Monday, 23 February 2009

Pizza time!

Over the last year or so I have been trying to broaden my culinary horizons and starting to cook new dishes and foods, outside of my usual comfort zone. Bread was number one, which I am now pretty good at the basics but feel its time to step up a gear and over the weekend ordered the River Cottage Bread handbook..will blog any successes! !

So, as dough is becoming more friend, than foe, Saturday was home made Pizza day! I followed Jamie Oliver's recipe from his Jamie at Home series but decided the quantity was a bit big for us so I halved it, this still gave us four good sized bases, 2 which have gone into the freezer once the proving stage was done, (am thinking Calzone for them!) leaving two for our dinner!

Jamie makes it look very easy on tv, in particular the whole sieving flour onto the work surface, pouring warm liquid into the centre and then use a fork to mix. Didn't quite go to plan and involved grabbing a clean tea towel frantically to mop up the liquid that was trying to make its bid for freedom but I got there in the end! Our work surfaces are a little off balance so that might have been partially to blame, the other being my cack-handedness!!

Sieved flour, Pre-well:

Once I got past the above stage it went really smoothly, within minutes a lovely smooth, soft dough appeared and then into a floured bowl next to the storage heaters, for a little rest, with the odd sneaky peek! Luckily it rose beautifully!

Off to snooze:
Yippee its risen!

Jamie recommends for cooking the hottest your oven can go, now being in rented property and the element only being replaced a short while back, I was a bit concerned and only went as far as 230o on the dial, though I have a fan oven so was still pretty hot! I am yet to get a pizza stone so used a holey bottomed chip tray and a cookie sheet, which worked pretty well and produced a lovely, crispy but still soft base.

Topping the pizzas was great fun, though trying to manoeuvre assembled pizza onto hot tray was a little fiddly, next time I think I will roll pizza out onto baking parchment and use that to transfer onto the tray!

I had intended to make Jamie's quickest ever tomato sauce for the base, though before going out shopping had mis-read recipe slightly but it did work well, with a bit of jiggling:

1 carton (370g) of chopped tomatoes with basil and oregano
1 clove garlic
2t tbsp olive oil

Gently heat the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes but don't let it burn, add the tomatoes and warm through, drain through a sieve, discarding any mush left behind, return to pan and simmer to reduce a little.

I bought a selection of goodies for topping: Mozzarella, Milano salami, Pepperoni, Sweetcorn, Mature farm cheddar, grated and Danish extra creamy blue cheese cut into small chunks - this was leftover from other dishes, would use something stronger next time, personally I adore gorganzola! I had all the above except the salami but did sprinkle over dried chili flakes and a swirl of garlic & chili olive oil! They took about 10 minutes to cook and were delicious.

This is the other half's pizza:

My pizza!
All in all, a good fun and messy afternoon! Though I highly recommend a metal scourer for cleaning all the flour off the counters afterwards!

If you have any of the toppings leftover, they make a great breakfast roll the next morning!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Loaded potato skins

These came about as me and a girlfriend wandered around Tesco last night, trying to decide what to have for dinner, bellies rumbling and we very nearly gave in to a pack of their loaded potato skins, which according to the pack took 16 minutes to cook....comparing how they looked to ours I am glad we made ours instead, their fillings looked a bit on the mean side!

Awful picture but greed was of the essence!

I am not one for convenience food and reckoned they would not take us much time to make from scratch, afterall I had some potatoes in the fridge left from weekend and with the aid of the trusty microwave we could make something far tastier in about the same time. My friend looked dubious at the time but they were well worth the effort and very delicious!

As we were rushing, ingredients are not exact as nothing got measured..but approximately:

Take 3 white potatoes, of similar size (ours were Maris Piper, via Waitrose locally grown scheme), place on a plate, prick and microwave for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, take a small frying pan, add a splash of olive oil, fry a small pack of button mushrooms, add a finely chopped clove of garlic until golden.
Now grate 100g mature cheddar, we had picked up a trial pack of mature cheddar, think was called Parkham Farm.
Then take a small pack of extra creamy danish blue cheese, cut in half and cut that half into little cubes, reserve the other half for snacking! Place grill on medium hot to pre-heat.

