This is a diary of what I cook and what I eat.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Pork chop with cauliflower puree

Not been blogging as often recently because I have been busy with work but I hope that I will have more time to tend to my rather flagging blogging soon.  Particularly as my lack of blogging means serious decline in readers which is the ultimate goal really.  I have cooked some fantastic things and just haven't had the chance to write about them and so I move on to the pork I ate this evening.

The rather anaemic looking white stuff underneath the pork, I assure you this is down entirely to my lack of decent camera, is the cauliflower puree and it went beautifully with the salty pork.

serves 2
2 pork chops
salt and pepper
half a head of cauliflower
200ml whole milk
a splash of double cream

Really simple this one: Cook the cauliflower on low for 20 minutes in the milk, not allowing the milk to boil.  Blend and reserve.  Grill the pork on a really high heat, ensuring the pork is well seasoned.  Add the double cream to the puree and gently re-heat.  Serve however you like! So, so simple but if your meat is good quality it is delicious.  I poured the juices from the pan over the top as well but you could make a bit more of a gravy.  I had some broccoli on the side as well, from my organic riverford veg box

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Liverpool Food and Drink Festival 2010

I have just returned from the Liverpool Food Festival at Sefton Park after a fabulous, foodie filled day.  This the first leg of the tour,if you like, as this is running all week in a variety of restaurants across Liverpool.  We are going to 'Gusto' tomorrow on the half price day.  Basically each day this week there is a new promotion going on and this is part of the ongoing efforts of a variety of people to show off the culinary talents that Merseyside has to offer, for a reduced or discounted price so that everyone can try.

Currently I am saving for a house and do not have the spare funds to be flashing about but I did, as usual, treat myself to a few buys whilst wandering around today.  I purchased some extra virgin greek oil from the 'Delifonseca' stall, some vegetables and some free range, British, rose veal escalopes. I then made a veal dish with these ingredients for my dinner this evening and the recipe will follow as it was quite delicious.  I also ended up signing up for an organic vegetable box to be delivered to my house weekly.  So I am so excited about this and the price was quite reasonable.  So that means there will be plenty of seasonal recipes coming up as they choose the vegetables according to seasonality.

I waited for an hour in a queue to see James Martin in the demonstration tent and I thoroughly enjoyed it and intend on trying his recipes out very soon.  I did the very embarrassing thing and asked for a picture with him but I was pleased that I did as Mum will be very jealous!

Me and James Martin

I did get some time last night to actually make something for a change and that was corn fed chicken breast, chestnut and portabello mushroom risotto, wilted spinach with fondant parsnips, recipe below.

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts with skin on (preferably free range)
3 chestnut mushrooms and 1 portabello mushroom finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
chicken stock
1 glass of white wine
a handful of grated parmesan
120g arborio risotto rice
double cream
150 g baby spinach
1 large parsnip

1. Peel the parsnip and take out the centre hard section and then make even chunks of the remaining parsnip.  Place these in a saucepan and pan fry in butter over a medium heat until turning golden brown and then pour a little chicken stock in the pan and reduce the heat.  The stock should come up to halfway on the chunks.  This water needs to be topped up throughout cooking.

2. Pan fry the chicken breasts, skin down, for around five minutes on a moderate heat or until slightly golden brown.  Then place into a hot oven.  You can now start the risotto.

3.  Start by frying the shallot in a little olive oil, then after two minutes add the finely diced mushroom and cook for a couple of minutes.  Then add the risotto rice and cook for forty seconds then add the glass of white wine.  When this has evaporated a little start to add a little stock, little by little.  This process is stated in my earlier recipe for red wine risotto and this is repeated here.

4.  when the rice is slightly al dente in the centre it is cooked perfectly.  Add the parmesan and stir.  Place the lid on and remove from the heat, allowing to rest and really get the starchy creaminess out of the rice.

5. quickly heat some butter in a pan and throw in the spinach with plenty of salt and pepper.  Cook for a minute or even less.

6.  Check on the chicken, which should be done.  To assemble, half the chicken breasts and place on top of good dollops of risotto.  Add the spinach to the top, the parsnips can go round the edge.  Lovely. 

Monday, 30 August 2010

Wirral Food and Drink Festival 2010

Its been over a week since I last blogged and its because I have moved house! Therefore cooking and photo taking has been on the back burner whilst I try to settle into my new room.  I have had time however, this bank holiday weekend, to visit the Wirral Food and drink festival 2010 at Claremont Farm near Bebington.

The Wirral already has a good name for itself amongst foodies in the north west, providing brilliant suppliers and in possession of a Michelin starred restaurant: 'Fraiche'.  The food festival was really busy and had some great, newer stalls that I haven't seen in Lark Lane farmers markets or at the Conwy food feast and that was great to see because sometimes there is an abundance of the same type of stuff.  My purchases were fairly minimal as I have to watch the pennies at the moment, so i was frugal with myself as I could definitely get carried away, if allowed to.

