Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Time For a Holiday

I am on holiday until the 13 September, so there won't be many updated until I get back

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Magdala in Hampstead

The Magdala

This gastro pub reopened on Saturday 27th August after a refurbishment. It had been well done with the main room being light and airy. It was also local and as they took the Tastecard we decided to make a visit for lunch today. It's the infamous establishment where David Blakley was shot when coming out of the pub by Ruth Ellis, who was the last woman that was executed in the UK. For more information see link. Ruth Ellis Link

When we got to the pub I ordered the usual Hendricks and tonic and a pint of Strongbow, so was surprised to find that just a gin turned up without tonic and was then told they only had slim line tonic – which I don't personally like as I don't like the after taste, so it didn't start well.

The menu looked great, but different from the one advertised on the website, it wasn't extensive which I like, I don't like it when there is so much on the menu it's difficult to choose. I've also said that I like it when there are dishes that jump of the menu and you think I must have it. With this in mind I ordered pigeon breast with spinach, new potatoes and beetroot, which was very good. The pigeon was a little pink in the middle, just how I like it and the potatoes and beetroot where firm and tasty. My partner had duck liver pate, which I have to be honest looked a little green around the edges for me, but was very tasty and had great background flavours of garlic and cream. They also served enough toast to eat with the pate (so many times I've been to restaurants and had to ask for more toast as they never serve enough).

For our main course I ordered pork belly, with mustard mash and vegetables and my partner had home made burger with cheddar cheese, chips with a salad garnish. The pork belly was a complete disappointment, it had been overcooked and was incredibly dry and on one side it looked almost burnt. The mustard mash was okay, with a great hint of mustard and the vegetables were just average. The beef pattie was far too small for the bun, which smothered the pattie, but is was well cooked. The chips where perfectly cooked and where very fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

I did break my rule about having a three course meal for lunch, because they had my three favourite desserts, see picture below.

I had sticky toffee pudding, which was wonderful and wasn't too sickly. I could have had more but had eaten far too much already. My partner had chocolate brownie with clotted cream which was moist with a firm texture and the cream stopped it from being too sweet.

It was a shame that the the main courses were so disappointing because the starters and dessert were excellent. We have decided that would wait a few months and try the place again, to see if things improve. The disappointments maybe because they had just reopened. What did help was the £20.50 discount we got because of the Tastecard.

Tarte Au Citron - My First Attempt, But Not my Last

After watching The Great British Bake Off (BBC TV, see iplayer link below, whilst available). I decided to try something a bit harder than oat and raisin biscuits (which are great by the way!) When the programme finished my partner said he liked Tarte au Citron and so decided I would surprise him with one. I was nervous because there are skills that I have never done before and the instructions were extensive. If I was going to do this properly I would also attempt to make my own pastry.

You make the filling when you are cooling down the pastry after the blind baking.

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small cubes
25g icing sugar
1 large free-range egg yolk
1 tbs icy water

For the filling:
5 large free-range eggs
125ml double cream
225g caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 4 medium lemons (you need 150ml of juice)

1 x 23cm fluted deep loose-based tart tin.
Non-stick baking paper

Put the flour, butter and icing sugar into a bowl and rub together with your finger tips until they look like breadcrumbs. If you have a food-processor use the “pulse” briefly until completed. Add the egg yolks and water then mix until the mixture sticks together in clumps.

Tip the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball and knead the pastry about 2 or 3 times to make it smooth. Wrap the mixture into greaseproof paper or clingfilm and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

Lay a piece of non-stick baking paper on the work counter. Remove the base from the tart tin and lay it on the paper. With a pencil draw a circle on the paper, 4cm bigger than the tin base. Dust the base of the tin with flour.

Place the pastry ball in the centre of the tin base. Flatten out the ball of pastry slightly then roll it out until it meets the edge of the pencilled circle. As you are rolling out, turn the pasty by turning the paper.

Once completed gently fold the pastry surrounding the tin base inwards . Carefully lift the tin base off the paper and drop gently into the tin. Ease the folded-over pastry into the corners and up the sides of the tin, pressing the overhang lightly over the rim of the tin.

