Thursday, 29 September 2011


I have worked in IT for over 20 years as a support technician amongst other things and  like most industries the use of acronyms were wildly used. Within the team I worked with we had some of our own and they were normally at the detriment of the user. Here are a few we used: FUE, fatal user error, Id10T - I think this is obvious (!), but my favourite was RTFM.  So many times users would come up to me and say my home computer this, my home computer that - like I know what their problems were, I would say RTFM, which means Read The F****** Manual.  This was always said in jest and was always taken in good humour.

The last two days I have attempted to do two new recipes. I just scanned over the ingredients and recipes and went to my local Tesco and attempted to make them.

Lasagne - yep never made one before
Well they didn't come out very well because I didn't RTMF correctly! My partner had great joy in taking the mickey- he always says read the method twice before starting.  The dishes didn't come out too bad, but I should have read the recipe clearly before I attempted them. I have included pictures of the dishes, to prove they didn't look too bad, but they were not correct.  I will try them again, but I will RTMF when trying all new recipes in future!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Kimchee Restaurant Review

Today I had to go to the doctors which is always depressing, so I decided to treat myself to lunch for 1. So I took myself to a local Korean restaurant in Golders Green called Kimchee. It was very quiet, which is what I wanted, but it was almost 1345, so most people had already left. The restaurant is very basic, but each table have a BBQ grill in the centre, for there spea

Whilst looking at the menu I thought that I should remember the correct names of the dishes I was ordering, but decided not to bother as I would be able to get the information from their website – ooopppps, they don't have a website, so for my shame I will have to say what they where, that will teach me.

I decide on a starter of boiled chicken dumplings, followed by seafood udon noodles, (which came from some seaweed soup), but requested that they brough it out together.

So whilst supping a cup of green tea, some side dishes where delivered, which I wasn't expecting. Delieverd was a small plate of spicy pickled radish, another with spicy pickled cabbage (kimchee), yet another with pickled bamboo shoots. I had a quick taste of the pickled radish and it had a great crunchy texture with a great warming heat. I could have eaten it all there and then but held off whilst awaiting my other dishes.

The chicken dumplings turned up first and all I can say was omg (oh my god), they where stunning (that is no understatement) and with the soya sauce they where magic. I often find the sauce salty but not this time and it improved them, if that was possible. After a few minutes the seafood udon noddles turned up, which was actually disappointing. There wasn't a lot of seafood and the one prawn, baby octupuss and small mussels where okay, but the squid was tough. The noddles where well cooked and a great bite but the sauce was a bit lacking. With all that food it also came with a seaweed soup, which again was excellent. The miso, that made up the soup, was flavoursome, with out being salty.

I am finding it very hard to not go on and on about this place as I really loved it. All these great flavours that blended so well together, I cannot wait to go back again for lunch. I do wonder if the food would be as good when the place is busy, so I will try it out and when I do I will edit this entry.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Chilli Con Carne Pie

When I was first told the name of this dish, I bulked at the idea as I really didn't like the sound of it. Chilli con carne pie, the thought of a delicious chilli covered in a pastry, just doesn't sound right.

Well, I should have considered the quote, “don't judge a book by it's cover”. This is more of a Mexican shepherd pie, with the meat sauce being a chilli (of sorts) and the topping of mashed potato but with turmeric and coriander. I still think it's an odd dish but surprisingly it works well and I have enjoyed it several times now. I served it with brussel sprouts, even though they are one of my least favourite veg, but it's my other half's favourite so I oblige – how wonderful am I? :-).

I got the recipe from Tesco's website, and as I said in an earlier post, when I went to my local Tesco they were missing a few ingredients and so had to compromise but it still came out very well.

For the Mash

900g floury peeled potatoes (such as Maris Piper)
3tbsp hot semi skimmed milk (I used cold and it is okay)
1 tsp ground turmeric
2tbsp fresh coriander chopped

For the filling

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
250g beef mince
2 red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp red pepper tapenade (I had to make my own – but not a major issue if not used)
400g tin chopped tomatoes (or buy cheaper plum tomatoes and chop up)
300ml vegetable stock
100g puy lentils (I had to use red lentils as our local store didn't have any puy lentils)
400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15g plain dark chocolate (yes really!)
Freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the mince and cook until the beef has changed colour. Then add the chilli and cumin and cook for about 1 minutes, stirring continuously.

Add the tapenade (if using). tinned tomatoes, stock, lentils, kidney beans, then bring to boil and then simmer for 25-30 minutes. Stir in the chocolate and black pepper.

Meanwhile cut the potatoes into chunks, add to a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until tender, drain and then add the turmeric, milk and coriander and mash all together.

