Saturday, 22 December 2007

Mistletoe and Wine?

Well Christmas is almost upon us, the presents are bought and wrapped and all was well until I realised this morning I had completely forgotten about what sides, desserts and starters I was going to do for xmas and boxing day dinners (am doing both!) Cue a little panic and a trip to local greengrocers and butchers and all is well again!

For Christmas lunch I have bought from tescos a Turkey breast joint wrapped in parma ham and stuffed with lemon and thyme sausagemeat which looks delish, doing roast potatoes, honeyed parsnips and carrot and swede mash (seperate in the end as dear brother protested against the poor swede!), yorkies and bacon & cheese rolls ... have not decided on starter or dessert though!! I think my mum said she had a spare xmas pudding so will be snagging that (turns out was from 2002 but risked it anyway and are fine!!) (have since bought some vodka and cranberry cream to go with it! - never used) but really stuck on starter... I would love to go down the fishy route but one of our guests does not like seafood :( am doing soup boxing day so would rather not do that... help!! ...okay have a plan now, am intending to do slices of herby ciabatta, topped with roasted plum tomatoes and some special rosemary infused proscuitio I picked up this afternoon... *can recomend the starter, went down very well and would do again!*

Moving on to Boxing day lunch, current plan is my Cauliflower, bacon and parmesan soup http://anneskitchen1.blogspot.com/2007/05/cauliflower-parmesan-and-bacon-soup.html to start then for the main event have bought a small leg of lamb which is going to be marinaded as per my Fragrant roast lamb recipe http://anneskitchen1.blogspot.com/2007/05/fragrant-roast-lamb.html, also doing more roast potatoes, carrots, sprouts, parsnips and 'pigs in blankets' (for some reason I dont like them but they have been specifically requested!!) Dessert will be my choc orange panna cotta http://anneskitchen1.blogspot.com/2007/08/chocolate-orange-panna-cotta.html as they are so easy to make but delicious!

Wishing all the foodies out there a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and all the best for 2008!


***

Christmas and Boxing days all went to plan, the xmas starter was really good, mainly becuase of the lovely herby ciabatta from Lidls!

x

Monday, 17 December 2007

Slippery Slope to Butchery...

Following the recent cold snap I fancied something hot for tomorrow and comforting...have picked up a half shoulder of lamb (first time I have bought this cut!), which I spent the last 45 minutes with and my carving knife and one of my new steak knives! I now have a perfect pile of lamb cubes, all fat trimmed and ready to go in the slow cooker in the morning with some diced celery, onion and a bowl of pearl barley thats soaking overnight. Oh and did I mention the 7 cuts to my hands courtesy of my new steak knives?!!

Have recently seen a half-day butchery course which I am very tempted by but think I need to do some more practice first!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Its Party Time!

Well, the festive season is upon us and this saturday we are hosting the family christmas party (for the first time!) I have currently bought so many nachos I received a strange look from the checkout girl in tesco, and our spare room is full of wine and more (can't be bad!!)

I have bought a 'party pastry maker' from Lakelands and hoping to make lots of little canapes with chili beef (with two strengths!) and chicken in white wine sauce.

Will let you know if it works!!

...

The canapes were unfortunately a bit smaller than planned so that idea got scrapped and I made a vat of Chili con carne instead, which was delish if I do say so myself!!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Hello there!

Finally after what seems like forever Orange have decided to connect our Broadband and I am back *properly* online and not just snatched moments at work or borrowing friends computers!!!

I am officially in love with my new oven - but it is a *big* learning curve!!!

Recently on the foodie front I experimented with sweet potato + normal potato bake:




Piccie shows the leftovers unfortunately!!

I had not used any thickening products and the 'sauce' just consisted of cream and stock BUT the leftover liquid was very moreish and strangely vanished overnight... was wonderful using fresh bread as a 'dip'!!

I had recently succumbed in Homebase to the JML slicer http://www.jmldirect.com/Super-Slicer-PS3439/ (admitedly reduced to £4.99!) and whilst it did produce thin slices, it involved A LOT of elbow grease and effort! Not overly sure if I will attempt again....tried again last weekend and far to much effort!!

Today I have been very bad though and yet again ordered more kitchen stuff online, including a Party Pastry maker (http://www.lakeland.co.uk/product.aspx/!10372) and a rather lovely 'Joseph & Joseph' Carving board (http://www.lakeland.co.uk/product.aspx/!11753) Roll on Monday!!


...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Oven worries...

Whilst I am loving the new home, the oven is getting the better of me!! Appears to be a fan (which you cant turn off...) and all my cakes are burning, even when turned down!

I made Bara Brith for example on sunday from 'What mother used to make' book and instead of the recomended time of 1.5 hours it was overcooked in 45 minutes! and that was at 20o less!

Even my favourite lemon drizzle cake got torched!

Might just have to give in and read the instruction manual.......

03.03.08 - Our main ovens thermostatic has broken and we are currently awaiting the engineer...proving fun!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Annes Kitchen has moved!

Well we are finally in our new home and it is lovely! Can't wait to get back in the kitchen and cooking again!

Very luckily new place has a nice big kitchen, complete with a double oven!! Its like Christmas has come early!

Cooking our first meal tonight, have some sandwich steaks which I am going to season and quickly pan fry, serving with sauteed cabbage and either new potatoes or pasta, and some squished tomatoes with a dash of balsamic vinegar mmmm

Thinking of making a chicken pie for tomorrows dinner...will see what the dearest fancies!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Annes Kitchen is moving!!

Am finally very pleased to have paid deposit and now me and mr annes kitchen are moving into a bigger property complete with SEPERATE and BIG kitchen and DOUBLE oven!!! Gosh I cant wait!! Still renting but better than current open - plan kitchen!!

Has been very sporadic my recent posting for which I do apologise, has been mental of late and doesnt seem to be settling!! Have to move out in just 3 weeks and then a week after moving in to new place I am finally off to see my beloved Take That!!!!!!!! Not quite foodie related but I would like to eat Gary Barlow alive so maybe that counts? ;-) (EDIT: Mr Barlow did infact look good enough to eat (at all three concerts....!!)

The next three weeks will involve clearing the kitchen cupboards out so am sure will result in lots of new foodie experiments!!

Love to all
xx

Red Lentil, Celery and Carrot Soup

**Recipe revised 20/11/07** (Is now perfect!)
Whilst the title may not sound that great this was a surprisingly good soup made this week! Even carrot hater OH really enjoyed it!!

Easy
25 Minutes

1.5 pints veg stock (Use 1 Kallo Veggie bouilon cube and 1/2 a kallo chicken bouilon cube)
1 mug red lentils (about 10 heaped dessert spoons, add more if using less veg)
1 large Onion
2 cloves garlic
3-4 Sticks celery roughly chopped (including base and greenery)
2 medium carrots cubed
S&P to taste (you prob wont need any salt if using the cubes!)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsbp butter


1) Heat on a medium heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan, add roughly chopped onions and simmer for 3-4 minutes, add celery and carrot, simmer for another 3-4 minutes, add garlic and lentils, stir in well and cover with stock

2) Cook for 20-25 minutes and blitz like a madwoman (or man!)

Really good reheated as well!

*I revised this recipe last night and really think this is the bees knees! Is golden and warming and reheated perfectly for my lunch*

These freezes very well.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The kitchen is back in action!!

Well it has been a busy return this week, following two blissful weeks in Corfu!

Ate far too much, drank far too much but was worth it!! Fell in love with a cocktail called P.S. I Love You, think had kahlua, amaretto, brandy and cream in...very nice anyway!!

Really liked a greek 'dish' called Spanakopita, which was a spinach and feta cheese pastry, yum yum!!

Worst dish was a stuffed squid our hotel done one night, I normally love Squid but this was revolting, managed about a teaspoon of it!! Apart from that our hotel served up some nice dishes, including a lovely Beef Stew 'Stifado'.

Have not done huge amount of cooking since I got back, mainly due to my knee has given up the ghost and standing in the kitchen is far from my mind! Made a nice lentil soup with leftover cauliflower stalks on Monday though, surprised as less thicker than when using whole cauliflower so had to rescue with more lentils but overall result was good!

Made a gigantic meat sauce pasta bake for yesterday as we had family over, all went well and all gone!!! Made super strong garlic bread as well which is always a winner!!!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup

You can always tell I think when either someone is skint or trying to use up things lurking in cupboards before going on holiday...hence last nights invention of lentil and cauliflower soup!! It was actually quite good and almost 'nursery food' in texture.

Serves 2:
Easy:

1/2 a cauliflower
4 tbsp approx of red lentils
1 pint light veg stock (I used 1 heaped tsp of marigold boullion)
1 onion finely diced
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 pinch of chili powder
1 pinch cumin seeds
1 tsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
Black pepper to taste
1 tbsp cream cheese (optional)

1) Cut off all the cauliflower florets and reserve, with the remaining stalks and any good leaves finely chop, then heat the butter and olive oil together and add the chopped stalky bits, onion garlic, cumin and chili powder, simmer for about 5 mins gently being careful not to burn anything.