Press the pastry evenly into the flutes of the tin. If there are any cracks in the pastry press them together until sealed. Prick the base with a fork (this stops bubbles forming in the base when blind baking) but ensure you don't press too hard as you don't want to break through to the base of the tin. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6, remove the clingfilm and line the pastry case with the non stick baking paper and fill it with baking beans (I used dried kidney beans which are cheap to buy) and cook for 12-15 minutes. Remove the baking beans (or kidney beans if using) and carefully cut off the baked over hang of the pastry with a knife. Once all the excess pastry has been removed put the tin back into the oven and cook the pastry for another 10-12 minutes, until it is a pale golden colour and completely dry. Leave to cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.

Reduce the oven to 160C/325F/gas 3.

Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk until well combined. Transfer the mixture into a jug. Pour the mixture into the cooled baked pastry case and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the filling is just set but with a slight wobble in the centre. Leave to cool slightly until the pastry seems firm enough, then remove the tart from the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Dust with sifted icing sugar before serving.

NB When I poured the liquid in I overfilled the case and when I tried to place in the oven I spilled some over the edges. My advice, before pouring, place the pastry base on the oven tray and then pour the liquid in very slowly as it fills up and then push the tray back being careful not to spill any liquid.

When I had finished cooking I let the tarte cool down and then tried to remove from the tin. This is where the spillage caused me problems as the base would not lift out as the pastry had stuck against the tray. I then slightly tipped the tin to the side and the filling fell out! The air in my house suddenly went VERY blue, but as it was still warm I placed the filling back into the base and smoothed it over with a knife. I then got the same knife and cut the edges of the pastry away from the pastry tin and finally managed to get it on to a plate.

I was actually pleased at the way it turned out even with the accident and have learned some lessons and can't wait to try this again. I also learnt that my oven, although fan assisted doesn't cook evenly and I should have turned the the tin a couple of times whilst cooking, as you can see in the picture. I served it with cream - delicious!

This recipe came from the Great British Bake Off (How to Bake) and if you want to learn to bake I would highly recommend this book – or even if you are experienced there are some great recipes with hints and tips. 
RRP 25

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Livebait - Covent Garden Branch

On Friday (26 February 2011) I went to see the new brilliant Pedro Almodovar film, The Skin I Live In with some friends,Maria and Jeff. We thought it would be great to go to lunch beforehand. So, I went on-line to see what restaurants were available with the Tastecard to get good deal. After a few minutes it was decided that we would go to Livebait as the card would give us 50% off all the food. Livebait webpage

My friends were already there and I ordered the usual gin and tonic and scanned the menu. Jeff always orders oysters and I said it would be great if we chose something different. I suggested that we could share the starters and we agreed to do a meze of seafood. 

We ordered nine oysters, with Tabasco and shallot vinegar, 

scallops with basil and balsamic vinegar, 

whitebait with tzatziki 

and tempura baby squid soy with a lime and chilli dip. 

They were all incredibly well cooked and extremely tasty. The oysters had the wonderful flavour of the sea and for me, had a very hot and a spicy kick as I love Tabasco. The scallops were moist and the basil and balsamic vinegar complimented them perfectly, but we did comment on the roe being missing, which we all love (why do most restaurants remove the roe? They should actually give the customer the choice). The whitebait were not over battered so we got the wonderful flavour of the herring. The tempura squid was a bit disappointing due to too much batter, but went wonderfully well with the soy, lime and chilli dip. We all agreed it was a great way to start the meal and eagerly awaited our main courses.

After about 10 minutes of finishing our starters our mains were delivered. Maria and I both ordered the special, which was a whole sea bream stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and Jeff ordered a whole sea bass, all of which were grilled. Again we all agreed that they had been perfectly cooked, with a crispy skin with the flesh being firm and juicy and it we couldn't fault it. Then we tried the bubble and squeak, and although tasty it was not a bubble and squeak I had ever seen or had. The potatoes were flavoursome but where were the vegetables? The carrot and cabbage pieces were so small that they looked like they had been put in by mistake. 