Preheat the grill. Spoon the hot chilli beef into a gratin dish and spread the hot mashed potato roughly over the top, covering all of the chilli beef. Place under the grill for 5 minutes or until topping is crisp and golden brown.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Beef Casserole

You are going to think me mad, but I look forward to winter, not because of the weather, but because of the food. I love slowed cooked food like casseroles and stews which are wonderfully warming and homely, just what is need on those cold dark nights. I also use it for as an excuse to stuff my face, as you need to “stock up” for winter. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it.

So with winter fast approaching, it's only 12 weeks until Christmas (groan), I made my first cassserole I needed to get some practice in before the real nasty weather arrives. I've made this recipe so often I now just throw things in. I have a standard list of ingredients and over the years I've added some other winter vegetables to add a different dimension which make a nice change

Standard ingredients
1tbls flour
salt and pepper (seasoning)
400g Beef (cheapest cut as it get cooked for hours)
Bag of shallots peeled (small ones left whole large ones cut in half)
½ bottle of red wine (I bought a whole bottle and glugged what was left whilst cooking)
2 carrots sliced
4 celery sliced
250g button mushrooms
500ml beef stock
3 bay leaves
1 tbls mixed herbs
(serves 4-6)

Sometimes the stock is not thick enough, so you can make a roux to help thicken it. To do this just melt 20g butter in pan, add 20g plain flour and mix together on the heat for about 3-4 minutes. Then stir into the casserole and this will thicken it.

sweet potato

Pre-heat the over to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 5
Season the flour with salt and pepper, cut up the beef and mix up in the flour mixture.

Add the oil to heat proof casserole dish and bring to high heat, then add the beef (a few pieces at a time) and move around until brown and then remove. Do this until you have completely browned all the beef.

Turn down the heat and add the shallots and cook for a few minutes, then add carrots, celery and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring often.

Then add the beef, mix together and then add the wine. Stir together ensuring you are rubbing the bottom on the dish, so that you mix the “burnt” parts stuck to the bottom, which enshance the flavour.

Add the stock and mushrooms, herbs and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Then place in oven, for 30 mintues and then lower to 140C/275F/Gas Mark 1 and cook for a minimum of 2 hours. Ensuring you check from time to time and stir to ensure it doesn't stick, if needed add more water and seasoning .As with most of my dishes the longer you cook it the better.

As I said earlier I have cooked this recipe a lot of times, but for some unknown reason I didn't enjoy it. My partner loved it, but for me something was wrong. I used new potatoes this time, but for me it didn't work. The carrots and mushrooms didn't have the usual full flavour, just as well this was a practice run. Please don't let this put you off, as it is a great recipe.

Tesco Moan

Tonight I am going to make Chilli Con Carne Pie which my partner found in the recipe section on the Tesco website.

So why is it when I try to get the ingredients they don't have them, in this instance they didn't have red pepper tapendade and puy lentils. I could understand why they might not have the red pepper tapenade, but puy lentils. I live in an area that has a lot of enthic people and so I would have thought the puy lentils would have been a staple.

If they are putting a recipe on their website they should at least ensure their stores have the ingredients in stock.

Normally I wouldn't complain, but this happens all the time. If I had a £1 for each time I went into our local Tesco and they where missing an ingredient or two I would be able to retire. In fact three weeks ago I went to buy a Kindle, picked up the box, took it to the cashier only to find that I had to go the customer service counter to be advised that they didn't have any in stock. Why have the box on display if you don't have any.

Moan over and will attempted to compromise – will attempt to make my own red pepper tapenade and will use red lentil instead – fingers crossed – will let you know the outcome.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Ramsey's Hell Kitchen US.

I have just watched Ramsey's Hell Kitchen USA on Channel 4 and all I can say is F@*&

Angela Harnett's "A Taste of Home"

RRP £25

I am becoming a yes man and I don't like it, but what am I going to do? I have just received a copy of Angela Harnett's 'A Taste of Home' recipe book today. After a quick glance, as I had to go out about 15 minutes after it was delivered, there appeared to be some great recipes. I so want to do a recipe and be able to say 'horrible it doesn't work.' But it doesn't appear that is going to happen with this book. Although I only had a quick scan. But how are you going to rubbish Irish stew, grilled squid and tomato salsa?

The book is broken down into 9 headings including snacks, soups, pies, gratins and desserts. There do appear to be some amazing recipes. Under the snack headings there where a few that bounced out, clams with chorizo and rocket, crab fritters and then sardines on toast - and they are just recipes 3, 4 and 5 in the book! So what else am I going to find? 

