Saturday, 27 December 2008

Where to start?! Happy New Year!

Well Christmas is now behind us! Sad in someways, you spend weeks (okay, months!) planning and then its all over :( The pile of magazine cutouts, marked pages and print-out's are now all abandoned until next Christmas! (I already have idea's not used this year!) And 6 forgotten custard mince pies in the freezer!

Most of the pictures are over on flickr, if you click on the highlighted links you can see (if you wish!) the outcomes!

As planned, I cooked on Boxing Day and we had a great feast! Amongst lots of other lovely things, I did a whole baked ham, glazed with sweet chilli sauce, muscavado sugar and home made cranberry jam, inspired by a recipe I found over on UKTV Food, and promptly lost so had to guess but it was perfect! Even more perfect when cold and the meat had picked up all the lovely sweet spicy flavours!! I keep finding myself now snacking from the fridge, complete with a small knife to slice chunks off!! We also had spiced red cabbage, made loosely on Nigella's recipe, brussel sprouts with bacon and garlic (they will be made again!) and more!

The leftover vegetables got blitzed this afternoon with vegetable stock and curry powder, you really can't tell the origins but it tastes good and I have 5 portions in the freezer!

For dessert I took my old cake thingy and gave it a makeover with baileys, coffee, dark chocolate shards, toasted hazelnut's and silver balls! It too was lovely and I was so proud when our guests said how professional it looked, despite the beloved taking the photos posted, due to my hands being full!

I also revisited childhood and made mini mincemeat and filo parcels. I have an early memory of standing in my Nanny Jean's kitchen making them, I can't recall where the recipe came from unfortunately.....though my memory did fail on just how long they took to make! Though they did go down very well with our guests, which is always great :)

In fact everything went very smoothly this year, nothing got burned and all very edible. I didn't panic and thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite initial fears of cooking for 9 people!

My previously loved and blogged about blue casserole dish met its maker on the hob 2 weeks ago, leaving me stranded. But thanks to the Debenham's sale and other wonderful people I am now the very proud owner of a shiny, 26cm satin black Le Creuset Casserole!! (Is it possible to believe in love at first sight, with kitchenwares?!)

I received the new Nigella Christmas book and already christened it! I made the puddini bon-bon's today, surprisingly easy and they taste so good! Have wrapped several as gifts...not saying where the rest may end up.......;-) There are some really great looking dishes I will be looking forward to trying in 2009.

Have also made as a gift (goodbye my love, I would eat you if I could!) a cappuchino hazelnut cake. I had the off-cut's. Am making again put it that way!!

Hope everyone else had a wonderful Christmas x

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Bailey's Panna Cotta

As we all know, calories in December do not count. Or at least don't count them....

On Sunday, I had my brother and mum over, as well as me of course and the other half and we ate an early Christmas feast!

As my family and friends know well, desserts that come from my kitchen might not be on the lighter side - but they always taste great!

I decided to play around with dessert this year and took my previously made panna cotta's recipe, shifted them slightly and Baileys* panna cotta were born! These are not designed for those driving shortly after!!

*I didn't use actual Bailey's, these were made with Lidl's version called St Margot, however if I called them St Margot Panna cotta's you would most likely be bewildered, unless of course you often shop in Lidl's that is....!

Very easy
Makes 8 ramekins/ dariol moulds

160g caster sugar
420ml double cream
200ml milk
150ml cream liqueur
4 sheets gelatine or vegetarian equivalent

1) Place the gelatine in a bowl, cover with cold water and leave for 5 minutes or prepare as packet instructions

2) Meanwhile, gently bring to a boil the cream, milk, liqueur and sugar, until it feels smooth when stirring - do not boil, remove from heat when hot

3) Drain the gelatine, add to the cream mix, pour into mold's and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

**If made in dariol molds, please note they are feisty to get out but not impossible, garnish with chocolate flakes and a little chocolate sauce**

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

I have, probably like a lot of others out there have got a few slightly busy weeks coming up, lots of food to make and devour and be subjected to the inevitable crush when going food shopping!