 As I've said before, why do we get charged an extra £3.75 for a side dish when I am already paying £18 for a main course- restaurants must stop this practice.

In the last two months I have been fortunate to have been to three different seafood restaurants, Loch Fyne, Fishworks and now Livebait. I found Livebait was by far the best, with Fishworks being the most disappointing. Everything in Livebait worked, the staff were attentive and polite, the food absolutely great and the décor and ambience where in keeping with the restaurant. I'd been to their first restaurant in Waterloo, but that was over 18 years ago. I would highly recommend this branch and I hope you have a great time as we did.

Also with the Tastecard we got a great discount of 50% ,which is available 7 days a week. With £50 taken off the total food bill it shows what a great card this is.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cafe Rouge

About 20 years ago, I went to Café Rouge in Islington, London and had a main meal of Mushroom in Filo and although it was very tasty the portion was incredibly small and at almost £10, a lot of money in those days. So I said I would never go back. As a restaurant chain I personally do not expect to pay over the odds, which I thought, for the size of it, this was.

Yesterday I broke that rule and both myself and other half went to the restaurant in Hampstead and was looking forward to a nice lunch. Our waitress was very nice and had the usual banter as she took our order. I didn't want a starter as wanted to have a dessert and I don't normally like a three course lunch, so I ordered bouillabaisse and my other half ordered chicken with tabbouleh. Whilst waiting I told my story of 20 years ago, and we looked at the meals being delivered to other tables and they looked a good size. Well I think you can guess what I am going to say- the bouillabaisse was put in front of me and I almost choked. It was incredibly small, after 20 years they where still being tight. In their defence though it was incredibly tasty and very well cooked, with the John Dory and Red Mullet being very moist. My partner also commented on the size of his chicken dish, which he also said was tasteless. I tried a bit of it and he was correct it was very bland. Our waitress asked if everything was okay and I just made a comment that it was a very small portion, but she advised that it would fill me up, guess what, it didn't. I went to the pub afterwards and had some crisps and nuts as I was still very hungry.

The manager kept coming over asking if we wanted more food or drink and was getting annoyed with his hard sell. We were going to buy a bottle of wine and get a dessert, but, with the portion size and the annoying manager all we wanted to do was get out of there.

For a one course meal, with a gin and tonic, a bottle of Stella and then a pint of Stella (well not even a pint because of the amount of head on it) the cost came to £30 and that was with £12 taken off with the Tastecard. I think I should have stuck to my rule about not going back and I will be sticking to that in future.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Boiled Gammon

I have two very good friends and in the morning we normally send emails to each other. One of these friends is very fortunate to be retired and often sends us emails of what he is having for lunch. I have frequently wanted to leave work and go around to his house because he might be having a delicious chicken casserole, a nice piece of fish, whilst I am at work are having a limp and tasteless sandwich with a packet of crisp.

Yesterday (Monday 22 August) he sent me an email saying that he was having boiled gammon for lunch – which made me salivate because I was hungover and could only handle a Chinese pot noodle (yes I can do trashy food and love Chinese pot noodle – I may write about it in future posts). So I asked him how he boiled the gammon and to send some pictures and here is the results

Gammon (smoked is always best as has more flavour, but high in salt so don't need to add any)
4-5 cloves
4-5 black pepper corns
1 star anise
4-5 coriander seeds
Spring of rosemary
2 bay leaves
sprig of mint
sprig of lovage (optional as not always easy to buy
sprig of tarragon

Boil on a gentle heat for 1-1½ hours and before slicing remove the fat and throw it out for you resident fox. My friend accompanied the gammon with new potatoes, carrots and peas. He also made a parsley sauce, which is basically a white sauce – see link on how to make a white sauce if you need it – and added parsley, some paprika and a few white pepper corns.

As you will see in the last picture, my friend says that you should have a decent glass of claret with the meal. Actually when he says a glass we know he really means a bottle........