The potatoes should beep about now, remove and wearing suitable handwear (I have coolskin gloves from Lakeland) cut the potato in half lenghtways, carefully scoop out the insides into a bowl. Place the skins on a grill pan/ baking tray (foil or similar advisable) and put under grill. Return to the potato mush, add a good knob of butter and a good splash of milk, beat together, season with black pepper, add 3/4 of both cheeses and mix well. Take the tray carefully back out of oven, your skins should look a little crispier now, use a fork and spoon to stuff the mash back into the potatoes (don't worry if they tear a little), press on the remaining cheese and pop back under the grill for about 4-5 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Seriously heavenly potatoes: done :)

You could eat these on their own but I had previously picked up some good sausagemeat from the butchers, which we rolled into little burgers and had on the side! It was supposed to be for sausage rolls but time was of the essence, we wanted to eat and sit down to watch The Notebook, complete with tissue box!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Spaghetti with creamy bacon and brussel sprouts

This is a dish for all you sprout haters, this dish is sweet and creamy and ready in 20 minutes and will hopefully change your outlook on them! Great Friday night dish.

Serves 2-3


225g dried spaghetti
3 rashers oak smoked back bacon, sliced into cubes, fat trimmed - save this bit!
165g brussel sprouts – weight is after trimming
150ml double cream
1 big fat clove garlic, finely chopped
½ white onion
25g freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp vermouth
1 heaped tsp butter

Trim the bases of the brussel sprouts and discard old or dirty leaves, halve and finely shred, rinse well.

Bring saucepan of water to boil add spaghetti and cook as packet instructions

Heat a large sauté pan to medium, add the butter and bacon rinds and cook for 1 minute, remove rinds and add bacon and onion, fry for 5 minutes or until onions are golden and the bacon is crisping up, add the garlic and brussell sprouts, cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Add the vermouth and allow the alcohol to burn off, stir in the cream and warm through. Drain the spaghetti and add to the Brussels bacon mix, stir well, add the parmesan and simmer for 1 minute, serve immediately. Garnish with fresh thyme if you have any to hand and season to taste.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sweet Potato bites

I am posting this as Merlotti asked so very nicely on the back of my post on Beetroot Salad, however these may well taste fantastic and make wonderful little tasty nibbles - but are very messy, I am not accountable for hands sticking together and your clothes resembling half the mixture :-) Apron advisable!

At a later date, this recipe hopefully will have more finesse but if you fancy getting messy this weekend, this is one for you!


450g apx sweet potato (This mix made far more than needed, I made 12 bites from approx 1/3 mix, however the leftovers makes fantastic mash!)
2 spring onions, finely chopped
¼ tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp Fresh coriander chopped
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 lemon

Fine dry breadcrumbs – I used Paxo natural
1 egg – note: only does about 12 bites
Flour for dusting
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp cornflour

Vegetable oil for cooking

Peel the sweet potato, cube and place into cold water with a squeeze of fresh lemon, bring to boil, cook for 10-12 minutes until just softening, drain immediately and re-fresh in cold water, drain well and mash in the pan, add to a bowl with seasoning and spring onion, a squeeze of lemon and allow to cool, refrigerate until needed

Place egg in 1 bowl, mix flours in another and breadcrumbs in final bowl, dust hands with flour, roll the sweet potato into small balls and flatten slightly, dust in flour, dip in egg and breadcrumb and place on a tray / board, when all ready to go heat 1 cm vegetable oil in a suitable pan, test heat by dropping a cube of bread, when it takes 30 seconds to brown, add the bites in batches and cook for 1-2 minutes or until crispy, be careful as the oil gets very hot. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Beetroot & Chickpea Salad

Last night I had a friend over for dinner and with all this cold, horrible wet weather of late I fancied cooking something a little more exotic! I made three new dishes, all kinda thrown together but worked really well, we had spiced lamb patties, scented with cumin, chilli, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, garlic and coriander and a side of cucumber yoghurt dip:

A new favourite was sweet potato bites, which were really good, soft and fluffy inside and crispy outer, however they were extremely messy to make so I really need to refine the recipe before posting! The idea came about after having sweet potato fritters, when I was out for dinner last week and I was eager to re-create, though mine didn't look as neat as theirs, they tasted delicious!

I love beetroot and I knew my friend did too so this salad came about after thinking up the first two ideas, am really happy with the result and will be a definate staple once the weather perks up! I have also sent this over to Culinarty for their Original Recipes Monthly round up

Beetroot Salad

Serves 3 or 4 as a side

2 freshly cooked beetroots - vac pack is fine or freshly cooked
2 medium carrots
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed (the darker kala chana are also good in this)
½ tsp freshly ground cumin seed
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
splash of lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp EVOO

Prepare this the day before if possible to allow the flavours to develop.