I bought some lovely rye bread and a large piece of smoked pancetta, which the vendor assured me would be good for up to six months, which to be fair is not necessary in my case.  I think the first thing I will do with that is a risotto and use the pancetta in the onion and celery base. 

I also happened to see Aiden Byrne, who was demonstrating a white chocolate and white truffle risotto with pan fried scallops, and bought a copy of his new cook book, 'Made in Great Britain'. 

So all in all a good day, but we then continued to go out for an absolutely gorgeous meal at 'The London Carriage Works' on Hope street in Liverpool city centre and my main course tasted as delectable as it looks.  The great thing about the restaurant was that we could eat from the market menu, which was not only reasonably priced but had some great stuff on it.  Everything that the chef, Paul Askew, creates is done using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible.  The market menu focuses on the best that Merseyside has to offer and is produced using food sourced from a 25 mile radius of the restaurant itself. 

Aiden Byrne demonstrating his recipe in the glorious sunshine

Loin of Lakeland Saddleback pork
with cauliflower puree, radish, green beans and Parmentier potatoes
And again...

The link for the restaurant is above.  I am extremely excited now about the Liverpool food festival starting on the 12th September in Sefton park which will no doubt celebrate more home grown food that the fabulous North West has to offer.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Easy Lasagne

I blogged a while back about making the perfect bolognaise recipe and I have used it again here in lasagne.  I made a really simple, and I think more traditional, Italian Lasagne.  Any lasagne I've eaten in Italy has been relatively firm and thick in its texture and this is what I hoped to re-create.  I cannot stand sludgy, over sauced mess and very often lasagne in restaurants resembles this very thing. 

I serve mine with a very simple iceberg lettuce salad because, quite frankly, that's what my mum used to do.

Serves 4 or 3 greedy people

1 batch of bolognaise recipe

10 lasagne sheets
1 pint of milk
1 tbsp plain flour
1tbsp butter
cracked black pepper, lots of it
large handful of Parmesan
large handful of mozzarella

1. Heat the bolognaise sauce in a pan if it not already hot.  Spread little spoons of this underneath your first two sheets and then continue to layer up with small spoonfuls of sauce with pasta sheets in between.  Making two nice stacks side by side in a large ovenproof dish.  Ensure there is about an inch in between the two and a nice bit  space around the pasta.

2. Pour the white sauce over the top when this is done (made melting the butter over a gentle heat and adding the flour until a smooth paste and then adding the milk bit by bit, incorporate all of the cheese bar a little handful of the Parmesan- reserve this for later)

3.  Add loads of black pepper and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese.  Place in an oven at 160/gas mark 4 for thirty five minutes or until the lasgane feels soft with a knife and the top is lovely and brown.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Best Broccoli soup!

I'm feeling massively bloated and unhealthy so the solution to that is another soup I reckon!  I decided to spring for a broccoli soup and I was actually going to put a few courgettes in for a little creaminess but changed my mind at the last minute because its good without it. 

The picture is a little fuzzy and to be honest I'm a little embarrassed about the quality of my pictures but goodness knows how long it might be before I can afford a really nice camera.  Its going to happen though!!

Unless its my terrible camera skills?

Serves 4

2 Broccoli bunches
1 chicken stock cube made up to enough water to just about cover the broccoli
a little double cream
cracked pepper
pinch of salt

Its mega simple this time, place into a large pan and cook for twenty five minutes and then blend.  Check how it tastes, I love plenty of pepper.  If you want to omit the double cream to make it healthier then you can always use skimmed milk. 

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Pork Belly

Rather than avoiding unhealthy foods and sticking to the salad I really fancied a little of what makes you feel good and that would be Pork Belly.  Without a doubt the most comforting food there is! And this weather is atrocious and calls for all things cosy and comfortable.

Bloody gorgeous
I adapted this recipe from a Jamie Oliver one from BBC food and served it with a celeriac and white potato mash.  Nice and simple with a gravy reduction. 

Sliced up, the question is who will get the end piece?


1.5kg pork belly

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 red onions, halved

2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways

2 sticks of celery, halved

1 bulb of garlic, skin on, broken into cloves

A small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked

600ml chicken stock

1.Preheat your oven to full whack, it needs to be at least 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.

2. Place your pork on a clean work surface, skin-side upwards. Get yourself a small, sharp knife and make scores about a centimetre apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that you cut into the meat.

3. Rub salt right into all the scores you’ve just made, pulling the skin apart a little if you have to. Brush any excess salt off the surface of the skin and turn it over. Season the underside of the meat with a little more salt and a little black pepper. Place your pork, skin side-up, in a roasting tray big enough to hold the pork and the vegetables, and place in the hot oven.
4. Roast for about half an hour until the skin of the pork has started to puff up and you can see it turning into crackling. Turn the heat down to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and roast for another hour. Take out of the oven and baste with the fat in the bottom of the tray.

