Sausage rolls and scotch eggs

Sausage rolls and scotch eggs

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Triple Chocolate Gingerbread


We are well into December and it's full on Christmas adverts, panic present buying general bank account assault. It's been pretty cold now too and when the less pleasant weather hits, I turn my attention to comforting winter foods. The foods I tend to crave are rich casseroles, roast dinners and Christmas related puddings. The thing with this gingerbread is, even people that don't like gingerbread like this, even my kids! I love Christmas spices, add in some chocolate and put it in a cake and I am one very happy lady.

This is a lovely dark cake but if you're worried, just use light brown sugar or use less treacle and more golden syrup.


Ingredients
275g plain flour
250ml milk
200g treacle
200g golden syrup
175g butter
175g chocolate chips 
125g dark brown sugar
40g cocoa powder
2 eggs
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Chocolate Icing
250g Icing Sugar
60 ml water
1 tbsp cocoa powder
15g butter

You'll need to put the oven on 170 degrees and I used a roasting tin, greased and floured or lined

1) Melt the treacle, syrup, butter and sugar in a pan, over a low heat and leave to cool slightly

2) Sieve the flour and cocoa into a bowl and add the spices

3) Put the bicarbonate of soda in a cup and add 2 tbsp water. Add to the treacle mixture and whisk to combine

4) Pour the treacle mixture into the flour mixture and whisk well until there are no lumps

5) Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and sprinkle over the chocolate chips. I like to do this to stop all the chips sinking. Place in the oven for 35-40 minutes

6) Leave the cake to cool in the tin as it's very soft. I put mine in the fridge because I was too impatient

7) For the frosting, melt the butter and add the water. Sieve over the icing sugar and cocoa powder and mix well (I didn't mix it enough so there's a few lumps)

8) Spread the frosting over the cooled cake and see how long you can go without having some!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Sticky Toffee Pecan Cake and Easy Pecan Praline and Maple Syrup Ice Cream


Folllowing on from the slightly nutty theme of late, pecan, cakey, creamy,  mapley syrupy heaven. That's all you need to know, it's delicious.
 Although I have always promised to share my failures as well as my successes and I outdid myself on this occasion. Not only did I slightly burn the cake round the outside thanks to my extremely temperamental over, (I know, a bad workmen blames his tools) but I then knocked it off the cooker and onto the floor. Shh though, nobody knows!


Ingredients
  • 250g pecans halves
  • 140g stoned dates
  • 200g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp mixed spice (1 if you don't like it too strong)
  • eggs, beaten
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • maple syrup
  • Ice Cream
  • 600ml double cream
  • 1/2 can condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • Praline
  • 100g pecans lightly toasted
  • 50g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • You'll need the over on 180 desgrees and a 23cm round tin, buttered, lined if you like (I just dust it with flour because I hate the faff of cutting out greaseproof paper)
  • 1) Soak the dates in hot water for 5 minutes
  • 2) Put the butter, sugar and spice into a processor and mix until creamy
  • 3) Drain the dates and add them in with the eggs, 100g of the pecans and whizz until smooth
  • 4) Tip into a bowl and fold in the flour
  • 5) Sprinkle a 150g of pecans over the top of the cake and pop in the oven for 40 minutes
  • 6) When the cake it done, pour over a few tablespoons of maple syrup and leave to cool in the tin

  • For the ice cream and praline
  • 7) Put the pecans, salt if using and sugar in a pan over a low heat and stir gently until the sugar turns amber and the nuts are coated. Tip onto a plate to cool. When cool, place in a sandwich bag or tea towel and break up with a rolling pin or heavy pan
  • 8) Lightly whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the condensed milk, vanilla and praline and place in the freezer for 3 hours
  • 9) Take out the ice cream and give it a gentle mix before swirling in the maple syrup and returning to the freezer for another 4 hours

  • Best served when the cake is warm!


Friday, 27 November 2015

Coffee and Fudge Ripple Ice Cream





Making your own ice cream always seemed a bit ridiculous to me when you can buy so many varied and lovely ice creams already. 
They have become pretty expensive though and often, I can't get what I'm craving. Since making my own, I often prefer it and I love playing the flavour and texture combinations

So many recipes now don't need ice cream makers and I have made some with and some without but I have to say, I prefer the ones made with the ice cream maker. If you don't use one, make sure to get the ice cream out about half an hour before you want to use it or it will be as solid as a rock!