Whilst writing this article I thought I would just open any page of the book, to see if I could pick out something I didn't like or doesn't do anything for me. I opened the book to a recipe for Sausages with Lentils and Herbs. There is no way I am going to hate this because the recipe is similar to the recipe I blogged a few days ago. So, I will try again- how does Rigatoni with Fennel and Sausage sound? Sounds good to me.....aaarrggghhh. Am I ever going to get to cook something from Rick Stein's Spain?

I do have a little something to moan about (yyyeeeaaahhh).There are not a lot of pasta dishes and that was something I was expecting, seeing as pasta is Angela's forte. But then again it was my expectation- damn!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Smoked Haddock and Watercress Quiche - Great British Bake Off

Seeing as it was the quarter finals of the Great British Bake Off, (Tuesday on BBC2 at 8pm- you can watch the programme again on iplayer – Great British Bake Off iPlayer Link) and that I had time on my hands I decided to attempt to make a Smoked Haddock and Watercress Quiche. Like the Tarte Au Citron I've never made a quiche so I was apprehensive in trying something new. I was very pleased with the outcome, even though I had the slight hiccup with the blind bake process.

Sometimes when I see an extensive menu I think ‘can I be bothered?’ as it's going to take a long time and it looks complicated. The instructions are fairly extensive but very easy to follow and this has helped me become a lot more confident about baking. I have followed the series and been reading the book and can honestly say that I will no longer cower away from baking as each recipe I have tried has turned out successfully (well I think so!) I would say that it has given me a boost to tackle another weak area of my cooking, sauces, but that is for another entry. If anybody knows of a good sauce book please let me know. If you are nervous or new to baking then the Great British Bake Off- How to Bake book is a very good starting point.

For the pastry:

200g plain flour
good pinch of salt
100g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
about 3tbl ice cold water

For the filling:

350g smoked haddock (undyed)
300ml full fat milk
30g butter
1 small onion (I used 4 shallots)
1 celery stick, finely chopped
30g plain flour
freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
75g watercress chopped to the size of 20p pieces
2 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan

(serves 4)

1 x 23cm deep loose based flan tin and a baking sheet (heat this in the oven)

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Put in the butter, cutting into small lumps and rub in the butter until you have a soft breadcrumb texture. Add enough icy water to make the crumb mixture come together to form a firm dough. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pasty on a lightly floured surface and use to line the flan tin. Don't cut off the overhanging edges yet. Chill again for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Line the pastry with non-stick baking paper or foil and fill it with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes (once I removed the beans I noticed my pastry was not cooked, so I decided to carry on cooking without the beans however the pastry started to rise. So I had to put the beans back on top, push them down and had to put back the pastry back in the oven. I checked every 5 minutes until the based was completely cooked. Luckily for me the pastry was still supple and so did not break when I pushed the beans down). Once cooked remove from the oven and carefully trim off the overhanging pastry using a sharp knife, holding the knife at an angle and slicing away from you. Put back into the oven for another 5 minutes.

While the pastry case is baking put the haddock and milk in a pan (don't break up the fish). Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and gently poach for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool (reserve the milk).

Once cooled, flake the fish into a bowl discarding the skin and any bones. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium pan. Add the onion and celery and cook gently until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and stir. Cook for a few more minutes before adding the reserved milk a little at a time, stirring well. Cook, stirring until the sauce has boiled and thickened, then simmer for 1 minute. Season with freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste. Remove from the heat.

Add the eggs to the sauce and mix well, then fold in the flaked fish and watercress. Pour into the pastry case and sprinkle the Parmesan over the top.

Place the tin on the heated baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden. Allow to cool a little before removing the quiche from the flan tin.

The Great British Bake Off (How to Cook) book, which can be purchased from any good retailers at the recommended price of £25.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Brasserie Gerard - Review

Seeing as we had a quiet Saturday night, we decided that it would be nice to go for a Sunday lunch. After scanning the Tastecard website we decided that we would go and try out Brasserie Gerard in Belsize Park.

Like The Magdala it didn't start off very well. We sat down at our table and a waiter came over and asked if we wanted dessert, so we had to explain that we had only just sat down and hadn't even looked at the menu yet. This made us smile, but the service didn't get much better. We weren't told about the specials, we were not offered an aperitif and the wine list was taken away before we had decided if we wanted wine. Also our starters where taken to the wrong table, but we got it in the end and it was actually a lot better than the service. (though my partner burnt his finger on the extremely hot plate).