5. Carefully lift the pork up and transfer to a chopping board. Add all the veg, garlic and thyme to the tray and stir them into the fat. Place the pork on top of everything and pop the tray back in the oven. Roast for another hour. By this time the meat should be meltingly soft and tender. Carefully move the meat to a serving dish, cover with tin foil and leave to rest while you make your gravy.

6. Spoon away any fat in the tray, then add the stock and place the tray on the hob. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to scrape up all those lovely sticky tasty bits on the bottom of the tray. When you’ve got a nice, dark gravy, pour it through a sieve into a bowl or gravy boat, using your spoon to really push all the goodness of the veg through the sieve. Add a little more salt and pepper if it needs it.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Plank steak

Its been absolutely ages since I blogged and there have been a number of things going on.  Mainly me going away on my holidays to Turkey.  I've had a fantastic, if extremely hot, holiday and believe me I've eaten plenty.  In fact its my weight watchers weigh in tonight so we'll see the true damage of wine and food in excess later on.

One of my favourite things to eat on holiday has been fillet steak.  Probably because meat is so much cheaper in Turkey, certainly in comparison to prices here.  In actual fact a fillet steak need not set you back more than 15 pounds.  Combine this with a cracking view of the harbour by moonlight and I was pretty chuffed. 

This is called the plank steak and is a fillet steak served with piped mashed potato and a few basic vegetables.  The sauce is a bearnaise sauce and the whole plank is put back into the oven. 
Now its a little 80s British classic with the piped mash potato and everything but it was actually delicious.  I'd eat it everyday if I could get away with it.  My adapted recipe is as follows:

Serves 2

2 fillet steaks
350g unsalted butter
2 shallot, very finely chopped
8 peppercorns crushed
1 tarragon sprig
1 small tarragon sprig
1 tbsp dry white wine
3 egg yolks
chives to finish

red skinned potatoes, 3 large
100ml double cream
knob of unsalted butter
pinch of salt and cracked black pepper

serve with green beans on the side

1. For the sauce, prepare some clarified butter by melting the butter in a small, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. When the butter starts to foam, take it off the heat and leave it to stand for a few minutes so that the milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan. Line a sieve with a muslin cloth and pour the butter through it into a bowl. You should have 200ml/7fl oz for the béarnaise sauce. Keep it warm in a saucepan.

2. In a separate small saucepan, combine the shallots, peppercorns, tarragon sprig, bay leaf, thyme, tarragon vinegar and white wine. Bring to the boil and allow the liquid to reduce to a third of its original volume, being careful not to let it boil dry.
Strain the vinegar mixture into a heatproof bowl, discarding the flavourings.

3.Place the bowl over a pan of steaming water (don't allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl.) Add the egg yolks and whisk over a gentle heat until the mixture is thick and creamy.
Take the bowl off the heat, and slowly whisk in the warm clarified butter, adding a splash of water if the sauce gets too thick. Season the béarnaise with a little salt, stir in the chopped chives and set aside.

4. To make the mash, peel the potatoes and boil with plenty of salt until very soft.  Drain the potatoes through a colander and then pour them back into the pan and place over the heat again to dry them out. Then mash the potatoes through a potato ricer and then stir in the double cream, pepper and salt to taste.

5.  Sear the steaks on the outside and place into the oven for the time required for your desired colour.  I serve mine medium rare and they usually require a further 5 mins in a 180C oven, depending on thickness. 

6. To serve the plank steak you need to present it on a wooden board for the effect and place the mashed potato underneath your fillet steak and pour over the reheated bearnaise.  Sprinkle with more chives and serve with green beans, eaither steamed or roasted with garlic. 

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Summer BBQ

I love the weather at the moment and today was the perfect day for a BBQ. I decided to cook some lovely welsh spring lamb with some roasted red pepper cous cous and a cucumber and yoghurt salad.  This dish is quite versatile and the meat could be changed to chicken, pork or beef.  In fact it would be lush with some rump steak.  The longer you marinate the meat, the longer the flavours have to permeate the meat so I would do it either the night before or in the morning before you want to eat it.