Last year I got stuck in the car park of Tesco's for over an hour, just trying to exit but that will teach me to go in on Christmas Eve to get a last minute bottle of wine! They apparently are opening at 6am this year right up until Christmas Eve, I have a feeling I may be there at that time, armed with a trolley and mean look in my eyes!! This year I have already bought the wine and beer in!

Luckily I am going to my partner's mums house for the big day, which I am really looking forward to as she is a great cook and does a mean roast! On Boxing Day we have a houseful, I'm about 90% there with menu but keep seeing lots of wonderful ideas on other blogs so forever changing my mind! At the moment is maple baked ham, spiced red cabbage, mash or mini roasties and honey glazed carrots but this may well change before then!!

Wishing everyone a wonderful festive Christmas and a Happy New Year, hope we all eat well and be merry!

This picture is one of my favourite tree ornaments, courtesy of Accessorize and makes me smile when it goes on the tree every year, as I bought the same one for my Mum! I'm sending this picture over to Holler at tinnedtomatoes for the No Croutons Required - December entry

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Eat-Me gifts - Chocolate Spiced shortbread

Following on from my previous post for Coconut shortbread, here comes hot on its footsteps - Chocolate spiced shortbread. This is a slightly thicker mix, more biscuity than the coconut version, mainly because I should not have weighed out the ingredients, whilst enjoying a nice glass of red from Calloways Crossing (hey it was Friday night!), as I got them slightly back to front at one point - however they did still work and just goes to show deviating from a basic recipe can sometimes prove worthwhile!

Makes 20

175g butter
220g plain flour
120g unrefined icing sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
3 tsp cocoa powder - I used green and blacks

For decorating:

Chocolate sprinkles
Edible Silver balls
Icing sugar for dusting
6 squares white chocolate

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180/ 160 fan. Cream together the icing sugar and butter until fluffy.

2) Now add the flour, cocoa powder and mixed spice and mix until thoroughly combined. Roll into walnut shell sized balls and place on a lined baking sheet, place a piece of cherry in the middle and flatten using the palm of your hand, if you like you can sprinkle over some chocolate flakes at this stage. These do spread out so allow room between them

3) Bake for approx 8 minutes or until they are just colouring at the bottom and slightly firm to the touch, allow to cool for 5 minutes on the tray and transfer carefully to a wire rack.

4) Once they are completely cooled, dust with icing sugar, melt the white chocolate in a bowl over hot water or on a low heat in a heavy based pan, using a wooden spoon, slowly drizzle and flick the melted chocolate over the biscuits, sprinkle over the chocolate sprinkles and place the silver balls on the melted chocolate

I've also sent these over to and where you can check out lots of other lovely looking treats this Christmas!

Eat-Me Gifts - Cherry topped Coconut shortbread

Currently my partner has been struck down with this nasty cold thats doing the rounds, already had my share so hoping not to re-catch it!

On Friday night I decided to keep out of his way and spend some quality time with the kitchen, to make some early Christmas biscuits. I took my favourite whipped shortbread recipe from my Baking Book, split the base mix and now have two new favourites!

Cherry topped Coconut shortbread

Makes 9

60g Plain flour
25g Unrefined icing sugar
75g butter
2 tbsp descicated coconut
2 glace cherries, diced up

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Beat the icing sugar and butter until creamy and light

2) Beat in the flour and coconut, roll into walnut shell sized balls, place on a lined baking sheet, place a piece of cherry in the middle and flatten using the palm of your hand. These do spread out so allow room between them

3) Bake for approx 8 minutes or until they are just colouring at the bottom, allow to cool for 5 minutes on the tray and transfer carefully to a wire rack.

These are lovely, melt in your mouth biscuits but very fragile so package carefully!

I've also entered these this month over at and where you can check out lots of other lovely looking treats this Christmas!

Thou shall have a fishy

This weekend I had the opportunity to try out a 'posh' Salmon En Cro├║te from Donald Russell, a dish I love but have never got round to making as my ex was not a fishy person and it would be wasted on him!

