Friday, 27 July 2012

Random Recipe 18 - Something A Little Different..

This month Dom from the wonderful Belleau Kitchen blog set a rather unusual Random Recipe theme..rather than making something from our books under the random theme, it was instead to photograph all of our lovely cookery books!

In a past life, I had three glorious bookshelves, all carefully laid out but what with moving twice in the past year and downsizing, my poor cookery books have subjected to months languishing between the boot of the car, under the bed, by the side of the bed and everywhere else in between it would seem! Some even dare I say it...have moved on to pastures new due to space issues...never to be forgotten though!

So now the survivors are down to just two homes. And in all honesty could be trimmed down a little more but all in good time!!

Their main home now is my last surviving Billy bookshelf - which thanks to the very generous Jules answering my twitter prayer many months back after losing one the bolts during one the house moves, is functional again and now plays home to as many cookery books as I could fit on it, along with a few other random non food ones (yes there are books outside of food! Shocking!) It is carefully sandwiched in my bedroom between my computer desk and boxes of various items that needs to still go to ebay/ charity etc which will happen when I finally remember to take them with me!

Their second home is in the lounger, in a rather unattractive shelving unit that came with the flat, they jostle for space with a pile of fiction books that I am yet to read. Fortunately I am now all finished with my college studies so have lots of free time again to slowly plough through them all! For a while I couldn't bear the thought of looking in a non maths related book but thankfully thats all for a long while yet! I rarely luckily have to buy any books as they get swapped around family and friends, so have quite a backlog now to get through! Also on the shelf is my mini hoover pig - cant resist anything a bit kitsch!

Underneath is a small pile of cookery books that are also destined for pastures new...mainly ones bought on bulk deals via the Book People that I have never, and will probably never get around to to using and really deserve better than gathering dust here..

There is usually one or two cookery books on my bedside table but I have tidied up this week so the table top is clear for a change! Most recently it was My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell I was given for my birthday that is rather lovely so far..
So that's them! Now I am off to put all the bits n bobs that adorn (clutter) the bookshelf in my room back on it, which currently includes two Hawaaian Lei's from a recent hen party and my new jewellery hanger that recently broke the to find a drill....!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Fruity Banana Breakfast bars (AKA Flapjacks in disguise!)

I adore any recipes containing oats in some form, and I am also a huge fan of dried fruits (except for apricots which the thought of sends shivers down my spine!) and in the past have often spent a small fortune on shop bought cereal bars, despite having a cupboard full of porridge oats and various fruits and nuts...

..Today became unexpectedly free of plans, and whilst my first thought was shopping, my bank balance told me sternly otherwise. Then I thought maybe a nice afternoon movie and lounge on the settee....but then logic kicked in - the cake tin was empty as of last night and so I decided to refill it instead. The sofa can wait for me!

I initially had in the back of my mind a recipe I had seen for banana and date bars. This was most likely due to the fact that earlier in the week I had picked up a bargainous kilo box of Tunisian dates for two whole pounds, so I have more than a few to spare (!), along with several ripe bananas begging to be eaten in the fruit bowl. Why do they always decide to ripen at once, so inconvenient haha! However upon reading the recipe, I just wasn't feeling the love and did a little searching and went to  my old favourite - the bbc good food website! After finding a suitable recipe and noting its very forgiving to adjustments given the fact I didn't have some of the ingredients, I promptly baked a batch.

And the result?

I vow never to buy shop bought bars again! Why have I waited so long to make my own?

My version really was quite different in the end but worked perfectly. They are slightly soft without falling apart, perfectly sweet and yet not to sweet, and full of sticky fruit and oaty goodness. I plan to leave a few in the cake tin, and freeze the rest, to stop me eating them all. Will let you know if it works! (NB: They freeze beautifully! I individually wrapped them in foil, then placed in a freezer bag)

From the original recipe I halved the butter and replaced it with mashed banana, so you can tell yourself these are low fat too.....!

