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

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.