I was really surprised at just how much I love this ice cream. It scoops really easily because the sauce doesn't freeze. Now, it is coffee-heavy so if you're a little unsure, I would definitely halve the coffee in the ice cream and the sauce but it's worth remembering that ice creams lose flavour once their frozen so it won't taste as strong as the mixture, once it's frozen.

The sauce can always be added separately and is really nice warm and poured over. The sauce is also good on vanilla ice cream. I will admit that I have tried and failed, may times, in making caramels but at last, success. I will also admit to doubling up on the sauce ingredients as I had cream to use up but you can never have too much sauce.

I also added a hazlenut praline too because I just like adding nuts to everything but feel free to just leave that out.
Ingredients

300ml double cream
300ml milk
3 tbsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs yolks
100g caster sugar
8 pieces of fudge, cut into small pieces

Sauce

2 tbsp coffee granules
125ml double cream
150g white sugar
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp butter
3/4 tsp salt

Praline

100g hazlenuts
50g white sugar

1) Whisk the sugar and egg yolks until pale and fluffy. I find this easier in a bowl for adding the cream mixture next.
2) Gently heat the cream, milk and vanilla in a pan until just before boiling point. Pour over the egg yolk and sugar mixture, whisking all the time.
3) Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat gently until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. You should be able to leave a trail with your finger on the spoon. This step has to be done slowly so the eggs just heat through and not scramble.
4) Take off the heat and stir in the coffee granules. Leave to cool and place in the fridge until cold.

5) Start the sauce by stirring the coffee granules into the cream. Don't worry, it will dissolve.
6) Put the sugar and water in a pan and heat gently until amber in colour. Do not stir it, if it's uneven, gently tilt the pan.
7) Take off the heat and immediately add the butter and whisk, followed by the cream and salt. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

8) For the praline: Heat the oven to 180 degrees and toast the nuts for 5 minutes. Alternatively, toast in a pan for a few minutes.
9) Add the nuts and sugar to a pan and heat gently, stirring from time to time until amber in colour. Turn onto a plate and until cold. Place in a sandwich bag or tea towel and hit with a heavy pan or rolling pin.

10) Churn the ice cream. When it's ready, pour over the sauce and praline and ripple through. Freeze and enjoy! 





No-Cook Choc & Nut Slice



I am in no way eating healthily right now. Being ill is one of the few exceptions in life when you get  to eat what you want for a few days. However, even on those days, I often prefer this to any other treat I can think of and on the good days, it's full of good fats, protein, nothing processed and really not that naughty at all. 
Most importantly though, it's so easy! 

Ingredients

200g nuts, any work, a combination is good. Experiment!
6 tbsp nut butter, peanut butter is fine
4 tbsp honey/maple syrup
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Topping

4 tbsp cocoa or cacoa powder
2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
2 tbsp coconut oil

1) Line a tin or tupperware tub with greaseproof paper. I used a 7"x 9"
2) Melt the coconut oil, then stir in the peanut butter, vanilla, salt and honey or syrup
3) Tip in the nuts and give it a good stir
4) Put in the fridge to set
5) Melt the coconut oil, then stir in the coca powder, followed by the honey or syrup
6) Once the base has set, pour the topping all over and return to the fridge/freezer to set. 

This can be stored in either the fridge or the freezer, try both. In the fridge it's much softer so don't leave it out before eating out!





Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Scotch Eggs and Sausage Rolls







More salt free experimenting. More snacks my poor other half hasn't eaten in many years. The awesome about these are that they have a lot of flavour already in the ingredients so the salt isn't really 'missing'. 

Admittedly, there is a bit of faffing about involved in making these but we were woefully unprepared to do both at the same time so with more time and preparation, it would have a lot easier. We tend to get over-excited and carried away with the world of options I have now opened up for him.

Let me know if you'd like the recipes!

Bread Rolls/Loaf



Before making bread without salt, I did a lot of reading as I know from the past that salt serves a certain chemical purpose. As it turns out, it's much easier than I thought, phew!
Basically, you can just leave the salt out. There are just 2 things you need to bear in mind. The first is that salt inhibits the yeast so when you don't use, the yeast works faster so you need to keep a close eye on it as it won't take as long  to prove.
The second is flavour. Salt is a big component of mass-manufactured bread and that can be hard to get used to. Fresh herbs, spices and a bit of imagination can make a big difference and experimentation can be fun here. Some ingredients can inhibit the yeast but it's unlikely to be a problem here. I like to add seeds to the top of bread for decorative purposes. Here are a few of suggestions:-

Caramelised Onion and garlic
Your favourite seeds
Garlic Powder and Rosemary
Sage and Black Onion Seed

But if you can have salt, just add 1 1/2 tsp!