Cuts into twelve bars of loveliness

Pre-heat oven to 160o

Either line and grease a square cake pan (mine was a 20cm one) or even easier dust off your abandoned silicon one. It really works a treat here.


50g unsalted butter
1 ripe medium banana, mashed
70g dark brown sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
140g rolled oats (mine have added wheatgerm and stuff!)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g coconut powder (or descicated)
3 tbsp mixed seeds (I buy 'omega mix' which has linseeds, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower and possibly more in)
100g of dried mixed fruits (or nuts) - mine consisted of the following:
-30g craisins
-20g sultanas
-40g chopped stoned dates
-5 glace cherries

Gently melt together the butter, sugar and golden syrup until all nice and liquid and the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the banana.

Combine the remaining ingredients and fold into the syrupy mixture - a silicon spatula is most helpful here until all nicely mixed. Press into your pan of choice and bake for a little over 30 minutes or until lightly golden - there should still be a little give when pressed.

Leave to stand for five minutes and then using a sharp knife gently cut into desired shapes and allow to cool for a further 15 minutes or so before removing to a cooling rack.

Monday, 16 July 2012

A bit on the side - fresh tomato sauce

A few weeks back when I received my Forman and Field goodies, on behalf of Knorr included in the box was two tomatoes. These were intended for the chicken chausseur recipe but as previously mentioned I was just not feeling the love for that particular recipe at the time, and so was left with two good sized ripe tomatoes to play with. .

On health advice I tend to abstain from tomatoes for the past year or so but have been gently re-introducing them to my diet and gosh how I have missed them! Bursting with their sweetness and their versatility they are such a great ingredient both raw and when cooked and for a few brief moments I wondered what on earth I was going to do with them!

The main course that night was my previously blogged crispy roast chicken, so I needed something to serve alongsid and came up with this delicious tomato sauce. It was very easy to make, and very delicious to eat! The sauce would also make a great accompaniment to steak or fish.

Serves two as a side dish


Two medium sized tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 finely sliced shallot
heaped tbsp of chopped curly parsley
a pinch of salt and black pepper

Place a cross on the top of the tomatoes and put in a bowl of boiling water for around a minute, carefully remove from the water, skin them, remove the seeds and dice the flesh. 

Gently heat the oil in a small frying pan, add the shallot and soften without browning, stir in the tomato flesh and parsley, season to taste.

Gently cook for around 5 minutes or until the tomato flesh is soft and cooked through but without colouring. Garnish with a little extra parsley on serving

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Quick and Creamy Pasta with Ham and Tenderstem broccoli

Recently I was sent a supply of Tenderstem broccoli, with the challenge to create a dish using the Tenderstem broccoli, in under ten minutes…

...Now I will be quite honest in that I am quite laid back in the kitchen, and rarely time my cooking but I decided to try and keep to the ten minute challenge, armed myself with the timer, and surprised myself by managing to get my dinner on the table pretty much on the dot of 10 minutes! Whilst I would normally prefer the taste of fresh onions, I do keep a sneaky bag of frozen diced onion which are ideal when 90% of the time you are only cooking for yourself, plus they are a great time saver too!

The Tenderstem broccoli is really quite delicious, its sweet, fresh tasting and has a tasty crunch to it – there is no waste either as you use the whole stem. Though personally I never waste broccoli stems anyway, choosing to normally use them in stocks and soups instead or even just to nibble on whilst making dinner! My dad was very taken with it too when I simply boiled it alongside a separate meal, and has even said since how much he preferred the taste of it against regular broccoli!

For the Tenderstem in Ten challenge, I really fancied using pasta but most of my stock were the 15 odd minute variety, hence ruling them out but after a rummage through the depths of the kitchen draw (a little like jenga) I found a packet of Turkish vermicelli pasta which cooks in less than 5 minutes – perfect! I can have pasta!

This is also my entry into Presto Pasta Nights #272- a great weekly Pasta challenge, this week its being held by Culinary Vibes. I have entered a couple of times before but have been bad this year at remembering but now college has finished am slowly reclaiming some brain cells!