Serves 4-6

For the lamb

1 leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied to as even thickness as you can
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large pinch of seat salt
cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chili powder
Cinnamon stick
olive oil

  1. Put the seeds into a pan and toast for half a minute or until they are releasing their aroma.  Put into a pestle and mortar and grind them into a powder.  Mix in the other spices and crush the garlic into them to make a paste.  Add a good glug of Olive oil and rub this all over the meat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place into a large freezer bag with the remaining dressing.  Throw in the Cinnamon stick and seal tightly.  Place into the fridge to marinate for as long as you have.
  2. When you come to cook this lamb on the BBQ you will find that some areas become more well cooked than others but this usually works well as some people prefer it more well done than others.  I love my lamb with a hint of pink.
For the cous cous

100g cous cous made up with hot water and 1/2 a chicken stock cube
2 tomatoes
2 large red peppers
3 spring onions chopped finely
sprinkle of sea salt
1/2 red chili deseeded and finely sliced
a bunch of mint shredded

  1. Chop the tomatoes and add to the cous cous while it is still hot from the water.  This will give them time to gently cook.  I then roasted the peppers in the oven for 20 minutes in a high oven.  I then placed them into a freezer bag for 15 minutes and seal the bag.  Then you should be able to see the skins come away quite easily.  If you push the skins off through the bag, they should come away but you may need to peel some of them off.  Don't worry if there are some black bits remaining though, as they lend quite a lot of flavour to the cous cous.
  2. finely slice the red peppers and add to the cous cous with the remaining ingredients.
For Cucumber and yogurt salad

1 cucumber, halved
1 small tub Greek yoghurt
1/2/ clove garlic
small handful of mint

  1. Using a potato peeler make long thin slices of the cucumber and then add the yoghurt, garlic and mint.  Keep in the fridge till the last minute.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

What a way to follow low fat soup!

I thought after my soup recipe two days ago that I should blog about the delectably and indulgently rich chocolate cake I made for my partner's birthday. I had forgotten to mention it in my previous blog and yes, I do realise the irony of blogging about healthy eating alongside pure greed but there it is.  Everybody likes chocolate and if you can have it in moderation then you are on to a winner.  So that means one slice instead of four... And possibly a long strenuous walk afterwards!

 It went down a storm at his work and I think its probably my favourite recipe for chocolate cake.  The sponge is light and I have put a butter cream filling to sandwich the two sponges together and then used a ganache to cover the cake with.  Its a relatively easy recipe as well, which makes it even more appealing.  I like to use a massive bowl and get involved with the whisk to get a really decent cake batter; fantastic for those bingo wings.

Cake Recipe
225g Self-Raising Flour
3 tbsp organic cocoa powder
2tsp baking powder
225g margarine
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs beaten
10 tbsp whole milk

  1. Sieve the first three ingredients in a bowl and then add the margarine, caster sugar, beaten eggs and milk and beat until combined.  This is easily done with an electric mixer or with a kitchen Aid.
  2. Tip this mixture into two well greased and lined 8in baking tins.  Bake at 150 degrees for 50 minutes.
  3. Test these sponges with a skewer and when they come out clean the cake is done.  Leave to cool completely before starting with the icing.
For the butter cream
85g butter softened
170g icing sugar
25g cocoa powder
1tbsp hot water

  1. Sift the icing sugar into the butter and add the cocoa powder, also sifted.  Then add the boiling water and beat again until well blended.
Chocolate Ganache
230g double cream- basically a medium sized pot from a supermarket
200g dark/ milk chocolate depending on your preference

  1. Heat the cream and chocolate gently and whisk until blended and very smooth.  Transfer to another bowl and place into the fridge until it reaches spreading consistency.
  2. To assemble the whole cake add the butter cream to the sponges and gently spread to the edges.  Ensure the layer is even so that when they sandwich together there is some uniformity ready for the ganache.  Add the ganache to the outer cake.  Ensure the ganache is cool enough to stay put but flexible enough to be spread easily.
  3. And there you have your indulgent chocolate cake.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Soup yourself slim

I've made no secret of the fact that I am currently following weight watchers.  I have enjoyed gaining control of my eating habits and I have found that you can really eat what you want, within moderation of course. 

It might seem strange that I should be on a diet whilst at the same time protest to love my food but I find that the knowledge that I am to be weighed once a week enough to maintain a healthy weight and really my goal isn't to shed the pounds but to stay where I am.

There are a variety of ways to help you to lose weight or simply gain a healthy attitude towards food and weight watchers have got it right when they talk about 'filling foods'.  A great way to fill up before a meal is to have some soup beforehand.  It can fill you up to the point where you can cope with a moderately sized portion as opposed to a gigantic portion fit for the BFG

I also use these soups during the week as a lunch.  Each one has a low calorie content but if you were to add cream to make them slightly creamier it will up the calorie content significantly. 

I'll start with this Mediterranean chunky vegetable soup, its unbelievably simple but then again its tasty so thats all that matters.

Serves 4 for lunch

1 small swede diced
2 shallots
1 red pepper diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 jar of passata
400ml chicken stock
a handful of green beans chopped
1/2 red chili, chopped finely
tomato puree, 1 tablespoon
salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the ingredients into a large saucepan and then cover with the liquid and allow to come up to the boil.  Then reduce to a medium heat so that the liquid can simmer gently.  Cook for 25 minutes or until the swede is very soft.

