Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Chicken Burgers with Tarragon and Lemon

Chicken Burger on a Bun

Our local supermarket stopped stocking chicken mince, which is a real pain, as I used it a lot because it was so versatile. When I asked a member of staff why, they did know but had just stopped selling it, which is really annoying. I suppose I could have made my own mince, but I don't have a mincer and also who else makes there own mince? The other day I was walking through Golders Green and came across a kosher butchers and decided to have a look around and much to my pleasure there in front me was some good old chicken mince, I was so please that I ended up buying a lot of it and sticking so much in my freezer I don't have room for much else, I think I might have overdone it.

Now that I'd got some I had to decide what to make. I love chicken burgers but always make the same, with cumin and coriander see recipe here, but it was time to make them differently. After a bit of talk between my other half and me, it was decided I would make the burgers with lemon and tarragon. Tarragon is a great herb, but you have to be careful because it is a very strong and can easily overpower any dish. If you were like me and cannot get chicken mince then you could also use turkey or pork, but will not be as tasty as well with either beef or lamb.

I don't use eggs to help bind the ingredients together, but if they is too much liquid in the burgers then they will break up when being cooked. So you have to remove as much liquid from the onions as possible. You can either grate the onions or stick them in a food blender. Once grated you now have to squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. I have not yet found an easy answer to this, so get ready for some painful onion eyes. Put the grated onions onto a board, slightly lift the board and then squeeze as much of the liquid out as much as you can. If you can think of another way of removing the liquid from the onions with a less painful method, please let me know..

  • 500g chicken mince
  • red onion, grated and squeezed
  • 2 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
  • 2 grated lemon zest
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Put all the ingredients, apart from the olive oil, into a bowl and mix together. I love doing this with my hands, but if you want you can use a spoon or fork.

Divide the meat into four portions and form into patties, see below

Burgers divided into four 
Put the oil into a pan and gently heat. Place the patties into the heated oil and cook for about 20 minutes or until the burgers are completely cooked and golden brown.

There are many ways to serve these, either in buns with tomatoes, cucumber, fake cheese (processed cheese). Today I served them with a Halloumi salad, which I will write up soon.

Burgers with Cucumber and Tomatoes

Halloumi Salad

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Turtle Bay - Restaurant Review

Trini Fish Curry

My friends, Paul and Susie, are about to have there second child, in fact the baby due date is tomorrow (Monday 27th August). I haven't seen them for a while and so decided to visit them in Milton Keynes, an area known for it's plastic cows, actually they are concrete as I was forcibly reminded (lol hahaha) and lots of roundabouts. When I arrived we went to Mortimer Square which is an area surrounded by restaurants, most of them chains, like Café Rouge, Las Iguanas. We were trying decide where to go but as Susie was almost due it was decided not to have anything spicy, just in case. After looking around for a few minutes it was decided to go to The Turtle Bay, a Caribbean restaurant, odd choice, seeing as Caribbean is renowned for being spicy, but I wasn't one to argue as I love spicy food.

We entered the large restaurant which was surrounded by large windows and because it was sunny the restaurant had warm and bright feel. In the centre is a large style wooden shack bar which all the tables surrounded. The tables and chairs are all wooden which add to the rustic feel, but it does have a feel of a restaurant chain in the making. When I checked out there website I saw they have another restaurant in Southampton, so I was right a new chain in the making.

Salt Cod Fritters
The menu is extensive with Cutter (starters), Lunch and Lighter (lunch menu or lighter bites if you don't want a full meal. One Pots, (dishes that comes in a pot - bet you didn't see that coming). And Jerk Pit BBQ (dishes from a BBQ with Caribbean flavours). They also have a large array of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails which are on an almost continuous happy hour of 12-7pm and 10pm-close every day.

Jerk Chicken Wings
I guess they don't see themselves as a family restaurant as they don't have a child’s' menu. If you do take a young child in with you it appears that if you don't want spicy food for your child you need to order a meat dish and ask for the spicy not to be added. We ordered a duck wrap, for little Henry and asked for no spice as advised, but when it arrived it was still fairly spicy..
Sweet Potato Fries
Myself and Susie order fritters, I ordered the salt cod fritters and she ordered the sweetcorn fritter. They were not what we were expecting, they were more like savoury doughnuts rather than fritters. Also my fritters had virtually no salt cod in them and in fact I pulled them apart and only found one very small piece in each of the four fritters. The sweetcorn had more flavour but again more doughnut than fritter. Paul ordered the jerk pit chicken wings, which were very tangy and with a kick, the meat was moist and well cook and I certainly had food envy.

