Thursday, 31 October 2013

Three Ways with Smoked Salmon

Up until about 18 months, perhaps two years ago I really didn't 'get' smoked fish, just could  not understand what the fuss was about. I recall laying out prettily a packet of smoked salmon at a garden party for my auntie when I was probably about ten years old and nibbling it - eurgh what are these people eating!! I guess its like olives - I adore them now but back then noooooooo way!!

Fortunately time has passed, and my taste-bud's have matured - and I am finding myself rather partial now to smoked salmon! It started with trying out smoked mackerel at a restaurant, as it came as part of a seafood starter platter thingy and then progressed onto smoked trout a food forum friend sent me, then finally smoked salmon!

A few weeks back 'The Handpicked Foodstore' sent me a rather delicious packet of their MacGilvray Smoked Salmon and it vanished very quickly! It was buttery soft, carried a gentle smoky flavour and made mine and B's meals that bit more special! Something like this is a rare treat for us, I am a budget queen but its nice to have something like this once in a while!

Lovely layers of Smoked Salmon!
 A honestly perfect way to eat breakfast - Buttered white toast, topped with creamy scrambled eggs and a scattering of smoked salmon strips! Heaven!

We had dinner guests last week, and as typical one of them was running late so I knocked up some quick canapes whilst wating - simply a tub of Divo ricotta cheese, a sprinkling of Divo Parmigianno Reggano seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice, atop a ritz cracker (so classy!) and a twist of smoked salmon and a sliver of cucumber! This dish however was hit and miss - me and the boyfriend really enjoyed it but my dad and brother were not so fond of the creamy filling. Ah well, more for us!

Last but not least - Stir-fried noodles with peppers and mushrooms, with the last few pieces of the smoked salmon. Unfortunately someone knocked at the door, then my phone kept ringing and by the time I ate it, it was lukewarm....was tasty at least still!

Many thanks to The Handpicked Foodstore who supplied me the Smoked Salmon, and to DIVO Italiano for the Ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano

Monday, 28 October 2013

So we meet again..Meal Planning Monday

Sleep. Its a mysterious thing. That sometimes eludes resulting in brain fog. So this meal plan is tentative at the best! Fortunately I half started it last week so we are in with a chance of eating fairly well this week... I have just finished two night shifts, and I am still trying to shake off a nasty cough from a cold a few weeks back, and it completely deprived me today of all my sleep. Every time I laid down it tickled, and not in a good way. More a 'oh help me I can't catch my breath' style. Eventually I gave up and decided to watch several hours back to back of Mount Pleasant and flick through random cook books. Oh and look for a new savings account. Gripping stuff!! Roll on bedtime and some sleeping tablets!

Last week was hit and miss with the meal plan, we managed about just over half the plan, which is fairly good going for us! The pulled pork was very popular with the menfolk and they fought over the scraps, always a good sign! We also had some lovely smoked salmon, which will follow in a later post. A highlight though on Wednesday was going last minute to Sainsbury's HQ, for an evening with Italian Chef Francesco Mazzei! I enjoyed lots of lovely Italian food, to showcase their new range of pasta, rices and olive oil's - I will bring you some recipes soon too!

Francesco Mazzei
Chicken and Pancetta with Olive oil Mash

 So onto this week - no glamorous outings sadly but hopefully a few nice dishes!

Monday - Fridge standby - Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini with garlic bread

Tuesday - Sicilian Squash and Chickpea stew, with couscous from the new Jamie money saving book..

Wednesday - Spicy Chicken, chorizo, sweet potato and rice dish (need a nice name!)

Thursday - Veggie Lentil stew from freezer with chickpea pancakes

Friday - Chinese pork with noodles and stir fried veg

Weekend - definitely need to use up something from the freezer to make space - possibly fish fingers or the abandoned scampi!

