Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cinnamon and Almond Cous Cous

When I was a child (a LONG time ago) we had never heard of, let alone ate, cous cous. Where I was brought up cous cous was never available in the shops, but I should stress this was in the days before we had large supermarkets. But over the years I have become a very big fan of cous cous because it is so versatile. It is easy and quick to prepare (unless you do it the long way, which is to cook it over a stew so it is steamed). It easily absorbs other flavours. It's healthy, low in fat and now you can purchase a wholegrain version which has more fibre and adds a light nutty flavour. It can make a great salad and can be used as a side dish in so many recipes. What is also great is my young niece and nephew love it, which I think is brilliant, much better than burgers and chips

What I also like about cous cous is you can have it plain or add extra ingredients to enhance the flavours so it can compliment the dish you are having it with. As an example this cous cous recipe goes really well with Moroccan style turkey (which I am posting very soon).

  • 225g cous cous
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tbsp toasted almond flakes
  • 1tbsp freshly chopped coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • (serves 4)

Put the cous cous into a bowl and cover with bowling water and let it stand for 5 minutes. Place into a microwave and cook for 90 seconds.

Add the cinnamon, almond flakes and chopped coriander and a little salt. With a fork, lightly fluff it up, until all mixed together.

Serve on a plate/bowl with the Moroccan style turkey.

Here are some other recipes that plain cous cous can be served with

Monday, 27 February 2012

Two Little Tips

Two tips to help from throwing food and drink away.

1) If you have some stale bread, don't throw it away, just put the bread into a food processor and blitz it, to make into breadcrumbs. Place into a bag or box and put it in the freezer. Then take out as needed for recipe like fishcakes (see a recipe HERE) or maybe home made fish fingers (coming soon) or any other recipe were breadcrumbs are needed.

2) This very rarely happens in our house, because we never have wine left over. Maybe I should leave some, that way I won't have hangovers in the morning :-). But, if you are more sensible than me and find you have some wine left over, place the wine into an ice tray and put it in the freezer, making sure you don't spill it over the breadcrumbs :-). When you need to add wine, like spaghetti bolognese (see recipes HERE) just use 4-6 cubes.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Grilled Sardine Salad

Seeing as I've been stuffing my face with chocolate crackles, I thought I should make up for it and have something light for lunch but wasn't sure what to have. I was walking around my local supermarket and at the fresh fish counter and they had some great looking fresh sardines so decided to make a grilled sardine salad.

I really love the three leaf salad you can get in the supermarkets of watercress, spinach and rocket, because it's wonderfully peppery, but I thought it might be a bit boring with just sardines. I wondered what I could do to give the leafs a kick, so I came up with idea of mixing it with some toasted mixed seeds and a critic dressing. Also as the sardines are hot, they will release moisture into the salad and add more flavour to the leafs and dressing.

This serves four for lunch or four as a starter.
  • 12 sardines
  • 25g mixed seeds
  • bag of watercress, rocket and spinach leaves
  • 1 ripe advocado, peeled, stoned and cut into cubes
  • 1 juice of lime
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper.
  • (serves four)

Grill the sardines until cooked, about 5 minutes per side.

Put the seeds into a dry pan and heat up until lightly toasted and slightly brown.

Put the salad leaves into a bowl, add in the toasted seeds, the advocado pieces and mix together.

Put the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper into a bowl and mix together. Once all blended together add the dressing into the salad stir together until it covers all the leafs.

Take the grilled sardines and also place into the bowel and mix together. The sardines will break up, which is fine.

Serve with some warm fresh crusty bread and enjoy.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Chocolate Crackels

It's not easy eating a healthy diet, although I love healthier food as it's light, fresh and very tasty it never seems to satiate my urge for something sweet and sticky afterwards. With the exception of the carrot cake, see here, I haven't eaten anything too unhealthy, but I thought what the hell I need to be able to eat something bad otherwise I'm going to become very boring.

With the idea of making something sweet I realised I hadn't done anything from the Great British Bake Off ( RRP £25) for a long time and so searched the book to see what was going to help me cut my cravings. One recipe that keep coming to my attention, whilst flicking through the book, was chocolate crackles and as I love dark chocolate that is what I decided to make. You can purchase the book from the link at the bottom of this post.

This recipe makes 30 biscuits but I didn't want as many as that so when I let the biscuit dough rest, I took half the mixture to make the biscuits and I placed the other half into cling film, rolled into a large sausage shape and then placed into the freezer. When I want to use it I will let the recipe defrost slightly so that I can cut the dough into circles and cook for 15-17 minutes.