After a disappointing starter and a slow removal of out plates and a far wait for our main courses our mains were delivered and we were not disappointed. I ordered the Trini Fish Curry, which was salmon, prawns, mussels, squid and white fish in a gorgeous curry spiced coconut milk. The rice and peas were well cooked and complimented the curry wonderfully. Paul ordered the Blue Mountain Curried Goat was also very tasty, the meat was tender and the curry sauce full of flavour, but with one little moan of not enough sauce, but fully enjoyed. Susie ordered Jerk Chicken Roti, which was pulled jerk chicken in a flat bread wrap which was moist with a hot kick. But not over spicy so the baby did not kick in objection or even worse, decide to show his/her face :-)

Blue Mountain Goat Curry
We also had some side dishes, which I didn't mind paying extra for as the main courses were reasonably priced. We ordered fried plantain, which were well cooked with lots of sweet flavour. We also ordered Sweet Potatoes Fries, there were delicious if a little greasy, but one of the highlights for me, seeing as I didn't think sweet potato would work as a “chip”, but it's nice to be proved wrong.

Jerk Chicken Roti
Now I don't normally review drinks, but as it was a cocktail bar and as Susie couldn't drink, Paul and I decided we should try as many cocktails for her. So that she knew which cocktail tasted the best and to order once the baby was born. Well it was the only excuse we could come up with to allow us to try as many as we could. We tried the classic Long Island Ice Tea, which was the best. Jamaican Mule, okay, but the ginger beer wasn't strong enough. Elderflower Collins which was fresh with lemon juice and club soda. Mojito, which had far to much ice so at the end we were drinking cold water and we finished off which Tropical Rum Punch which was okay, but we didn't like the allspice syrup, which I thought would be nice with rum, but for us didn't work.

The staff were very friendly and polite and couldn't really fault them. But if I was to grumble, which means I will, they were a little too over enthusiastic. When we sat down, one waiter took our drinks order and then before the drinks came three other members of staff came over to take our drinks order. It was like that for the rest of the meal, but then when we wanted them there were hard to track down. I wonder if I am moaning for the sake of it, because as I said they were friendly and were very good with baby Henry.

For a small chain, I believe the Turtle Bay has a lot going for it and hopefully they will be a great success. I just hope they don't go like other chains that as they become popular they expand too quickly and they lose there charm and the food starts to really suffer. I can think of two chains that at the beginning were very good, but I wouldn't go near now as the food has really suffered. So fingers crossed for them and I would love to see one in London.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Beef and Chorizo Hotpot with Tortilla and Guacamole

Beef and Chorizo Hotpot
The other day I had one of my favourite dinners, Spanish chicken and chorizo, which is a great dish as the lovely smoky flavour from the chorizo is released into the sauce. As I was only cooking for two of us (although I made enough for four, as I love it for lunch the next) I had some chorizo left over and wondered what to do with it. I did a bit of research and found a great recipe chorizo with savoy cabbage with mushroom mash, from one of my favourite food blogs, Petra08's Weblog. I did some more searching and came across another recipe for a beef and chorizo hotpot. At first it didn't actually appeal as I wasn't actually sure if it would work, beef and smoked pork. After a while  I started change my mind, as the oil from the chorizo would give the tomato sauce a deep flavour, like the chicken and chorizo dish, but wouldn't overpower the beef. Now I was in a dilemma, chorizo and cabbage or the hotpot, it was so close I had to flip and coin, hotpot it was – sorry Petra, next time :-)

I served the hotpot with flour tortillas and guacamole, now you could buy both of them, but I wouldn't be a good food blogger if I did, so I made my own. The tortilla recipe I used was rubbish and had to add a lot more flour than listed and only just managed to save them so I have not listed how to make them on this post. The guacamole on the other was wonderful and it's so easy to make, why would anybody buy the bland and runny stuff from the supermarkets.

You can either do a quick or long version of this recipe. If you are going to do the quick version, I suggest you use a good cut of beef, like sirloin. If cooking for a long time, like me, then use cheaper cuts of beef as it will tenderise during the long cooking process.

You can also place some crème fraiche or sour cream on top of the guacamole if you like. I used crème fraiche as better for you and I prefer the taste.

  • Beef and Chorizo Hotpot
  • 3tbsp oil
  • 400g diced beef
  • 1 red onion, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded, cut in half and then sliced
  • ½ chorizo (if you like it spicy the get chorizo picante
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to season

Put the oil into a pan and bring up to a high heat. Add the beef a few pieces at a time to brown and seal. Once browned remove from the pan and place onto a plate and repeat until all the beef has browned.