**Don't forget my Dairy Diary competition runs out on the 31st October!**

As always - my plan is being sent over to Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday post:

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Giveaway: Dairy Diary 2014

Last week, an email popped into the inbox about reviewing next years Dairy Diary. My initial well practiced reaction was noooo must say nooo to more books..there is just no more room but then logical brain side kicked in, I would be absolutely lost without my diary, so just maybe I can find room... also the sentimental side - I remember my nan having 'Dairy Diary's' when I was younger, stuffed full of notes, recipes etc. Whilst sadly she is no longer with us, seeing the diary makes me smile in reminiscence of nan.

So the logical side kicked in, and a few days later my copy arrived, with all its floral splendor covering. The diary is nicely sized, not too big..not too small and has a wipeable cover. When your'e as clumsy as me, these things matter!

Inside, the pages are ring bound which makes the pages easy to manouvre and are seemingly sturdy enough to withstand regular usage. And there's a ribbon. I love page ribbons, so helpful!! Another highlight is the first 'pocket' which has practical stickers in, covering a range from 'Birthday' to 'Holiday' (wishful thinking there!). Yes I may be 31 but surely that's not too old to enjoy stickers? If so I better go hide my Hello Kitty ones...

Then comes the content page, listing its recipes, useful conversion charts, national rail map, numbers and most importantly what caught my eye was 'Super Cute Mice'. Well of course I had to flick straight to page 38, only to discover they are crocheted ones. My heart sunk a little, I really can not crochet. I need to steal someones granny for a week and finally master it! My mum can crochet endless blankets, but is very impatient teaching me! They are indeed cute day!! Maybe I could make an edible version instead...

Diary Diary has been running since my birth year of 1982, a good vintage haha, am sure its fate which brought us together! It originally used to be sold by our milkman but sadly there's not so many of them driving their little floats around nowadays, but you can easily buy a copy online or by phone.

So do you fancy getting your own flowery copy to see you through 2014? Simply enter my competition by 31st October 2013 to be in with a chance!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 21 October 2013

Oh its you again! Hello Monday's Meal Plan..

So where did last week go? Answers on a postcard please! I've just completed another long run of shifts - this time 8 in a row, including straight from night to day shifts and I am sitting here, feet up 'testing' out a bottle of Citrus lager picked up mere minutes ago whilst popping out to buy mustard for tomorrow's recipe...Went in for mustard. £25 know the deal..though I did get a bunch of flowers for 10p, 8 apples for 10p, and two packets of ready diced vegetable 'base' and a 3 bean casserole veg mix for 10p each too. This made up slightly for spending more than planned at least! And I have pretty flowers to look at which is always welcome!

Last weeks meal plan was hit and miss, Monday's walnut and gorganzola pasta was moved to the weekend and eaten over two days. Very nice it was too though cheese hating B proclaimed it 'disgusting' among other words...Saturday's sausage and mash got moved to this weeks plan, as we went out for a Chinese in the end with a friend. And the beetroot burgers are back on the make at some point list!

This week has been drafted but I had an interesting invite earlier to something in town so might be moved around a little!

Monday - was tonight. Ate some work leftovers, nothing exciting as ate well at lunch. B had an omelette

Tuesday - planning to make this Maple and mustard pulled pork from the BBC Good Food website. Hence the trip out tonight for the mustard! We are having mini roasties and green beans with it. Some nibbles to start, including some smoked salmon taramasalata I picked up tonight..

Wednesday - Its my nemesis - Toad in the hole. If my batter fails it will be sausage casserole!

Thursday - this is the hmm night..I am also planning to go to Westfield with a girlfriend in the day but weve both been waylaid by bugs so might be rescheduled. so dinner is freezer surprise. Possibly the scampi we didn't have last week!

Friday - Going for a curry with work for someones leaving do. 

Weekend - am on night shifts, eurgh! Possbily risotto one night, leftovers the following!

As always - mine is linked to Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday

Happy eating everyone!