Monday, 22 August 2011

Miller and Carter Steakhouse, Bar and Grill Review

It was my mother inlaws birthday and so we had a surprise family meal at the Miller and Carter Steakhouse Bar and Grill in Bexleyheath, Kent. Before I had even got there I wanted to hate this place because we were told we had to leave our table by a certain time and I REALLY hate this. If I am spending my hard earned money in a restaurant I should be able to take as much time as I want and not be made to leave by a certain time.

With that moan over, we walked into a wonderfully converted barn with very high ceilings, which was great because the restaurant was packed and but was not noisy. Within seconds of sitting down we were asked what drinks we wanted, which was perfect in my eyes and then stared at a very extensive menu. It contained all the usual fare, steak, chicken, fish and chips etc and it was a real struggle to choose. I asked our waitress to take my order last as I was still struggling when she came over. Most times when I go to a restaurant there is always something that jumps out but this time I was it was not happening. 

I decided in the end to go for buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese and an American BBQ dip. They where perfectly cooked, and wonderfully moist and the sauce on them was very tangy. The blue cheese dip was tasteless, but the American BBQ sauce more than made up for it. It was sweetly smokey and went very well with the wings. There was also so many of them I had to give one away, not too many though, as they were too tasty to give too many away. My partner had the prawn cocktail, which he said wasn't very good, but he did like the fact it wasn't smothered in to much rose marie sauce.

I followed my wings with a rib eyed steak, chips and peas, which was perfectly cooked. I think it's very hard to cook steaks to people's request as one person's rare maybe different to another person's. I asked for medium rare and that was exactly what I got and it had a great meaty taste as a steak should. The chips were only average and the peas were a bit hard. Out of a group of 11 only 1 person didn't have steak and we all agreed the steaks were very well cooked and tasty. My partner doesn't like steak too much and so ordered the philly melt burger, which was very disappointing. The cheese was flavourless and it didn't come with the flat mushroom as advertised, as you will see from the picture it didn't look very appetising either.

Our waitress, Anne, was brilliant, and was one of the highlights of the restaurant. She was attentive, chatty without being intrusive, smiley and didn't show any attitude when we asked for things slightly different as mentioned on the menu. The restaurant was very busy and she was able to cover our large table as well as her other tables without any detriment to our service. She really deserves a BIG pay rise – no she didn't ask me to say that, haha.

It wasn't the best or worst restaurant I've been to, but it is a great place to have a family dinner and would recommend it for any celebration dinner. But, make sure you can get to keep the table as long as possible and have a great evening.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Weekend in Hamburg

Hamburg is not the prettiest city I have ever been to, but it is one of the greenest and after this weekend I know why. It rained for about 80% of the weekend. Just as well there were enough pubs to keep me busy!

We stayed in a cheapish hotel/pension and the breakfast on offer didn't look very appetising. Which actually worked in our favour as it made us go out to a local café, of which there was no shortage of. The receptionist of our hotel recommended a good café and we didn't look back. With a great array of European breakfasts, what did we go for? – yep the English version. Cup of tea, a bowl of cornflakes, followed by bacon, scrambled eggs and salad – yep salad – odd and it didn't work because it had a rose marie sauce on it, but it was the Café Uhrlaub version of an English breakfast. Our waitress was very smiley, chatty and polite, so much it helped us to decide to go back the next day. Not sure you can call Lasagne or Chilli Con Carne breakfast, but it was the first meal of the day as we had only been up an hour, it was 12 O'Clock and wasn't sure if they were still doing breakfast dishes.

 On our first evening we went somewhere very local to our hotel, it was so local it was actually next door. It was a shabby looking pub that did traditional German dishes, so schnitzels were had all round. I had a wiener schnitzel, which was a pork steak flattened and covered in bread crumbs then fried in a lot of fat. It is traditionally made with veal, but luckily for me it was pork as I'm not a fan of veal (because I don't approve and no, I'm not going to have a debate about it). It can also be made with chicken. One of my friends had zigeuner schnitzel which is made with spicy tomato sauce and mushrooms. My other friend just had a chicken breast (which had also been flattened), grilled with parsley butter put on top. All came with fried potatos and a side salad. It was wonderfully cheap and it filled a gap, ready for a big party we where going to later that evening. Not somewhere I would rush back to in a hurry for food, but it was a great authentic pub, with wonderful staff, so we frequented on our last night for a last few drinks.

