Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter

I'm a little late in posting but wanted to wish you all a Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Do you believe in Fairies?

Do you believe in Fairies? Not sure? Well the good news is there is one that definitely exists, and its called the Fairy Hobmother!!

I recently commented on a post at Fuss Free Flavours and shortly after I had an email from the Fairy Hobmother (Fairies are high-tech nowadays ;-)) from Appliances Online granting me a wish! I had admittedly asked for a tumble dryer, which understandably the fairy couldn't quite run to but instead granted me a book wish and I am now happily reading through a copy of the River Cottage Everyday cookbook! 

Appliances Online are one of the UK's largest Online Kitchen Appliance retailers, selling a whole host of appliances including Range Cookers and Wine Coolers (aka to be in my dream house!) 

So now do you believe in Fairies? If so then please leave me a comment below advising what you would like from the Fairy Hobmother in your kitchen and they may just visit you soon! Good luck!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Whilst Spinach and Ricotta cannelloni is amongst one of my favourite pasta dishes, and at one point practically the only dish I would order on a restaurant menu as a child; somehow I have only managed to cook this dish just once, many years back! Unfortunately it was whilst I had a balance problem due to an ear infection and so it took me several hours, in between the room ‘spinning’ and trying to stand long enough to assemble the dish! I'm not sure I even remember whether it turned out good or not, something most unusual for me as I seem to recall nearly every other meal I've had!

When this months copy of Jamie magazine arrived containing a recipe for Spinach and Ricotta cannelloni I decided it was high time that I tried again, after a not so fun Saturday afternoon spent doing battle with a trolley, though slightly allieved by a glass of very nice Shiraz when we got home, Spinach and Ricotta cannelloni finally got made again!

Overall the recipe is easy to follow, though it does suggest pre-heating the oven about an hour in advance, if you are following it word perfectly but I will definitely make this one again and know for next time! I really liked the lightness of this dish, there is a subtle hint of lemon zest which lifts the filling to a new level and I urge you not to omit it from the recipe!

It also reminded me to order some disposable piping bags for filling the shells, as my DIY greaseproof paper ones I use for icing fell apart and caused a temporary mayhem! I think we were wearing more spinach at one point than the cannelloni had in it!

Serves 6 (though I upped the quantities by a third, as always good to have leftovers but we had none despite there being 5 of us!)

400g spinach
250g ricotta
1 egg, beaten
2tsp grated parmesan
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 garlic, crushed
Grated zest ½ lemon
½ bunch basil leaves
1 bay leaf
250g mozzarella, sliced
150g canneloni, approx 14 shells

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling (I forgot this bit)

Pre-heat oven to 160 fan/ 180/ gas 4 (though do this a bit later on, as above!)

Put the spinach and a drizzle of olive oil in a large saute pan, on a low heat. Add the nutmeg, a little s&p and cover, gently cook the spinach down (I.e dark green and all wilted) stirring occasionally, transfer to a bowl to cool down.

Use the same pan to heat a little more olive oil, sweat the onion until soft, then add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, a few basil leaves, lemon zest and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until it has thickened, season to taste.

Squeeze the moisture out of the spinach, back into the bowl and chop up the spinach, return to the liquid in the bowl and stir in the egg, ricotta and parmesan. (I did omit some of the liquid as my spinach was quite wet when cooking)

Pipe or fill the canneloni with the mixture and place in a dish to hold them all snugly, in one layer. Spread over the tomato sauce (dont 't forget to pick out the bay leaf!), scatter the basil and add the mozzarella slices, drizzle with the EVOO and cook for 35-40 minutes or until golden and the pasta is cooked through.

Allow to stand for a couple of minutes, then top with remaining basil.  Serve with a nice green baby leaf salad.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

March Round-up

March was quite a busy month on Annes Kitchen, I managed to do twelve blog posts, possibly a record for me! Annes Kitchen also celebrated its 4th birthday, and I did my first blog giveaway to win a gorgeous Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg, which was won by the lovely Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes!

Somehow I also found the time to take part in a few blogging events, including making some Mocha Coconut clusters for Random Recipes, Olive and Herb bread for Fresh From the Oven, and last but not least a batch of fabulously minty Mingle muffins for Sweets for a Saturday.