So as you can guess, when I was asked if I would like to try them, I jumped at the chance! Donald Russell's version, which is made from all butter puff pastry, encasing a prime fillet of salmon, topped with a mix of cream cheese, spinach and wild rice. It has also a hint of nutmeg and a delicate touch of lemon.

The main convenience is that it arrives perfectly frozen, in its own little dry ice box and each portion is individually wrapped, ideal if you are not intending to eat all of them immediately.

As mentioned above, because my partner does not care for salmon, I took these to his mothers Christmas party, where they went down very well with both the guests, and myself!

So if you fancy a little treat this Christmas, why not let the the stresses melt away and check out Donald Russell.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Bacon, blue cheese and mushroom pies for cheese lovers

Pie's are one of my favourite all time dishes, crispy pastry, stuffed with a delicious filling, what more can you ask for!

This is another recipe that has been born out of a culmination of mine and a girlfriend's favourite ingredients, then working out they best way for them to work in harmony to produce the perfect pie!

And I think we succeeded!

When cooking, the pies smelt so good and we couldn't wait to tuck in! Even more surprisingly we managed this despite enjoying a very nice bottle of Pinot Noir whilst cooking them! (didn't realise it was 14.5%!) Currently on special at £3.75 in Tesco, can highly recommend if you don't have work the next morning...!

The cheese pastry is a must! It creates a really delicious, crispy casing - ideally make these in pretty pie dishes which can be served in them as the pastry needs to be thin. If you are not a cheese-o-holic try switching to standard puff pastry, or shortcrust

I so hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Makes 2 individual, generous pies
30 minutes prep and 25 minutes in oven - The pastry can be made in advance to save time.

A little effort


125g Chestnut mushrooms, diced chunky
250g Closed cap mushrooms - as above
1/3 pack Castello blue cheese roughly chopped, if you can't get this Dolcelatte is similar
125ml double cream
3 smoked bacon medallions, roughly chopped (bacon's healthier sister and no need to trim!)
2 tbsp vermouth
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 heaped tsp butter
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp flour

Quantity of Cheese shortcrust pastry, made as per Good housekeeping base recipe (circa 1973 hence the ounces!):

4oz plain flour
2oz butter and lard (half and half approx)
1oz grated Parmesan
1oz finely grated mature cheddar
Pinch of salt
Cold water for binding

1) First make your pastry - place the butter, lard and flour in a food processor, blitz till like fine breadcrumbs, if doing by hand, simply rub the fat and flour together using fingertips, until also like breadcrumbs.

2) Slowly drizzle in cold water until you have a soft dough, about 6 tsp, knead lightly and chill until needed. Line two pie dishes, leaving enough to top - the dough should be quite thin.

3) Heat a large flat pan, add the bacon, oil and cover, cook for 4 minutes, add the mushroom's and simmer for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring

4) Now add the flour, mix in well, add the vermouth and garlic powder, stir well, add the cream slowly and season with a little black pepper, now stir in the blue cheese until melted, transfer into the pie dishes, brush all open edges with egg and place the top on, smoothing down, trim sides and brush with egg and bake for 25 minutes at 160 fan / 180 normal or until the pastry is gorgeously brown and crispy!

Be careful as they are very hot inside!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Winter Vegetable soup

Winter is definately making its mark at the moment and all I want to eat is hot, comforting food!

This makes 2 litres of soup - perfect for freezing or feeding lots of people! Is a simple but tasty and cheap soup and great for these cold days and nights!

I made this on Wednesday night and it fed 7 as a starter on the thursday and there was still plenty left, re-heats well for lunches!

540g carrots
275g parsnips
4 sticks celery
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 chicken kallo boullion cube (if veggie just use two v cubes)
1 vegetable kallo boullion cube
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
S&P to taste

1) Firstly, prep all the veg. Dice the onion, celery, carrots and parsnips into relatively small cubes and chop the garlic

2) Make up the stock cubes in 2 litres boiling water

3) Heat oil in a large pan (I use my pasta pot!), gently fry the onion for about 5 minutes until translucent, add all the remaining vegetables, pour over the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes

4) Now add the tomatoes and seasoning, simmer for a further ten minutes and blitz with a liquidizer or hand blender, I quite like this chunky but have made both chunky and smooth versions. If going for the chunky option and its more of a main course serving, after blitzing add a tin of drained kidney beans, heat through and serve.