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Arrancini con Pomodoro e salsa di Zucchine

Last week I finally got round to making risotto again, its been a while. In a past life, I used to cook a lot of Italian food but following a relationship breakdown I think I found myself shying away from anything vaguely resembling Italy but I realise now the error of my ways - you can never run away from anything so tasty! I decided also to make it sound posh by translating it fully, as Arrancini with tomato and courgette sauce sounded a little lame in comparison to a more elegant sounding 'Arrancini con pomodoro e salsa di zucchine'!

So risotto was back on the menu, and it was quite a frugal one - using up some slices of leftover gammon from the freezer, frozen peas and a sad last few leaves of Cos lettuce that were loitering in the salad draw planning their escape route! Yes lettuce, you did read it right! I have made a similar one before (little gem also does well here), and with the lettuce just wilted in at the end makes a nice interesting crunch to the creamy rice and smokey salty gammon.

For the sauce, I had picked up a tube of chilli tomato puree for a bargain 25p on offer in Sainsburys that morning, just substitute with regular tomato puree if you don't have any in. The original risotto was made using grana padano which I reguarly buy from the supermarket but the following day I had a delivery, via mums house of some new cheeses from 'Divo' and used their 'Coarsely grated heart of Parmigiano Reggiano', I was a little wary of it having previous experience with dried up ready grated parmesan but this was very good, rich creamy and a perfect pairing for the dish.

Despite the risotto being very tasty I slapped away B's fork from eating the rest as it looked like there was enough left to finally attempt something I had craved for a long time - Arancini - which their name according to wiki originated from the Italian word for oranges, due to their shape... I vaguely remember having these a long time ago possibly at a food show or restaurant and so it finally my time to have a go! Yippee!

I guess you could make the Arrancini with any leftover risotto you like, this was my base recipe, which served us two the previous night and left enough to make 9 Arrancini. The risotto needs to be fully cooled before making the Arrancini.

Risotto recipe:

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
50ml vermouth
225g arborio rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 slices cooked gammon finely chopped
2 heaped tbsp grana padano or parmesan grated
2 cos lettuce leaves, shredded
1 knorr herb stock pot into 1.5 pints boiling water

1) Melt the butter and oil, gently cook the onion and garlic without colouring, stir in the vermouth and allow to evaporate. 

2) Stir in the rice and allow it to fully coat in the liquid, add a small amount of the stock to coat and allow to cook, once the liquid has evaporated, repeat the process gently stirring through until its almost cooked through. 

3) Meanwhile place the peas in a jug with some of the remaining stock and cook for 3-4 minutes, stir it all into the risotto with the gammon pieces and lettuce, it should of absorbed most of the liquid now and be slightly loose in consistency. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese leaving a little for garnish.


Arrancini con pomodoro e salsa di zucchine Recipe


250g cold, leftover risotto
50g breadcrumbs
2 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano
1 beaten egg
small bowl plain flour

1/2 courgette, cut lengthways and into thin slices
1/2 finely sliced onion
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chilli tomato puree
390g chopped tomatoes (carton or tinned)
2 tsp dried Italian herbs
Fresh basil leaves, to garnish
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to garnish
Spray oil for coating/ lining tray

Line a baking tray with foil, and spray with oil

1) Place the breadcrumbs with the Parmigiano Reggiano in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper. Have ready the beaten egg in another bowl and the flour in another bowl. A curved tablespoon is handy here for shaping! Mine are mini russian dolls which work perfectly!

2) Using the spoon and your hands, shape the risotto into a ball, gently dip into the flour, then the egg and then into the breadcrumbs. 

 Place on the baking tray and repeat to form 9 balls. Chill in the fridge to firm up. 

3) Heat the oil in a large pan until moderately hot and fry the onion then garlic until lightly coloured, stir in the courgette slices and fry until lightly browned. Pre-heat the oven to about 180o

3) Stir through the tomato puree, and add the red wine vinegar and cook off the liquid, stir in the tomatoes, herbs and bring to a bubbling heat, cover and gently simmer. Stir now and then - you want a fairly thick sauce.