2) Add the florets and mix well, pour in stock until veg is about 1 cm over the liquid, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until soft and the lentils are cooked through

3) Remove from heat and blitz with your tool of choice, stir in the cream cheese and season to taste.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Chocolate Orange Panna cotta

Well, these can be simply described as YUM!! A very well turned out experiment! Easy to make and very impressive!

Makes 8 ramekins

Ingredients:

175g Caster Sugar
568ml Double Cream
200 ml Semi skimmed milk
2 oranges
4 sheets costa fine leaf gelatine
100g aprox 70% cocoa chocolate

1) Finely grate the zest of both oranges and reserve. Juice the oranges and place the gelatine leaves in the juice and soak for 5 minutes whilst you do step 2 & 3

2) Heat the cream, milk and sugar to boiling point, ensuring the sugar has fully melted

3) Gently melt the chocolate in a heavy pan or in a bain-marie

4) Rinse the moulds in cold water - do not dry!

5) Remove the milk mix from the heat and gently stir in the drained gelatine leaves with a wooden spoon, now constantly stirring slowly pour in the melted chocolate, then add 3/4 of the zest, pour into the moulds and allow to cool, sprinkle over the remaining zest and chill for a minimum of 4 hours.



Note: Whilst you need to distribute the melted chocolate evenly, do not overmix as if left to its own devices the chocolate creates little pockets of yum and give it a bit of texture.

My recipe is adapted from waitrose.com vanilla panna cotta recipe (which also happens to be rather scrumptcious!)

Friday, 10 August 2007

Lemon Topping

Now I wasnt sure where to post this but guess 'desserts' kinda falls into the category...

I recently made the lemon cheesecake recipe from Margurite Patten, however after making I fancied topping it with something...what resulted was a lovely zangy topping which complimented the cheesecake perfectly:

2 lemons
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 sheet gelatine leaf

1) Firstly, zest both of the lemons into cm strips and reserve, then halve both lemons and juice, place the juice in a small saucepan with the sugar

2) Place the gelatine in a bowl with a little water and leave for 4-5 mins, then drain well

3) Heat the lemon juice, zest and sugar together and boil for about 2 minutes, allow to cool then stir in the drained gelatine, stir well until melted, cool a little longer then pour over the cheesecake, refrigerate and allow to set (about two hours)

'Dirty' Potatoes

Now I felt compelled to publish this after a recent conversation with the dearest other half..'so do you want dirty potatoes or crushed potatoes tonight' ....erm crushed?? okay...30 minutes later and we are sitting down to eat 'so darling how are your potatoes' ... 'erm not what I expected, thought we having the creamy ones' ah so you meant dirty potatoes...'erm yes I guess so....' and soo.... (and if you are wondering about the unusual name, try it and hopefully you will agree!!)

All quantities are a loose guide!

Requires a lidded wide heavy based pan! Very easy and seriously yummy!

Ingredients for two greedy portions:

Apx 500g charlotte or new littleish potatoes
2 tsp marigold stock powder
4 tbsp cream (any will do!!)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea Salt
1/2 pint hot water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apx butter

1) Wash and slice the potatoes long ways and thinly, removing any gnarly bits!

2) Heat the butter and olive oil, add the potatoes, mix well and cover

3) Boil the water and combine with the marigold powder

4) Add about half the mixture to the potatoes and reduce to a gentle simmer, keeping a casual eye on the potatoes, top up with the remaining marigold mixture as required but do not bathe them!! Keep relatively dry, you do not want to be draining lquid at the end!!

5) After about 18-20 mins test to see if they are done by piercing with a knife, when softened remove from heat, stir in cream and season well and serve!!

Match made in heaven with chicken and cabbage or any other green lush vegetable!!


(For a lighter option simply slice the potatoes and cook in water and marigold stock - equally delicious and less sinful!)

Kitchen Cupboard

Whilst I love cooking from fresh, sometimes its handy to have a few standbys! Here is an ongoing list of recommendations:

13/04/08- Lidl's jar of bratwurst (like hotdogs but less cr&p in!) - great mixed with pasta and cheese sauce for an easy supper

10/04/08 - Tikka Marinade from the new provender co, is light and tomatoey and not spicy, was nice with turkey steaks

12/12/07 - Erm not quite 'standby' item but we have fallen deeply in love with 'Poppycock' cashew nut popcorn! It has a gorgeous sweet glaze and crunchy cashews and perfect popcorn! Heaven in a tin!!

November - Lidls' Tikka Masala Sauce - we had this with chicken thighs and was a really lovely, nicely spiced sauce, I normally dislike tikka masala as tends to be a bit sweet but this is really yummy! Have now stocked up the cupboard for cheating! Also tried this with lamb mince and chickpeas and is lush!

09/08/07 - Running late with a hungry mother to get to tends to confuse the mind so after a trip to sainsburys enroute I am surprised I ended up with something decent! Fancying something sweet, slightly creamy but full flavoured I picked up a bottle of Seeds Of change organic Coconut and Coriander Korma - boy were we in for a treat! The sauce was nicely spiced and perfectly balanced and married well with a pack of king prawns and pan fried baby courgettes, yum yum!!

Ongoing - 'Frank Coopers' Superior Mincemeat with Cranberries, Ruby port and Winte spices' Blimey - this is like one of the BEST mincemeats ever!! The fruit is divine and has a healthy dose of booze!! Reconmend ten times over!!


Kallo Organic bouilion cubes, great for gravy and soups

Creme Fraiche - so many uses for the lighter and normal verions

Good Bacon - defrosts quickly and great for salads/ sandwiches/ pasta etc

Free range and organic Eggs are a must and refuse to use or eat battery eggs

Fresly ground sea salt - used in all my recipes where salt or 's' is stated, currently using Lidl's which is very good value, also Maldon is good when you need larger crystals

Freshly ground black pepper - like above where my recipes state BP or S&P, using
Tescos grinder currently, good value and quality consistent.

Natural Meats butcher in Staines stocks the best Lamb and Sausagemeat I have ever tasted! Its expensive but worth it as an occasional treat

Chili infused Olive Oil - great for boosting tomato based dishes

Recently discovered choc chip brioche...where have you been all my life you lovely lovely things!! ;-)

Lidls balsamic pickled onions - heaven in a jar!!

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Chicken and Celery Pie


Easy but time consuming

Serves 3-4 or 2 greedy people

3 chicken breasts
4 sticks celery
1/2 tsp celery salt
2 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 pint milk + a dash more if needed...
50g butter
50g plain flour
qty of puff pastry or shortcrust

1) Dice the chicken and remove any skin or gristle

2) Dice the celery very chunkily and remove any stringy bits, slice the onion

3) In a saucepan (pref with a draining lid) place the milk, onion, whole garlic cloves, chicken and celery, bring to the boil gently and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked and celery soft

4) Now this is a matter of personal choice with pastry - now I love pastry and prefer it top & bottom but the dear other half does not so I only topped the pie, use this time to line if required or roll out ready to top the pie

5) Melt the butter in a seperate pan and add the flour and cook out for a few seconds, now drain all of the milk from the other pan and whisk together, bring to boil then simmer for a few mins until thickened and smooth, remove from the heat

6) Remove the garlic cloves from the pan and smoosh with the back of a fork, stir into the sauce, now add the contents of the chicken pan and mix well, add the celery salt and season well with black pepper

7) Fill the pie dish, cover with the pastry and pierce several times, now cook at about 180o for a good hour or so or until browned and gorgeous


We had this sunday and it was scrumdiddlydumpcious considering basic ingredients, during the long slow cook the sauce turned a beautiful golden colour and it was yummy. I am pleased to say we demolished it between two and couldnt move for the rest of the day!!

Softly Softly

For the drivers and non-boozers:

My favourite non-alcoholic soft drink is a self made drink called 'Grenadade' consisting of 1 part Grenadine syrup (dont be stingy here! I recommend Teissiere) to 6 parts good lemonade and 3 cubes of ice, have converted two so far and predict many will follow... :-)

Ribena...ah the good old days...this is one drink I never grew out of! However my favourite way of drinking it is with hot water rather than cold....is so warming on a cold day and comforting. It is though very expensive however Lidls blackcurrant hi-juice is a very good contender at around £1.50 a litre. Currently supping Ribenas new addition in the form of Blueberry, very nice indeed!

Another summer drink I like is lime cordial with lots of ice and lemonade so refreshing in the heat.

Also home made lemon cordial is rather simple and lovely, just take two lemons, slice thinly, take a large glass lidded jug and sterilise with boiling water, swill and pour out, add the lemons and 4 tbsp sugar, top up with boiling water, stir with the other end of a wooden spoon, put lid on and leave until cool, place in fridge and allow to stew for about 12 hours, then stir again well and use as you would any other cordial. When it gets about halfway down top up again with boiling water and 1 tbsp sugar. This will keep for about a month easily in the fridge.