  • 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) roughly chopped
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 large free range egg (at room temperature)
  • ½tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g self raising flour
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2-3tbsp icing sugar
  • 1-2 baking sheets, greased or silicone baking sheets
  • (makes approx 30)

Put a bowl over a pan of hot water, ensuring that the water is not boiling and the water is not touching the bowl. Place the chocolate in the bowl and let is slowly melt

Once the chocolate has melted remove from the pan and add the softened butter and stir it all together. Once completed stir in the butter, once done leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the egg and the vanilla extract just until combined, then add it to the cool chocolate mixture.

Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill for about 1 hour or until firm

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Divide the chocolate dough into approximately 30 even-sized pieces and roll into next balls. Spoon the icing sugar into a shallow dish. Roll the balls, one at a time, into the sugar to coat thickly.

Set the balls on the prepared baking sheeting, spacing well apart. (bake the biscuits in batches, if necessary).

Bake for 10 minutes for a softer biscuit or 12 minutes for a crisp biscuits. Remove from the oven and let it cool down for a couple of minutes. Then remove from the baking sheets and place on a wire rack to cool. Store in a air tight container and eat within 5 days, like there'll last that long.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Pork and Soup

This is one of my mother inlaws dishes that my other half loves, as he had this dish as a kid. It's quick and easy with no major amount of cooking, so it’s perfect for my friend Fireman Sam. I don't like the original version which uses tomato soup, as I'm not a fan of tomato soup, but the great thing about this dish is you can use different soups and different herbs. At the bottom of this post I've added other soups and herbs that could be used. Oh I forgot to say, it's tinned soup- I did say it was easy!

  • 2 pork chops (fat removed)
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 400g tin of mushroom soup
  • 1tsp dried tarragon (you can of course use fresh)
  • Black pepper to season

Bring the heat up on a frying pan and add the pork chops to brown, then remove from the pan and set aside, keeping them warm.

Turn down the heat, add the oil and the onions and cook until the onions are soft.

Return the pork chops and add the mushroom soup and tarragon. Stir together and put a lid on and cook for 20 minutes or until the chops are cooked. Season with the pepper.

Serve with plain boiled rice.

Other versions are:

Tomato Soup and Sage
Celery Soup and thyme or tarragon
Cream of Chicken soup and rosemary
Potato and Leek soup and oregano

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Beetroot Soup

I have only very bought raw beetroot to make fresh juice and I have never actually cooked them, but recently a friend recently made a salad with beetroot, to go with some wonderful BBQ sea bream. He roasted the beetroot and then dry fried some hazelnuts which he then mixed with salad leaves and made a light dressing and I was surprised at how tasty the beetroot was. So I thought I would buy some and see what I could do with them and the other day I was in my local supermarket and they had some beetroot reduced and so decided to purchase them.

Three days later the beetroot was still sitting in the fridge and has I had been busy I wasn't really sure what I could do with them. I wasn't go to make the salad, as for me it's far to cold for salad, so I decided I would make some brochst! Like a lot of recipes there were a lot of different varieties and so it was difficult to decide which was the original version or even close to an original version. I did find a good article in The Guardian about borscht, see HERE, but after much searching and consideration I decided to make a plain beetroot soup, which has been influenced by the recipes I had research, but I am not going to call it borscht.

I have used beef stock in this dish to add more depth of flavour to it, but you can easily use vegetable stock so that it is vegetarian and vegan.

  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 4 beetroots, peeled, roughly chop 3 of them and leave the 4th one whole
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper for seasoning.
  • low fat creme fraiche
  • serves 4

Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, throw in the chopped garlic and cook until the onions and garlic are soft.

Stir in the carrots and leeks to ensure they are covered by the oil and onion mixture and cook for 5 minute. Put the chopped beetroot into the pan and then add the stock, bring the soup to a rapid boil, then turn down and cook for 30 minutes or until the beetroot as soft.

Blend the soup together until smooth. Take the 4th beetroot and grate it and add to the soup along with the red wine vinegar and cook for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste and pour some creme fraiche when serving.