Recipe

500g bread flour
1tsp sugar
2 tsps easy bake yeast
15g butter or a tbsp vegetable or olive oil
300ml warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt (optional)

Place flour into a large bowl with any spices, herbs or other flavourings and add butter or oil. Rub with fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the water and mix to form a soft dough.
Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5-10 minutes.
Shape on a baking tray or place into a tin cover and leave until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 230 degrees. When the dough is ready, bake for 10-15 minutes for rolls and 15
minutes for bread, turning the oven down to 200 degrees for another 15-20 minutes.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Easy Peasy Pumpkin Soup

Never would I let such a thing go to waste. I hate waste. I'm also not particularly keen on the taste of pumpkin but I do now have plenty of recipes that I can use it up in that taste good and this is one of them. It doesn't get much easier than this! 
I know a whole bulb of garlic sounds like a lot but trust me here. When you roast it, it becomes sweet and smoky in it's skin and the flavour is a lot milder. and  Butternut squash also works really well. It's warming, mildly spicy and just what you need on an Autumnal day.

Ingredients

1kg pumpkin or 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 large tomatoes
2 onions, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bulb of garlic
3 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ltr stock
seasoning
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

Start by putting your oven on 200 degrees/180 fan.
Put your squash in a large roasting tin.
Halve the tomatoes and chuck them in with the onions.
Take the leaves off the rosemary stalks and chuck those in, along with the garlic cloves.
Sprinkle on the cumin
Add the olive oil and seasoning and give the whole thing a good shuffle.
Bung it in the over for 45 minutes, giving in another shuffle half way through.
Once the squash/pumpkin is tender, take the garlic out and put the rest in a blender.
Slide the cloves out of the skin and pop them in too.
Add your stock and blitz.

Tips
Roasted tomato skins take a lot of blending so if you haven't got a great blender, just pull them off once they're cool enough before putting them in the blender.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Paleo Banana Protein Pancakes



Pancakes. On my diet, protein was the name of the game. Eggs featured very highly, 4 every morning. Slight issue, I don't tolerate eggs too well. Answer, mix them with some other tasty stuff. Now, I looked at a lot of recipes and they varied a lot but I was also trying to keep carbs low. None of them quite had what I was looking for so I took some ideas and made my own. These are a lot less 'eggy' than others I've tried and the closest I've gotten to wheat pancakes. I don't add baking powder because it's all E numbers but you could if that doesn't phase you but I found them light enough without it. They are tricky to flip but be patient and cook gently.

Serves a generous 1 or a more sensible 2

Recipe
1 banana mashed
2 eggs
2 tbsp of coconut flour
1 tbsp peanut butter (I like crunchy for texture)
1 tsp cinnamon
coconut or other flavourless oil for cooking

Whisk your eggs and add the coconut flour. The mixture will be thick.
Mix in the peanut butter, banana and cinnamon.
Heat a pan on medium heat and add the oil.
Put tablespoons of mixture into the pan and cook slowly for 3-4 minutes.
Flip the pancakes and cook for another 2-3 minutes until cooked all the way though.

These are lovely with just some honey or maple syrup but my favourite is with some fruit compote made with honey and some natural yogurt. Yum!





Thursday, 29 October 2015

Good For You Wholefood Fudge

I knew I'd not been on here for a while but June! I have my reasons though. Firstly, I got better and blogging had started as a tool to keep me busy when I was ill. Then, as a result, I decided to diet and get back to working out to shift some weight I'd gained from the last year so....... less baking, boooooo! The diet was low fat, calorie controlled initially and then I switched to carb cycling. None of this seemed to make great recipes for a blog. Then, I got ill again a few weeks ago, boooo! The plus side is though, it got me thinking about this blog and atcually, just how much I could be putting on here because it's not all about baking, it's everything I make and my journey with food, yay!

I have to say, although generally I had been eating a lot healthier, there have still been some great meals but I warn you now, they will be more on the healthy side, if you hadn't already guessed from the recipe name today.

Being ill though has made me crave more comfort foods and I have some great recipes lined up to try in the next few weeks.

I also broke my 4th Xperia Z1, they're just so damn breakable! I'll be honest, my photography skills were hugely lacking and this put me off too but I rarely make up my own recipes so I will be honest and put links on to the pages they're from and use the photos they have used, as well as comments about how I found it. I may put pictures up of my attempts but only for other peoples amusement.