When it comes to soft drinks I am not a brand follower, however if I had to choose it would Schweppes everytime for Lemonade and Sainsburys surprisingly for coca cola, however I do tend to have the caffeine free one which tastes much better than coca colas metallic tasting version!

Spirits Move Me...

Sorry about the title...am rather a big take that fan and the line came into my head!

I do love spirits almost as much as wine...

01/07/08 - I have not tried yet but bought some sour cherry liqueur in Lidl yesterday, they also have as a special line a blueberry version and an apple one, I would have liked all three but am watching pennies and my waist at the moment!


My favourite is a clear spirit called Floranis which I can only get in France, is akin to Pernod but much smoother and a gorgeous fennel taste... is lurvely mixed with coca cola and ice!!

Also fond of a whisky /whiskey but I do not have extravagant tastes (thank the lord!) Am quite content with a nice Jamesons on the rocks, or a Paddys with coke / ice or even Grants quite happily will consume! Not into the whole peaty tasting ones...

Have recently been converted to Frangelico, a clear & smooth Italian hazlenut liqeuer, best enjoyed on lots of ice. Oh and it works great if you can't sleep!! Is nice with a twist of lime but I cannot work out why....will have to keep persuing!

We also are at the end of a bottle of Bicerin a chocolate hazlenut liqeuer which is dreamy with a kick!

Recently I have been indulging in a bottle of Machiatto liqueur from Lidls, gloriously creamy and far too easy to drink!! (this has since mysteriously vanished.....)

Balsamic Turkey with courgettes and plum tomatoes

This has been made twice now out of lonely fridge contents and I love it! Takes ten mins to cook, little prep and lots of flavour!.... A few months on and this dish still lingers in my mind .. think its time to visit waitrose again!!


Serves one and no naughty carbs


Ingredients:


1 thick turkey steak (we like waitrose best)
1 courgette
4-5 baby plum or cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp garlic sauce (cupboard cheat)
1/2 tbsp approx olive oil
1 small nob of butter


1) Slice the courgette thinly into rounds and halve the tomatoes

2) Heat the oil on till medium hot in a large shallow pan and add the turkey, cover and cook for about 4 mins, add the butter and courgettes, cover and cook for 3-4 mins til starting to brown

3) Add the tomatoes and squish with the back of the spoon / spatula

4) Cook for about 3-4 more mins or until the courgettes are browning and the turkey is cooked, drizzle over the BV and garlic sauce and allow to evaporate slightly, serve immediately.


Is certainly a good way to liven up turkey steaks and the BV makes a lovely sticky glaze.



Oh and yes I am greedy and lurve courgettes.



Monday, 28 May 2007

Roasted Pork Fillet with New Potatoes










2 pieces pork fillet
1 pack prosciuttio
5 long charlotte potatoes
1 small onion
1/2 pint veg stock
2 sprigs thyme
s&p


Slice the potaoes thinly and line a small roasting pan

Slice the onion and scatter over the potatoes

Cut the fillet into 3/4 pieces appx 1 inch thick, wrap in prosciuttio, use a cocktail stick to pin in place if needed

Place the parcels on top of the potaoes and pour on stock to just cover the potatoes, scatter over the thyme and roast at 190o for 80-90 minutes until cooked through


We had gently cooked spinach on the side which was yum!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Fragrant Roast Lamb

1 x half leg of lamb (preferably from butchers) (or more just scale accordingly!)

Marinade:
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp ground cardamon pods (the bits inside!)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil (or as needed)

Make the marinade and make several slits in he lamb, rub into the slits and smear all over, leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 24 hours, roast to your liking (pref pink!!!)

"Was blinking gorgeous! The lamb was beautifully tender and didnt need any gravy or anything with it! Made it for mothers day 2007 and went down very well! Bought it from Natural Meats in Staines, was the best lamb I have ever eaten!



**Authors note on 6/12/07 - this has seriously become my favorite way of serving roast lamb and has been made this way at least 5 or so times since published!! Has been voted for boxing day lunch year already!!

However, what suprises me is when I desribe this recipe some people are like 'hmm doesnt sound my cup of tea' etc - but I pursuade you to try this method!! Even the 'dubious' and 'fussy' have been converted! Trust me - the marinade only boosts the meat and does not overtake, merely complements!**


Coffee Break

Random diary..

17/08/07 - Went to my favourite butchers today and bought a lovely 1/2 leg of lamb (for tomorrow), some nice thick slices of smoked bacon (for monday!) and 8 cumberland sausages (for dinner tonight with mash and lashings of onion gravy!)

Have a busy evening ahead, need to make the dearest's birthday cake (chocolate and coconut!) and also marinade my lamb (doing that lovely fragrant lamb again) and start on tomorrows dessert! In my head I am imagining pannacotta + dark chocolate + orange...mmm... We have guests tomorrow and apart from above am also planning to do cauliflower & parmesan soup with stick like croutons as a starter.. wish me luck!!


--------------------
10/08/07: Far too long since I have been on! Unfortunately things still very busy at work and has sapped my foodie mojo somewhat!! Am trying to get it back but is difficult after a long and draining day :( Good news is that we are off to Corfu at the end of the month so hopefully lots of lovely fresh fish and relaxation!!

Have made some good dishes though including steak and kidney pie which was yummy! Also used baby courgettes recently, to much success! Simply topped and tailed then halved down the middle and pan fried in a little mild olive oil and bit of butter mmmmm

I do think its time to invest in a proper hand mixer, like the dualit one but as it comes in at nigh on £50 smackers, I start fantasising about a kenwood chef...must say no..must say noooo...

Also bought some new knives by Richardson Sheffield, just need to get a sharpening tool to keep them good!

Bad news is that due to the off-on wet then sunny weather my balcony is rather barren! All my basil has fried and the lettuces, coriander and strawberries have given up the ghost :(

------------------------------------------------------------------------

24/05/07: Long time since been on unfortunately!! Been extremely busy at work as well as having a bout of food poisoning last week hasn't helped my appetite! Decided to rectify it today and making chicken pie from scratch including the pastry!! .... off now to start!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

28/05/07: Weather awful outside!! Have made my favourite Banana Bread from the Avoca Cafe Cook book but replaced the pecans with choc chips mmmmmmm. My boss told me it should be made illegal it was that good!











Have made sausage casserole for tea, just waiting for the other half to come home and eat!
-------------------------------------------------------------------

26/05/07: Made pannacotta from Waitrose site today, was lovely but very sweet!! Also made lamb saag as receommended by Rick Stein, was gorgeous and definately make again!

25/05/07 - Today is a good day. For my lunch I have salad ...and...gorgeous little meatballs made from my favourite sausagemeat! I had a little wedge in the freezer which I defrosted, sliced into three rounds then grilled, then quartered them. My lunchbox is screaming eat me but I must must resist till lunchtime!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

24/05/07 - I am making a concentrated effort now on my blog and am quite impressed with myself... However I keep looking on other sites and want to add so much more...but where do I stop! Work is quiet so is allowing me to be on here a lot lot more than is probably healthy but ho-hum!

Just realised whilst attempting to eat my orange, I should have bought that nifty little orange penknife from Lakelands now. I have managed to get orange juice everywhere, at least the office smells nicer than normal now! http://www.lakeland.co.uk/product.aspx/!10772

Tonight I thought I would cheat for my tea tonight after spotting an attractive looking Bighams Thai Chicken Curry in Waitrose..looked great...smelt great...sadly not so great in the taste department :( .....just felt like it was missing something..heres a picture of it:








Squashed Tomato Pasta

Serves 2

Very easy and great if you happen to have a glut of home grown tomatoes! This is not a winter dish and should be made when the tomatoes are screaming to be eaten and at the height of summer.

About 8-10 tomatoes, will depend on their size but mine were a bit bigger than baby plum tomatoes, my variety was Totem..
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tbsp chili infused olive oil
s&p
1/2 tsp dried italian herbs - or fresh basil or oregano
200g pasta shapes, linguine is nice with this

1) Boil pasta according to instructions, when there is about 5 mins left on their cooking time, heat the oil in a small frying pan / skillet

2) Crush the garlic and halve the tomatoes, place the tomatoes cut side down in the oil and the garlic, let it cook without touching until the tomatoes start to collapse on themselves, now bash them would a wooden fork or suitable implement but keep the shape - you dont want puree! add the herbs and cook for one more minute

3) Drain pasta and mix together, serve immediately!

