Friday, 20 June 2014

Pecan and Ginger Fudge

This hideously nice but naughty recipe finally gave me a chance to use my long forgotten sugar thermometer. I bought it on the internet, some 5 years or so ago after deciding on a whim to make coconut ice however I just never got around to making said coconut ice.. it just goes to show those simplifying perfectionist websites who say clear stuff out after a year were lying, hoarding is just fine by me. This recipe is also a prime example of if you fail, you just dust yourself off and try again. A good life lesson too...

I do now have yet another 'tester' in the form of my brothers flatmate who has willingly pledged to try any more fudge varieties I might care to make...as you can see from this plate there was not much left after I had taken a batch of this Pecan and Ginger Fudge to his house, still warm in the baking tray in order to give my dad a bagful for Fathers Day! One happy dad too!


Recently I've switched to working a regular hour job and now have weekends.. at least for now anyway... Something strange and a novelty after 5 years of shift work and find myself now alone most weekends in the kitchen.. its proving dangerous for my waistline! Anyway for some reason I was sitting around googling random stuff on Saturday afternoon and remembered I had bought some crystalised ginger a few weeks to make a cake recipe I have culled from a magazine, and dug it out... however it was from our upstairs larder/ hall cupboard/ storage room and right next to it by chance was a tin of condensed milk I had bought on a whim, and at that moment it screamed fudge to me.... Though after checking online it turns out I was thinking of Nigella’s chocolate fudge but I had just used nearly all my chocolate supplies in making Rocky Road (to follow!) and needed another option and stumbled across Carnations website, admittedly my tin was not Carnation branded but they did have a promising sounding fudge recipe on their site, and I had nothing better to do and decided to make my first batch!


Oh my, arm strength is good here. Not something I have or will ever achieve. My first batch without the thermometer was not quite thick enough and I had to reboil it later for which I made my boyfriend do! He was quite fascinated how the texture changed during cooking and I think it made him appreciate the workings of the kitchen a little bit more! The optimum temperature was above 118o Celsius for the record however on the successful batch I waited till 120o to be certain!

The flavour combination of Pecan and Ginger came about as whilst I didn’t end up using the crystalised ginger, I opted for stem ginger instead to make a bit more punchy! And as regulars know by now I love pecans soo much!! For my first ever batch I am super chuffed with the final result! Crunchy sweet pecans, fragrant ginger to just hum and not overwhelm the fudge flavour -  it was a real winner! Though just next time I might not just reboil it and have to make brownies with it instead, which was suggested for fudge that doesn't set! Yum!

Now it depends what size bits of fudge you want but I used a traybake tin and the fudge was just under a centimetre in height. Prepare your tin by dotting a little oil or butter and lining fully with baking paper. It will cut maybe about 60 little pieces. Which vanish very fast. Sad times is the empty tupperware last night. I think we are both fridge pickers (and as the saying goes fridge pickers wear bigger knickers!!)

Ingredients:

1 tin sweetened condensed milk (397g)
150ml milk
400g Demerara sugar
115g unsalted butter
16 pecan nuts
2 balls stem ginger
1 tbsp stem ginger syrup

Method:

In a heavy based saucepan heat the butter, sugar, milks and gently bring to the boil, keep stirring (a silicon spoon is fab here!) and on a gentle boil keep on stirring until *very* thick, about 15 minutes, then remove from the heat onto a cool surface and carry on beating until its quite actually hard to beat any further and its kinda solid but just about pourable – my temperature was at 120o Celsius. 

Transfer into the baking tin quickly and smooth over. Allow to cool fully in the tin before slicing into desired shapes. Then tie hands behind back to prevent further testing.

Notes: If like mine first time it  was still to soft, re-boil with 2 tbsp of evaporated milk and use a thermometer. My ‘soft ball’ stage was a complete fail! I ended up with lots of glasses filled with sweet water.

Warning: hot sugar fudge mix is very, very hot! Do not attempt any licking of fingers here!



And oh how we loved this fudge! Crumbly a little, sweet enough to be magical and the little pecan bursts with sweet ginger pockets was quite, well er heavenly! 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Chilli Chicken Bean Bowls

Have you heard of Uniform Dating? For those who don't know they are a dating website and whilst I didn't meet my B via there, in these modern times I think dating sites are a great idea to find people with shared interests without having to hang around a bar trying to catch someones eye or some dingy pub batting off the undesirables! I have had my fair share of that and I am so glad to have settled down now! Anyway over the past few months Uniform Dating have been working with Chef Michael Caines to create a new Uniform Foodies dating app, featuring his recipes - and as of today it has my Chilli Chicken Bean Bowls too! It goes live today so do check it out! Its currently only 69p to download in the app store!