The fudge:- Obviously not traditional fudge in ANY sense but the closest many people can get and yet, it tastes really, really good. Not convinced? Try it. I would have screwed up my face too but it honestly tastes good and you have none of the guilt of traditional fudge, in fact, it's good for you. And, it couldn't be easier! 3 ingredients and a few minutes. From the lovely Bianca from wholefoodsimply.com




peanut butter fudge bars




Sunday, 28 June 2015



Butchery Class

I have been unwell now for about 6 weeks and it's sucked. I've had very little energy and my ability to form a semi-coherent or intelligent has been severely hindered. Tonight is the first time I've felt able to do it and that is owed largely to the fact that I didn't get up until 1.30pm.

For my birthday back in March, my boyfriend bought me a voucher for a butchery class. He'd been to one a few years ago and thought I'd really enjoy it. First you have to decide which type of animal you'd prefer to butcher, lamb, beef, pork, poultry, seasonal game and even sausage making. I instantly wanted to go for lamb as it's my favourite  but after some discussion, we thought I might get more use out of a pork course.

The day I was supposed to go was a few weeks ago and I was unsure whether to haul my ass out of bed or not to go. I was tired and grumpy and nervous at heading into a completely new experience with strangers. I knew I'd feel really guilty if I didn't at least try and figured I could always come back early etc. Even on the train, I was resentful to all the relentlessly happy people heading into London. My appetite has been poor for the few weeks before this and it was hard to get excited about it.

I walked the short 15 minute walk from Marylebone station to The Ginger Pigs' shop. As I stepped in, it looked much as it would in the day, except there was no meat in the fridges, just a large wooden bench with half a pig laid out on it, yes, head and all! A few people had arrived before me and as I had feared, they were all men and I was regarded with some intrigue. I donned a very fetching butchers coat and offered a bottle of water. After everybody had arrived (One late comer being a female, phew!), the very charismatic butcher started talking to us about The Ginger pig, their belief in free range animals and high welfare standards. Their passion and knowledge was apparent and got me excited about the evening. He then went through all the names for the bits of the pig. As this happened, we were offered some of their homemade sausage rolls which, by the way, were easily the best I have ever tasted and if you're ever in London, it is well worth the trip.

Now it was time to start jointing the pig and it was saws and extremely sharp knives at the ready. Voluntarily people would have a go and dissecting the joints. The butcher went through each joint, how to prepare it and cook it, how much it should cost and what you should be asking your butcher. A pig is definitely the thriftiest animal to use as you can use every single bit of it if you know how. Trotters have been incredibly fashionable over the last few years but are also good for adding flavour to stews and for thickening it too. The bladder can even used to make a football.
Once it was all in it's joints, about 10 bits altogether, our challenge was to put it all back together again. A group of 12 took a surprisingly long time to complete this little task.

The moment of truth arrived, time for us to joint our own bits of pork. We were all given loin and shown how to ask the butcher to chine it. We each had one of their extremely sharp knives and a chain mail glove and away we went. Of course the butcher had made the whole thing look easy, except for knotting the string which I am sure was made up just for their own amusement! I was totally absorbed in it and before I know it, I had my joint ready to season and roll. I astonished myself by getting the knots right the first time round and I was went to weigh and bag my joint, I looked up and everyone else was still trying to get their joints off the bone. I tried my best to conceal my child-like excitement and stood close by should anyone want any help. 

Now only do you get to take this beautiful joint home with you, a joint that would easily cost you around £50 or more but you get a 2 course meal of the same joint and copious amounts of wine. We stood round the table enjoying our roast loin with dauphinoise potatoes and wine and the conversation really started to flow. I had to admit it, I was having a really good time, even if I was struggling to eat as I hadn't been hungry before we were even given the sausage roll at the beginning. I ate what I could and it was delicious and had forgotten about dessert until a massive chocolate bread and butter pudding was placed on the table. There was no saying no to it as huge plates of it were enthusiastically thrust at you and again, I had a few mouthfuls before exchanging bloated belly strokes with my fellow trainees. 

Would I recommend going on a class? Yes, absolutely. It is an experience you will use again and again, as well as being fun, educational and something you will always remember. There were people that had done one of The Ginger Pigs' other courses and were hooked.
Would I do another one? Absolutely, it is probably the best present i have ever had and one that I will always remember.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Monkey Bread


This, is most definitely, one of the best things I have ever had the pleasure to bake. It's sweet dough, rolled into smalls balls, individually dipped into butter and then rolled in cinamon sugar, baked together to form a sweet, sticky, tear and share bread. Then glazed with extra spiced, sticky glaze. It is so good, I cannot afford to make this too often!
It is similar in flavour to cinamon buns and this recipe has made itself infinitely more appealing to me by including pecans. I love anything with nuts in but pecans are exceptionally good in sweet treats.