Is nice with a bit of cheeky parmesan scattered on as well :)

Quick Spinach Pasta

Serves 2

200g farfalle or pasta shapes of choice
1 bag fresh spinach
1 small pot low fat creme fraiche
2 tbsp parmesan
s&p
1 egg - optional just adds a bit of creaminess

1) Boil the pasta according to instructions

2) When the pasta is almost cooked, wilt the spinach in a pan in a little bit of water, drain well and keep in the sieve / colander

3) Mix the egg and creme fraiche together and warm through in the spinach pan, add the parmesan and stir, season to taste, add the spinach to the creme mix and drain the pasta, mix together quickly and serve!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Mini Roasties

Quantity of Good white potatoes, pref king edward or similar hard variety maybe about 500g for 3-4 people?
Apx 4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

1) Peel the potatoes and dice into 1cm or smaller chunks

2) Heat half the oil and salt in a roasting pan

3) Par-boil the potatoes for about 7-8 minutes, drain well **Edited 17/12/07 - if you have a fan oven scrap this stage!!)**and return to the pan, coat in remaining oil and place carefully into the hot roasting pan
4) Cook for about 45 minutes or until crispy and browning

Yummdiddlydumpcious and a favourite of mr anneskitchen!



Mint Raita

250 ml Natural Yoghurt
1 heaped tbsp Mint leaves
Pinch Sea Salt
Pinch Black pepper
Pinch freshly ground coriander seed
2 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar


1) Chop/ tear mint

2) In a mini chopper or blender add all the ingredients and pulse for 15- 20 seconds until mixed


Great for dipping poppadums in!

Photo Area

A modified tesco ham and mushroom pizza - I added red pepper, danish blue cheese and chilli oil - was lush!!





A surprise from a recent batch of leeks:


Kind of a miscellaneous area! Rest of the best appear in Flickr

Meat Sauce Moutain - stockpiling the Freezer!







A glamourous shot of the fruit bowl:



Oxtail Stew:




Spices being ground for the curry:





Lovely Lamb and Spinach Curry with pilau rice




Vanilla Pannacotta:



Spinach Mountain:




Picture of some flapjacks:




And a Pea and Salami Risotto:



My first lettuce leaves in 2007!



Home grown Basil!



My new french milk jug! Reminds me of a computer game character for some strange reason..ah I know! Was mario world perhaps...

Kitchen Kit

A list of my favourite pieces and why...

Silicon Whisk, Ikea - Is excellent as flexible so fits into bowls and pans neatly, cleans well and also being silicon doesnt melt regardless what it endures!

Large Stainless Steel Colander, Ikea - Great as catches everything and perfect for rice etc,

Hard Anodized Select Saucepans, Meyer
I love these as much as I think I will love my future children! They are excellent quality, clean brilliantly no matter what gets thrown their way! Hard wearing and heat up quickly and efficiently. Worth every single penny!






Oven Gloves -Now, I went through a lot of gloves before finding the 'One'. Introducing Lakelands Coolskin Gauntlets! http://www.lakeland.co.uk/product.aspx/!1800_10774 Really are good, no burns and you can hold a hot dish for at least 20 seconds before it gets uncomfortable.

Cake Tin liners from Lakeland are a god send! Have been using the pre-cut circles with success and a spring in my step but am awaiting a delivery of the full liners http://www.lakeland.co.uk/product.aspx/!5550_5551 lazy but worth every penny! Yes they have now arrived and waiting now to use them!!

Ordered also from Lakeland some non-scratch tongs (my new tongs are great!) and a egg thingy you place in a pan to see when they are soft, medium or hard boiled as its one of the things I suck at! (is perfect and really works!) Also ordered a vegetable mat for the fridge (seems to be doing the trick veggies keeping for ages!!.. )

Egg Slicer
Out of the several odd gadgets I love my egg slicer! My favourite way is to slice the egg long ways, then turn on its side so you have strips as such, then mix with a little salad cream and lots of black pepper mmmm


My Wish List !

A silver kenwood chef!! Have been admiring for aggggeees but just cant justify £350 on a mixer :( sooo want one though!! I NOW HAVE ONE!!! IS NOT TITANIUM BUT IT WAS FREE CAN YOU BELIEVE!!! :-)

Some new shiny knives, been looking at Global ones and quite keen... Have settled for some cheaper ones from Richardson Sheffield!

A bigger kitchen and a gas oven! (I can dream!) *Edited: Now have big kitchen and fan oven so almost there!!*

Recommended Restaurants

This is a shorter list of places I have been to but not done a review / remember enough detail!

Palm Suite, Iver
On Saturday I had a need to be over in Iver for an early afternoon appointment and needing lunch popped into Palm Suite with my dad and had a great lunch, especially as he was paying!! We both have similar tastes and both started with the tempura prawns, which were light, crispy, fresh and tasted great. We both then had sea bass with a prawn and chive butter served with new potatoes and green beans which was also perfectly fresh and melted in your mouth. We somehow managed desserts, dad opting for the summer pudding with clotted cream that I forgot to nab some of and I had three scoops of delicious ice-cream - I chose pistachio, hazlenut and vanilla bean - all delish! It doesnt have the most obvious of locations but is worth checking out if you are in the area.

Edited Mar 2009 - Still good, only popped in for a light bite whilst in area and still a charming little restaurant with friendly staff.

Bar163, Chertsey, KT16
The staff are so friendly in here, regardless of how busy they are it makes it a pleasure to eat, drink and be merry! I went on satuday 12/7 with a girly friend and had a great relaxing time, we shared a giant plate of light as air nachos topped with salsa, creamy guacamole and sour cream which was delicious and for mains I had home made salmon fishcakes that were lovely and fresh, just needed a wee pinch more kick in the red pepper sauce that accompanied them and they would have been perfect.

Also went back on last Friday 17/10/08 - had a great meal as always! They did seem to have some new staff in and service was friendly but a little slow, however they deducted off the total quite a chunk so worked out good value! I had lovely fresh bread and oil to nibble on then went with the veggie option of baked aubergine stuffed with veggie chilli, with creamed fennel on the side and sour cream, it was honestly utterly gorgeous, one of the best 'v' options I've tried! Somehow I also managed to eat a whole cheeseboard of brie, stilton and cheddar, with lots of lovely jacobs crackers and a wonderful sticky relish. The only real downside was that I had ordered mussels to be later told they were not at the best :( however my chilli was gorgeous so no real hardship!


Taipan, Uxbridge, UB
This is a buffet place but don't let the word 'buffet' put you off! We ate here in March 2008 and was very pleasantly surprised, service was faultless and efficient and the food was a lovely change from the usual buffet options. One of my favourites was the onion rings - they were coated in a tempura style batter and as light as air, also the spicy pork was delicious and tender. Is a reasonable £14 on weeknights and includes dessert, I had lime jelly and toffee banana - lush!! Definately a return trip next time I am over that way! (which happens to be tonight! 22/04/08)

Ko Gu Ryo, Staines, Middlesex - Korean
Fabulous place! Must book nowadays as packed of an evening!
Recommend the Seafood Pancake is wonderful and not like what it sounds!
Also the king prawns to start with are gorgeous and have a lovely lighter than air batter on them! Service is good, very polite staff who take time to explain any dishes you are unsure on. About £30 per head inc drinks. Best to order a selection of dishes as they bring them out in strange orders! The BBQ on the table is cute and meat from it is lovely, must be tried!

Anglers Retreat, Staines, Middlesex - British and European
This is half a pub half a restaurant, both sides serving different food.. Recommend the restaurant, has a Fish based menu and the Sea Bass I had last time was perfect - only thing I didnt like was their Sunday Lunch, generous portions but the beef was a little bit tough on our visit :(

London Hong Kong, Harmondsworth, Middlesex - Upmarket Chinese & Peking
We visited about a year ago and was quite possibly the best and most expensive chinese I have eaten! Came to £95 for two of us but that was three courses, appetizers and wine.
Service was very polite and efficient. Food excellent! We had perfectly cooked Honey bbq Duck breast, which melted in your mouth, also tried Scallops for the first time then and were lovely, served en shell, with tiny slivers of mushroom surrounding the scallop and dressed with a fiery ginger sauce! Mains we had various dishes including squid, chicken and beef, thoroughly greedy!! I was stuffed so didnt have dessert but they bought out a little plate of chilled fruits which was lovely.

Croutons for Soup

Not for the salt conscious person ;-)

Makes 32 croutons

2 slices of bread
Few tbsp of olive oil
2 tsp celery salt

Pre-heat oven to 200o

1) Cut the bread into cubes depending what size you want, 1cm will give you about 16 cubes!

2) In a bowl combine the salt and oil, dip the bread in and coat, place on a baking tray for about 12 mins till crispy and starting to brown

Serve!

Cauliflower, Parmesan and Bacon Soup

Easy
Serves 3-4

Rich and comforting winter food! Is very filling and a meal in itself!

1 large cauliflower head
1.5 pints stock, either chicken or veggie
s&p - lots of p!
2-3 bacon rashers, pref smoked
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp creme fraiche (not end of world if you dont have any!)
4 tbsp parmesan freshly grated

1) Remove the florets and put to one side, then dice the cauli stalks and inner leaves

2) Fry the diced onion in about the butter & olive oil for about 4 minutes

3) Then add the garlic, snip in the bacon and cook for about 3 more mins

4) Then add all the cauli stalks chopped up small and cook for 2 more mins

5) Add the stock and simmer for around 8-10 mins, then add rest of cauliflower florets for around 15-20 mins till softened, remove from heat and blitz in the pan or in a food processor. Season to taste and stir in 2/3 of the parmesan and a dollop of creme fraiche and serve!

once in the bowl, sprinkle over remaining parmesan as required!