Whilst I am not a Nurse, outside of blogging I actually work in a hospital and up until very recently worked as a Healthcare Assistant alongside the Nurses on a busy medical ward, and for my Uniform Foodies recipe challenge I of course chose to create a Nurses favourite meal – which following a national survey by Uniform Dating was salad! (I wont mention how quickly a box of chocolates or biscuits will disappear in when left at the desk!) 

For my salad I wanted to keep it simple but special as when you are working shifts around the clock and often lack time to create something tasty the instant noodle packs become far too appealing – so when planning my salad for the challenge I decided to go with some lean protein – chicken breast and lots of veggies for replacing all those vitamins lost during a busy shift along with some carbs in the form of a tortilla wrap that forms the base of the meal too and kidney beans for extra protein! Its also quick to assemble with fairly normal ingredients to find and can be prepared in advance around your life!

By making my salad a little spicy plus the idea to eat with your hands if desired, you can potentially eat this with your loved one (who you might perhaps find on Uniform dating!) and turn on a bit of caveman instinct getting a little dirty by breaking off chunks of the crispy tortilla to scoop the filling out or simply enjoy by yourself and save the leftovers for lunch the next day! Either way its quick, tasty and super easy to make!


Serves 2
Easy

Ingredients

Bowls:
2 tortilla wraps
Spray oil

Salad:
375g Chicken breast diced into ½ inch chunks
½ red onion finely sliced
120g cooked kidney beans
1 spring onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Lime juice
1 tsp cumin seed
2 tsp Smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
½ Yellow pepper sliced
20g coriander leaves shredded – save the stalkier parts to put with the chicken
6 outer leaves Romaine lettuce
1/6th Cucumber, halved cored and finely sliced
1 salad Tomato
Salt and pepper
4 heaped tbsp sour cream
Olive oil

Start in advance by making the ‘taco bowls’. There are a few different methods I found on the internet but I used one of our large cereal bowls. Spray with oil soften the wrap in the microwave for about 20 seconds to make pliable and shape around the upturned bowl. Place on a baking tray (it will be easier to get our the oven!) and cook in a hot oven – about 200o for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy. Allow to cool fully and if not using straight away store in a food bag or air tight container.

Marinade the chicken in a bowl with the lime juice, smoked paprika, chilli powder, cumin, ground coriander, season with salt and pepper and add a teaspoon of olive oil and mix well.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan, sauté the onion until lightly browned, add the chicken and brown on both sides before adding the pepper, fry for a further 3-4 minutes then stir through the beans and tomato slices, cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until the tomato is starting to break up, stir through the spring onion and coriander stalks then turn off the heat and put to one side.


By hand, halve the romaine leaves through the middle. Use the top parts to garnish your taco bowl and finely chop the remainder. Place in a bowl with the cucumber slices and most of the fresh coriander.


Add to the bowl the warm chicken mixture, toss together and fill the taco bowls. Top each bowl with 2 tablespoons of the sour cream and a little remaining coriander to garnish.


My spicy Chilli Chicken Bean Bowls were great fun to make and to eat! I constantly try new things and it ticked the boxes with a tongue tingling chilli kick! Its healthy, affordable and of course very tasty! Don't forget I am on twitter under @anneskitchen and you can also check out other #Uniform foodies on there too!

I am sending my recipe over to this months Cooking with Herbs challenge, held by Lancashire Food this month:



Disclaimer: I received vouchers to cover the cost of ingredients and my time developing the recipe for Uniform Dating

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Twice baked Tuna Jackets with Green Bean Saute

Sorry I have been a bit sparse in posting these past few months.. since Christmas I have been really struggling to live normally, yet alone focus on my blog. Its became a chore to be honest at times, battling daily fatigue and brain fog, changing medications and eventually a long period off work due to hideous hip pain, that saw me questioning my sanity most days… however following intense physio, pilates, a new heat pad (I love it!) lots of relaxation, soul searching, spending quality time with loved ones and attempting to eat normally I am hopefully back on the road to recovery.. I am trialling out a few different health foods and will be reporting back at a late date with the results.. 

..Fortunately its already paid off a little – this past week saw me back at work, albeit in a new role which is a little less physical and I no longer come home in tears of pain, which has to be a bonus. It’s still a little up in the air as to whether its long term but at least its something, and whilst its rather busy I quite enjoy it! Best of all its Monday to Friday and no more shifts! Yay! I am Taurean and creature of habit, we like routine!!