Finely dice the spring onion and place in a large bowl / container, rinse and drain the chickpeas and mix with the spring onion

Peel and finely grate the carrots, add to mix, add seasoning, wine vinegar and 1 tbsp of the olive oil, mix well and leave overnight or for a few hours to infuse. Roughly half an hour or so before eating, dice the beetroots into cubes, add to the mixture with the remaining olive oil and a pinch more s&p if needed, allow to stand at room temperature until required, decant if required into a serving dish

Was really pleased with result, the flavours worked so well together and is perfect side salad.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Nigella's Malteaser Cake

After seeing this over on rosiebakesapeaceofcake, I knew this would make a perfect dessert for when we had the family over, you can find the recipe here.

However, we moved around / tidied up the kitchen cupboards recently and one of my 8 inch loose bottomed sandwich pans has mysteriously vanished, I fear though it has shared the same fate of my loaf tin, which the beloved has managed to knock down the back of the cupboard, (its just peeking out to say ‘help me!’) which is currently doomed to spend its life with cobwebs or until the kitchen gets replaced in the very distant future! I managed to take a picture using the digital camera, positioned at a rather awkward angle, hoping to spot the tin but I think its gone right underneath, and I can't get the front of the cupboard bottom off! I did spot though a tin, which is not mine, so it looks like previous tenants had the same dilema at some point!

Thankfully, I do also have a pair of 7 inch tins and managed to still bake the cake, though not with loose bases, however I feel there is more to life than lining cake tins and so I always cheat and get disposable baking parchments liners from Lakeland’s, so luckily not an issue for me!

The cakes when cooked are more puffier but I don’t think they suffered in any way being in the slightly smaller tins. Just to add re: cooking temperature, I have an electric fan oven so reduced the temperature to 150o which seemed about right.

One thing I feel I must mention, is make sure you kitchen counter is clear first when making the recipe, not make mistake of also trying to cook dinner at the same time. One day I may just learn to take my own advice. Clear counters = clear mind!

A mystery for me though remains in the recipe quantities, in Nigella’s book ‘Feast’ the ingredients call for 15g butter, yes just 15g, up against much larger amounts of flour and sugar, however on Rosie has amended it to 150g, I also note in the post comments someone else had same dilema, however had not read this at time of making and I did make it with just the 15g, whilst wondering if my cake would be ruined….upon trying, I can't decide if the butter difference is really noticable, its very light and doesn’t taste maybe as indulgent as a full butter one but I do like it (and so will my hips!) though I will probably add more cocoa next time to be more chocolatey!! Also I don't normally like buttercream but I really liked this one with horlicks and cocoa in!

Happy baking!
Hope everyone is not too snowed in!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Vanilla blancmange with Saffron syrup

Following on from my recent post about winning a new cook book, I made at the weekend the Vanilla blancmange with Saffron syrup, from A Passion for Puddings by Phil Vickery.

Not the most attractive of pictures! I wanted to make, as per the recipe, in single servings but I was outnumbered by the boys who wanted one big pudding, cue mums old tupperware jelly mould! To serve it wasn't so practical...

The blancmange was really lovely and creamy, if a little sweet, and the sauce looked oddly like irn-bru (!), its nice, slightly unusual and I thought I had a sweet tooth...but this was too sugary for me! Will probably make the blancmange again but not with the syrup! The recipe calls for saffron threads but I used a sachet of Zafferano, a gift bought back from Italy, this is also possibly why mine looked distinctly like the irn-bru as it turned out to be ground, rather than stamens!

Here's the recipe if anyone fancies a sugar high for the rest of the week!


1 tin condensed milk (397g)
284ml whipping cream (I had to use Elmlea double as thats all they had!), lightly whipped
4 gelatine leaves
1 vanilla pod
300ml water


1 lemon, juiced
large pinch saffron stems
225ml cold water
200g caster sugar

1) Place the condensed milk and water into a saucepan, scrape the vanilla pod and add the seeds to the mix and bring to the boil, meanwhile cover the gelatine leaves in cold water

2) Once it has come to the boil, remove from heat and cool down, when cold enough place in fridge for 45 minutes

3) Gently whip the cream, I put mine in the Kenwood chef for about 3 mins with the whisk attachment, fold into the chilled mixture, pour into 8 or 1 moulds and chill until set, book says 1 hour but I left over night

4) To prepare the syrup (which is to be served fresh) place all the syrup ingredients, excluding lemon juice into a saucepan, bring to boil and reduce by about 1/3, keeping on a steady boil, cool slightly (I placed pan in cold water bowl) and add the lemon juice, when at a lukewarm temperature its ready to gently pour over the upturned puddings
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