Perfect with crispy croutons!

Broccoli and Boursin Soup

Easy
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 head broccoli
1 small onion
1 pint of veg (or chicken for non-veggies) stock made fresh or from a cube
1 clove garlic
2 pats of boursin / about 2 level tbsp
1 tbsp butter
1tbsp olive oil
s&p to taste

1) Cut the florets off the broccoli and put to one side, finely chop all of the stalks, dice the onion and crush the garlic

2) Make up stock / warm through

3) In a large pan heat the butter and olive oil, add the onion and fry for 4 mins until starting to soften, add the garlic and diced stalks, mix well and cook for 5 mins covered

4) Add the stock and cook for about 12 mins until stalks softened, then add the florets and cook for 5 mins more

5) Remove from heat and either blitz with a hand blender or transfer to a food processor and whizz until smooth, season to taste and stir in the boursin, allow to melt then mix, serve immediately!


Is great for using broccoli that is slightly past its best! Can be done with frozen broccoli just allow to thaw and add extra broccoli as you need the stalky bits! Is yummy and a lovely green colour! Have made this many times and just realised never posted it!

Mini Minty Meatballs

These go great with picnicky foods and best served cold (that is of course providing you do not eat them all first!) Have made these twice and each time gone down extremely well!

Approx quantities - Makes 30 roughly...

250g Really good seasoned pork sausagement - I always use one from the Butchers and is superb - skip all the supermarket ones!
8-10 Fresh mint leaves
1 egg*
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
Plain flour for dusting

1) Firstly lay out 1-2 trays and cover with foil and prepare a bowl of hot soapy water

2) Finely shred the mint leaves and mix everything in a bowl (exc flour) *note: you may not need all the egg, just enough to bind

3) Flour your hands and using a teaspoon take about 2/3 tsp of the mix and roll into a ball, dust in flour and place on tray, repeat with remainder, does take quite a while but is worth it!

4) When they are all ready you can either chill / freeze until needed or cook straightaway

5) To cook, take a large saute pan / lidded frying pan and heat 2 tbsp veg oil, add the meatballs carefully keeping apart, will take about 15 mins to cook, keep turning so that they brown all over, then drain on kitchen paper

Serve with other mixed dishes for a casual evening meal or picnic

Monday, 21 May 2007

Lidl's Stores

Thought would make a list of our must haves from Lidl's
http://www.lidl.co.uk/uk/home.nsf/pages/i.home

Groceries:

Smoked ham and cheese 'sausages' (remind me of Kabanos) - Really nice for nibbling on straight from the pack! lovely meaty flavour

Roasted Red Peppers (in a jar)- great for antipasti and shredding into various dishes!

Passata - Very good value and always have a keen supply, about 27p

Par-bake Ciabatta rolls - great for when we have company and only 99p for about 15 rolls!

Serrano Ham and Prosciuttio - Both very good and reasonably priced

Tortellinis - either spinach & ricotta or prosciuttio - good value at 65p and a staple in the fridge as keep for about 4 weeks

Sea Salt with built in grinder - bargain at about 60p!

Mascarpone - much cheaper than tescos and just as good, think was around 89p a tub last time

Caramel Cappuchino - great as in a tin! Nice tasting as well. (my male boss has also become strangely addicted to this stuff as well!)

Shrimp Cocktail (chiller cabinet) - Small prawns but in a nice sauce and perfect with jacket pots and salad! (strangely also nice with nachos dipped in.....)

Maple & Pecan cereal - so so good and a nice treat for breakfast! (or anytime!)

'Animation' Nuts & Crisp choc bars - Very gorgeous and individually wrapped so very handy. Permananent supply in my desk draw! Nice ratio of crisp to choc. mmm

Sirius Choco-Cornflake Cereal bars - Probably too sweet for some but I love these, nice plain choccy cornflakes dipped in a white choc base!

Cleaning Products:

Adritt Wipes - 80 large wipes in 3 different scents, good cleaning power, surfaces dry quickly after and no residue

W5 Shower Cleaner - Very good, huge bottle and no grimy residue after

W5 Cream Cleaner - very good, also large sized bottle and cleans brilliantly

Kitchen Towel (blue packaging) - Strong and absorbent, would never switch, bargain at £1.29 for four rolls! **Edited 17/12/07 - now £1.49 but still good!**


Vino!

South East Austrailian Chardonnay - not seen it recently but used to be brilliant value at £3.99 - crisp and dry, exactly how I like my white wine!

Valdepenas - approx £2.79 - great little red bargain, fruity and dry, my kinda wine!

Montelpulciano D'Abruzzo - Had a few iffy bottles but 8 times out of 10 a nice fruity & dry red to go with meaty dishes. On average £2.79 a bottle!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

One of the things I love about Lidl's is the weekly specials! we have had some really nice bits at great prices. Most recently picked up 3 pretty garden candles for £1.50! Similar ones sell in Homebase for double the price and thats just for one!

Also picked up the index tabs (post-it version are about £4.00) for only 99p a while back! Brilliant for bookmarking recipes in magazines!

They have now also launched a recipe website which looks good!

..................................................................................

Recommendations from Friends and BBC Food Members:

ReynardDargent :

Smoked salmon

Also the sausages that come in a two part blister pack (about 8-10 slightly longer, but no thicker, than a finger sausages in each pack) are always a hit. They look a bit anaemic and grey when raw but colour up nicely when cooked and have always been a hit at BBQs and even when cooking for fussy godchildren etc (always a tough test)

Cotton wool is fantastic and their W5 foaming bathroom cleaner spray is as good as anything else on the market. Also their cream hand soap is great and they come in a variety of nice smells including 'sweet orange' and 'asia flair'

Yoghurty Chicken - Part Deux!

Made this yesterday (20/05/07) was nice but for myself would like a bit more spice but people eating it not curry fans :( As it uses no extra fat it renders it lower fat in my eyes!

Selection of chicken pieces - I used 1 large breast & two whole legs
1 large pot natural yoghurt
2 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seed
s&p

Night before:

In a fridge proof container, mix the marinade together, add the chicken and coat well, refridgerate until needed

Remove chicken from the fridge about 30 mins before intending to cook

Pre-heat oven to 200o, transfer the chicken to a ovenproof dish (unless of course the previous dish oven proof - gosh I love pyrex!) and place uncovered in the lower part of the oven, cook for about an hour or until juices run clear

Served this with the spiced potatoes and broccoli (Oh and baked beans for the other half! :-))


The leftovers were very nice for lunch the following day!

Spiced Potatoes

Made these yesterday to accompany a chicken dish, didnt weigh anything but will guess!

Allow 2-3 small to medium sized potatoes per person, must have used about 10 yesterday
2 tsp cumin seed
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
2 cloves garlic halved

Chop the potatoes into 1cm chunks (skin on, just remove any rough bits) and boil for about 8 mins until just softening

Heat 1tbsp of oil in a large roasting pan

Drain potatoes well and return to saucepan, add remaining oil and sea salt, mix well and tip carefully onto the pre-heated pan, sprinkle over the cumin and garlic and place in the oven, allow about 1hr - 1hr 15 (my oven is electric and slow so you may need less time!)

Turn every 15-20 mins so that all sides crispen

Serve!


Were very nice and all went depsite planning to have some for my lunch today...The cumin gave the potatoes a nice scent and went perfectly with the chicken

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Tuna, Spinach and Tomato Lasagne

Serves 3-4 (note this doubles easily)
Easy
Prep time 10 mins
Cooking time 45 mins

Very easy & quick to assemble.

Ingredients:

1 large tub low fat creme fraiche (or 2 small)
1 pack dried lasagne sheets
apx 10 blocks of frozen spinach or 1 bag fresh
3 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tin tuna steak in brine or oil
2 tbsp grated cheddar
1 carton plain passata (sieved tomatoes)
black pepper to taste
1 tsp dried italian herbs
6 tsp milk*

1) (this bit depends on which type of spinach you have) If frozen solid put the spinach in a saucepan and cover with boiling water, bring to boil and cook for 5 mins or until all defrosted, empty into a colander/ sieve and drain for a few minutes, squeezing out excess water or if planning in advance and using frozen you can just defrost overnight and then drain well OR for fresh wilt in a pan and drain well

2) Prepare about 9-10 lasagne sheets by running under tap to moisten, you may need to trim to fit your dish! (I normally keep them in a bowl of water as easier to trim)

3) Drain the tuna and fork into a bowl, add 4/5 of the creme fraiche and 1/2 the parmesan and all the cheddar, mix well and season with the herbs and black pepper




4) Return the spinach to the saucepan and add the carton of passta, warm through gently and season well with the black pepper, put to one side



5) Assembly: Place 2-3 of the damp lasagne sheets in the bottom of your dish, cover with 1/2 the spinach mix and smooth out, now cover in 1/3 of the tuna mix, then place 2nd layer of lasagne sheets, make one spinach layer using remainder and cover in lasagne sheets, then use up remaining tuna mix (I reserved some for my lunch today!) cover with lasagne sheets snugly and smooth over remaining creme fraiche, top with remaining parmesan and a pinch of seasoning, bake at 170o for 30-35 mins or brown and bubbling


6) If the top sheets look a bit dry drizzle over the milk and return to the oven for 5 more mins.