The meal of the weekend was a restaurant called Vasco Da Gama, a popular rustic Spainsh/Portuguese, where all my friends agreed, the food was good and well cooked. As we decided not to have a starter we were each given a small bowl of fresh salad to start, which was nice and crisp with a little vinegarette dressing. I had a rice dish of prawns and cuttle fish, in a rich tomato sauce which was let down by the use of a cheap stock. Cuttle fish can be easily ruined if overcooked as it becomes tough and chewy, but it was perfectly cooked and the prawns were tasty and meaty, even though there were only two of them. If they had used a good fish stock, this would have been a superb dish. Two of my friends had mixed grill and both agreed was very tasty with the Portuguese sausage being the biggest hit. My other two friends had grilled lamb in a red wine sauce, which they both agreed had been cooked well and as they wanted. They also agreed the sauce didn't overpower the succulent lamb and the separate vegetables had been well cooked and weren't like mothers overcooked versions (haha).

The worst meal was our last night, an Italian restaurant which looked very elegant, but the food served, was something from a 70's trattoria. Myself and my partner were served soggy pizzas. The others had grilled lamb, which was not cooked as ordered and was not as good as Vasco De Garma and a beefsteak which was tough and overcooked. The place was average at best and not one we will be going to again. It was so bad I can't even remember what it was called or is that selective memory?

The biggest regret, when leaving the clubs at 0400 was nothing was open, so I didn't get to have my beloved dirty currywurst, much to my disappointment. But not to worry, whilst waiting for our taxi to take us to the airport, I ran into a local supermarket to purchase some German susages and lo and behold there was a plastic box filled with currywurst which I will be having for my lunch some time this week..................hmmmmmmmm currywurst.........

So if you are ever in Hamburg make a trip to Vasco Da Gama located at Lange Reihe 67 20099 Sankt George for a evening meal or Cafe Uhrlaub which is on the same street as Vasco Da Gama, for breakfast and you could visit the website – but only if you can read German http://www.cafeuhrlaub.de/index1.htm

BBC2 - Great British Bake Off

I didn't know this programme existed until I was sent the book and so didn't watch the first series, so decided to see what it was like, to see if I was missing something

I thought Master Chef was a hard to amateur contestants, but that is nothing compared to this programme. I was completely amazed at the skills of these contestants. I can barley cook biscuits, first attempts yesterday, let along cup cakes, battenberg and a tiered cake. Even the person who didn't make the second episode was good, but was soon shown to be inadequate against his other skilled colleagues.

For a witty review read Sam Wallaston at the Guardian.Review
I had a similar view point regarding my not being interested in baking, but seeing as I'm writing a blog about food, I am going to have to get interested. After all, I say I am going to cover all aspects of food. I'm also looking for to learning some more skills, although I pity my other half as he is going to have to put up with a lot of swearing and bad tempers when I get it wrong.

Photograph BBC2 - Paul Hollywood, Mary Bell, Sue and Mel
I am certainly looking forward to watching the rest of the series, which can be found on BBC2 on Tuesday nights at 2000 - or you can watch on BBC's iPlayer.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Great British Bake Off – Oat and Raisin Biscuits

Although I love cooking, one area I have no real skill or confidence in is baking. The thought of making cakes and pies terrifies me, as there is nothing more embarassing if you make a soggy cake or muffins etc.

But, the other day I was sent a copy of the BBC book The Great British Bake Off, How To Bake. Which is related to the new series that is starting on BBC 2 tonight 16 August 2011 – see website for more information - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013pqnm

I opened the book with trepidation and scanned the book to find the easiest recipe to attempt first. I'm not very good at trying things again and again, if I get it wrong and when it comes to food, it I don't make it right I buy it in – hahahahaha.

