Thursday, 29 December 2011

Chicken Saag

Now that Christmas is over (thank goodness), I really wanted to eat a healthy meal, simply because of the over indulgence during the festive period. Thinking about what to eat I decided on a curry. I can almost hear you shouting curry isn't healthy with all that ghee, but this curry only has a little oil, and has fresh tomatoes, spinach, yoghurt, and chillies. All wonderfully healthy ingredients.

This is a tasty curry, thanks to the earthy taste of the spinach. The ginger and garlic help give it a great background flavour and the chilli gives it a little kick, which is mellowed by the yoghurt. Be careful not to cook the curry on too high a heat, otherwise the yoghurt will split.

I have said use skinned and boned chicken thighs, but you can leave the bone in if you prefer however you should cook for the curry for longer- about 25-30 minutes. Do check to ensure they are completely cooked. You can also cut the thigh into smaller pieces and so you can reduce the cooking time to about 15 minutes. Again check the chicken to ensure it's completely cooked through.

If you don't want the curry to be too spicy, scrape out the seeds from the green chilli.

  • 225g fresh spinach leaves, washed (remove any very large stems)
  • 2.5cm fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 fresh green chilli, roughly chopped
  • 200ml water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1tsp chilli powder
  • 45ml plain (natural) yoghurt
  • 8 chicken thighs, skinned and boned
  • (serves 4)

Cook the spinach, without water, for 5 minutes in a pan, or if it’s in a bag microwave it following the instructions. Put the spinach, ginger, garlic and chilli with 50ml of the water into a food processor and blend into a purée. Put to one side.

Heat the oil in a clean pan then add the bay leaves and peppercorns and fry for 2 minutes. Then add the onions and cook for 6-8 minutes, ensuring they don't brown or burn.

Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and chilli powder. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the spinach purée and the remaining water and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Turn down the heat and stir in the yoghurt a little at a time, stirring continuously until the yoghurt has completely mixed in.

Add the chicken, cover the pan and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and tender. Serve with rice, adding some yoghurt on top.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Ham Hock and Cornichon Terrin

I've always wanted to make a terrine, after watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall making one. They do seem a lot of effort, but whenever I've had terrine in a restaurant I have also enjoyed it.

Making the terrine does take a long time- between 4-5 hours, though I'm not complaining as it gives me time to sit down with a glass of wine (or 2,3,hic), whilst waiting for it to cook and cool down.

Although I am saying you need 2kg of Ham Hock, it is actually difficult to get exactly 2kg. I needed two hocks as one wasn't enough and they came to over 2kg. Do not worry, as what is left over can go into making a great sandwich or two. Actually for me the meat didn't last long enough to make it to the bread as I was busy scoffing it as I went along. Well I needed something to soak up the wine didn't I? ;-)

When cooking the hock(s) you should boil them very rapidly for about 10 minutes and then reduce the heat so the water is barely bubbling. This is to ensure that the liquid stays clear. If the water is boiling too fast it will become cloudy.

  • 3 litres of water
  • 2kg ham hocks
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, sliced
  • 1 large onion, cut in half
  • 10 black pepper corns
  • pack of flat leaf parsley
  • bouquet garni
  • 100g cornichons
  • gelatine
  • cling film
  • 900g loaf tin

Put the water into a large pan and add the ham hock(s), the carrots, celery and onion. From the pack of parsley take out a few sprigs and add to the water along with the peppercorns.

Bring to the boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat so that the water is hardly moving and remove any scum that comes to the surface. Cook for at least three hours or until the meat is easily removed from the bone.

Once cooked remove the hock(s) and allow to cool down. Sieve the liquid into a jug and put it to one side to cool down also.

Once the meat has cooled down, remove as much fat as possible and pull the meat from the bone. With your hands pull the meat into shreds and place into a bowl.

Take the cornichons and rinse them, cut in half length ways and then chop into small pieces and add to the meat
Take the rest of the flat leaf parsley and blanch it in boiling water for about 15-20 seconds. Remove and chop finely (I used the stalks as well). Add it to the meat.

Take 500ml of the ham stock that was set aside and place it in a pan. Heat gently but do not let it boil as the gelatine might not set very well. I am using leaf gelatine and whilst the stock is warming up, I placed 4 leaves of the gelatine (check your instructions on the pack as it may be different) into cold water. After 5 minutes remove it and squeeze out any water then add it to the stock, stirring until the gelatine has melted. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool down.