*Edited 09.01.08, made this again last night and was so much better in the new oven! Had forgotten just how easy and quick this was to make and will definately be eating more of this now!!*

Friday, 11 May 2007

Review of La Rucola, Denham, Middx

http://www.larucola.co.uk/

We visited on 10th May 2007 to celebrate mine and my dads birthday and had a great time. The pictures on their website do not really do it any justice!

The location is slightly odd and unless you have been recommended (like us) you would not even know it was there! However once inside, it is a large restaurant, tastefully decorated and good lighting, the tables are nicely spaced out and there is plenty of room on the tables.

Service was impecable from start to finish, attentive when needed and occasional casual walks by the waiter past our table ensured we had everything we required.

Dad chose a white wine to start from Tuscany, which I believe was the 'VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMGNANO - Teruzzi e Puthod'. Very enjoyable, dry and with the tang of similar Pinot Grigio type of grape but nicer! Did end up having two bottles at £18 each, which was quite reasonable I thought.

The menu had plenty of choices, including seafood and various meats.

I chose to start:

Crespelle Di Vitella E Parmigiano Gratinate
a fresh mince of veal with parmesan wrapped in pancakes, baked au gratin

Was yummy and the sauce was gorgeous and tomatoey!

Main:
Branzino Grigliato Al Rosmarino
grilled seabass with olive oil and rosemary

The seabass came out whole but luckily the waiter offered to fillet it for me! was lovely and tender and despite smelling of the rosemary it was only very slightly scented and delicious

To go with the mains they bought out perfect home made large potato wedges, green beans, broccoli and carrots - and the most delish courgettes! They were cut into 'chips' then coated in a very light salty batter and deep fried, we polished the bowl of in seconds! Highly recommended!

Rest of the group ordered:

Starters:

Calamari Saltati
sauteed baby squid

Proscuitto Di Parma Con Melone
thin slices of Parma ham with melon slices

Carpaccio Di Tonno
thin slices of smoked tuna on a bed of rocket salad with pine kernels

Mains were:

Bistecca Di Manzo Al Pepe Nero
sirloin steak in a black pepper sauce

Costolette Di Agnello Alle Erbe Di Rosmarino
lamb cutlets with a fresh rosemary sauce

Battuta Di Vitello Paillard
tender grilled veal scallop sprinkled with a light olive oil dressing

All were lovely!

Desserts were great as well, they had a sweet trolley which made me drool! I had the tiramisu, lovely and light

Also ordered was fresh cappuchino cake mmmmm, amaretto cake that was lush and a passionfruit and carrot cake which was yummy

Came to £165 for four of us, which is a little expensive but considering what we had and the great service was happy to pay.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Review of Volare, Ashford Middx

We went here last week for a friends birthday for the 1st time

And so we begin...

This relatively new Italian Restaurant is located upstairs above some shops near Ashford Station, we were greeted politely and shown immediately to the table and asked if we wanted any drinks, advised we would look at list and could we have a few minutes. The place is cosy and brightly painted yet quite dark inside.

After perusing the menu for a few minutes the waiter returned and took our drink orders, 1 bottle of the cabernet sauvignon 2005 (ended up being 3 bottles...) and a bottle of still water. Wine was lovely and very drinkable

The menu was quite pricey considering the location and we decided orignally to skip the starters but then decided on the set menu. I had whitebait (ok, nothing special), 2 of our party had the tomato soup, which was lovely and fresh tasting, the other party just had garlic bread, which was pizza shaped and quite nice but lacking garlic I thought - but I am a garlic-o-holic!

For Mains, I had the white fish fillet with seafood, very disapointing when my plate came, had a one small coley fillet (slightly tough and boring), 2 mussels and 2 teeny clams in a slightly garlicy yet bland sauce. Also ordered was a spaghetti bolognese, quite authentic looking but not not to my taste, pasta with bacon and onions, which was nice but a bit plain, also my other half ordered the chicken with tomatoes, came out as a very small butterfly of chicken in a watery tomato sauce, not very attractive to say the least! On the side (and we are not sure which dish it was supposed to be with) was a dish of sliced carrots, fried sliced potatoes and hard cauliflower. The whole of the main courses screamed brown carpets and 1980's to me! and not in a funky kinda retro way either!

Desserts were the saving grace for me! I had the caffe semifreddo and enjoyed every mouthful, was like being attacked by an angry and cold espresso machine!! Also ordered was a strawberry cheesecake and some other ice creams. Judging by the pre-printed and laminated dessert menu, all of the desserts were bought in, like so many other places sadly nowadays.

We also had coffees, I had a lovely espresso and the boys had cappuchinos. (I was slightly buzzing by the end with all the caffeine!)

The next bit slightly narked me when the bill arrived, the waiter asked at the end of the meal if we would like a liqueur, to which we ordered baileys, now normally at every other place I frequent this tends to be on the house, imagine our shock when the bill had 4 x £3 'baileys' on!

Total bill was just over £100, which is fair enough for 4 people with wine but personally I would not go back, service was polite and efficient but found the food just too boring and very overpriced for what it was. Everyone else quite liked it but for me was very disapointing.

Tangy Tzatziki

Needs to be made in advance!

1 cucumber
1/2 tub nat yoghurt
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp lime juice
s&p to taste

1) Peel the cucumber
2) quarter into four long strips and slice away the seeds
3) Grate the cucumber finely and place in a bowl on top of a clean tea towel
4) leave to drain for up to 2 hours then squeeze out any excess water
5) Place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and mix well, leave to stand for a little while before serving

Yoghurty Chicken

Tonight I thought would try something different as had 1/2 a tub of low fat natural yoghurt leftover...here are the results!

2 chicken breasts, cubed into about 9-12 cubes per breast
1/2 big tub low fat natural yoghurt
aprox:
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
s&p to taste
1 tsp dried coriander leaf

Mix the marinade together and coat chicken well, marinade for 24 hours

Lay out onto a roasting tray and bake at elec 200o for 25-30 mins until cooked through


Verdict: Very mild (rather surprisingly) but nicely tangy with the lemon in, definately make again and would make a nice picnic meat.

Served it with home made red pepper houmous, tzatziki and roasted veg couscous and mini pittas for dipping

Monday, 30 April 2007

Review of ginger simnel cake

Recently for Easter I made this recipe: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3339/ginger-simnel-cake-with-spring-flowers.jsp from bbcgoodfood.com


Warning - you need lots of bowls! quite fiddly!

Overall 9/10

Very gingery but added a nice twist


Here are my pictures of it:


Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Beef and Leek Stew

Serves 3

Quantity of leftover roast beef, about 2 handfuls say 450g
1 Large leek
1 onion
2 sticks celery
50g pearl barley
1 clove garlic
1 kallo organic veg boulion cube
1 tbsp beef gravy granules
1.5 pints boiling water

1) Rinse the pearl barley and place in a bowl (or microwave steamer) and cover with boiling water generously, microwave for 18 mins, stirring half way (not needed if slow cooking, just add a little extra liquid)

2) Make up the stock using the bouilion and gravy granules

3) Dice the onion and garlic, slice the celery chunkily

4) Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan, add the onion and fry for 2 mins, add the garlic and celery, cover and fry for 5 mins, add the (drained) pearl barley, transfer to a casserole dish and cover

5) Warm through & brown the beef for 4-5 mins in the empty veg pan, add about 1/4 of the stock to simmer for a couple more mins, add to the casserole pan and mix well, cover with remaining liquid and transfer to the oven for 2 hours, starting on 200 elec and drop down to 150 elec*

Serve with fresh bread

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

*Can be done in slow cooker as well, about 5-6 hours on high, up to 10 on low.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Lamb and Spinach Bhajee

This is a rather lovely adaptation from one of my indian cook books! Great way of using up leftover lamb!!

Serves 3 ish
Easy

Ingredients:

Leftover roast lamb, about 2 handfuls diced / roughly shredded
1 bag spinach
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1 onion
3 waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1.5cm apx pieces
Veg oil

1) Heat a couple of tbsp veg oil in a large shallow but lidded pan

2) Add a sliced onion, and brown for 5 mins,

3) Stir in the spices and add the cubed raw potatoes and cover

4) after about 10 mins add the cubed / shredded (cooked) lamb

5) Wilt the spinach in another pan, drain well and add to mix,

6) Add a little bit of veg stock to moisten and cook for about 15 mins more until the potatoes are just cooked through,

OH actually enjoyed it and would definately make again, was very comforting and warming food!