2. If you wanted you could blend the soup at this point but I like the chunkiness of the soup as it is, finish with the tomato puree.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Remember the lettuce?

Its been a couple of weeks since I last discussed the various successes and the many, many failures of my abilities in the gardening area, or in my case the yard area.  Well I am impressed, with myself that is.  I have successfully looked after a number of plants and my my, you should see my lettuce.  In fact my yard has been dubbed the 'tropical paradise of our street' by a few friends because of the shere volume of plants that are suddenly appearing.  There is now a small area in which to sit, eat and hang washing which one can barely swing a cat in.  The answer to this little dilemma is to sit and eat but forget the washing.

To many it would not be a great feat to have grown a bit of lettuce from seed, did you get that 'from seed', but to me its like an achievement that should be honoured in some way, maybe a certificate stating 'Helen, you can now grow things'.  Maybe this is a little too far but you get my drift, I'm really pleased. 

I'm going to relish every bloody mouthful of this lettuce because after weeks of talking to it and pleading with it to grow efficiently, yes I really did, I have finally grown enough to make my Mediterranean salads and to feed my very hungry African land snail; I haven't asked the snail if rocket takes its fancy but surely, everyone loves rocket. 

Two varieties were sewn including rocket and salad bowl red and green lettuce.  The rocket is lovely and peppery with a sweet edge and I was thinking some luscious pesto must be made from this and that will make for some good fun trying to balance a good recipe.

It does not end here, my growing talents have extended to tomatoes, courgettes, sweet peas and herbs.  I will point out now that I have merely planted these and not developed them from seed, that would certainly be too much this year, but I anticipate with my growing confidence I may seek to do something like that.  This is all courtesy of the godfather of growing; grandad John.  I talked about him in a previous entry and he has been a real help in getting this growing lark started.

I thought you might like to look at some pictures:

Mirabelle Tomato


Tumbling Tomato

I'm still very much a gardening virgin but I know that given time I can become the green fingered slash cookery goddess I know I want to be and I know I harp on about sustainability but its the future so embrace it. I certainly am trying to embrace it and I think the future holds some exciting things for me and my trowel.

All I'm going to say is, watch this space.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sweet Potato and Aubergine Bake with a Feta topping

This was one of the side dishes at my dinner party and really worked with the Lamb and chicken I served.  It needs a long time in the oven because I put the potatoes in raw.  If you wanted to make it quicker you could part-boil the sweet potato before putting into the baking dish.  The only problem you could face here, might be the fact that sweet potato cooks really quickly but 5-6 minutes should be fine.

Serves 4-6 as a main/side

3 aubergines
1 large sweet potato sliced into 1/2cm slices
red pepper
1/2 red chilli
1 garlic clove
1 handful of mint
olive oil
4 medium tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1 glass of white wine

1 egg
300ml milk
1 level tbsp plain flour/oo flour
large knob of butter
pinch of nutmeg

200g Feta Cheese

1. Uses the garlic clove to line the baking dish with its flavour; rub it all around the base of the dish and then use a little olive oil to grease the dish also.

2. Slice the aubergine into 1cm slices and pan fry them on each side in a little olive oil. As they are absorbent don’t put too much olive oil in the pan because it seeps out during cooking and can cause you to have a greasy dish. Allow them to sit on some kitchen roll after this process.

3. Chop the onion and the red pepper finely and chop the tomatoes roughly. Fry them all in some olive oil in a frying pan, about a tbsp, for 5 minutes in a moderate heat. Add a glass of white wine. Allow this to reduce for a few minutes and then add the mint chopped and the chilli, also chopped. Then puree this sauce with a hand blender.

4. To assemble the bake you need to have the white sauce ready. Make a roux with the flour and butter and then gradually add the milk. Whisk all the time to create a velvety smooth sauce. Add the egg and mix in, turning the heat down to very low and finish with the pinch of nutmeg.

5. Start with a layer of potato discs and then pour a little of the red pepper sauce over. Then a layer of aubergine and another layer of potato and again, another layer of red pepper sauce. Do this until you have used up all of your layers and then pour the white sauce/egg mixture over the top. Crumble the feta over the top of the bake.

6. Cover with some foil and bake at 160/gas mark 4/5 for 45 minutes. Test with a fork and if your potatoes are soft then you can remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is browned.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Mid Week Dinner Party Fun

Its been over a week since I last blogged and this is definitely because I have too much going on at work and not enough going on in the kitchen.  A lot has happened since the 19th May, the last time I blogged, including my birthday, a new knife purchase and the receipt of a second hand bread maker.  Needless to say a lot has been happening in the kitchen.  In fact to be specific a couple of flat, stodgy loaves and a lot of finely diced vegetables, I will divulge information on my lack of bread maker talent, if that is what it would be referred to, later in the week.  All I'll say is my fingers are crossed for the loaf I'm going to make this afternoon.