Originally from the US, it is usually served for breakfast. I cannot imagine a better start to the day, maybe even better than my favourite Waitrose Pain Au Chocolat. Although it would necessitate a very early start to get it done for breakfast. I think i'll stick to the early afternoon treat variety. 

I used the BBC Good Food recipe: - Monkey Bread


Baked Aubergines with Cannellini Beans




I have recently began getting an Organic delivery box again. I did it for many years when I had my son and I made all his food. I have become much more concerned with basic flavours again since meeting my boyfriend. Good quality ingredients have become much more important again and I am also hoping it will help to shift my focus away from sweet baking, to good, wholesome savoury food. This is exciting for me and it means a whole new world of recipes, which makes me deliriously happy!

I haven't eaten Aubergines in any form for quite a few years. Predominantly because I don't know what to do with it but I felt a renewed sense of purpose to give things like that a go again. I also have a 'thing' for beans at the moment and I go through these phases so this recipe was perfect. 
It was really enjoyable, even re-heated at work the next day. It may be even better with cheddar cheese instead as, with anything that has cheese on it, you want it to be cheesy!

As with many of the tastiest things, it doesn't look particularly attractive but this is baked beans but sexy.



Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Banana & Chocolate Cake



We've all had banana cake right? Banana cake is ok, especially, like me, if you're not THAT keen on bananas (Personally, I can't stand them on their own, only sliced up on cereal etc). So what makes this banana cake so special? What males it special is the amount of people that don't like banana cake, that LOVE this cake. I even have a friend who doesn't like cake and she LOVES this cake. I often make one just for her. I have taken it into work and made it for groups of people and I have been asked for the recipe every single time.

The Bananas - The blacker, the better. If you want a short-cut, you can freeze bananas in their skins and take them out the day you want to use them. Handling black bananas is always a bit messy but they become incredibly sweet.

The Hazlenuts - No, it doesn't have to be hazelnuts BUT I urge you to use them if you can and yes, they need to be toasted. I have tried this with other nuts and it's just not the same. Roasted hazelnuts are often used in chocolate and praline because they have such a nutty flavour. Toasting them really brings out their flavour too. Believe me, I am not in the job of doing anything that unnecessarily lengthens any task. Let me know if you try something else and it works.

The Cinamon - My version has cinamon in it for 3 reasons. It works really well with bananas. I'm yet to find anything with bananas in that cinamon doesn't improve. It works really well in most cakes but especially ones with nuts in. Last but not least, I love the stuff and use it as often as possible. You could leave it out however, if you're not so keen.

I have made this cake many, many times and 

The Chocolate - I do recommend dark chocolate for this cake. Yes, you could use milk chocolate if you're really not a fan but the bananas and brown sugar make the cake quite sweet anyway and the slight bitterness of dark chocolate off-sets it nicely. Milk chocolate will make it slightly more sickly. You can use chips but i prefer chunks.

There is nothing aesthetically pleasing about this cake. It has no beauty to speak of or presentation that can be stowed upon it to make it look prettier than it is but believe me, when you smell it cooking, you know deep in your sole, in that way that you know when you fall in love, that it is going to be good, really good.

The hardest decision is whether to eat it out of the oven, while it is still warm and the chocolate is still gooey and oozing or whether to let it cool and have that bite when the chocolate hardens. My opinion, have both!

The recipe is adapted from Nigel Slaters one, found here: - http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/black_banana_cake_52982


The Recipe

175g Butter
90g Muscavado Sugar
90g Caster Sugar
2 Eggs, Beaten
75g Hazelnuts
175g Self-Raising Flour
2 Very Ripe Bananas, mashed
Drop of Vanilla Extract
175g Chocolate, chopped or chips
2 Tsps Cinamon
Demerara Sugar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 170c/325f/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line a loaf tin. In a separate tin, toast the hazelnuts until lightly brown. This usually takes 5-10 minutes but watch them carefully as they burn easily and will become bitter. Leave them to cool and then whiz them up as finely as you can. I find a mini chopper perfect for this.

Cream the butter and the sugars together until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the egg mixture, a little at a time, beating after each addition. Then add in your flour, 1 tsp cinamon, nuts and mashed bananas.