So, my first major attempt at baking was, Oat and Raisin Biscuits which is found on page 96. To prove it was the easiest recipe, it's got a sign on the page saying Easy For Kids- yep that's me and that shows how nervous I am about baking.

Here is the recipe and it makes about 30 really yummy biscuits.

125g unsalted butter, softened
150g light brown muscovado sugar
1 large free-range egg at room temperature
1 tbs full-fat or semi-skimmed milk
½ tsp of vanilla extract
100g self raising flour
75g raisins
150 porridge oats – make sure they're normal oats and not instant oats or porridge mix

1-2 greased baking sheets – just rub some butter in your hands and rub on the paper.

Prehead the over to 180C. Put the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until pale and fluffy in texture. In another bowl beat the egg with the milk and vanilla until just combined, then beat into the butter mixture. Add the flour, raisins and oats to the bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Put heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets, placing well apart to allow for spreading (Bake in batches if necessary). Bake for 12 to 15 mintues or until the biscuits are lightly browned around the edges.

Remove from the oven and leave the biscuits to cool and firm up on the sheets for a couple of minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Store the biscuits in an airtight container and eat within 5 days.

As the book said it was very easy to follow without anything scary. In fact I couldn't wait for them to cool down completely and had to scoff a few and they were very tasty. I also had great fun following this recipe although mixing the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon is rather tiring. It was so hard I would prefer to do a one hour work out at the gym. I might even give up my gym membership as it will be more fun and cheaper mixing cake and biscuit recipes hahaha. One of the first things I am going to do is purchase an electric mixer, seeing as I'm going to do a lot more baking!

I will let you know how I get on and add them to the blog as well as watch the TV programmes and if I miss any then I will watch on iplayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/

RRP £25 which can be purchased at any decent book store or website


A friend sent me this today and I've been to restaurants where people eat like animals - like me when very hungry.....hahaha

Monday, 15 August 2011

Easy Chicken Lunch

When I am not working and at home, I have several lunches that I frequently make and this is one of them. I just love roasting chicken that has been covered in olive oil, salt and pepper rubbed into the skin and then roasted.

2 chicken thighs
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
bag of rocket, spinach and watercress salad leaves (most of the big supermarkets stock this mix of salad leaves – but if they don't any strong tasting mixed salad leaves will do)
serves 1 (just haha)

Rub the extra virgin olive oil onto the skin of the chicken thighs and then add salt and pepper to them.

Cook the thighs in a preheated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes. It depends on the size of the thighs and your oven, but to ensure they are cooked, put a sharp knife into the thighs and press and if they run clear (no blood) then they are cooked.

Put the salad leaves onto a plate and place the cooked chicken thighs on to the leaves. The juices from the chicken will wilt the salad leaves and add a wonderful flavour. I find the strong flavour of the leaves do not lose any intensity as they gently cook under the chicken.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hmmmmmm Currywurst

Off to Hamburg this weekend and am looking forward to having the German version of the 3am drunken kebab - currywurst - a bratwurst  with curry ketchup.

Will update the blog with my food experience when I get back.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Supermarkets Fresh Herbs

I love using fresh herbs (apart from oregano, which I find better dried). Unfortunately I find that our local supermarket sells herbs in packs that contain more than I need. Once I have used all that I need they end up in the bottom of the fridge and more often end up in the compost bin.

I recently had a eureka moment (yes I know I'm slow), but with all the plastic microwave dishes I get from having a take out., I put all herbs that are left into the dishes and put them in the freezer.

When I now need herbs, I check the freezer to see if I have what I need and take some out- they take minutes to defrost but of course you can add them to casseroles for example still frozen.

Mind you if you can be bothered, you could have a little herb garden, which is even better! I recently was given a small herb garden in a large metal container which contain tarragon, chives, mint, oregano (which I will dry) and loveage which I have been using them more often than I thought I would.