Take a long piece of clingfilm and pull it over the loaf tin, pushing it into the sides and then back again, leaving an edge on both sides. Repeat this again, so that you have four layers in the tin.

Place the ham mixture into the loaf tin, pushing down to get as much in as possible.

If you haven't got a lid for your loaf tin, take a piece of cardboard, the same size as your loaf tin and wrap tin foil over it. It will be used to sit directly on the meat.

Once the ham stock is cooler, pour it into the loaf tin, being careful not to pour too fast, otherwise the liquid spills over the top.

Once the liquid has covered the ham completely, pull the cling film over the top to over it. Put the lid on top and place in the fridge for 12 hours. You need to add some weight on to the lid so that it presses the contents down. A couple of tins of beans (or similar) should do the trick.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Mince Pies - Part 3 - Different Pastry

Okay, part 2. The first batch of making mince pies didn't go to well. The pastry was too thick, I over filled the pies, they spilt – need I go on. Although I will say they were very tasty, if a little ugly to look at. So, shortcrust pastry works only the maker doesn't!

I have found another pastry recipe and am trying this out and with the mistakes from the part 2, I am hoping that I've learnt something and that these come out better – fingers crossed!

This is a sweet pastry and with a little more research I found some good tips, including making sure you rest the pastry in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes before you use it. Also that you bring the pastry back to room temperature otherwise it will crack when rolling. Make sure you have a LOT of flour on your board so the pastry doesn't stick. Also ensure your pastry is not tot wet or too dry – nothing like conflicting tips is there?

You can use shop-bought mincemeat, but I have a recipe HERE. It will last a long time as long as you place it into sterilised jars where it will last at least 6 months. I am not saying how much you need as it depends on how much you want to fill the pies and of course how many you are making.

  • 200g plain flour
  • 40g golden caster sugar
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 125g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg, beaten

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the caster sugar and ground almonds. Add the butter and with your fingertips blend it together until you have a consistency of breadcrumbs. If you want to speed up the process, use a food processor.

Add the beaten egg and bind the mixture together into a ball. Place the ball in to some clingflim and place it in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and let is stand until it comes to room temperature- This can take about an hour.

Place some flour on a surface and roll out the pastry until it's about 2mm thick. Cut out 12 circles with a pastry cutter and place it in to the base of a muffin/ Yorkshire pudding tin.

Add just enough mincemeat. Judge by your eye, but you don't want it too full, otherwise the pies will spilt when baking -see picture HERE - try and ensure there are no big gaps between the mixture.

Now cut out 12 smaller circles. Take each circle and place a little milk around the bottom edge. Place each on to the base and pinch together to seal in the mincemeat.

Brush some milk lightly on top and place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.

Place into a preheated oven at 200C and cook for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

One thing I learned today, when coming to the end of the cooking time, don’t talk to a friend on the phone whilst supping a glass of red wine, as you will overcook them.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Mincepies Part 2 - How NOT to make Mincepies

I did a fair amount of research on the internet on what kind of pastry to use for my mince pies, and decided to first try with shortcrust pastry - the recipe for which is readily available on the internet.

I made the pastry and started assembling the pies. The recipe I used said that it makes 12 pies and 12 lids. Well I was struggling to see how that was possible, so I decided to attempt to make 6 pies and 6 lids to see how much pastry I had left over. I put the 6 bottoms in the tray, placed in the mincemeat mixture (which I'd made previously in part 1 see HERE), started to put the lids on the pies when disater struck. I knocked the jar of mincemeat and it went flying all over the floor. So, even if I could make more pies, with the left over pastry, I had no mincemeat left.

With the air exceedingly BLUE, I eventually got my composure back and placed the 6 pies into the oven to see how they would come out and what they would taste like. As you can see they didn't come out well at all. The pastry was too thick, the lids didn't stick down, but they did taste very nice. So I guess part 3 is on the cards, although I am running out of time. I need to make more mincemeat and that takes 24 hours and I am out all day Friday and travelling to my outlaws on Saturday, so I need to try again either on Wednesday or Thursday. Fingers crossed that I get it right this time, but it's going to be a struggle as I'm also going to attempt to make a ham hock terrine with cornichons and pasley, as well as finish off my Christmas shopping!

The pastry recipe is fine and tasty, but you must ensure you roll the pastry out thinly and make the top and bottom of the pie stick together
  • 200g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g butter
  • 2-3 tbsp cold water

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Cut the buttter into small pieces and add to the bowl.