Turn the heat down and add the onion, garlic, pepper, chorizo and smoked paprika into the pan and stir and cook for about 5 minutes
frying red onion, red pepper, garlic, chorizo and smoked paprika
Add the tinned tomatoes, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook for as long as possible. I cooked it for 3 hours and removed the lid to reduce the liquid.

if doing the quick version, place the tomatoes into the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes.

tomatoes added to chorizo mixture
Place a warm tortilla into a bowl, place some hotpot on the tortilla and then place the guacamole on top with cream fraiche or sour cream to top. Get another warm tortilla, break a piece off and with your hands pick up the hotpot between the piece of tortilla. Or if you prefer use cutlery, but it isn't as much fun.

  • Guacamole
  • 2 chilli (remove seeds if you don't want it to spicy)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 tomatoes, finely cut up
  • bunch of coriander
  • 4 ripe advocado
  • 1 tbsp lime juice

Place the chillies, onion, tomatoes and coriander into a blender, and blitz, but not to much as you don't want a runny liquid.

Cut the avocados in half, remove the stone and spoon out the flesh and place it into a bowl.

With a fork, break up the avocados, but not to finely. Add the blitz mixture and stir into the advocado. Mix in the lime juice and place in a serving bowl.


Beef and Chorizo Hotpot with warm Tortilla , Guacamole and Creme Fraiche

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Cafe Constort - Review

Smoked Tuna with Quails' Egg

I was fortunate again to be able to go to the proms the other day, to hear Dvorak 9th Symphony, The New World. If you can't remember how it goes think of the Hovis advert and you'll know what I heard, but if you still don't know it, click here and you can listen to it, whilst reading the article. The music was wonderful, but not as good as my previous visit, as like my visit to Café Consort, it wasn't as good as Coda, the other restaurant in the Albert Hall, I'd been to recently.

Before I start my less than glowing review, I will say that it must be difficult to cook a lot of covers in such a short time. If you book a restaurant you normally find they stagger the booking times, so that all the orders do not all come into the kitchen all together. But with Café Consort, who are located in the music centre, they open at 5 and everyone really needs to be out by 7:15pm so that they can attend the concert. So they have a large amounts of orders coming in at once and it must be hectic and mad in the kitchen. But that is the only defence I will make, as the restaurant has been going for a long time so should be use to this and should be able to do a better job than they did.

Heirloom Beetroot Salad
Cauliflower Soup

There was four of us, Jeff, Liz, Lynne and me, three meat eaters and one vegetarian. The vegetarian option was very limited and both the starter and main course was very similar, luckily the soup of vegetarian, otherwise it would have been a very poor offering. I started with Scottish smoked cured gravadlax, which was fairly tasteless, only saved by the wasabi, coriander and lime dressing. Liz, who is a vegetarian, ordered the cauliflower soup, which was only luke warm and like the gravadlax was pretty bland. Jeff ordered the smoke tuna, capers with quail egg, which he said was well smoked, not overpowering, although the quails' egg was over cooked. Lynne ordered heirloom beetroot and goat's curd salad with a mustard and maple dressing with pumpkin seeds. she said it was only average and nothing to shout about, also the tomato was not ripe and rather hard. None of us was impress, which unfortunately we didn't realise was just the prelude to the rest of the meal.

Scottish smoke cured gravadlax
Jerk and BBQ chicken with sticky rice
Whilst awaiting along time for our order to be taken, I saw the jerk chicken with BBQ glaze being served and decided it looked good and so I ordered it. Well they do say you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover and this time I should have taken heed. Jerk is a covering so not sure why you'd want a BBQ sauce as well, but it was sticky and tasty. The chicken was overcooked and far to dry. The sticky rice, which accompanied the chicken, was not sticky, just overcooked like the chicken and was soggy, at least the coriander salsa had a nice flavour with a bit of heat. Lynne had roasted salmon and like my meal, overcooked and the citrus buckwheat was actually a soggy lump of bland cous cous. The vegetarian option, was called organic superfood salad, with beetroot, avocado, broccoli, with sunflower and melon seeds, which Liz said was full of flavour and had a nice bite, but was another salad. What kind of restaurant offers a vegetarian starter and main which are both salads and contains almost the same main ingredients. To me that lacks imagination and an offence to vegetarians. I suppose it could have been worse, they could have offered vegetarian lasagne or mushroom stroganoff :-) lol
Grilled Salmon with buckwheat (which was couscous)
Organic Superfood Salad
I was the only person to order a dessert and I thought they can't get eton mess wrong and luckily for me, they didn't which was a relief. The coffee was tasty and not burnt, but on the whole we had a very disappointing meal. The service was only average, but that is because they appeared to be under staff and really didn't have time to probably serve there customers.