I like the soup thick, but you may want to add more water to thin it out.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

No Icing Sugar

Why spend extra money on icing sugar if you need just a little. Just put some granular or caster sugar into a pestle and mortar and grind it up. After a few minutes you will have perfect icing sugar

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Chicken and Fennel Pasta

Although I am still trying to keep to a healthy diet (and failing spectacularly after my goat curry the other night), I am trying to get back on track. I had some chicken breast pieces in the freezer and decided to make a chicken and roasted fennel sauce to go with wholemeal pasta. Another reason I need to get a healthy diet going is because in March I am going on a beach holiday and I don't want Greenpeace trying to push me back into the sea because I look like a beached whale, so I need to lose some weight.

I roasted the onion, garlic and fennel beforehand and as the outer layers of the onion and fennel can be tough when roasted, ensure you remove these layers before cutting and adding to the sauce.

The only reason I am using chicken breast pieces is because they were reduced in the supermarket. The only time I use chicken breast is when they are reduced as chicken thigh meat is in my view much better. The thigh meat has more flavour, is not as dry and it also helps to add more flavour to sauces.

  • 1 onion whole
  • 2 cloves of garlic, whole and in skins
  • 1 bulb of fennel, cut in half
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500g chicken cut in chunks
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 1tbsp tomato purée
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to season
  • (serves 4)

Pre-heat the oven to 140C and put the onion, garlic and fennel in a roasting tin. Add 1tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil and mix together. Place into the oven and cook for 45 minutes.

Once roasted take them out of the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled take the skins off the onion and garlic. Finely chop the onion and crush the two cloves of garlic.

Put the second tablespoon of oil into a pan and gently heat. Add the onion and heat for a few minutes, then add the crushed garlic and stir.

Add the chicken pieces into the pan and cook for 5 minutes, followed by the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée and smoked paprika and cook for another five minutes.

Cut up the fennel, removing any tough outer layers, and add to the sauce and cook until pasta is completed (approximately 15 minutes). Serve with wholewheat spaghetti

Friday, 10 February 2012

Delia Smith Video

I was scanning Youtube today for old cooking videos and I came across this great, almost patronising clip, of Delia Smith educating us on how to serve spaghetti bolognese. This made me smile because we take it for granted, but in the days this programme was made it would have been very new to most of us. Enjoy

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Kimchee update - Now called SARANG

I went for lunch at Kimchee today only find that it was no longer there and but a restaurant called Sarang. It was still a Korean restaurant and the plastic dishes in the window appeared to be the same, so I went in sat down and placed my order, I asked what had happened to Kimchee and was informed that they had just changed the name of the restaurant, phew is all I could say.

I had steamed meat dumplings with soy sauce, which was wonderfully light. I then order the spicy cod, tofu and seafood soup, which was very spicy, but with a gorgeous sour soup. It came with rice, which was nutty and sticky. It also came with three small side dishes, of mash potato with peas ( well that is what is looked and tasted like, pickled bean-sprouts and lastly a tasty spicy pickled cabbage (kimchee)

The service was really good and the food flavoursome and I would recommend it if you are around Golders Green.

See original Kimchee review HERE

Carrot Cake

My other half had a text last week day from our friend Fireman Sam, saying he wanted to see more desserts and cakes recipes. He struggles to cook more than baked beans without burning the toast, so goodness knows how he is going to bake cakes and desserts but miracles never cease to amaze me. The text has given my partner an excuse to nag me to make carrot cake, which he has asked for a fair few times. I am not a fan of carrot cake, but after much cake recipe searching I thought -why not? Also it would get my “better half” off my back and stop the nagging....I'm in trouble now....

After some research I found a lot of different versions of this cake and so based mine on the version in the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book. This is a bit of a bible cook book in our house and many recipes have been used from it. It is a book I highly recommend and can be purchased from the link at the bottom of this post.

As you will see from my picture the outcome was that my cake was a little “flat”. The reason for this was I only have 9” cake tins and not 7” and I was too tight to go out and buy some!

  • Carrot Cake
  • 250ml sunflower oil, plus a little extra
  • 225g light muscavado sugar
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • large pinch of salt
  • ½tsp ground mixed spice
  • ½tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 250g carrots, washed and coarsely grated

  • Frosting
  • 50g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 225g soft cream cheese
  • 25 golden icing sugar
  • ½tsp vanilla extract

  • To Finish
  • 8 Pecan or Walnut halves roughly chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease two 7” sandwich tins, also base line the tins using oiled grease proof paper or non-stick paper – if you are not sure how to do this see the video at the bottom of this post. (You can use 9” tins, but cake won’t be as thick).

Using a hand-held electric whisk and whisk the oil and muscavado sugar to combine together, then add one egg at a time until everything is combined together.