Being a lazy part time worker; otherwise known as a teacher, I have this week off for half term and I decided to arrange a dinner party for our teacher friends.  Trying to deliver food with a theme I had Greek in mind but in reality a lot of the things I made could have come from any Mediterranean country.

I'm going to blog about my recipes this week and just to be different I am starting with dessert.  I made a raspberry cheesecake using a recipe I have adapted from the Good Food website.  It was very tasty, even if I do say so myself, and I hope that you will enjoy it too.

Makes 10 good slices

600g cream cheese
2 eggs and 1 extra yolk
175g caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
142ml soured cream
300g raspberries
vanilla extract- a few drops

12 hobnobs crushed
50g melted butter

caster sugar for finish

1. melt the butter and add to the crushed hobnobs. I crushed the hobnobs in a freezer bags with a rolling pin. When it is all combined put into a 24 cm spring form tin and press down so that it is flat. Bake for 5 minutes in a moderate oven- 180/gas mark 4.

2. Beat the cream cheese, eggs and egg yolk, flour, caster sugar, soured cream and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. I did this manually with a whisk but it was a lot of work so its better to use an electric whisk. Then stir in half of the raspberries gently.

3. Pour this mixture into the tin and then bake for 45 minutes at 180/gas mark 4. The centre wobbles slightly and the outer edge looks more firm.

Before serving sprinkle with the remaining raspberries and dust with the icing sugar.

This is the cheesecake before raspberry decoration.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Lamb Shank

I was in the Butchers the other day and saw some lamb shanks and thought I'd get them and see what I could do with them.  Here is my really simple way of making roasted lamb shank with a red wine gravy.

serves 2

2 lamb Henrys/shanks
unsalted butter
beef stock cube dissolved in 500ml hot water
a bottle of robust red wine
sea salt
Cinnamon stick
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
olive oil
2 carrots chopped into chunks
1 onion roughly chopped

  1. Make sure the lamb shanks are dried with paper towel before you start and then season the meat. Then fry them in some olive oil so that all of the sides have browned off. Use a heavy based large pan as this will be sufficient Remove the lamb shanks from the pan and add the onion and carrot and fry gently over a low heat.  for all of the liquid to fit in.
  2. Add the bottle of red wine and then the beef stock and add the lamb shanks to the pan.  They should be half covered by the liquid.  Now here is the bit that can be altered by you.  If you want to cook it on the hob this is possible and just add the lid and turn the heat to low.  If you want to cook them in the oven then place them into a casserole dish or heatproof pan and place the lid on and cook them in a low heat.  They will take 2-3 hours depending on the size of the Henrys but essentially what you are looking for is a real softness and tenderness to the meat.  If you try to get meat off with a fork it should come away with some ease.  For the last 20 minutes of cooking, throw a cinnamon stick in.

  3. Now remove the lamb from the dish/pan and allow to rest while you drain the liquid through a sieve and then a muslin cloth to remove the impurities and the carrot mixture.

  4. Set the cooking liquor aside and place the lamb Henrys into a roasting dish.  Pour a little of the cooking liquor over them, around 2-3 ladles full, and place them into the oven in a moderate oven for roasting, around gas mark 4.

  5. Reduce your cooking liquor so that it becomes thick and glossy.  I found that it needed some extra water at the end and then I added the redcurrant jelly to give the sauce its sweetness but also because it thickens the sauce up.  Finish with a few knobs of butter for a silky sauce.

I served mine with crushed potato but mash, cous-cous or just some asparagus would be lovely; especially as its in season.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Grow your own... lettuce?

I mentioned a few entries back, that I wanted to really concentrate on sourcing where my ingredients come from and find out a history, a story or a background on my meats.  Well I thought the answer might be for my to get a little green fingered and grow my own food.  Whilst I can't start a mini farm in my little yard I can use the space I currently have, while I wait for my allotment allocation, to grow a few veggies or something resembling an edible product. 

Obviously, I'd have to start small as up to now the only thing I've ever been known to grow is mold in my room at University.  Its a shame really because my upbringing involved being around a lot of home growing, in particular my grandad took me to his allotment where he grew raspberries, strawberries, carrots, onions, peas, broad beans, potatoes; both new and larger varieties and an array of salad ingredients and in truth this doesn't cover the other things he has grown over the years. 
Essentially, he could grow enough to provide meals, fair enough they would be minus meat, but they could provide meals from their allotment alone. 

This sustainability is an essential part of not only knowing where your food comes from, the bottom of your garden in this case, but it is vital for us to play a role in our food preparation right from seed. 

So I've started with lettuce; can grow within two weeks, is easy to plant, can be put into my yard and was the only thing I really trusted myself to grow.  Would you believe that after two weeks I could see little green shoots and I'm not sure what my neighbours thought when I was jumping around after having actually being able to grow something.  As you can see I need to leave it a bit longer before using it but its looking healthy right now.

