Sunday, 29 April 2012

Disaster in the Kitchen

Sometimes when you create or follow recipes you make a little mistake and they don't come out perfect. It is  still good, tasty and you enjoy stuffing your face on them, my Soda Bread article highlights this statement perfectly. But sometimes it's goes completely wrong and it turns into a disaster and this is one of those times.

My other half is always saying that I am a messy cook and a complete slob in the kitchen, of course I object, I am not the cleanest, but I’m not that bad either. That was until the other day, when I attempted to make a cake, the first time in since I was made the Lemon Drizzle Cake
For some unknown reason I used almost every bowl and every utensil in my kitchen. I don't have the biggest kitchen, but all my work surface was used up, I was totally surprised at how much mess I made and even sent a picture to my twitter account. The recipe I was working from was not that difficult, but there were a fair amount of ingredients and it needed three different bowls. But even then I shouldn't have created the mess I did, as you can see by the pictures it turned into mayhem.
I was making a spicy cake from a book that I have used many times and each recipe has always come out perfectly. I am not sure if it was me not being prepared or the recipe doesn't work, but seeing as all the other recipes I have followed have worked, I guess it was me.

I followed the recipe to the tee, I had all the correct ingredients, I mixed all them together as written, but before placing in the baking tin, I thought the cake mixture was too runny. Although I had read the recipe a couple of times I reread them in case I'd made a mistake, but everything listed was followed and used

I had a preheated oven and started to cook for the 1 hour as stated. When the alarm went off, I placed a spike in the cake, but I could tell even before I pull the spike out it was nowhere near cooked. I checked the oven temperature, that was correct, so I cooked for another 30 minutes, tested again and still not finished. Tried again after another 15 minutes, perfect. I removed the cake from the oven and allowed to cool for 15 minutes. I had greased the tin and so the cake came out easily. I turned it over, I placed it on a wire rack and watched in disbelieve as started to lean to one side and collapse. Now to say the language in my house went blue, is an understatement. If I had to put £1 into a box for every swear word that came out of my mouth I could have paid for dinner at a three star Michelin restaurant for four people, I was fuming.

After I calmed down, thanks for a large glass of wine, I actually started laughing. I looked at the state of the kitchen and the cake and thought why did I bother. After spending 30 minutes cleaning the house I sat down, poured myself another glass of wine and tested the cake. It had a nice flavour, but it was undercooked and soggy. Will I try the recipe again, maybe, will I make that kind of mess again, probably – will I get someone else to clean up after me YES!

This was a great lesson for me as it reminds me that not everything goes according to plan. It's also easy to forget that when we read cookery books, blogs and watch TV programmes we read and see the finished article and never see the mistakes they make. Maybe we should have a programmes on cooking bloopers, wouldn't it be funny to see Jamie or Nigella getting it wrong, just for once :-)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Beef and Rosemary Casserole

I don't like to stereotype people but this week l been the typical English person and have been constantly chatting to my friends and neighbours about the weather. I am actually very pleased that the weather is wet and horrible and I would also like to see some more of the same. I can hear you say “are you mad”, well maybe, but I have two reasons very selfish reasons 1) I don't have to spend my evenings watering the garden, which has been made worse by the hosepipe ban 2) it gives me an excuse to cook my favourite kind of food, slow cooked casseroles.

As usual I am using cheaper cuts of beef because this dish should be cooked for a minimum of two hours so the meat will be tender when finished. Rosemary is a strong herb but the beef is robust enough to cope with it so it will not overpower the dish. The portabello mushrooms add another meaty texture and the shallots become sweeter the longer they cook. So when all the ingredients slowly infuse together you get a tasty robust casserole.

This recipe is also very easy to put together, just throw it into casserole dish and let the oven take the strain.
  • 450 beef, cut into large chunks
  • 1 large carrot, cut into pieces
  • 2 portabello mushrooms
  • 6 shallots, peeled and cut in half
  • 500ml of beef stock
  • 1 twig of rosemary
  • salt and peppers to season
  • (serves 4)

Pre-heat the over at 180c/350f/gas 4

Place all the ingredients into a casserole dish and place in the oven for 2-3 hours Check every so often to ensure that it doesn't dry out. If it does just add more beef stock.

Serve with rice or my favourite mashed potatoes and vegetables.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Chinese Pot Noodle

I have a confession to make, I love pot noodle – there I said it and out loud too. It's taken years to come out and say it, but I feel better for doing so. My other half calls me dirty for eating such “filthy food” as he calls it, bit I totally disagree.