Sift the flour into the mixture and add the salt and spices and then gently fold in using a large metal spoon. Then add the grated carrots and mix together.

Divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins and cook for about 30-40 minutes or until golden and you can enter a skewer into the centre of the cake and pull it out clean. Leave in the tins for 10 minutes and then take out of the tins and place on wire racks to cool.

Whilst cooling make the frosting by beating the butter and cream cheese together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Sift in the icing sugar and add the vanilla extract and beat well until smooth (unlike mine as the butter was not warm enough and so I had so lumps in it -see picture of finished item).

Spread one third of the frosting mixture over one half of the cake and then sandwich both halves together. On the top of the cake spread the rest of the frosting and then add the 
chopped nuts.

This will last two days if kept in an air tight container.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Turkish Lamb Stew

Although my health kick is slowly beginning to wane, see Sunday’s post about some wonderful cheeses I bought. I am still trying to eat a fairly healthy diet and this dish is perfect. It's also one of my favourite kind, one pot food, so all the ingredients sit in a pot and are allowed to release their flavours slowly over the 1½-2 hours cooking. What I also like about this dish is the adding of red wine vinegar which gives the dish a tartness that goes so well with the other ingredients, without being overpowering. It's also a very simple dish to make, as you mainly throw it all in a pot and let it slowly cook.

You could serve this with cous cous or rice, but I just prefer to eat it on it's own with some fresh crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Also with this dish, you can substitute the red wine vinegar for lemon juice. At the end of cooking squeeze in the juice of one lemon for a completely different dimension to the dish.

  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • 350g diced lamb
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 aubergine, diced
  • 400g tinned chick peas
  • 400g tinned tomatoes – liquid drained
  • 500g beef stock
  • 1tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1tsp each, chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano
  • 10 black olives
  • salt and pepper to season
  • (serves 4)

Cut off any excess fat off the lamb. Heat the oil in a pan, and add the lamb to brown it. Once browned, turn down the heat and add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes

Then add all the ingredients expect the olives and cook for 1½-2 hours, stirring from time to time

Add the olives for the last 15 minutes of cooking and add any salt and pepper as required.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Cheshire Cheese Company

Caramelised Onion and Rioja

Last Friday (3rd Feb) I went to a holiday show at Earls Court and although it was an average show, I came across a stand selling cheese, called The Cheshire Cheese Company. The stand was the highlight of the show and although I am still trying to stick to my health kick I ended up buying three cheeses because they were so tangy and tasty

With the range of cheeses they were selling it was very hard deciding which cheeses to purchase. But I ended up buying one called smoky redwood, which is a 5 times gold award winner from the international cheese awards. This is a gorgeous creamy and smoky (as you could guess by the name) cheese that goes very well with hot buttered crumpets, trust me I had this last night and it was divine. I also bought the Jamaican jerk sauce cheese, which had a delicate spicy tang, then after a little while a wonderful hit of heat kicks in. Anybody who reads my blog will now I love chilli and so had to purchase this. The final cheese I purchased was a mature cheddar with caramelised onions and rioja red wine. I am looking forward to an evening tucking into these with some plain high baked water biscuits, as well as more crumpets.
Sticky Toffee Heaven

Apart from savoury cheeses they also sold sweet cheeses, like sticky toffee heaven and a creamy cheshire cheese blended with strawberries, cream and champagne. My friend tried the sticky toffee heaven and he did not like it as he found it too sweet for his liking. I am not a fan of sweet and savoury together (sultanas in curries, pineapple on pizzas etc – so wrong) and was apprehensive to try, but try I did. It was sweet but very tasty, it was like eating a creamy cheese cake and would be really great served with digestives biscuits.

When I got home I checked out their website and it was a simple and nicely designed and I registered with them so that I can get updates on the company. On their website they have sections that list all there products, a page that lists all the companies that stock their produce. Another page listing markets they will be visiting up to the end of February, which will be updated with dates of other venues and markets they will be attending during the year. They also have a cheese club, which for £9.99, you get special offers and amongst other things, a free birthday cheese when you place an order on line, or they send you a voucher so you can collect from a stockist.

Redwood Smokey
I have also be in contact with the sales team and have managed to get a 15% discount off your first online order. Just quote the code NEW1011, to claim the discount. They do charge £4.95 for delivery but free if you order £30 or more.