Whilst not everything I made during March found its way on to my blog (poor lighting playing its part too!), I must share with you my little Mushroom, spinach and feta tarts, which are ideal for a starter (or two for a main course!). They also meant I finally got to play with the new mini fluted, loose bottomed tins I bought myself for Christmas! I did think they would be quite fiddly but they took no time at all to line with pastry, and due to the size didn’t require blind baking! A great result!

The tart filling consisted of cooked spinach, crumbled feta cheese and lightly browned field mushrooms, bound together with egg and a splash of milk, plus a small handful of grated mature cheddar, then baked for around 30 minutes. Nothing got weighed or measured, hence no recipe but I will be definitely making again as they were so tasty and I will try to write the full recipe down next time!

During March, I also took part in the Forever Nigella #3 ‘Ciao Italia’ blogging challenge held by Maison Cupcake, and whilst I entered the deliciously addictive Baci Di Ricotta, I had also made Nigella’s Pasta alla Genovese, a deliciously vibrant green pasta dish consisting of linguine, potatoes, green beans and an easy pesto sauce. Part of me was a bit hmm about having potatoes and pasta in the same meal but it actually worked really well and even D begrudgingly enjoyed it, despite it being meatless! The recipe is in Nigella’s latest book Kitchen (and is still one of my favourite cookery books!). and also appears on BBC Food

I adore aubergines, they are one of my favourite vegetables to eat, providing they are cooked right, which can be tricky and I admittedly have not always got it right! They can go from being sponge like to charred or stringy, in a relatively short space of time and I am sure people have been deterred from them for life! A thorough shame though as when cooked well, they are heavenly! Unfortunately I’ve not managed to convince D of this yet but I am working on it!

Whilst I have a few favourite ways to cook aubergines, I found this great little side / mezze style dish from BBC Good Food this month for ‘Aubergines with Garlic and Herb dressing’, which despite the name has an unusual but delicious, almost sweet and sour taste. It is an ideal dish to prepare ahead of time and serve at room temperature.

Despite buying various books and kit, I am not what you would call gifted when it comes to cake decorating and I accept that, the cake itself tasted great so can't have everything! Though I did try hard this month when making two birthday cakes; the first one did not quite go to plan and the icing colour is somewhat unusual..

But the second birthday cake I am rather proud of the finished result:

And lastly I must share with you the fabulous fudge cheesecake that my brother made this week! I will be definitely exercising this week!

So whilst March was quite a busy month, I am now finally back at work this week, so please bear with me if the blog tails off a little! **Edited: no such luck, am off sick again already :( **

Friday, 1 April 2011


This post also appears on Fuss Free Flavours!

Over the last few months I was a bit under the weather and when the horizon appeared a little brighter, a very kind and generous Helen who runs Fuss Free Flavours braved the local transport system and came all the way over to visit me, along with some delicious treats!

Alongside the delicious treats, Helen also kindly gave me a copy of an elegant little book simply called Macarons, by Annie Rigg, to help ease some of my boredom!

Initially I felt like a bit an outsider in the fact that I’d never tried, or dared to make a Macaron before, but yet quite convinced I would like them! The book has a lots of enticing recipes, from tempting both visually and by word, from Mint chocolate flavoured to the rather more exotic Gingerbread spice! There are clear instructions on how to make the Macarons and is ideal for a complete novice like me, and slightly egg white phobic cook, along with all the lovely fillings and ideas for combinations.

With the help of a fellow baker, (also a Macaron virgin!) and her rather lovely new kitchen (also with a dishwasher thankfully!) we recently set about making Macarons for the first time! Being both rather girly orientated we decided to dye them all pink! The book recommends paste colourings but we used liquid without any problems. I must admit the mixture looked rather glorious in all its soft pink foaminess but fighting the urge to eat it, we battled through with the piping bag and hoped they were successful, having no previous Macaron knowledge to go by! 

Sadly, the first tray came out black as the night, fortunately with a keener eye the remaining came out near perfect! We then made both the buttercream and chocolate ganache (using Filthy Rich chocolate, quite intense!) recipes from the book and very carefully filled our macarons! They are fragile little beasts though so be careful handling them!

Not too shabby for our first attempt!

I am hoping to bring you a giveaway for the book but am waiting for confirmation - will let you know later!
With thanks to Helen for allowing me to post :)
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