I do need to clarify this statement though by saying I don't like Unilevers Pot Noodle, but the kind you get from Chinese supermarkets. Whenever I am in China Town I always make a beeline for the supermarkets to see what flavours they have on sale and there are hundreds of them. In Golders Green there are 3 Asian supermarket each selling a variety of brands with a wide array of flavours, like sweet and sour, spicy chicken and seafood etc.

Whenever I buy foods from supermarkets I always read the ingredient list, but I never look on Chinese noodles because I know I will be horrified by the list of enhancers and flavourings being used. I did actually just check a pot that I have in my cupboard and it wasn't pleasant, but I am not letting that put me off.

They are so easy to make and I love the artificial flavour of the soup. I even like the way the dried ingredients don't always rehydrate and are a tough and chewy when you eat them. The only complaint I have is they don't fill me up and I sometimes have to have two in one sitting.

I know as a foodie I shouldn't be saying this, but I cannot stay in the closet all my life. There comes a time in ones life when you must stand proud and shout “I LOVE CHINESE POT NOODLE”.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Cotes Review

For years I have always wanted to try steak tartare, but in restaurants that had it on there menu it was always served as a main course. I was apprehensive about ordering it just in case I didn't like it and would end up an expensive waste of money. When I first went to Cotes, a few years ago, they had it as a starter and thought it would be great to try it and if I didn't like it I wouldn't waste too much money on it. As it was I really enjoyed and have had it several times since as a main course.

Cotes is a french style chain that has grown rapidly since my first visit but I haven't actually been back since that first visit. I've always wanted to try it out again but my other half and friends always wanted to go somewhere else. I was also interested to see if the food had suffered with the quick expansion, and with the downturn in the economy I wondered it they had dumbed down on the ingredients, as some restaurant chains have done, Strada comes to mind. 

The other day I was in Hampstead and my other half joined me and we decided to go to Cotes as they were doing a good deal of £9.95 for a two course lunch. I must admit I wasn't going to do the deal as the dishes didn't float my boat, so I checked out the al a carte menu. Although it had a great variety, with some wonderful sounding dishes, like steak tartare, roast seabass and goats cheese salad, I decided to actually go with the deal because I was a bit skint and you can't complain at paying only £9.95.

I started with duck, chicken and pork terrine with sourdough toast and cornichons, which was vibrate and bold. The toast was light and crisp and with the cornichons lighten the terrine. My partner ordered the whitebait with tartar sauce and when placed on the table the first thing we notice was the very strong fishy smell, it was actually putting my partner off, as he doesn't like strong fish and the aroma is not something I’ve ever noticed with whitebait. He started to eat it, but found them to strong, he gave me a bit and I agreed and in the end he left some of it. I guess we should have sent it back, but being the polite english people we are, we didn't :-)

For the main course I ordered salmon and smoked haddock fish cake with poached egg and wilted spinach. The fishcake was light and well seasoned, with big chunks of fish and potatoes. The poached egg was a little over cooked for my liking, but went well with the fishcake. My partner ordered the chicken breast with puy lentils with a tomato dressing. The chicken was cooked well and moist, the lentils were firm and had a great bite, but the garlic hadn't been cooked out and was too overpowering.

When we entered the restaurant we were greeted by a wonderful smile from a waitress, but our main waiter although polite was miserable. It was almost like he been sucking on lemons all day, not one smile.

I have a issue when restaurants charge for side dishes, but with Cotes I don't mind, too much, because their main courses are reasonable priced. The ingredients and the presentation haven't been dumbed down, which I am pleased about. I enjoyed the experience and will go back, but I think I might have a harder time dragging my otherhalf back.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Cod Goujons

Our diet of late hasn't been that good and so it was time to have some fish. I love fish breaded, but it's not very healthy when fried, but cooking goujons in the oven is a lot better for you. Breaded goujon are also a bit plain so I decided to add some herbs. I was going to use sage but my other half thought it would be too strong. I was put on the spot as I didn't know which herb to use, as I needed one that would be strong enough to cut through the breadcrumbs, but not over power the cod. I was serving the goujons with home made tartar sauce and when researching recipes I came across some that contained tarragon. This was perfect, as the herb has a great flavour, it's not overpowering and I have some growing in my herb tin.

I would have normally used a fish like coley, poulting or any other firm white fish were stock levels are better, but I had already bought cod because it had been reduced in our local supermarket.

  • 2 eggs, beaten in a bowl
  • 500g cod loin
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 1tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to season
  • splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • (serves 4)

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4

Put the beaten eggs to one side and cut up the cod into strips.

Place the breadcrumbs and tarragon to a bowl, add seasoning and mix together.