Eton Mess
This was nowhere near as good as the Albert Hall's other restaurant, Coda, but it was almost half the price, but that is no excuse for a poorly thought out menu with average cooking skills. Sorry to say this but I won't be back in a hurry.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

GBBO Competition

I have recently received a copy of the new book The Great British Bake Off “How To Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers” It's in the same style as it's previous two books with some great signature bakes and technical challenges by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood and also some showstopper bakes from the contestants. The book is broken down into chapters, such as cakes, biscuits and tarts etc. With the last chapter covering the basics. With most of the recipes are beautifully pictures on how the bake should come out and overall a great book on improving your baking skills.

Judges: Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry
If you've read my blog you'll know that I am not the best baker in the world, in fact I would say I am a disaster baker, with few baking skills, but they are improving, albeit very slowly. For me, personally, the recipes are far to advance and I would get very frustrated in trying them out. I have only just managed to bake the basic Victoria sponge, so there is no way I am going to be able to bake the wonderful looking jubilee cake for a long time. This doesn't mean I won't at some point in my baking live, but not just yet.

See my baking disasters here, One, Two and finally a Success

If you would like to win a copy of this great book, then follow the instructions on the rafflecopter below and good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 17 August 2012

Chilli Peppers

I've got a lot of mince beef in my freezer and thought it was time to start using it up and I wanted to make something different. I was tired, after doing a 16km run and didn't want a complicated dish with lots of elements. I just wanted something fairly easy and this seem perfect.

This is basically chilli con carne stuffed into green peppers, but by using low fat beef and serving it with salad it can become a healthy meal. You can add more chilli if, like me, you like a big kick, or you can actually reduce it, but then it's not really a chilli and I don't see the point.

You can cut the peppers in two different ways, either cutting the tops off and keeping the peppers whole or cutting them in half. I tried them both ways to find out which baked better. I preferred the whole peppers as the kidney beans got a little burnt in the peppers were cut in half and also the chilli didn't dry out so much in the whole peppers. If you would prefer to cut the peppers in half then I suggest you top the chilli with cheese to stop the beans from burning.

  • 4 green peppers
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 350g / 12½oz mince beef
  • 100g / 4oz mushroom, finely sliced
  • 150ml / ¼ pint of beef stock
  • 1 or 2tsp chilli powder
  • 2tbsp tomato purée
  • 400g / 140z kidney beans
  • salt and pepper to season
  • (serves 4)

Put the peppers into boiling salted water and blanch for about 1 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4

Gently heat up the oil in a frying pan and add the onions and fry for about four minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Stirring occasionally as not to burn the onions or garlic.

Add the beef into the onions and stir together and cook until all the mince has browned.

Add the mushrooms, beef stock, chilli powder, kidney beans and stir altogether and add any seasoning you require and cook for about 10 minutes.

Spoon chilli beef mixture into the green peppers and place them into an oven proof dish and place into the oven for about 30 minutes.

Serve with salad, roasted vegetable cous cous

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Victoria Sponge

I never thought I would say this, but I am going to miss the Olympics. Intially I had no interest at the start, but by the end of day one I was hooked and hated missing it. When I was in Amsterdam and we went into a free wifi area I would pull out my iPhone and update my BBC and Guardian app so that I could read what was happening, much to the annoyance of my other half and friends. But it's now over I don't know what to do with myself, I've even started watching old clips. I also can’t believe how patriotic I became, because that is not me in the slightest

But, there is a new programme starting, that is going to help me relieve my emptiness and that is the GBBO – The Great British Bake Off. I'd started watching this by accident last year, as I was flicking through the TV channels and came across it. After 20 minutes I was hooked. I've seen other cookery competitions but this has to be the hardest. Just 30 seconds of over baking can dry the recipe out or even make it too dark. It is a cruel and hard competition but very quintessentially English. The only problem is that it's only on for an hour a week and not 18 hours a day, like the Olympics.

So as a tribute to the GBBO and with my patriotism still flowing through my body I decided to attempt to bake a very english cake, a Victoria Sponge. I can almost hear you say, so what! I'll tell you so what, if you've read my blog you will know that baking of cakes is a BIG issue with me. I've baked cookies, tarte au citron, a smoked haddock tart without I may say, a soggy bottom. But I have yet to make a cake that didn't turn into a disaster, don't believe me well read them, chillichocolate cake and devils food cake. :-)

With my stomach in my mouth, my hands shaking I picked up the GBBO book and looked up the recipe.. I read it once, I read it twice and after three more reads I started my attempt at making the sponge. Would it fall flat, would it be too dry, would the cake stick to the cake tin??? Well it didn't and it came out moist, firm, light and very tasty. With a BIG sigh of relief I can finally say I can bake a cake. Next stop, entering the 2013 series of the GBBO – yeah right......