Fold in the chocolate and vanilla and pour the mixture into the loaf tin. Sprinkle generously with demerara sugar and the other tsp of cinamon. 

Put the cake in the oven for 1 hour - 1 hour and 10 minutes. Test with a skewer until it comes out clean. 

I check after about 40 minutes and if it is browning to quickly, lay a piece of foil over the top of the cake but don't scrunch it over the whole cake.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Chorizo and Chickpea Soup (and what really goes into sausages!)


When I'm attempting to eat a bit healthier, I usually crave beans of some description. Like most people, my experience of beans as a child came covered in a sweet sauce and out of a can. The more I've cooked, the more beans I've tried, the more I like them. They are fantastically filling and don't take much flavour to make them really good to eat.

I will never forget the first time I saw a program about sausages and what they actually consist of. For those of a delicate persuasion, who wish to remain in denial, I will keep that information to myself but it certainly had an impact on the amount of sausages I ate but also on the quality of sausages I bought when I did have them. Walking past them in supermarkets now and glancing down at the grey, cheap ones makes my stomach churn. Yet it's these ones that seem the most popular. In case you are interested and I think, personally, think It's important we know what we are eating and especially, what we are feeding our children, here is a great, informative link: What Sausage Is Made Of
Don't even get me started on hotdogs! Which consist of very little pork and what 'meat' they do contain is mostly mechanically retrieved or blasted off with water. Need I say more?

Knowing all of this has never and will never stop me loving Chorizo. The wonderful thing about it is you don't need much, which suits me perfectly when I want flavour and meat but attempting to keep fat low. This recipe satisfies the healthy eater in me but also the meat lover and I was really pleasantly surprised. I will definitely be making this again and again.





Saturday, 7 March 2015

Grahams Guacamole

I hate avocados! 
Or I should make that hated avocados. I last tried them when my son was young and I wanted him to taste a wide variety of foods. I remember tasting one and spitting it out thinking it tasted like grass! I did, however, go on to make a Gillian McKeith pudding (during my oober healthy years), consisting of avocados, dates and lemon. 

I hate tomatoes! 
I have always hated tomatoes. Yet for many years I have wanted to like them. I can handle them cooked, I like them in curries, tomato sauce, soup etc but I still cannot bare them raw.

Knowing all of this information, my boyfriend insists on making me guacamole. It was early days in our relationship and I worried I wouldn't be able to control my gag reflex sufficiently to disguise my sheer hatred of such a concoction. I don't remember watching him make that first batch but I have since seen him make many a batch and have even made one myself and I confess, I love it. 
I don't know if it's the combination of all the ingredients but some kind of magic happened. I ate the first lot with trepidation but surprise. The second lot was from genuine enjoyment and the third was pure love, I genuinely loved it.

I have tried avocado in other recipes since and I must say, I genuinely enjoy them now but I don't know what happened in that time.  All I an say is don't ever just rule out a food because you tried it once and didn't like it.

On making this myself for the first time last week, I had taken for granted how hard it is to mash avocados. Much to my boyfriends horror ( I suspect, as he was in Scotland at the time), I resorted to a potato masher. Go for it! Don't let anyone make you feel like you're less than awesome for doing so.

I love to use tortilla crisps for this, or breadsticks. Graham uses no-salt crisps.




Grahams Guacamole

2 Ripe Avocados
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tomato, deseeded and chopped
1 Chilli, deseeded and copped
Juice of 1 Limes
1 handful of Coriander, chopped


Method

Half the avocados and remove the stone. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados with a spoon and put in a bowl. Mash with a fork or a potato masher. You want some texture, not a puree.

Add the tomato, chilli, coriander, garlic and lime juice. stir well and taste. Add more lime juice as desired.

Lemon and Lime Tart

This little tart is a definite family favourite. Not a big deal you might think but it is extremely difficult to get my family to agree to anything, much less a food. I'm yet to find anyone who doesn't love this tart and I genuinely struggle to believe that anyone could dislike it. 
There are little tweaks that can be fine-tuned to suit people. I, personally, love the filling to be particularly sour but the balance of sugar has to be right. I like to use a mixture of lemons and limes but either can be used. The zest also gives it a lovely, speckled appearance and colour.

I hate making my own pastry. It's one of the few cooking tasks that I resent. Yet, I can't deny that it does taste significantly better than shop bought, it's incomparable. I think the issue is for me that there are so many things that can go wrong with pastry. It takes a long time and it's not like you know after 5 minutes that it's gone wrong somewhere. Not until you put it in the oven and you see it gradually shrinking away or bits dropping off or you realise you forgot to line it as you see the base rise up, as I did on this one. I promised to share my failings too!