I'm not suggesting that I'm helping sustainability just by growing my own lettuce because its really a big task and you have to be prepared to make big changes if you are to encompass what we mean by sustainability.  These changes could be sourcing British produce, growing your own food, having an allotment, not using plastic bags or purchasing food with immense amounts of packaging and that's just the start. 

So I'll let you know how I get on but hopefully this is just the start of my talents.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Chorizo and chicken spaghetti with a white wine and tomato sauce

I am a massive fan of chorizo both as an ingredient and eaten by itself. And wierdly enough my partner with his not to discerning taste has become so obsessed with chorizo that he actually looks miserable at the mention of me using an alternative cured meat for our fortnightly home made pizzas.

 I tend to use it in my everyday cooking as a consequence of this, which some of you may have already seen in my bolognaise recipe. I use it in soups, stews, pastas, risottos and even use it with meaty fishes such as monkfish as a stuffing or topping.

What the chorizo provides for me, I think this is probably why Mr Foodie loves it so, is a delicate spice and aroma, especially if you choose to buy the variety with the spicy paprika added. 

In this particular simple recipe for chicken and chorizo spaghetti the flavour lends itself to the absorbing quality of the chicken. The idea for me, is that the white meat of the chicken takes on the colour and taste of the chorizo so you pack in immense amounts of gutsy and tangy flavour without spending loads of time trying to get it.  You can use red wine for a richer colour and greater depth of flavour.

A perfect mid week meal

Serves 2

100g dried spaghetti
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
250ml passata
1 glass of white wine
pinch of sugar
generous pinch of sea salt flakes
150g chorizo, diced
2 chicken breast fillets, skins off and diced
1 tbsp mascarpone cheese

1. Gently fry the peppers in the olive oil over a moderate heat for five minutes or until you can see them gently 'wilting'.

2. Add the chorizo and chilli and fry for 1 minute

3. Add the chicken chunks and stir until the chorizo oil is coating the chicken. Fry for 4 minutes.

4. Add the glass of wine and fry for 30 seconds and then add the passata and turn the heat down. Simmer this sauce for 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. At this time you should put the spaghetti to boil with some well salted water and cook till al dente. I also check to see how acidic the sauce tastes as passata can really vary. If you feel it is too acidic then add the pinch of sugar.

5. Add your spaghetti to the sauce and stir in the sea salt to taste and add your mascarpone and then stir well.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Do you know where yours comes from?

I wonder if anyone else saw the brilliant 'High Street Dreams' last night on BBC one?  A fantastic display of hard work, determination and a dedication to sourcing excellent produce.  I have to admit that having the opportunity to enjoy such success would be a wonderful one for me and would certainly fulfil my foodie dreams. 

'Muddy Boots' mirrored the feelings that I constantly express at home to my partner that unless we source local produce and handle it ourselves then how do we really know where our food comes from?  This got me thinking about whether anyone really knows where all their food comes from. 
Yes, we might buy organic and we may trawl the local farmers markets finding fresh free range meat but what about the odd bagel and cream cheese you consume with your hot, steaming and expensive latte?  I know I'm guilty of forgetting the bits and pieces I wedge into my daily eats and whilst I avidly buy local and always check my labels for the Great British sign, I slip up sometimes.

So i'm launching my own campaign to attempt to know where every morsal of food comes from that goes in my mouth!
And it starts now.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Our love for the Cupcake

If you type 'cupcake' into any major search engine, what would you anticipate back? Its quite shocking to find that you would retrieve 9,390,000 answers in just under 0.23 seconds. Cupcakes have come a long way since they were an accepted dessert at a kids party. Their nostalgic edge has now been given a sophisticated front with piping tricks a plenty and just when you thought that was fancy enough: a touch of gold leaf.

We as a nation are pretty much obsessed with cupcakes and you can read 10,000 plus blogs declaring this. We can buy them almost anywhere and they feature in most major supermarkets in some form. Waitrose's sophisticated deli counter serves a variety of cupcakes and weddings are adorned with cupcakes as an alternative to the more traditional fruit cake offering. So what has brought us to the point where a simple mixture of eggs, sugar, flour and butter creates such a buzz and a stir?

The cupcake has long been the decorated and celebrated cake of the US and there are plenty of cupcake shops, cafes and bakeries selling theirs around the various cities. The one I'm sure many women will know of is the one featured in a 'Sex and the City’ episode, the 'Magnolia bakery' at 401 Bleecker street in the West Village where the ultra fabulous Carrie devours a vanilla iced cupcake decorated with tiny flowers.

Yet you do not have to travel to New York to get a taste of the best as even in my local area near Mossley Hill, Liverpool there are plenty of places offering these pretty little cakes including 'kupcake kingdom'.