Put the arrancini in the oven, sprayed with oil and bake for 30 minutes, giving a gentle prod halfway to make sure they are not sticking to the tray.

4) Once everthing is nicely cooked through, spoon the sauce onto a plate, and place a desired amount of arrancini on top. Garnish with the basil leaves and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Considering they were my first attempt I was super happy with these - the Arrancini were crisp and surprisingly light and the sauce was rich tasty and was a very good match.

Many thanks to Divo for my cheese. This is not a sponsored posting

Whilst I have never visited Italy - its definitely up high on the list of destinations I would love to visit and I am entering my 'Arrancini con pomodoro e salsa di zucchine' into a #TuscanyNowCookOff competition with Tuscany Now, an Italian and Tuscany Villa Rental Specialist to win a trip there, which would be so amazing to finally go there! You can find more details in this link.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Meal Planning Monday 14/10/2013

Oh Monday, we meet again! Surprisingly today's shift wasn't too bad as Monday's are normally slightly hideous with everyone rush, rush, rushing around but today was quite plain sailing...good food always helps - Fueled the day with porridge, then lunch was leftover roast pork Chinese style, with crunchy stir fried veggies and rice. Dinner tonight was a toasted sandwich, filled with some 'Camembert' spread I bought in the Polish shop, melted quite nicely indeed...

SO I did the meal plan yesterday, and as always its subject to alterations. heck I failed at Monday's already and we are only one day in but that I can blame on the boyfriend as he didn't eat the thawed bread so was down to me to dispose of accordingly...and you really can't beat a toastie!

Monday - Walnut and Gorganzola pasta. Became the above cheese toastie and salad

Tuesday - I am working late so B is cooking..scampi, tinned spaghetti and peas I.e. easy freezer meal!

Wednesday - Using up a cheaty tub of Bolognese sauce I bought reduced a few months back, and froze, with spaghetti and garlic bread

Thursday - Spinach Dal with Chickpea pancakes

Friday - Thinking of making beetroot and bean burgers. Experimental night!

Saturday - Sausage and mash/ new potatoes

Sunday - Am working late...will probably just make extra on Saturday for leftovers

Friday, 11 October 2013

Jumbo Chickpea Burgers #TryTotal

It appears this year germ season started early, its claimed me, the boyfriend, mum and countless friends and colleagues. It certainly is thorough! Today thankfully at last is duvet day, the futon is down in the lounge and I am making my way through everything on the sky+ box! Great British Bake off next woohoo! Tissues are on standby and endless cups of tea!

There seems to be a lot of food pictures on my pc I have taken prior to lergy striking but the lighting here is awful and I've been loathe to blog anything... There is also the slight issue of not remembering what went into dishes, I feel I short change you all when recipes are a bit sketchy..however I know that does work in its own little way. I always hope to inspire people to cook and make them feel they can play around with recipes and discover things they like along their way..

So today I decided these pictures were the best of a bunch, and were quite fun to make so wanted to share with you. A few weeks backs Total, the yoghurt people sent me a box of goodies to make these Jumbo Italian Spiced Chickpea burgers and my lovely friend C helped to make and the eat them shortly after!

The first hurdle however was making the mixture....I don't own a food processor anymore but did have a blender it got loaded as the below picture:

So far so good? Erm no. The bread got blitzed just fine but the rest refused to budge and the machine just made whirly noises..out came a a wooden spoon to try and push the mixture down. Nope. Fail. After many attempts, we put the mixture into a mixing bowl, converted the blender into a hand blender option and eventually we had burger mixture!

It was messy business but I managed to shape it into four burgers - these were certainly fitting the 'Jumbo' description!

So much so I could only fit two in the frying pan and had to cook in batches!