Jamican Jerk Sauce Cheddar
Some people might not like the idea of flavoured cheese and like plain ordinary cheese, but I would say try them out, because I think they will be very surprised.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Fanny Cradock - Video

In the US they had Julia Childs, and in the UK before Delia became the goddess of cooking we had the eccentric Fanny Cradock, who was one of the first TV chefs, hence the reason why this video is in black and white. She was to say the least a colourful character and had a reputation of being rather rude and because of an incident on a TV programme, which can be found on YouTube, was "let go" by the BBC and was replaced by Delia Smith.

Here is a very early clip, enjoy

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Heston Blumenthall's Hard Boiled Egg - Third and Final Attempt

I have received a few emails regarding Heston's claim about making the perfect egg by putting an egg in cold water and bringing it to a boil, then turn off heat and leave for 6 minutes - read my entries HERE for first attempt and HERE for second attempt. It appears to be that other people have not been able to produce a prefect egg based on Heson't method also.

So I thought I would try it for a third and final time. If this time it didn't work then I thought I would stop trying. Today I put the egg into cold water and brought to a very gently boil and turned off the heat. I left the egg in the water for 4 minutes and 45 seconds and it worked and got an almost perfect egg. The egg white was a little under cooked but the egg yolk was perfect and that is what I wanted.

At least now I know that I can now make a good boiled egg, but I'm not going to bother in future I've found a local butchers that sells great black and white pudding, superb black treacle bacon and duck eggs so why would I want to attempt to make a boiled egg that maybe or not come out the way I like it, but it's been fun trying :-)

Did you like the bread soilders, couldn't resist seeing as I keep being called a “big kid” by my otherhalf, haha.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Fireman Sam's Last Supper

Last night I received an email from my friend Fireman Sam, which really made me smile, because of the friendship that has grown, his like for my other website, DonkeyFodder, but also because of his Last Supper. I really enjoyed reading it and it brought back memories of my mum's cooking of lamb and other great meals, that inspired me to cook and blog. Fireman Sam has allowed me to publish his email, hope you enjoy reading it as much as me.

Fireman Sam’s Last Supper
Late last year by chance I met a very special person who since has become a lifelong friend, I was introduced to his partner who created the site Donkey Fodder and now both have become very special dear friends. I look forward to reading every article because it gives me the inspiration to expand and challenge my own limited diet. My own level of cooking skills is very poor and it’s quite apt that I am a fireman because I do tend to burn most everything I touch, when asked I tell people I cook out of the bible, i.e. it’s either a burnt offering or a bloody sacrifice. So with the help of my new found friends I aim this year to make a determined effort to improve my skills and expand my knowledge.
Reading the Last Supper got my brain working overtime and here is my perfect last supper.
Roast Lamb & Mint Jelly
This has always got to be my favourite roast of all times and if done properly would have me going weak at the Knees just at the smell of the Lamb cooking. I always remember my mother getting up early on a Sunday morning to prepare the lamb for roasting of course I never paid any attention of how the meal was going to be prepared or cooked I just used to watch her “Slam in the Lamb” as the old adverts used to say. According to my mother I used to drive her crazy wanting to have a taste of the meat as soon as it had come out of the oven. Because I was very stubborn with food my Sunday Dinner used to consist of the meat, three Yorkshire puddings, a few token carrots and some goose fat roast potatoes. The carrots often used to get left or passed to the dog who was always under my chair at the table. The lamb was last to be eaten I loved the taste of the gravy made from the juices of the lamb and my mother also used to use some of the fat from the lamb to make the Yorkshire puddings which always rose to perfection and were crisp at the top as for the Mint sauce I hated the normal Mint sauce everyone else used to have and as I was always awkward I used to have my own special jar of mint jelly which there would be several spoon full on my plate to bring out the best of the lamb. This dinner for me was always one that I would most look forward to and it would be the only one that I would be at the table before everyone else. So if I am ever asked what my last meal on earth would be then there we have it.
It’s thanks to Donkey Fodder for allowing me to bring back happier memories of childhood especially my recollection of my favourite meal. I may be a very fussy person when it comes to food and I may not be very adventurous when it comes to food for example cooking with goat, think I will skip on that one (No offence each to their own etc) what I do love about this site however is the restraint reviews basic, down to earth comments based on actual experience incorporating the atmosphere and ambiance of the venue as well as the food. I don’t often read into a lot of reviews because very few are written from the point of view of a normal every day customer. This site writes from the heart it shows passion not only about the food that is served but from the whole experience from entering the establishment to leaving I just hope that more people read and comment on their own experiences and tips and tricks that they have discovered. So from Fireman Sam well done and thank you Donkey Fodder.