Potato Salad

I am not a fan of mayonnaise, which can be a real pain, because it's used in so many recipes, prawn cocktail, potato salad and pre-made sandwiches to highlight a few. It's not the taste I dislike, I just find there is always to much added and overpowers the dish.

So, a friend showed me alternatives and for potato salad and one that I now always use and have done for years. It does contain some mayo, but it is a minority ingredient. Sometimes I don't add mayo at all, but it's not quite as creamy.

New potatoes, cooked and cooled down
Low fat yoghurt

Just mix it all together, being careful not to break the potatoes and once completed sprinkle on some paprika – if you a bit bold try cayenne pepper.

I haven't put the amounts down, as it depends on your preference, but for every 4 teaspoons of yoghurt I use 1 teaspoon of mayo.

I sometimes add other ingredients, like capers or cornichons, but then I guess it's no longer potato salad.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Mushroom with Pesto and Goats Cheese

This is a great way to start a meal, not everybody likes goats cheese, so you could use any soft cheese, but it needs to be fairly strong as the pesto will be over be over powering

2 Large Portobello (field) mushroom
2 tsp of pesto (green or red)
100g goats cheese (50g per mushroom)
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh pepper
Mixed salad leaves
serves 2

Pre heat the oven to 180c. Take out the stem from mushroom and cut it up in to tiny pieces. Put the mushrooms on a baking tray so that 'gills' are facing up. Put a teaspoon of pesto in each mushroom and spread it over, then add the cut up pieces of the stem on top. Place 50g of goats cheese on the top (it needs to cover the mushroom without hanging off the edges). Drizzle some olive oil over the mushroom, season with pepper and then place in the oven and cook between 10-15 minutes. There's enough salt in the cheese so extra isn't needed.

Place some salad leaves on a small plate and put a cooked mushroom on top and enjoy.

Although I have this as a starter it could be part of a vegetarian main course, serve with roasted vegetable cous cous (cut up some vegetables, roast and add them to cooked cous cous with some chopped basil).

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Leek and Bacon Risotto

I am not a fan of making risotto, because I am too lazy, for me it's too much effort Standing for 30 minutes, stirring, stirring and more stirring, but if someone else makes it for me, then bring it on! When I go to restaurants there has to be something that makes me go yes, that is what I want, but, I am not aware that risotto has ever done that. This doesn't mean I haven't eaten risotto in a restaurant, as I have a few times, but that is only because the others things on the menu haven't tweaked my interest. When I saw this recipe in a Tesco Real Food Magazine (which you can get instore for free) it didn't do much for me, but, I wasn't cooking it and I wasn't in the mood to argue.

8 slices of thick cut unsmoked bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
350g arborio rice
1½ ltr hot chicken stock
150ml white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leave picked off sprigs
1 tbsp crème fraiche
2 tbsp parmesan chesses, plus extra for serving
Salt and pepper to season
serves 4 or 2 when saving for lunch the next day

Heat a grill and cook the bacon for a few minutes until cooked through and beginning to crisp, remove, chop into pieces and keep warm.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a large pan with a lid and cook the sliced leeks over a high heat, stirring, for about 8 minutes or until soft, in the last 2 minutes add the crushed garlic. Then stir in the rice so it's well coated and cook for a minute more.

Turn the heat down to medium, pour in the wine and keep stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Gradually add the piping-hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until completely absorbed before adding more. Repeat until the risotto is thick and creamy, but the grains still have some bite (about 25 minutes)

Season with salt and pepper, stir in the cooked bacon, thyme leaves, crème fraiche and Parmesan. Turn off the heat and put on the lid and allow to rest for 5-6 minutes. Add the extra Parmesan when serving.

Actually after eating it, my attitude to risotto hasn't change, I won't be making them in a hurry, as this didn't wow me, and if we did make this again (which I doubt very much) I would use good smoked bacon and add more thyme. I wouldn't bother with the crème fraiche as it didn't come through at all.

I have to say though it was very well cooked, the rice had a nice bite to it, and it was very creamy......hopefully that will get me out of trouble with my partner.......