Take a piece of the cod and dunk it in the beaten egg, then place into the breadcrumbs turning the cod over until completely covered and place onto a plate

Splash some oil onto a baking tray and rub it all over the tray. Place the goujons onto the tray and place in the oven, after 10 minutes turn the goujons over.

Cook for another 10 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Wright Brothers Soho Oyster House Review

I was walking around Soho, after being part of the audience of the Wright Stuff and looking for somewhere to have lunch, but I timed it all wrong as it was 1pm and all the office workers were also out and about trying to find somewhere eat. All the places I was interested in were either full or there was a long queue and I thought we were in a downturn. I was walking around for what felt like ages and I was very hungry and getting impatient to find somewhere. People who know me know that I'm not very pleasant when very hungry and walking around and around looking for a restaurant, so it felt like a long time.

I have lived in London for almost 25 years and thought I knew Soho like the back of my hand, but it appears I don't as I came across a square called Kingly Court, which I had never seen or even heard of before and thankfully for me I came across the Wright Brothers Soho Oyster House.

The restaurant was very busy with only a few spare tables, but as I was on my own I was gently persuaded to sit at the bar, as I guess they didn't want me to look like a saddo by being by myself on a table, also I guess it's not good business sense to have one person taking up a table that can sit two. If you go to Wright Brothers on your own do not sit at the bar as I didn't enjoy it at all. When I am on my own I want to be able to see what is going on to take it all in and not have my back to everything. All I got to see was all the fridges containing boxes of wine and cartons of milk etc, I also had the privilege, if you can say that, of watching the barman bending down to get glasses of wine from the boxes. I don't know if it's just me but I don't want to see a barman’s underwear (no matter how expensive they are) when I am eating my lunch. I guess it was lucky the barman wasn't built like builders we see on TV and his underwear did look clean.

I actually don't want to put you off, because the food was wonderful. I started with razor clams which for me is an odd choice because I have a bit of a love hate relationship with them. Over the years I've had some badly cooked clams, to the point were chewing gum wasn't as chewy. These calms were cold, which I was expecting to be hot, but perfectly cooked, they were firm and fresh and not the slightest bit chewy. One of them had a lot of grit in it, but I guess that is a risk you take with shellfish. The clams came with home made mayonnaise, and if you've read a previous post I am not a fan, but I have to say, OMG, the mayo was incredible, it smooth, creamy with a great lemon taste and I struggled not to snaffle the whole lot.

For my main I ordered roasted hake with saffron shellfish sauce and this was almost perfect. The skin was very crispy and the flesh was firm and moist. The sauce was gorgeous with a deep wonderful flavour of shellfish. If I was to quibble, I would say is the sauce was a little overpowering for the delicate fish, but I must stress I am quibbling. Although I wasn't happy being told I would have to pay extra for a side dish, a big no no as far as I am concerned when I am paying £16.

The staff were very polite with lots of smiles and very knowledgeable about the food as I asked a lot of questions. I am very pleased I bumped into Kingly Court and the Wright Brothers restaurant as I really enjoyed the experience and I cannot wait to take my friends there as I know they are going to love it to. If you love oysters, shellfish and seafood you must give this a go. If you don't then I wouldn't, as the waitress said to me “we are a seafood restaurant” and there is only one meat starter and one meat main course and no vegetarian dishes unlike other seafood restaurants I've been to. Enjoy.

Wright Brothers Website

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Fresh Figs and Plums

I bought some fresh figs the other day and wondered if I should use them in a savoury dish or dessert. I was struggling as I prefer savoury dishes to desserts, but what I could do with them. I remembered seeing a dessert recipe in The Australian Women's Weekly book called Moroccan and the foods of North Africa which I always thought would be nice and it was also fairly healthy.

When you first look at the ingredients it would appear very sweet, but the plain yoghurt cut through the sweetness. This is also one of the simplest desserts I’ve every made, but it's full of flavour and one that I will enjoy again and again.

  • 3 plums, cut in half
  • 3 figs, cut in half
  • 50g honey
  • 25g brown sugar
  • 50g plain yoghurt
  • (serves 2)

Place the plums and figs into a baking tin and pour over 25g of honey and all the sugar and place under a grill

Grill the fruit until the sugar has melted and the fruit are cooked. Normally about 10 minutes, but depends on your grill.

Place the fruit into two bowls, pour over the last of the honey. You can either pour the yoghurt over the fruit or place it on the side.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Making of Black Pudding Video

My mother told me that when she was pregnant with me she had a big craving for black pudding, which lasted for the whole pregnancy, I wonder if that is why I have always loved black pudding. As a kid I would complain if it wasn't served up for breakfast, even now a cooked breakfast is not complete without it. The biggest problem I have is getting some decent stuff, supermarkets sell it, but it's bland and tasteless, but luckily for me I have managed to find a local butcher that sells some really great stuff, full of spicy flavour.