Which recipe I use greatly depends on how much lemon/lime juice I have. It is fine to use a lemon curd recipe, it is the same consistency you're aiming for anyway, as long as you have the right amount of fluid. If the proportion of fluid to butter etc is wrong, it won't set properly.

I tend to use Jamie Olivers' recipe for pastry because I've had a fair amount of success with it and I've had no more success with any other recipe.  I suddenly realised when I checked on it that I'd forgotten to line it and fill it with baking beans an it was puffing up in the oven. I quickly opened the door, pricked the base and this saved it enough to make us usable still.

I have been cooking for 10 years now and I have probably made pastry more than 100 times but I still find it tricky, yet I can make souffle without an issue. My passion is that everyone can cook. It's just about someone taking the time to say, 'hey, I stated somewhere too and it's just about taking it one step at a time'. 







  


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Swedish Meatballs and Janssons Temptation


 


I have a very good friend who is Swedish. I don't get to see her very often, not as often as we'd like but it's always such a treat when we do. I finally had an opportunity to see her and she invited me round for dinner. Given that I had a free Saturday, I offered to cook and take it round to her.

 I love Jamie Olivers book: Jamie Does......... I saw this recipe years ago and thought how good it would be to do it and even better that I could do it for my friend. Now there's one major risk with cooking food  from a particular country for someone from that country and that is..... disappointing them! 

As I layered up all the ingredients for Janssons Temptation and smothered all that fantastic grated potato, onion and anchovies, I could do it was going to be good. It smelled heavenly as it cooked and I was thrilled when I took it out of the oven. It was golden and crisp on the top but it looked silky and comforting too.

The meatballs themselves weren't that much difference, apart from the herbs. Adding dill to something other than fish is unusual but I love unusual. The sauce was more unusual still, with tangy lemon, contrasting with the sweetness of the Cranberry sauce and then cream. I was thoroughly intrigued!


So, how did it all go down? She really enjoyed it and was very surprised that I'd made all that for her. The Janssons Temptation tasted as heavenly as it looked and I would happily make that at any time as a side dish for meat or fish but to be honest, I could happily eat it on it's own with a spoon. 
The meatballs were meaty, obviously but the combination or pork and beef mince worked well, keeping them moist too. The dill was actually lovely and the balance of the sauce actually worked well. I doubled up so I have a few portions left in the freezer, that makes me very happy.


Monday, 2 March 2015


Friends Friday

No-Salt Bread, Leek and Potato Soup & Hot or Cold Chocolate

Fridays get-togethers used to be a regular occurrence at my house. My friends would all come round and I would make something nice to eat. At the time this started, I was self-employed and kept Fridays free. My cousin and one friend were stay-at-home mums and my other friend didn't work on Fridays, perfect! Since i started work in September, it is very rare that we are all free at the same time but half-term gave me a rare opportunity to cook, a lot!

Soup is an easy choice. it's quick, it's nutritious and you can even usually get the kids to eat it too. Leek and potato is my daughters favourite and I never tire of chopping all those beautiful, healthy ingredients, cook them slowly, blitz and have something that not only tastes amazing but soothes your soul. Made all the better with some fresh, arm, buttered bread to dip in it. 

I like to use butter for this soup. In most, oil is fine but when you're sweating vegetables, butter seems to bring out more sweetness and richness. Sweating the vegetables is important in most soups. Don't be tempted to skip or reduce this part, it really does make a difference.
This is the first time I've tried making bread without salt in it but for my boyfriends sake, I thought i'd give it a go. In most things, I don't miss the salt and you soon find ways to flavour things without needing it. I missed it in the bread and then I only had unsalted butter to spread on it. Yet there was still something exceptionally good about having fresh bread. It was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone else.

As for the hot or cold chocolate, my friends were told to bring their favourite chocolate bars or box of miniature chocolates. When we were ready for dessert, I offered them it hot or cold. Cold meant it would be whizzed up with some ice cream to make a milkshake. It seems to be a very fashionable thing lately to make almost anything into a milkshake and I confess to really enjoying them. 

