marinade
1/2 cup fresh parsley sprigs
1/3 cup fresh coriander leaves
3 cloves garlic, bruised
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
125ml lemon juice
60ml olive oil
1 tsp grated lemon rind

Cut tuna into 3cm cubes.

Blend or process all ingredients for the marinade until smooth.

Combine tuna and marinade in a large bowl, mix well, cover and put in the fridge over night.

Thread the tuna onto 8 skewers, grill until cooked as desired, turning once during cooking. Serve with lemon wedges.