A lot of people hate the thought of black pudding and I have a feeling that this video is going to only enhance there hatred. It's all to easy for people to write about and eat food without thinking how it comes to the plate. I do apologies if you don't like this video, but you don't have to watch it.

WARNING - this contains a abattoir and a pig being slaughtered

Friday, 13 April 2012

Pickled Beetroot

I was in the supermarket, buying beetroot for a carrot and beetroot side salad I was going make. But I couldn't buy just one beetroot I had to buy a bunch. We don't eat a lot of beetroot and wondered how I could use the three I had left over. What we do do is eat a lot of salads and my other half really loves pickled beetroot, so it wasn't really that hard a decision to make.

Pickled Beetroot is very easy to make but very messy, it can also stain so be careful. Wash the beets very carefully so you don't damage the skin, otherwise you may lose the beautiful deep colour whilst boiling them.

3 beetroot, left whole
spiced pickling vinegar

Place the beetroot into a pan and cover with cold water and bring them to a boil.

When the water is boiling reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 1 hour.

Once boiled sieve the water and allow the beetroot to cool down. Scrape off the skins, this should be very easy and you can do with your fingers.

You can either leave them whole or slice them as I have. Place them into the sterilised jar and pour in enough pickling vinegar to cover all the beetroot.

Store in a dark cupboard for about a week.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

To Sterilise Jars

To sterilise jars, preheat oven to 140c. Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse the jars and lids and place, bottom up, on a baking tray and place into the oven for 10-15 minutes. Take out of the oven and allow to cool.

Carrot and Beetroot Salad

I was being lazy the other day and bought a quiche, I should have made one, but really couldn't be bothered. I'd had a busy day of being at the studio of the Wright Stuff on Channel 5, done a 9km run and made some bread, so I thought I am going to cheat and just buy a quiche.

With quiche we always have different side salads and this is a fresh and tasty one with a nutty bite. The sweet flavour of the carrots blends well with the earthy fresh beetroot and the toasted pine nuts add a nutty crunch.

  • 25g pine nuts
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 beetroot, peeled and grated
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Put the pine nuts in a pan and toast, keeping an eye on them so they don't burn, once toasted let them cool down

Place the grated carrots and beetroot in a bowl, stir in the pine nuts and lemon juice.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Pork in Cider

When most people blog a recipe they normally have something to say about it, whether it be a memory and ancedote etc, but when I started writing this, I realised that I had did not have a lot to say, apart from it's a great dish that goes well with rice, so enjoy

  • 25g flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 500g diced pork
  • 3tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 400ml dry cider
  • 1tbsp sage, finely chopped
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 courgette, chopped
  • 1 small aubergine, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 portabello mushrooms

Put the flour into a bowl and add salt and pepper to season. Mix the pork in the seasoned flour and dust off excess.

Add the oil into flame proof casserole dish and bring to high heat. Add some of the floured pork into the oil to brown. Don't overfill the dish otherwise the pork wont brown but will sweat.

Once all the pork has been browned, turn the heat down, add the chopped onion and crushed garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so not to burn them.

Once the onions are tender, place the pork back in and stir together. Add the cider and sage and stiring togerther then bring it to a rapid boil.

Once the cider has boiled down to about half the amount add the chicken stock. Bring it back to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for a minmum of 60 minutes.

After 60 minutes add all the vegetabled and cook for 25 minutes and then serve with rice.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Tartar Sauce

I was going to make some cod and tarragon goujons and wanted to make a tartar sauce from scratch, but seeing as my history regarding tartar was not very good,see previous post, I decided that I needed to check up on the recipe. But all the recipe websites and blogs I checked all said “add mayonnaise”. I didn't want two different recipes I just wanted one, but I soon realised I wasn't going to find one. So here is a recipe on how to make tartar sauce from scratch!!

I was always under the impression that making mayonnaise was difficult and had to be done with minute precision- what a load of rubbish! It was so easy I don't understand why people bother buying it! Actually, I do because it's easier lifting a jar off a shelve than whisking an egg and oil together, but not nearly as nice.

I found lots of recipes for mayonnaise but they all made too much for what I needed and as you should only keep fresh mayonnaise for 24 hours I didn't want to make too much. This recipe makes enough for 4 servings or 2 if you are greedy like us :-)

You don't have to continuously pour oil whilst whisking, you can just add a little oil and whisk each time.