Using your fingertips rub in the butter into the pastry until you have the texture resembling bread crumbs.

Add 2 tbsp of water and stir together with a knife and then with your hands bring it all together in a ball. If the mixture is too dry and you are having problems making it into a ball add another tablespoon of water.

When completed wrap in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Take out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature, which will take about an hour. This will stop the pastry from cracking when you are rolling it out.

Roll the pastry out and cut 12 circles and place into your pan. Then add the mincemeat, ensuring you don't over fill to prevent it spilling out when in the oven.

Cut out another 12 circles to put on top. Rub a little water on both parts of pastry and then pinch together, to stop them from splitting.

Preheat the over to 220C and cook for 15-25 minutes, depending on your oven.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Curried Goat

To think that I got into my all time favourite curry was by going to a local Bingo hall. To do something different some friends and I went to our local bingo hall in Cricklewood, London. They have two separate restaurants- English and Caribbean. Now I love fish and chips, omelettes and chips etc, but I was more interested in the Caribbean section. Standing in queue, I could see on the menu Jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish, dumplings, callaloo and oxtail stew but decided to try curried goat with rice and peas. All I could say was OMG and have been hooked on it ever since. In fact the only reason I ever went back to play bingo was for the curry – plus it had a late night bar with cheap beer!

Now the biggest problem was where to get goat from! I've actually found this quite difficult, so I went to Brixton, London because it has a large afro Caribbean community, but I could not find goat meat- lots of mutton but no goat. I went to a famous foodie market called Borough Market and asked a few meat stalls and the best answer was I would have to order it and it would take about two weeks. What was I going to do? Easy, I just replaced the goat for mutton and have made this dish a lot using mutton and it is delicious. But a couple of weeks ago I went to my local high street and went into a local corner shop. There in the fresh meat section was goat meat. So, today I made my favourite curry with goat and here is the recipe, which serves four.

The dish is very easy to make but this recipe can take up to 8 hours to prepare and cook, but trust me it is worth it.

WARNING – if you are going to use to Scotch bonnets be careful as they are VERY hot, so you might want to remove seeds. Also wash your hands thoroughly afterwards and do not rub your eyes. You may even want to wear gloves whilst you prepare them.

  • 1kg goat meat (if not mutton or lamb will do)
  • 1 lime
  • 2tbsp all purpose seasoning
  • 2tbsp Jamaican curry powder (normal curry powder is fine)
  • 6tbsp oil (sunflower or vegetable is best)
  • 450ml vegetable stock
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet (take seeds out if you don't want it too hot)
  • 2 gloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 10 all spice berries
  • 2cm fresh ginger
  • 1 red pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 green pepper, diced (optional)
  • 2 spring onions (green part only)
  • 2tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 large waxy potato, diced (optional)

Put the meat into a bowl and squeeze the juice of the lime on top. Add the all purpose seasoning and the curry powder and mix all together. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge for about 4 hours. You can leave it for an hour, but the flavours do not marinate as well and is not so intense.

Put the oil into a casserole dish or thick bottom pan and bring up to a very high heat. Then add the goat meat stirring to cover all the meat with the oil. Once completely covered lower the heat and cook the meat in the oil for about 45 minutes, occasionally stirring to ensure that the meat is not burning.

Add 150ml of stock to the pan and cook for about 45 minutes, again stirring occasionally. Add another 150ml of the stock to the pan and again cook for about 45 minutes.

Then add all other ingredients apart from the potato and cook for two hours. Then add the potato and until cooked. Then serve with rice and peas.

All I do for rice and peas is to bring the (easy cook) rice to the boil add a tin of red kidney beans (including the water) and cook until tender.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Mince Pies Part 1 - Mincemeat

I hate Christmas. There you go I said it out loud. It's over-hyped it’s too commericalised, too expensive and really just for children. But, I do love eating all that food being the hog that I am! Although I don't like the traditional fare of turkey, brussel sprouts, Christmas pudding etc, only because it's the same every year. It would be nice just once to have goose or duck or something different...Malcolm are you getting the HINT.....? :-)

This year I am going to the outlaws for Christmas and was going to make piccalilli but didn't realise that it took so long to mature. So I have decided to make mince pies. I was going to cop out and buy all the ingredients and just put it all together, but then I thought no, you talk about food, so you should really make it all from scratch.