Recomended Recipes from others:

The Cranberry Sauce from Nigella Lawson's recipe for Cranberry Bakewell, even better with a slug of sloe whiskey in :-) Keeps for months and best we have made and tasted!

Bacon and New Potato Salad from BBC Good Food magazine July 2006, perfect summery salad, actually making again this week now that summer is almost upon us! Have swapped watercress instead of the rocket and even better! (they now publish a certain amount on-line but this has not featured yet :( )

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Chinese Style Salmon

Serves 6

Get some nice fresh salmon fillets, skin on, allow one per person

Marinade them in a bowl for about 30 mins or so in the following (have left it a few hours before and is fine, just make sure has some marinading time!):Kikkomans Teryaki sauce liberally added so that they 'sit' in it!.
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 dessert spoons 'gourmet garden' liquid ginger or 1 d.spoon grated ginger
2 dessert spoons sweet chili sauce
1 small green chili, de-seeded and finely sliced (optional)
1 d.spoon runny honey if you have any


Line a deep baking tray with foil and place salmon fillets skin side up, grill on medium heat for about 12 mins until the flesh breaks away easily, turn over carefully and grill for about 2/3 minutes more, serve immediately with mixed wild rice (is a mix of wild and normal white rice, allow about 75g per person) cooked in water and a tin of coconut milk.

If you wish to serve any veggies mange tout goes nicely or baby corn but normally serve on its own.

Also if you don't like ginger / chili then just simply leave it out or adjust to your tastes!

Requires minimal effort and virtually no prep leaving you more time to be with your guests! :)

Low-fat Cauliflower Cheese

I recently done an alternative cauli cheese which turned out a surprise hit!

1 cauliflower
250g (small tub) low fat creme fraiche
1 large egg
50g apx grated mature cheddar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1) Cut up the cauli into florets and either boil or steam for about 15-20 mins or until tender

2) Transfer to a small oven proof dish or roasting pan.

3) In a bowl mix the creme fraiche, egg and a 2/3 of the cheese, black pepper and pour / spoon over the cauliflower evenly, sprinkle over remaining grated cheese and bake in the oven for about 25 mins till golden.

Was really delicious and light, not heavy like it can be normally. discovered by accident and will be staying!! Served this with roast lamb and trimmings, all went! Feedback from BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbfood/F2670471?thread=2717002&post=31778424#p31778424

Authors note: A year on and have made this countless times! Always loved and raved about and now requested if making a roast (or anything else for that matter!) is so light and gorgeous you cannot go wrong with it!

Bacon & Mushroom Pasta

Easy
Serves 1 very hungry or 2 light suppers

1/2 tin (200g) good italian chopped tomatoes
70g lardons or bacon bits
1 tbsp chili olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
3 large closed cup mushrooms
100g linguine (About 1/4 of the pack)
1/2 glass dry red wine
Few leaves of fresh basil and oregano
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly ground mixed peppercorns to taste (op)
Freshly shaved parmesan for serving
Pinch salt

1) In a large saucepan bring water to boil for the pasta.

2) In the meantime, dice the shallot and garlic.

3) Slice the mushrooms.

4) In a non stick skillet heat the chili oil, add shallot for 2 mins, then add garlic.

5) Add pasta to the boiling water with a pinch of salt.

6) Add mushrooms to the skillet and stir well, leave for 2 mins.

7) Add the lardons, stir well and leave on medium heat for 5 mins.

8) Add wine to pan and reduce down.

9) Pour on chopped tomatoes and mix, leave to simmer.

10) Pasta should almost be ready, if so drain and toss with olive oil, keep warm.

11) Add herbs to skillet including ground peppers to taste, leave for one minute, then add to the hot pasta.

12) Shave / grate over the parmesan and serve!

10/10 yummy tummy!!

Basic white sauce - microwave method

Makes 1 pint
45g flour
45g butter
1 pint milk

1) In a large glass bowl or jug add the butter and microwave for about 30-40 seconds on high until melted and slightly bubbling, remove and place milk in a seperate container in microwave for about 40 secs. (alternatively take the milk out of the fridge about 30 mins before to take the chill off)

2) In the meantime stir in the flour to the butter and whisk to form a roux (paste) remove the warm milk and add 1/3, whisk well making sure you scrape the bottom, place back in microwave for one min, remove whisk well and add another 1/3 milk, whisk well and return for a further minute, remove add last of the milk and put back in microwave, set it for 2 mins and stop as soon as it thickens should take between 1min 30 to 2 depending on wattage.

3) Remove and whisk well making sure all blended, should be thick and stiff.

Cheese sauce- add 40g grated mature cheddar and 40g mozzarela
White wine - add 1 large glass to dish, add sauce and then a splash more wine.

Makes a lovely versatile well coating sauce

Bacon and Cheese Pasta Bake

Serves 3-4
Easy
Ingredients

6 slices good smoked bacon
80g mature cheese grated
Any parmesan that needs using up
350g conchiglle or penne pasta

*Also the ingredients below for sauce

1) Cook pasta till al dente

2) Fry or grill bacon till crispy and tear into 1inch pieces, mix with cooked pasta and transfer to oven proof dish

3) Make up the sauce as per below and season with black pepper, pour over the pasta, top with a little extra cheese and grill until golden, about 10-15 mins.

*Cheese sauce: Makes 1 pint
45g flour
45g butter
1 pint milk

1) In a large glass bowl or jug add the butter and microwave for about 30-40 seconds till melted and slightly bubbling, remove and place milk in a seperate container in microwave for about 40 secs.

2) In the meantime stir in the flour to the butter and whisk to form a roux (paste) remove the warm milk and add 1/3, whisk well making sure you scrape the bottom, place back in microwave for one min, remove whisk well and add another 1/3 milk, whisk well and return for a further minute, remove add last of the milk and put back in microwave, set it for 2 mins and stop as soon as it thickens should take between 1min30 to 2 depending on wattage.

3) Remove and whisk well making sure all blended, should be thick and stiff, if not keep cooking until so.

Sausage and Shallot Flan

Serves 2-3
Created in mums kitchen by me in June 2006.

Ingredients

6 skinless sausages
1 tbsp vege oil
4 nice shallots finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
4 large eggs
6oz/ 150g flour + extra for rolling out
1.5oz/ 37g butter
1.5oz/ 37g lard
6/7 tsp ice cold water
80g davidstow cheese or similar mature cheddar
s&p to taste
6 sprigs parsley
2 tbsp tomato puree

1) In a bowl sieve the flour and add a pinch of salt, chop in the fat (best left out of fridge for about 30mins first) and using your hands gently rub together to form a breadcrumb type mix, slowly add water and build up to a dough, wrap in cling film and place in fridge to rest.

2) In a frying pan heat the oil, add sausages and cook as per instructions, norm about 8 mins, when cooked place on kitchen towel to drain.

3) Finely chop the shallots and cook them on low/med heat in the sausage pan for about 10 mins adding sugar halfway through, until slightly golden, leave to one side.










4) Remove pastry from fridge, lightly dust the work surface, roll out pastry wide enough to fit your dish (mine is 20cm), line the dish.

5) Using greaseproof paper carefully place inside the dish over the pastry and weigh down with baking beans/ dried pulses, cook for about 10-15 mins

6) remove from oven and spread tomato puree over base











7) Halve sausages and line dish, spread over 1/2 the cooked shallots

8) In a bowl beat the eggs with remaining shallots, s&p (two pinches salt, about 6 grinds of pepper mill), cheese, 2/3 parsley roughly shredded, pour over sausages evenly

9) Cook for 25-30 mins on about gas 5/ elec 18o till golden and cooked through

10) Serve hot or cold with salad

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Adventures with a Chicken!

On Saturday 6th April 2007 I bought a 2kg free-range chicken for £6.50, planning to make it stretch as far as possible!

So here goes:

06/04/07 - Removed thighs, legs and wings, frozen individually, roasted remaining bird wrapped in bacon and stuffed with 1/2 an onion. Served with cabbage, potato & leek bake and sweetcorn, used approx half the breast meat, allowed to cool and wrapped up tightly in fridge. Also as the bacon was erm rather crispy after 2 hours cooking, instead of wasting it I crumbled it up and have frozen in a small bag - perfect next time I make soup or cauli cheese!

09/04/07 - Removed remaining breast and side meat and shredded, used 2/3 in dinner of sliced waxy organic potatoes sauteed in butter and olive oil, after 10 mins added sliced organic leeks and the chicken and covered with gravy, simmered for about 30 mins and seasoned with S&P and 1tsp dried sage, served with buttered par-bake baguette mmmm. Re-wrapped carcass and is in fridge. (made 4 portions, eaten by 2!)





10/04/07 - Chicken sandwich for lunch, planning to boil up carcass tonight to make stock, also to hopefully make chicken noodle soup for tomorrow nights meal...will report back!