Hot meant deep fried! Now, before you screw your face up or dismiss the idea instantly, please read on. I have never tried it before and I had no idea what I would make of it. It was, of course, born from the Scottish delicacy of deep-fried Mars Bars but, me being me, it seemed a bit easy and predictable. All the adults opted for hot and we sampled deep fried Toblerone, Snickers (My choice, I love anything nutty), Double Decker, Aero and Creme Egg.
What can I say to tempt you into trying it? Imagine your favourite chocolate bar, covered in a light, crispy batter, molten and gooey in the middle, with a contrasting scoop of cold, creamy ice cream and if you're feeling a little fancy, a generous dusting of icing sugar. It is the most intense sensation with so many textures and temperatures going on in your mouth. Yes, it is a one-way ticket to Diabetes but I urge you to keep this for a special treat.



Leek and Potato Soup

30g butter
2 large or 4 small leeks
2 onions finely sliced
3 medium potatoes diced (I don't peel them)
800ml good quality vegetable stock
500ml of whole milk
salt & pepper
Parsley (Optional)


Method

Slice the leeks finely and give them a really good rinse.

Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the onion, leeks, potatoes, a pinch of salt and plenty of pepper, put the lid on and allow to sweat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Add the stock and milk and heat through for 5 minutes. 

Add the parsley, if using and blend with a stick or in a blender. Test for seasoning and warm before serving.




Friday, 20 February 2015

Hidden Veg Pasta Sauce




It's been half term which has given me the rare opportunity to cook. I have only been working 6 hour days since September and that does not include the travelling. I now understand all of the struggling, hard-working parents out there and their exasperation at trying to feed their kids nutritious food with the time constraints. I used to have a lot more time and when you risk that food being turned down and resorting to beans on toast again, it doesn't seem worth the effort.

When my children were younger, they would eat anything. I see this now in my friends and families children and their feelings of personal failure when their children start turning down every fruit and vegetable placed in front of them, with the exception of one or two.......if you're lucky. I started trying to get fruit and veg into them in whatever way I could and soups were a great way, as were fruit puddings such as crumble but over time, they have slowly eradicated these from my repertoire too. 
I found this recipe and with having a bit of time, I figured I had nothing to lose. I think I was a with in a previous life. I feel a deep sense of belonging when i'm chopping vegetables and adding ingredients into my big pot. A teaspoon of this, a tablespoon of that, all very similar to eye of newt and tongue of dog, don't you think? 
As i prepared all the vegetables for this sauce, praying my children didn't come in and dismiss eating whatever 'all of that is for', I marveled at the rainbow of colours we have available to us. Yes, it was all going to get blitzed to a pulp but it made the process that much more enjoyable.
I adapted the recipe as I felt garlic was surely essential to all pasta sauces. I also used balsamic syrup as that was what I had at the time but found I needed more sugar. This may still have been the case if i'd used the vinegar. It's a difficult process when you're cooking for children because you don't want to put anything 'naughty' in it but here's the truth, they would be eating a lot more rubbish in ready-made sauces and if it gets my children eating vegetables, so be it!
The recipe was adapted from BBC Good Foods recipe http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1508645/pasta-with-tomato-and-hidden-veg-sauce


1 tsp olive oil (I used garlic infused olive oil)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion
2 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 peppers, deseeded and chopped
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic syrup
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of salt (Optional)

Method

Heat the oil and add the chopped vegetables. Put the lid on sweat on a low temperature for 20 minutes, stirring regularly.This is where the flavours mingle and mellow.


Add the tomatoes, balsamic, oregano and sugar and simmer for a further 20 minutes.


Taste for seasoning and blitz either in a blender or with a stick blender.


It's as simple as that!


Serve with your favourite pasta and plenty of parmesan.



Thursday, 19 February 2015

So the picture on my profile was taken in about October last year whilst making my Christmas cake. The problem, i find, with Christmas cake, is the uncooked mixture tastes better than the cooked cake and I could happily just keep consuming it raw. Which, i am sure, you can deduce yourselves from the look of anticipation in my eyes and the child-like rebellious excitement on my face.
So after many years of considering writing a blog I have a look on the Internet to see how you go about starting one. That lasted 5 minutes, it looked terrifying and overwhelming. That was about a year ago and yet, the nagging feeling to do something with my love of cooking has continued. 
I have never and will never have an interest in cooking professionally. I have had small business ideas over the years but I have always feared it would quash the joy I have in cooking. My fantasy is to own a bakery/deli but I cook for pleasure......mostly. 
I will learn as i go, make many mistakes, take a lot of bad photos, mess up recipes and be honest about them all with you so bare with me, I will find my voice and getting started is the hardest bit, which wasn't actually so bad.