I am writing the mince pie recipe in two stages because I am also making the mincemeat, which is very easy, but you should marinade it for at least 12 hours before you cook it. It is also good to keep it stored in a dark cupboard for as long as possible so the flavours have more time to enhance.

There are a lot of ingredients but apart from the brandy (optional but it does help the flavour) all you do it throw them all together, mix it and leave it to stand for 12 hours before cooking. How easy is that?

The mixture of sultanas, currants, raisins and candied peel is up to you, depending on what you prefer. In our local Waitrose supermarket I found a 500g bag of a good mixture of these ingredients, with very little candied peel, which is fine for me as I am not a fan.

  • 500g mix of sultanas, currents, raisins and candied peel
  • 225g Bramley apples
  • 175g dark brown sugar
  • 110g shredded suet (you can use vegetable suet)
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 25g ground almonds (optional)
  • 2tsp mixed ground spice
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 5tbsp of brandy (optional)

You will also need 3 x 350ml jars or 1 x 1kg jar. To sterilise preheat the oven to 120C, wash the jar(s) in hot soapy water then rinse in clean water. Dry off with kitchen paper (do not use a tea towel) then place in the oven for 5 minutes. Take the jar(s) out to cool down. Do this before you are ready to store the mincemeat.

Put all the ingredients (apart from the brandy) into a bowl that can eventually go into the oven and mix together. Place the mixture in the fridge for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 120C and place the bowl in and cook for three hours.

Once cooked let the mixture cool down, mixing occasionally as this will help mix the suet into the mincemeat to help it stick together.

Once cooled down add to your jars and keep in cool dark place until needed. You can of course use the mixture straight away.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


In a previous posting I mentioned that I took a cookery course to make three different desserts and this is the recipe for panna cotta with almond crumble and Clementine. I am not a big fan of desserts and so haven't made many and in fact over the years I have become nervous making them due to the lack of practice. But, If I do have dessert in a restaurant one of my favourites is a plain panna cotta; the tasty vanilla flavour in that soft white cream is delicious. So, when my friend Lyd and I decided to do the dessert course it was the panna cotta that decided it for me.

This recipe is for 6 people, as that was the amount of people on the course. I don't mind making too many as I'll have four and my partner can have two, if he so wishes. If not it’s more for me so no complaints!

This recipe leaves the panna cotta in the ramekins, but if you wish to place the panna cotta onto a plate a little tip our chef told us, was to put some cling film in the bottom of each ramekin and then pour in the liquid and then place in the fridge. When it's firm it's easier to take out of the ramekin as all you do is gently pull on the film.

Unfortunately there is no healthy version for this dish, so it needs to be full fat cream. This is because half fat doesn't have the flavour and also doesn't set as well. Also if you’re using vanilla seeds then they will sink to the bottom. So next time you have panna cotta in a restaurant and you can't see any seeds they have skimped on the ingredients and used vanilla essence. What ever you do, do not use vanilla flavour, it's cheap for a reason and doesn't taste as nice. Always use vanilla extract.

For the panna cotta

2g gelatine leaves (3 whole)
600ml double cream (must be full fat)
1 vanilla pod
70g caster sugar
8 Clementine (or just use any citrus orange)

For the crumble

50g plain flour
50g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
50 unsalted butter

Place the gelatine into a bowl of cold water.

Put 200ml of the double cream into a pan. Using the back of the knife drag it down the vanilla pod to squash it. Run the knife down the pod to cut, trying not to cut fully through to the other side, then drag the back of the knife down the cut pod to drag out the seeds. Add to the pan.

Bring the cream to the boil, ensuring you stir constantly and keeping a eye on it so it doesn't boil over. Once the cream starts to boil and rise in the pan, turn off the cooker and remove from the heat.

Take the gelatine from the water and squeeze out when excess. Once squeezed add it to the cream and then add the other 400ml of cream and stir for a few minutes.

Pour the mixture into six ramekins and place in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
Whilst the liquid is in the fridge preheat the oven to 200c. Place the unsalted butter, ground almonds, plain flour and caster sugar into a bowl. Gently rub the mixture bewteen your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

When you’re ready to put everything together, remove the skin off the Clementine and divide into segments. Take the panna cotta out of the fridge and place the Clementine segments into the ramekin, then place some of the almond crumble on the top. Then serve and enjoy......