I had Camembert Chaud, which was a small Camembert (microwaved), so the centre was runny and it was pleasingly creamy. My partner had Champignon Farci, which was a portabello mushroom, topped with spinach, poached egg and a mornay sauce. The egg was perfectly cooked and the mornay sauce complimented the mushroom well.

I ordered the Demi Poulet (half a char-grilled chicken coated in herbs), and had it with honey and mustard sauce. The chicken was succulent and moist, but I couldn't taste the mustard in the sauce, but it did work well with the dish. When I ordered the chicken, I wasn't aware it came with either salad, new potatoes or pomme frites (as per the menu). Had I been aware I would have not ordered pomme frites, but that is what was automatically served as the waiter didn't ask what I actually wanted. They were well cooked, hot and crispy, but it showed another hiccup with the service. My partner ordered Salade de Poulet et Lardon, a salad with roasted chicken and bacon lardons, spinach and green beans, in a Dijon vinaigrette. He said the chicken was cooked okay, nothing special, but he couldn't taste the vinaigrette.

The only problem with both of my dishes was not the taste or flavour but lack of colour on the plate and as they say “you first eat food with your eyes”. At least my partners dishes looked appetising, see picture and you'll see what I mean.

The whole experience was certainly lacking sparkle and we both agreed that we would not go back and we would have felt very aggrieved at the price, had we not saved £18 with the Tastecard. The cost was still £53.48, for a 2 course meal with a bottle of wine, beer and gin and tonic. They do a Plat de Jour, which looked nice, but we couldn't order as we were using the Tastecard.

Brasserie Gerard Weblink

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Three Versions of Spaghetti Bolognese

I was visiting some friends a while back and when I woke up, there was a wonderful aroma permeating around the house. I dragged my tired carcass into the kitchen where my friend, Lyd, was stirring a bowl of beef mince and so stuck my nose in to smell and asked what it was. She was cooking a spag bol (spaghetti bolognese), but it didn't smell or look like any spag bol I had seen before. Which got us talking about how spag bol has many different variations and everybody appears to have their own make on this dish. Although we had different recipes we both agreed the longer it cooks the better the flavour. In fact, Lyd cooked her dish for almost 5 hours and it was delicious.

At the beginning of the year I was talking to another friend about how I made a spag bol which I cooked for 3 hours and he wanted my recipe to put on his blog. He also heard that there was an original version of this from Bologna and so did a search for it's history and found it on Wikipedia. It used milk and white wine and no tomatoes as oppose to red wine and tomatoes I use. I tried it out and it was great, the milk gave the meat a wonderful silky texture. I checked out the Wikipedia entry and was surprised to find that the dish was only registered in 1982 by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina- for more information see:

All three version are so different, I decided to list them on one blog entry. I have tried all three and they are all very tasty, with different flavours and textures and hope you do as well. I would be very interested in hearing what you think and please contact me if you have a different version, so that I can try it out and if you allow me, to put an entry on this blog

Original version

300g beef skirt (I cheated and used beef mince)
150g pancetta (I used cut up streaky bacon)
50g carrots chopped
50g celery chopped
50g onion chopped
20g tomato purée
250ml milk
125-200ml white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Add the pancetta in the pan and cook until browned, add the chopped carrots, celery and onion and leave to cook until soft. Next add the mince and leave to gently simmer for about 5-10 mins stirring constantly to stop it from burning. Add the wine and tomato purée and leave to simmer very slowly for 2 hours. During the cooking time add a bit of the milk a little a little at a time to ensure you've used it all up over the 2 hours. They recommend you use tagiltelle, as there is more surface area for the sauce to stick to, but any pasta will do.

Lyd's version

300g mince beef
1 large onion
½ tube of tomato purée
1 beef stock cube (made up to 500ml)
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 bay leaves
½ bottle of red wine
salt and pepper
Dried mint leaves

Fry the onions until soft add the mince and brown. Add salt, pepper and the tomato purée, fry until the purée is almost burning, as this intensifies the flavour. Add the stock, wine, cinnamon stick and bay leaves and stir in and cook for as long as you like.

As I said, Lyd cooked her version for 5 hours and it was incredibly tasty. Serve with any pasta and serve with dried mint leaves on top. I have omitted an ingredient from the version she cooked which was butter. When I cooked her version I was trying to be healthy. She added 75g of it in the sauce and added 75g to the pasta, once cooked, and stirred until it was melted and covered the pasta. So if you are not worried about the health aspect of all that butter then add it, because it does add to the taste and texture.