11/04/07 - Well my dinner guest cancelled for tonight so didnt boil up the carcass, also problem as freezer is full so will have to be thrown away unfortunately. There is one handful of meat left though so that will be my dinner tonight!

3rd May 07
The wings got used tonight in the yoghurty chicken marinade, was advised they were very nice! (also mixed with a pack of chicken bought from butchers)

Whole Legs still in freezer...

20/05/07 - Legs used in Yoghurty Chicken Part Deux!

The Adventures are now over and body parts used! Reckon got 10 meals out of it so pretty good going! Wish had the chance to make the stock for yummy soup but a girl can't have everything!! Have discovered new dishes along the way and has been good fun!

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Jelly Cheesecake

Easy
Prep time 20 mins + chilling

9 plain digestive biscuits
30g butter
1 sachet quick-gel (choose colour according to fruit)
1 tub mascarpone
1 tin of: mandarin segments / pear halves / peach slices (choice is yours!)

1) Place the biscuits in a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs or place in a large sealable food bag and bash with a rolling pin

2) In a saucepan melt the butter, turn off the heat and add the biscuit crumbs, stir well, now transfer to a loose bottomed sandwich tin and press down to make a smooth layer, allow to cool and chill for 20 minutes

3) Remove from the fridge and cover the base with the mascarpone to make a smooth layer

4) Slice your fruit of choice thinly and make a pretty layer over the mascarpone

5) Make the quick-gel up as per the instructions, pour over the top carefully until covered, allow to set and chill for a couple of hours before serving

In the summer, using fresh strawberries is lovely

This dish is a surefire winner and so easy to make!

Monday, 2 April 2007

Foolproof Choc Coconut cake

Easy
Use either 7" or 8" sandwich tin

Ingredients:

2/3 large free range eggs - should weigh around 205g, use this as your base figure
same weight in butter/ stork marg
same in caster sugar or golden caster sugar
same weight in sr flour
about 4 heaped tbsp desicated coconut
1.5 tbsp cocoa powder

pre-heat oven to 180o

1) cream marg with the sugar till fluffy
2) add the flour slowly until all mixed
3) beat in the eggs until all creamy
4) add the cocoa and coconut, mix and pour into two lined sandwich pansbake for about 20-25 mins until it bounces back and a cocktail stick comes out clear, leave to stand then turn onto wire racks when cool,
5) sandwich together with lots of strawberry, raspberry jam or blackcurrant jam goes wonderfully.

for topping, either dust with icing sugar or make a quantity of glace icing, about 6 tbsp icing sugar mixed with a little boiling water until smooth and pourable, (mixed with a pinch of cocoa powder for colour if wanted) spread quickly over the cake and sprinkle over more desicated coconut as required, place half a glace cherry in the middle or you could cover with fondant icing but I find it too fiddly!

Is lovely with a mug of tea the following day!

Notes:
This also doubles up well, an average springform tin you are looking at respective measurements of 390g. Just lower temperature by 15-20 degrees (depends on how hot your oven is) and cook for about an hour nd 10 minutes or until it passes the skewer test.

Tuna & Potato Croquettes

they are very messy but very easy, just omit the tuna/ pepper for plain ones

1 quantity of mashed potato - do not add milk or butter as will be to mushy!
small bowl of breadcrumbs, (leave them on the counter to dry out a little first)
1 egg beaten,
small bowl plain flour
s&p
tin tuna drained and flaked
1/2 red pepper chopped finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely diced

1) Boil potatoes until soft, for the last 2 mins of cooking add the piece of red pepper to soften, remove on draining and dice finely, drain potatoes return the potato to the pan and mash well, season to taste, add the chopped pepper, spring onion, tuna and mix very well

2) Now for the messy part! dust your hands with flour and take a small wedge of the potato mix, (roughly a heaped tbsp) roll into a croquette kinda shape and dip in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrums to coat thoroughly, carefully place on a foil lined baking tray. repeat as above for the remaining mix and chill for 30 mins to firm up.

3) Heat about 1 inch of hot oil in a wok/ saucepan, cook the croquettes for 2-3 mins in batches and keep warm in the oven.

They do freeze well but need to be carefully defrosted as had a few mixed results!have oven baked them as well but they stuck to the tray far to easily unfortunately :(

Friday, 30 March 2007

Vegetable Ratatoulie Style Pasta

Makes 3-4 portions but easily doubled:
Easy
Cooking time: 30 mins apx

approx 300g fusili or penne
1 courgette, chopped into 1cm slices and quartered
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 Sticks celery, sliced into 1cm chunks
1 onion diced
1 tbsp chili olive oil
20g butter
1 clove garlic crushed
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried italian herbs
30g grated cheese - optional - sub veggie version according to preference

1) In a large saute style pan, heat the oil and butter, also bring a large pan of water to the boil

2) In the saute pan, add the onion and fry for 2 mins, then add celery and courgette and cover, fry for about 6 mins until softened. Now and add the pasta to the boiling water.

3) Now add the garlic to the veg pan and seasonings, pour over the tomatoes and mix well, cook for about 15-20 mins until veg soft and cooked through

4) Drain the pasta and combine with vegetables and cheese and serve.

Also is very nice cold and would make a great picnic dish.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

My Basic Bean Casserole

This makes about 4 bowls but is easily increased, just scale up accordingly

1 tin Good chopped tomatoes
2-3 Sticks celery
50 g Sweetcorn
1-2 tins Black eyed beans/ borlotti/ kidney/ chickpeas etc
1 Red or white onion or even a couple of shallots
1 Pak choi (optional)
1 Pepper any colour
50g Conchigiliette (little pasta shapes)
4 tbsp Pearl barley (more for winter time)
1/2 tsp Cumin Seed
1/4 tsp Chili powder
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Dried Italian herbs
S&P to taste
1 Pint of stock - any will do
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp Butter optional


Dice veg if needed, Prepare stock

In a heavy based large saucepan heat the oil and butter

In a bowl, place pearl barley and enough water to cover by an inch, microwave for 10-15 minutes until tender

Add the onion to the saucepan, fry for 2 mins, add garlic and pepper, fry for 3 mins till softened

Add all remaining veg, tomatoes and seasoning, stir well, pour over stock to cover and reduce to a simmer


When the pearl barley is softened add to mix and cover, simmer until flavours develop

Add pasta 10 mins before end


Serve with crusty bread

You can use this as a base and add meat I.e. sausages if wanted

Mediteranean Chicken

250g Farfalle
2 Chicken Breasts
1 Yellow pepper
1/2 Onion
15 Cherry tomatoes
3 Cloves garlic
1 tbsp Fresh Basil
1tbsp Fresh Oregano
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp Chili olive oil
1 Glass dry red wine


Dice chicken into small strips, Dice onion, Crush the garlic, Shred the herbs, Quarter the tomatoes

In a large heavy based saute warm the oil and fry the chicken for 5 mins, remove and keep warm

Add the onion, garlic and pepper to the pan and fry for 3 mins till softened, return the chicken to the pan, add the red wine and tomatoes and sizzle for 5 more mins, add the herbs & s&p, reduce heat and cover

Simmer until veg softened and meat coloured nicely approx 10 mins and serve


A taste of sunshine, lovely fresh and tasty

Oven Poached Salmon

1 per person

Ingredients:

1 Fillet of Salmon
1/2 Clove Garlic
2 tbsp Chardonnay
Black pepper To taste
Sea Salt To taste
1 tsp
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Lemon
Pinch Dried coriander leaf or parsley


1) Cut out a tin foil square apx 30 cm x 30 cm

2) Chop Garlic finely

3) Lay the fillet in the middle of the foil, drizzle over apx a tsp of EVOO, sprinkle over a pinch of the garlic, season well with S&P, sprinkle over a pinch of either coriander leaf or parsley

4) Gently pull up one side of the foil so that the fillet falls onto its side, carefully fold the foil until it meets the top of the piece below, fold the sides over several times to make a tight seal, be careful not to rip the foil, then bring upright so the gap is open, spoon over the wine and lay a wedge of lemon over, seal and bake on the oven shelf for 18-20 minutes at 200o.


Wonderfully easy once you get the hang of folding, no washing up either! Also added a squirt of lime to one parcel which was lovely and tangy. Worked just as well with the chicken.

Creamed Leeks

Makes 3 generous portions (or one large for me heehee)

Ingredients:

2 large leeks
1oz butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cream (d or s)
about 100 ml hot water mixed with a pinch of marigold bouilion powder
S&P

1) Halve and slice leeks, rinse well

2) Make the boulion up

3) Using a large pan, heat the butter and oil, add the leeks, stir well and cover for 4-5 mins, if needed add a little of the bouilion mix (sometimes the leeks retain a lot of water and is not always needed.

4) Simmer for approx 20 mins, repeating step 3 as required

5) Remove from heat and stir in the cream, season to taste and serve


Goes well with potatoes and salmon
01 09 10