Monday, 12 December 2011

Cookery Courses

When I decided to come to Dubai my friend Lyd talked about doing some cookery courses! This is not something I would think of doing as it's a holiday and I like to wallow on the beach or around a pool with a gin and tonic in my hand. We both searched the internet to find some short courses as I didn't want to spend my whole holiday cooking. With this remit we found a short course on desserts which was run by a company called L'atelier des Chefs where we made pannacotta with oranges and almond crumble, chocolate mousse with an almond crunch and a tiramsu emulsion (for some unknown reason we didn't make the crunch or emulsion and we didn't think about it until we looked it up on the course details later) and a pear tarte tartin with pistachio crème angliase, three things I've never made before as I am more of a savoury person and because it always seemed difficult to make, how wrong I was there.

The course was only 90 minutes long, so I did wonder how we could make so many dishes in such a short time, but it all became clear as we walked in because all the ingredients were weighed out for us and all the dirty dishes were washed for us. This has now caused me an issue as I need someone to come to my house and do all this for me, lazy or what!

The course was very great in teaching me new techniques with each dish. For the pear tarte tartin, we were shown how to prepare the pear (cut in half, remove core and cut on an angle three ways with each half), how to make caramel ensuring you don't burn it (ensure you have the sugar spread evenly around the pan and when melted add the butter). With the custard (crème anglaise) I am used to buying just ambrosia custard in a pack, as it's much easier, again how lazy, but making the custard was surprisingly simple. With the pannacotta we prepared the cream to boil which must been watched at all times so it doesn't burn or boil over which is very easy to do. We then used gelatine which was also new to me, but again very simple to use, why was I so nervous. The easiest dish was the chocolate mousse, as you only need to boil the cream, which we tried earlier. The one thing I did learn about using chocolate was to ensure you use only cooking chocolate because with eating chocolate the makers add extra ingredients that can ruin the texture of the chocolate when melting.

Our chef was very knowledgeable about all the ingredients, his explanation of each recipe was clear and concise and answered on going questions with ease without using complicated cooking terminology. I was also pleased to find out that they run courses in London and will be going to more of them. I do have another course which is Spanish theme and am looking forward to it.

It is great to do something completely different on holiday and I might even look at a cooking holiday at some point in the future. I am also tempted to do a pasta course, as would love to be able to make my own pasta. When I get home I will be doing these recipes again and will write them up then.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Chocolate and Orange Cakes

Out of all the baking I've done so far this has been the hardest. I thought cup cakes were meant to be easy. The one thing you definitely need when using this recipe is to own a food processor. If you use a hand blender it gets very messy, in fact when I finished I looked more like a child who had just finished a flour fight. Just a shame I don't have enough room in my kitchen to have one! Also I’d never made a cup cake, had never made butter cream or knew how to do piping. So I knew it would be a challenge. Can you tell I've never had children? :-) As with all the other baking I've done this recipe comes from the Great British Bake Off “How to Cook”.
RRP £25
The air went very blue a few times whilst trying to make these cakes and the end results were okay but not the best baking I've done. It does give me hope for future baking but I won't be doing any more cakes until I get a food processor – Hey Santa get the message! I guess I'll have to make room in my kitchen somehow.

  • 50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) broken up into pieces
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened and diced
  • 1 large egg (at room temperature)
  • 120ml full fat milk (at room temperature)
  • 1 unwaxed orange (although I used waxed and it seemed ok)
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • orange chocolate for decoration

For the butter cream
  • 4 tbsp full fat milk
  • 50g white chocolate broken up into pieces
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened and diced
  • 500g icing sugar, sieved

1x12 hole muffin tray lined with paper muffin or cup-cake cases
a piping bag fitted with star tube
Melting chocolate in a bowl over hot water
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of steaming hot but not boiling water (don't let the base of the bowl touch the water). Once melted remove the bowl from the pan, stir the chocolate until smooth and leave to cool (it's very important not to have boiling water when melting the chocolate as it will ruin it – trust me I learnt the hard way).

Put the flour, baking powder and caster sugar in a food-processor (you can use a hand blender but be prepared for things to get messy!) and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture has a ‘sandy’ texture. Mix the egg into the milk and then slowly add to the processor through the feed tube, while the machine is running. Scrape down the sides, add the melted chocolate to the bowl and run the machine until thoroughly combined. Divide the mixture among the cup-cake cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just firm to the touch.