  • 2 egg yolks (put the whites to one side to make meringues)
  • 1tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1tsp english mustard
  • vegetable oil

Tartar Sauce

  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1tsp horseradish sauce
  • 1tsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 3 small gherkins, finely chopped
  • 3tsp lemon juice

In a clean bowl add the egg yolks, white wine vinegar and english mustard, with a balloon whisk mix together.

Once all combined add a very small amount of oil into the mixture and rapidly whisk together, repeat this for another 6 times. Then you can start to increase the amount of oil each time- keep this up until you have a thick pale mayonnaise or it's at the consistency you require.

Then add all the above tartar sauce ingredients into the mayonnaise and stir together.

You can serve right away, but it is better if you can place it in the fridge for an hour.

If the mayonnaise splits, don't worry, just get another egg yolk and place it into another bowl, whisk it up and then add , very slowly, the spilt mayonnaise into the new egg yolk as you would the oil, this should help it bind together.

I didn't throw the egg whites away, I just whisked them to make meringues then placed in the freezer ready to use for another day.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lovage and Yellow Split Pea Soup

Last year my friend gave me a “herb tin”. A big metal tin were he had planted variety of herbs, like, sage, tarragon, mint, oregano and lovage. Now I don't know a lot about lovage, or know what to do with it. I took a bite to see what it tasted like and I got the flavours of celery, parsley with a hint of bitterness towards the end, but still wondered how to use it. For a better description of the flavour and for other lovage recipes see an article in The Guardian, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

I wondered how I could use it quickly because it was taking over my “herb tin”. I was going to try a potato and lovage soup, but I had some dried yellow split peas in my cupboard that needed to used. I love the earthiness of the yellow split peas and I wondered if the herby lovage would over power the peas, but it doesn't. The resulting soup has a bold strong flavour and was very tasty, but I don't think it would be every ones “cup of tea”, but give it a try and let me know what you think.

I like a bite in my soups, so before I blended the mixture together I took some of the cooked split peas out of the pan, which I added back into the soup once I had blended it.

  • 250g dried yellow split peas (soak in water overnight)
  • 25g butter
  • 1tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 4 lovage stalks, roughly chopped
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to season
  • serves 4

Rinse out the soaked yellow split peas and put to one side

Put the butter and oil into a pan and add the onion and garlic, once the butter has melted. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the onions and garlic don't burn
Once the onions are soft add the yellow spilt peas and stir together until they are covered by the onion mixture. Add the lovage and stir all together and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30-40 minutes,until the yellow split peas are soft.

Blend the mixture all together with either a food processor or a hand blender.

I served mine with some plain white yoghurt to add some acidity, but you don't have to.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Regency Club Review

If you love an indian curry and you can get on the Jubilee tube line, then you must visit The Regency in Queensbury. What can be better than a pub that sells great indian food, as we know beer and curry are a great combination and I love the food from this place. I have been going for years and the standard has never slipped and the food is always great

After going to Sofra, I had to meet some friends at The Regency. Unfortunately we couldn't book a table for the time we wanted, but we were prepared to wait. I got there earlier to try and grab a big table, but some of my friends were already there and sitting at a very small table, certainly not big enough to sit 12 of us. The pub was packed and there wasn't any free tables, so wasn't sure we could get one to fit us all. But after 20 minutes we where given a bigger table, but it was still not big enough. Unlike Sofra, luck was on our side, and we managed to get the table next to the one we were sitting, so we could now relax and order some great food.

We have been so many times, and in the past we had ordered so much for our starters that it's been a struggle to eat our main course. This time we ordered our starters and said we would ordered our mains later, which they were happy to do. Although if you find you cannot eat all your meal, don't worry, as they do take out and trust me the food the next day for breakfast is great.

Like most good indian restaurants they have a good variety of vegetarian and meat dishes which was perfect for us, as our group had a mixture of veggies and carnivores. I was too busy playing catch up (okay gossiping) and as we were sharing I let me friends order the food and what a great job they did. For starters they ordered mixed grill, chilli prawns, chicken wings, lamb samoas, chilli paneer, garlic mogo, crisp bhajja. For mains they ordered karahi methi chicken, karahi chicken masala, tarka dall (my favourite indian dish) and channa masala. All very incredibly well cooked, with some very bold flavours as you would imagine and a great kick of heat, hence why beer is so popular.
I find the staff are a little curt, but I guess if you're always that busy you don't have time to chat, but they are professional. As I said the pub does get very busy and you cannot book a table, but it is worth it.

So, if you are ever in Queensbury or you fancy a great curry then you won't be disappointed. You can see a really good and better review HERE