Make sure you have plenty of warm fresh bread to mop up!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Baked mushrooms with blue cheese

Okay, I seem to be getting slightly addicted to having blue cheese and mushrooms together but I just really love the combo! This was made using up leftover mushrooms from another dish so it can easily be increased, as needed! The other mushroom dish will follow shortly, once I upload the pictures!

I made this tonight as an informal starter as we had family around, which went alongside other lovely things, including some gorgeous extra special Camembert from ASDA, which comes in its own cute terracotta dish for baking and a huge vat of vegetable soup, which will follow shortly on a seperate posting.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture but I will be making again so will add a piccie then! I made and served this in a small a5 sized, shallow ceramic dish

Its such an easy, thrown it all in dish and great with warm bread or simply a fork ;-)

100g approx chestnut mushrooms
1/4 pack castelli blue cheese
1 tbsp sweet vermouth (Lidl's is fine for this)
1 pinch dried sage
1 tbsp approx olive oil
Pinch of sea salt and black pepper

1) Pre-heat oven if needed to about 160 fan/ 180 normal, quarter the mushrooms and place in the dish

2) Slice the cheese and scatter over the mushrooms, drizzle over the oil and vermouth, the dried sage and a weeny pinch of s&p, bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the mushrooms just colouring

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Chocolate Brownie Cake

Craving some chocolate last week, after another chocolate cake had failed to impress, we decided brownies were in order and made this chocolate-brownie-cake from BBC Good Food.

It was easy and gorgeous, I swapped the cocoa powder for Bournville cocoa powder (which I seem to be adding to everything at the moment!) and it just made it extra moreish!

This did result in a last minute dash, whilst brownie was in the oven to buy cream as it was calling out for it! :)


100g butter
175g caster sugar
75g brown or muscovado sugar (I used dark soft brown)
125g chocolate (plain or milk) (I used plain belgium)
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract /essence (Had run out so didn't add this!)
100g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder (I use bournville cocoa)
We also added 8 chopped glace cherries!


Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. (I used removable base tin lined with a lakeland cake tin liner)

Place the butter, both sugars, chocolate and golden syrup in the pan and melt gently on a low heat until it is smooth and lump-free.

Remove the pan from the heat, break the eggs into the bowl and whisk with the fork until light and frothy.

Add the eggs, vanilla extract or essence, flour, baking powder and cocoa powder to the chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly.

Put the mixture into the greased and lined cake tin and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 25-30 mins. (Mine took exactly 25 minutes in fan assisted)

Remove and allow to cool for 20-30 mins before cutting into wedges and serving. (Good luck waiting as smell's so good!)

Serve with cream or ice cream and plenty of fresh fruit. (I vote cream!)

Monday, 1 December 2008

Good Food Show Part 2 in Pictures

This is a selection of pictures I also took at the GFS:

Stefan Gates in the Magimix theatre:

The Lemonade Factory

Global Knives to drool over!


Magic dicing:

Our seats for Gordon's show in the supertheatre!

Some pretty dragee's I bought:

A jar of Raspberry and mint jam I also picked up:

Ainsley Harriott:

Sophie Michell on the How Do I Stage, making dishes with Honestly.... cottage cheese

The car from Gordon's F-Word, surrounded by a Rocket Garden!

Pretty puddings:


Thanks again to everyone who arranged this and it was great to meet up with everyone! :)

The other bloggers in no particular order are:

Nicola at Cherrapeno
Francesca at 101 Things Every Cook Should Cook
Becky at Girl Interupted Eating
Katie at Apple and Spice
Joanna at Joannas food
Sam at Antics of a Cycling Cook

Part 1
01 09 10