Meanwhile pare a long strip of the peel from the orange and reserve for the butter cream. Cut the orange in half and squeeze out the juice. Mix the granulated sugar into the juice.

Cooked Cakes
Take the cakes out of the oven and pierce the hot cakes in several places, with a skewer or cocktail stick. Spoon over the orange syrup. Leave to soak in for 5 minutes, then lift the cup cakes from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

For the butter cream, heat the milk (in a microwave or in a small pan, but do not boil) Add the strip of orange peel to the hot milk and leave to infuse until the milk is cold, discard the peel. Melt the white chocolate as you did with the dark chocolate (again ensure the water is not boiling or touching the bowl).

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy and gradually beat in the icing sugar and the cooled milk using a low speed (if you using a hand blender do not have it on high setting as again it gets very messy – again trust me on this). Finally, beat in the cooled melted chocolate.

Finally put the butter cream into the piping bag and pipe onto the cakes. Do not worry if you have gaps, as you can go over them with some more cream, as you can tell by the pictures.
Chocolate and Orange Cup Cakes

Saturday, 19 November 2011

ONE08 - Review


Last Saturday a friend said about going out for dinner, so after scanning the Tastecard website we decided on two, Mayfair Mews and ONE08. After checking each restaurant out it appears that Mayfair Mews has a time policy in that you had to give the table up after 2 hours. I know 2 hours is a fair amount of time, but if you are paying good money nobody should dictate how long you can stay for. With this in mind we decided on going to ONE08.

When you enter the restaurant the first thing you notice is how dark it is. In fact it was so dark we had to use the candle to see the menu. The staff did apologise because all of the other tables that were in use, had a spot light on them but on our table there wasn't one. Their design team was coming back in to sort it out.

Carpaccio of Beef
The menu had a good variety of fish, meat and they had a couple of specials, but was lacking in vegetarian dishes. In fact they only had 1 starter and 2 main courses that were vegetarian and were certainly lacking in any imagination. Who wants a salad on a cold, damp evening for a main course?

For our starters, I ordered pan fried scallops with white beans, pancetta, chorizo and white wine. It did say scallops, but it was only one scallop cut into thirds, but the white bean “stew” was very tasty with a rich tomato sauce. My partner had a smoked haddock fish cake, on a bed of spinach with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. He said it was tasty, the cake was crispy on the outside with a moist and fluffy interior with a great smoky flavour, but the egg was a bit overcooked. My friend had carpaccio of beef, with mushroom and truffle oil with some mixed leaves on top. The beef was fresh and tasty with the oil complimenting the flavour.
Fish Cakes with Poached Egg and Hollandaise
Fish and Chips
I ordered fish and chips with mushy peas, the batter was light and crisp, but it was the chips that took centre stage- they were amazing. They are triple cooked and were the best chips I've had in many years. Like the batter, they where light and crisp with a really fluffy centre. My partner ordered English lamp rump and slow roast shoulder with autumn vegetables and pearl barley. The lamb was medium and had a nice pink middle, the meat was tender and melted in the mouth, although it was a very tiny portion of lamb. My friend ordered the special of skate wing with a caper sauce. The wing was large and well cooked, the flesh was firm and moist with a light flavour, which contrasted well with the caper sauce.

I was the only one who had a dessert and ordered sticky toffee pudding. The pudding was moist and spongy but the sticky toffee sauce was grainy, as the sugar hadn't completely melted. It came with a portion of thick clotted cream which helped mellow out the sweetness of the sauce.

The staff were polite and helpful and a good evening was had and with the 50% discount we got off the food, because of the Tastecard, we will be back – if for no other reason than for those GREAT chips! We did all agree though that we would not go if we didn't get the discount, because the portions are on the very small side.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Malaysian Fish Curry

I am finally able to make a fish curry- my other half doesn't think that fish should be used in a curry as it spoils the flavour of the fish, but I disagree. He also doesn't like fish that much which makes it even harder to convince him. So, I am very pleased to say that he is out on the town tonight, and so a fish curry is on the menu!

After scanning a few recipes I decided to make Malaysian fish curry. This is not normally something I would make because I don't like desiccated coconut. This ingredient isn't in the same league as boiled eggs – (see more on the ‘About Me’ page), so I have decided that I should push my boundaries when it comes to foods I don't really like. How can I talk about something if I don't like it or have never tried it.