After being cooked, then carefully flipped over I.e. oh help me C its falling apart as the pan was too small cries, they turned out pretty good looking:

The burgers were definitely beasts to eat, and a little challenging as ours kept squshing out the sides, maybe the mixture was too soft from the hand blender perhaps but we did enjoy them, and the remaining two were eaten the next day. I would re-make them but shape them into perhaps six burgers next time!

With the burger recipe was also a relish but neither of us do raw onion so opted for the contents of the fridge including various chutneys and flavoured mayo's! Garlic mayo works well, as does sweet chili sauce! I also fried them in a little oil, as when trying the spray oil the pan got too hot and made unpleasant smoke smells!

Makes 4 burgers

4tbsp Total Greek Yoghurt
75g fresh breadcrumbs (approx 2 slices)
2x 400g drained chickpeas
25g fresh basil
2 tbsp sundried tomato paste
2 cloves crushed garlic
Pinch chilli flakes

Rolls to serve

If you have a food processor, blitz together the above, if not dig out your hand blender and see my notes above!

Shape into four patties, drizzle a little oil in a pan, heat moderately and fry the burgers for five minutes each side.

Serve with lots of salad

Many thanks to #TryTotal

Friday, 4 October 2013

Spicy Vegetable Chickpea Pancakes

A few weeks ago after a nice lie in and having done the Sunday morning excitement of cleaning the flat, lunchtime had arrived. However knowing we were going out for a all you can eat Chinese that evening, we needed something fairly light for lunch... The only problem being that the fridge was pretty bare apart from half a carton of tomatoes and 3 tired looking cauliflower florets leftover from the Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza and a few other odds and ends lurking in the salad draw...

So what to do....Fortunately my B has become quite tolerant of eating vegetables, and in general vegetarian meals so that seemed a fairly logical route as we had no meat or fish to hand. I had remembered seeing a while back a recipe for pancakes made with chickpea flour (known as Gram or Besan flour) that didn't require anything other than water and a little stock powder - result! They are also known as Socca but I find that word doesn't seem as attractive to me! Makes me think of American football!

I looked at a few different recipes, and after perusing No Bread is an Island's post about these pancakes made one of his versions. And they were delicious! I wasn't too sure how many pancakes we would end up with but this just made 3, in a 24cm frying pan, which was ideal. Mine is from Dunelm Mill, who accidentaly shipped me the wrong one a few months back and its been invaluable, I have been thoroughly testing it and its brilliant value for money, holding up to whatever I throw at it, so to speak!

Now I will be honest in that the ingredients are not measured as since sharing a kitchen, I felt a bit odd writing things down with a stranger often present but have tried to remember it as best as I can! I also accidentally fried mine in oil, rather than in a dry pan but it made them so crispy it was a happy accident!

The filling for the pancakes was pretty much made up as I went along. After the discovering of grated cauliflower during the pizza recipe, I repeated for the filling as it cooks so fast that way. The grated mozzarella was also leftover from the pizza recipe, and stored in the freezer and it worked perfectly, is also suitable for vegetarians too. Though if you wanted to make it vegan just simply leave it out.

Makes 3 pancakes


100g chickpea flour
1tsp vegetable powder
225ml water
1 tsp oil + extra for greasing pan

Approx 200ml passatta
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
3 grated cauliflower florets
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
3 tbsp grated mozzarella
2 sliced spring onions
1/2 diced red pepper
1/2 small green chilli

Start by heating a dash of oil in a small saucepan, fry the pepper, cauliflower and spring onions until softened, stir in the chilli, cumin and passatta and allow to simmer away whilst making the pancakes, it should be a fairly dry mixture.

To make the pancakes, mix the flour, water, olive oil and stock powder together until smooth - it will be fairly runny.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in the frying pan to a medium-hot heat. Swirl in the batter mixture and turn the pan to form a thin pancake. Cook for about two minutes or until golden brown and flip briefly to cook the inside for a further minute or less. Place on kitchen paper and repeat to make a further 2 pancakes.

Season the filling to taste, add the mozzarella and fill the pancakes. Serve immediately.

On the inside:

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