So here is my finished lunch - Creamy pasta with ham and Tenderstem broccoli - delicious, quick and easy and all yours in less than ten minutes!

Serves one


5 Tenderstem broccoli stalks, sliced into 3
Glug white wine
3 tbsp double cream
3 sprigs tarragon, leaves removed and finely sliced
50g vermicelli pasta
75g cooked ham, torn into shreds
1 heaped tbsp. frozen onion
Spray cooking oil

Step 1: Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Meanwhile heat a frying pan, spray with oil and fry the onion for a couple of minutes, then add the ham to heat through.

Step 2: Add the vermicelli to the boiling water and cook as per packet instructions.

Step 3: Meanwhile add a good glug of wine to the ham mixture, allowing the alcohol to evaporate.

Step 4: Add the broccoli to the pasta and count to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat in the frying pan, add a good tbsp of the pasta water and stir in the cream, being careful not to boil. Stir in the tarragon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain the broccoli, stir into the sauce and serve immediately.

Thanks to Melissa at Pam Lloyd for my Tenderstem samples

Friday, 6 July 2012

Crispy Roast Chicken with a herby Mushroom Sauce

Following on from my recent delicious chicken liver and tarragon pate post, I also created dinner for me and my dad using other goodies within my Knorr hamper, including a delicious tomato stew, which I will post up soon, which was served alongside my crispy roasted chicken with a mushroom sauce and herbed potato stack.

Being that the lovely organic Rhug estate chicken was whole, and that I didn’t want to cook the whole bird at once due not to wanting to eat it three days running, I dug out a copy of ‘the cooks book’, armed myself with poultry shears and a sharp knife, and set about properly butchering the poor bird up.

Having not done that particular kitchen task in a long time and I had forgotten how brutal it felt but it was quite satisfying to finish it and resulted in a chopping board with all its separate portions laid out neatly! It also makes the chicken go that bit further and ensures nothing goes to waste either - you know my motto by now is to not waste anything!

Serves two

2 Chicken leg quarters (I.e thigh and drumstick)
1 banana shallot, sliced into rounds
15 quartered small white mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp chopped curly parsley
75ml white wine
300ml chicken stock (made using a Knorr chicken stock pot)
1 heaped tsp cornflour, made into a paste with 2 tsp water - see notes below

Step one - Preheat oven to 190o

Step two - pour yourself a nice glass of wine, test for quality control - after all you want your dish to taste good! The wine in my box fitted the job perfectly, I thought it was crisp, refreshing and delicious but was not to my dads taste. Oh well more for me then!

Step 3 - For the crispy roasted chicken I started off by flouring the leg quarters, as recommended by Marco Pierre White, browned them in hot oil in a large saute pan, skin side down for just under 10 minutes, cover slightly with a lid if the oils spitting a lot, when browned place them on kitchen paper to drain.

Step 4 - Using the same pan, add a splash more oil if needed and fry the shallot and the mushrooms, until lightly golden in colour. Add the wine and bubble off for a couple of minutes, add the stock and bring to the boil, add 2 tbsp fp the parsley, stir in and then transfer the sauce to a suitable baking dish and nestle the chicken pieces on top - they should just fit inside - I used my rectangular glass pyrex roaster. Roast for approx 45 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.

Step 5 - Make up the cornflour and water paste, this is where I made a slight error of judgement and have adjusted the quantities in the ingredients section …the sauce was a little thin for my liking and so I strained it off into a saucepan and bought it back to the boil with a tad too much lovely sauce become a rather thick and gloopy.... Alas, cooking is always something to learn from and improve upon, bit like life really! Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve with your choice of vegetable.

Despite the slightly hmm sauce, the chicken was gorgeously crispy, you could really tell the difference in quality of the meat and we cleaned our plates so all was not lost!

So do you fancy winning your own Knorr seasonal hamper to play with?

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