These delicious and easy Twice baked Tuna jackets were made during one of the brighter days and are delicious. Jacket potatoes are such an easy low faff meal, and for bad days a comfort to the soul too! We always tend to have tins of tuna in the cupboards, very handy for when you have forgotten to thaw or buy anything else in! Though doing the potatoes in the oven is necessary, micro-zapped jackets just are not the same and as there is only about 5 minutes max of preparation involved its well worth the wait, and you can rest in between! I love the look of the twice baked ones, are almost cottage like..

You can use standard wholegrain mustard in this, however if you have a flavoured one even better – I used Bulldog mustard, which has a an extra chilli kick and it helps liven it up! If you have a taste for chilli try adding a little chilli sauce or freshly sliced chilli!

Serves two

Ingredients

2 large baking potatoes
1 tin tuna flakes in spring water
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
30g grated mature cheddar
1 finely sliced spring onion
100g plain yoghurt (I used Greek) – you may need less it depends on your potato size
S&p to taste
1 tsp oil

Heat your oven to about 210o – mine is ancient and slow so be cautious!

Roll the potatoes in oil, pierce and place on a small baking tin, roast for around an hour – will depend on your oven and potato size or until cooked through – a skewer will come away easily.

Carefully transfer the potatoes to a chopping board, slice the top off lengthways - about 1/2 an inch and scoop out the insides into a bowl, being careful not to pierce the shell.


Mix in the remaining ingredients in a bowl, add the mash, mix and season to taste: 


Use the mixture to re-fill the potatoes, put their lids back on and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until hot inside and cooked through.


You can serve with your choice of green veg. I made a quick green bean saute to serve with mine. Frozen green beans are a great veg to keep in the freezer, and cook quickly with little fuss!

150g frozen fine green beans
½ red pepper, finely sliced
2 tsp lemon juice
1 knob unsalted butter
1 sliced spring onion


Heat a non stick frying pan, add the green beans and cook on a medium heat – they will thaw out quickly, stir through the red pepper and spring onion, add the butter and lemon juice and fry for about 3-4 minutes or until softened and cooked through. If they are sticking, add a splash of water to loosen.

Serve the Tuna jackets with the green bean saute:


We both loved these stuffed potatoes and its something which will made again, and again! 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Smoked Salmon and Mustardy Jersey Royal Salad

Right now in Sainsbury's you can pick up some fabulous fresh British produce including creamy Jersey Royal new potatoes, which fondly remind me of being fortunate enough to be there this time last year seeing them being picked! I even bought some back from a local farm that had been freshly picked that morning! However whilst its not quite feasible to have them quite that fresh Sainsburys fly their potatoes over daily so its pretty close! As I was using such tasty, fresh and British ingredients, I wanted to keep lunch simple and managed to combine them along with some other great foods all lightly bathed in a simple mustardy dressing. Just enough to flavour and not over power!

A few years ago I really was just not interested in Smoked Salmon. We were never posh enough growing up to really ever get a taste for it but on the few rare times I ate it, it left me underwhelmed. It was like, oh its on my plate. Better eat it then...Munch munch chew chew...Though like with wine, some things improve with age for example my tastebud's which now happily savour Smoked Salmon! 

So since I have been developing a taste for it, there is not a huge amount of smoked salmon recipes in my repertoire and to be honest its pretty darn good straight from the packet so it doesn't need very much doing with it, however if you can spare a little of it then I can vouch for the Speyside Whisky Smoked Salmon, which was on special last week at Sainsbury's, and its beautiful, a lovely slightly sweet and smoky flavour and 'meaty' texture. 

So with all these fabulous British ingredients I created this easy salad which is perfect for warm days when you don't fancy doing very much in the kitchen! I also added a little finely shredded red cabbage to create a contrasting crunchy texture and some gorgeously green peashoots for colour! Always good to feast the eyes too I think! I hope you enjoy it!


Now I will be honest in that nothing was exactly measured, you could make this for one or ten just scale up and down to how many tummies you are feeding! I had leftovers for lunch today, still delicious!


This is enough to serve 2 -3 adults

350g Jersey royal potatoes,
2 inches cucumber, halved, de-seeded and sliced thinly
1/2 packet Speyside Whisky cask smoked salmon or similar
1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/6th red cabbage, very finely shredded
1 tsp lemon juice
30g peashoots

Start by halving the potatoes and slice at an angle into 1cm wedges. Boil or steam for 15-18 minutes or until tender and cooked through.


Place the shredded cabbage in a bowl and drizzle over the lemon juice. Leave to one side.

Whisk the mustard and oil together. Drain the cooked potatoes and pour over the dressing, allow to cool for about 5 minutes before assembling on a nice plate or serving bowl along with the cucumber, red cabbage, peashoots and Smoked Salmon. Drizzle over any remaining dressing.



Many thanks to Saisnburys who kindly provided vouchers to cover the cost of the recipe and its development.
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