Donkey's version

300g of mince beef
1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
2 celery stalks finely chopped
6 mushrooms finely chopped
250ml red wine
400g tin tomatoes
1 tbs tomato purée
1 tsp Worcester sauce
salt and pepper to season

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and cook for a few minutes and then add the garlic and cook until the onion is soft. Then add the mince and brown (drain off any excess fat). Once browned add the carrots, celery and mushrooms and stir well. Add the wine stirring constantly for about 5-10minutes, so that the wine has almost evaporated. Then add the tin of tomatoes, tomato purée, Worcester sauce, salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 2 hours (or as long as you like) stirring from time to time to ensure it doesn't dry out and stick or burn. You may need to add a little water if appears to be getting a bit dry.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Sausages with Green Lentils and Thyme

I was never a fan of lentils when growing up, but as my taste buds have changed, lentils now play a larger part in my diet and this dish has become one of our standard dishes. We did get it from a recipe book, but we've been having it for so long now I don't remember which book it is from.

250g green (Puy) lentils (washed)
125-150g of smoked bacon lardons (or 4-6 slices of streaky bacon cut up)
3 large shallots (or medium onion) finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic finely chopped
1 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1tbs fresh thyme (or used dried)
1ltr of chicken stock
2tbs olive oil
8 sausages (what ever you prefer)
serves 4

Put the bacon lardons in the pan and cook until lightly browned. Add the olive oil and add the chopped onion and garlic with the bacon and cook until the onion is soft. Then add the carrots and lentils in the pan and stir well to combine then add the thyme. Add enouggh of the stock, until it just covers the lentils. Cook them for 45 - 60 minutes topping up the stock level as it reduces. The cooking time varies as it depends on how you like your lentils. I like them with a bit of a bite, whereas my partner prefers them to be softer.

Refer to the cooking instructions on your sausages and cook them whilst finishing off the lentils. I have used many different vareties over the years and all go very well with the lentils. Last night I used venison sausages (and they took 10-12 minutes to cook so started cooking them 40 minutes after starting to cooking the lentils).

Once all completed put in a bowl and place 2 sausages on top.

I'm a bit of a chilli nut, so I normally add some chilli sauce to my lentils once served up. My favourites are Habanero Tabasco or Encona Hot  

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Craving for Pork

I've just come back from baking myself on a sun lounger in Egypt. I stayed at an all inclusive Hilton hotel in Sharm El Sheik, where the food was lacking in – errr what is the word I looking for – oh yeah – everything. I appreciate it must be very difficult to cater for multicultural masses but surely they could even get the basics correct. But I digress because this article is not about me complaining about the overall food at our hotel it's about pork at the hotel (or rather lack of).

Whilst surveying the buffet meals at the hotel, I noticed that the dishes had labels that said “bacon” “ham”, but I could tell that it wasn't pork and being a predominantly Muslim country I suspected that they wouldn't serve pork. For me this is not a problem. In fact I enjoyed the idea of how they were going to cook classic pork dishes with a substitute. For breakfast they served up chicken or beef chipolata sausages, the beef ones were okay but the chicken sausages were tasteless and looked very anaemic. They also served up thin slices of smoked beef that closely resembled bacon, it even had fat on it that looked like rind. They created a European breakfast, but used, turkey and chicken in place of ham. Whilst queuing for a freshly made omelette I would smile when I heard people asking for ham as an ingredient and they didn't realise it wasn't pork. One evening they served carbonara, which they made with smoked turkey slices, cut up like bacon, which didn't actually work, but 10 out of 10 for trying.

I travel to Dubai at least once a year and am able to purchase pork in most supermarkets and restaurants and so was surprised when I couldn't get pork at our hotel. I asked the head chef about this and he said that it was the hotel's policy of not serving pork in Egypt and that it is also very difficult to find Egyptian chefs that would prepare pork.

I did have a problem though, towards the end of the holiday as I wanted bacon, I wanted ham, I WANTED pork. Why is it when you can't have something, you desire it more (I am the same if I fly on a dry airline and you can't have a drink). On the last day of our holiday I said to my friends that I was really keen to have pork and that on my first full day at home, I was going to have a bacon sandwich for breakfast, ham sandwich for lunch and pork chops for dinner! Although my friends thought I was going a bit too far, they did agree about wanting something when you couldn't have it and they missed having pork.

Unfortunately my desire for pork couldn't wait that long. On the plane back home, they were serving a selection of foods, and luckily for me they had a hot bacon rbaguette left so with my continuing urge for pork I ordered one. I ate it so quickly it looked like I hadn't eaten for days. I also had a bacon sandwich this morning for breakfast and so have managed to subdue my pork craving. At least this weekend I am going to Berlin and won't have that problem as Germans love their pork, so I wonder if I'll get another craving........