The list of ingredients is a little long, but don't be put off, as this makes a flavoursome and colourful curry, without being too hot (actually that part depends on you and your heat limits).

I would have used cod, but as there have been a few campaigns to get us to eat more sustainable fish I decided to use Coley. It's very similar to cod with the same white firm texture but about half the price. The only thing is the bones, but they are very easy to remove if you have some tweezers. A fish that I think will be seen a lot more in our house.

500g/1¼lb firm-textured fish fillet, (I used Coley)
2.5ml/½tsp salt
50g/2oz/⅔cup desiccated (dry and unsweetened) coconut
6 shallots or small onions
6 blanched almonds
2-3 cloves of garlic
2.5cm/1” piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1-3 fresh red and green chillies, seeded
2 lemon grass stalks, trimmed
10ml/2tsp ground turmeric
45ml/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 x 400g/14oz cans of coconut milk
salt and pepper for seasoning
fresh chives for garnish (optional)

Dry heat the coconut in a pan, stirring continuously so as not to burn. Keep stirring until the coconut is golden and crispy. Place into a food processor and blitz until it becomes an oily paste, then place to one side

Put the shallots, almonds, garlic and ginger into the food processor and blend until a paste.

Cut cm/2” off the lemon grass, remove the outer layer, chop up and place it into the food blender. Also add the chillies. Blend until finely cut up into the paste. Then add the turmeric and blend again until it's all together until the turmeric is completely mixed into the paste.

Add the oil to the frying pan and heat. Add the paste for a few minutes stirring continuously sp as not to brown the paste. Throw in the cans of coconut milk, stirring to mix all together. Bash the left over lemon grass and also add to the wok. Very slowly heat up the curry sauce, stirring occasionally ensuring the coconut milk doesn't split (coconut milk will split if you heat it too quickly or the sauce becomes too hot). Cook the sauce for about 30 minutes and then removed all the lemon grass stalks.

For the last 10 minutes, cut the fish fillets into 2.5cm/1” pieces, sprinkle some salt over then put to one side.

When ready add the fish and cook for 5 minutes and add the coconut paste (you can moisten the paste by adding a little water) and cook for another 5 minutes. Add any seasoning you require. Serve with plain boiled rice and add some freshly chopped chives.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Great British Bake Off "How To Bake" Review

If you have followed my blog you will know that I am a novice at baking and with the help of the Great British Bake Off “How To Bake book I have been learning and improving my baking skills. I know this book has been out for a while, but as I've done a few recipes I thought I would write a review.

This is a really helpful book for both novices and experienced bakers. It lists easy and more challenging recipes. The easy recipes are shown as perfect for children and seeing as I have little experience of baking I attempted to see how easy they really were. I first tried the oat and raisin recipe (Click HERE). I found it easy to follow and helpful which gave me confidence in trying the more complex recipes. The book also lists recipes that are great for celebrations.

Oat and Raisin Biscuits
There are eight chapters and at the beginning of each one there is an in depth technical challenge. It has a step by step guide on how to create the final recipe and has images along side each step. The chapters are broken down into cakes, biscuits and teatime treats, bread, pies and savoury pastry, tarts and sweet pastry, patisserie, pudding and desserts and finally celebration cakes.

If you managed to watch the programme that this book was following, there are recipes created by the contestants who won ‘star baker’ in each episode. There are wonderful recipes including salmon and bok choi quiche, stilton, potato and caramelised onion pie, blueberry Bakewell tarts, plus many more.

Smoke Haddock and Watercress Quiche
I actually made one of the ‘best of the bake-off;’ smoked haddock and watercress quiche, which is very easy to follow and I thought came out rather well, (click link HERE to see my posting). The picture featured in the heading of this website is the one I made. At the bottom of this page you will see links to the other recipes that I have prepared and you can see the outcome. Plus you will see I had a disaster and made some mistakes too!

Each recipe is well laid out in the book and easy to follow, along with some great photos. The recipes have been written by Linda Collister and there are forwards and technical tips from the two judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. At the end of the book there is an oven temperature conversion page, which when writing recipes for my website has come in very handy.

You can purchase this book from any good bookshop and has a recommended retail price of £25. You can purchase this at a cheaper price by clicking on the link below

I have also just made Chocolate and Orange cakes, but have yet to write up the review.

Great British Bake Off: How to Bake: The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets (Great British Bake Off TV Tie)

Apple Pie - See Post Here

Tarte Au Citron - See Post Here