Popularity however, will always bring with it something unwanted in my opinion, and in this case it’s the price. A cupcake can reach the heights of the £4.00 mark is some bakeries in London. Which is why I have created my own at home and while I assure you I definitely am under no illusion: these cakes will look homemade. I reckon that might be just what the cupcake needs to give it a good old British makeover.

Makes 8 large Cupcakes

For the cakes:

125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, very soft
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

For the frosting:

75g unsalted butter, very soft
250g icing sugar
75g sweetened condensed milk
75ml double cream

1. In the bowl of an upright electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla for three minutes on the highest speed until light and fluffy.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder two or three times, then add to the butter mix and beat for 30 seconds.

3. Spoon into eight muffin cups placed in the pockets of a muffin tray, and set aside to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and firm. Leave to cool.

 5. For the frosting, get the butter as soft as possible without melting, then put in a bowl with the other ingredients. Whisk until smooth and fluffy, then top each cupcake with a large dollop and smooth with the back of the spoon. I topped mine with some little marshmallows but you can literally let your imagination go.  Using piping bags is difficult with the frosting but if you're very confident with it you should be fine.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Perfecting the Bolognaise

If you were to ask for a Spaghetti Bolognaise in any trattoria, ristorante or osteria in Italy, then they would either: graciously oblige, or they could tell you the truth: it doesn’t exist.

In actual fact Spaghetti Bolognaise as we know it is an amalgamation of Ragu sauce and spaghetti pasta. The Italian Ragu sauce, which originated in the Italian city of Bologna, is cooked with red wine, onions, celery, tomato and ground meat. This mixture can be cooked for anything as long as seven hours to truly develop the rich flavours from the meat and allow the wine to enhance the sauce. This combined with the emphasis on sourcing locally grown ingredients creates the time-honoured sauce.

Undeniably the love affair with this dish is an ongoing one in the UK and almost every foodie has their own version. I have worked my recipe for Ragu and after several attempts I believe this is the perfect version. The balance of flavours works a treat for any midweek meal or indeed can still be an impressive meal to serve at a dinner party and is a bonus for people that like to get their prep done prior to their guests’ arrival.

This makes enough for 4

2 medium tomatoes pureed with a touch of water
1 jar of passatta
2 cloves garlic (crushed/ pureed in pestle and mortar)
1 large white onion finely chopped
4/5 slices of pancetta
100g pepperoni diced or if bought in slices cut into quarters
4 sausages (pork at least 78% pork, avoid strong herbs in these) de-skinned
400g lean beef mince
250ml red wine
Generous pinch of salt and pepper

1. Fry the onion in a tablespoon of Olive oil for two to three minutes or until the onions start to develop a ‘glassy’ appearance over a medium heat.

2. Rip the pancetta or slice into strips. (Don’t worry if this looks scruffy, it cooks down a considerable amount). Add the pepperoni and brown off for two-three minutes over a high heat.

3. Add the sausage meat and the mince meat and allow to brown. This process could take up to six minutes depending on the size of your pan bottom.

4. Add the fresh tomato puree, garlic, red wine and passatta together and then reduce the heat. You should now keep the heat on a very low setting and allow to simmer for at least 1 hour. Mine happily sits on my stove for up to two and a half hours. If you see the pan getting a little dry then add either some more red wine or a little water.

5. When you have reduced the mixture, taste and then add the salt and pepper to your liking.

I serve this with linguine pasta cooked with boiling water and plenty of salt, no oil! Its also good minus pasta with some garlic break and a salad. Either which way I challenge you to find a tastier plate of pure food indulgence.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The world is your Oyster, Sydney was mine

It has been a really long time since I started blogging and I have to remain positive that inevitably someone will read what I write and like it. This is the hope!

I will therefore continue to record my thoughts and feelings with regards to my foodie travels. Most recently being Sydney. So today I talk about Sydney. Well notably one particular aspect of the Sydney food scene: seafood, seafood and yes, more seafood!

I have to admit the sad fact that I have yet to sample an oyster, that it until I visited a delightful little restaurant on the Sydney Darling Harbour call 'Ice Cube'. Dressed in pancetta and leek and gently baked in an oven it was hardly jumping in with both feet first but nevertheless I was sampling what can be a dangerous food to try. Oysters, from my recent research, have to be fresher than fresh and by that I mean retrieved recently and not left to wait around.

I took a look at Global Gourmet for reference,

My opinion on Oysters hasn't changed in that I always thought of them as fancy looking snot which many people believe to be a luxury item without an ounce of cooking/food knowledge and merely think this because they have a reputation as a luxury item. I also have always thought of them as being insignificant to my day to day cooking and experimentation. I now believe the same to be true but I can now see their appeal to others. Its in the eating and the action of the eating that brings the overall enjoyment. Its an experience and one which quite frankly I think I might have again but I can't really say why.