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large free eggs at room temperature
  • ½tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1tbsp milk, at room temperature
  • 6tbsp good raspberry jam
  • icing sugar to dust on the top

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.

Put the soft butter into a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or electric mixer for about a minute until it's very smooth and creamy

Gradually beat in the sugar, then keep on beating for 3 or 4 minutes or until the mixture turns almost white and becomes very fluffy in texture. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time.

Break the eggs into another bowl, add the vanilla extract and beat lightly with a fork to break them up.

Slowly add the egg mixture, about a tablespoon at a time, into the butter mixture giving it a good mix before adding the next tablespoon of egg. Doing this way does take some time, but it will make the cake lighter.

Once all the eggs have been mixed into the butter re-seive the flour into bowl along with the room temperature milk.

With a large metal spoon, fold in the flour as gently as possible so you don't knock all the air out of the mixture.

Spoon the mixture evenly into two cake tins. I did this by measuring equal amount of the mixture. Spread the mixture evening into the tins right up to the edges

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are golden brown and the sponges are springy when pressed.

Remove the tins from the oven and leave for a minute so the sponges contract slightly. Run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosed the sponge from the sides, then turn onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

Set one sponge upside down on a plate and spoon over the raspberry jam. Set the second sponge on top and dust with icing sugar.

Keep in an airtight container and eat within 5 days.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Chicken Paprikash

Have you ever sat in front of the telly and heard mention some dish that you have never heard before and looked it up. Well it happens to me all the time, seeing as I've always got the telly on whilst writing articles for the blog, housework and looking for film and TV work.

I am a bit of a sci fi film and TV nut, not enough to go to conventions, but I do like watching them and Star Trek is one of my favourites. My favourite being Star Trek: Voyager with the wonderfully camp captain, Captain Janeway, who was always hammy but gave a more thoughtful role as a captain. Whilst watching an episode she mentions that she loves Chicken Paprikash and wondered what that was as I'd never heard of it before.

After a bit of searching on the internet it didn't take long to find that is was a Hungarian dish and I found some basic recipes and you'll never guess what it contains, yep, chicken and paprika – I wonder if that is were it gets it's name from well duh shows how slow am I.

It's not the healthiest of dishes but I made two versions, one with sour cream and the other with yoghurt. I wanted to see if I could make a healthier version without losing the flavour and I used Greek yoghurt as it has the same sourness as the cream. Both were very tasty and would have been happy to have been served either of them. The sour cream version was smoother, but the yoghurt version was lighter. So you could do either version depending on how healthy you prefer your food.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 900g/2lbs pounds of chicken pieces, preferably thighs and legs
  • 2 large onion – cut Asian style
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian
  • 1 tsp hot paprika or cayenne
  • 250ml/8floz/1 cup chicken stock
  • 120ml4floz/½ cup sour cream or plain yoghurt (preferably Greek)
  • (serves 4)

Place the butter and oil into a pan and turn up the heat. Add the chicken in stages to brown. Once brown remove and add another batch until you have browned all the chicken.

Once completed, turn down the heat and add the onions and gently cook for 7 minutes.

Add the black pepper, both paprika's and stir into the onions and gently fry for a couple of minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock and stir into the onions and spices and then add the browned chicken and stir again.

Place a lid on the pan and leave to cook for a about 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Turn down the heat to the lowest level and add the sour cream or yoghurt and stir until the cream/yoghurt is completely stirred in.

cream version
yoghurt version

Serve with white or brown rice, noodles or dumplings

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


I spent a superb weekend in my favourite city of Amsterdam, but I must remember that I am not as young as I use to be and that I can no longer party for three days in a row with out paying the price. That price was me being very rough and tired on the journey home, so when I got home I wanted something that was very quick, easy and healthy to eat and this recipe ticks all the right boxes. It's very low in fat, it contains oily fish and is so quick to make that it only take as long as it does your brand of dry pasta to cook. Not everybody like anchovies, but they break down in the sauce and the strong flavour is reduced by the other ingredients.

300g spaghetti
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 red chilli
1 tin anchovies – save the oil
400g tinned tomatoes
2tbsp capers
2tbsp sliced black olives
grated parmesan (optional)
(serves 4)

Put the spaghetti into a pan of boiling water and cook for the time on the packet (normally about 12 minutes)

Add the oil from the tinned anchovies to another pan, add the garlic and chilli and gently fry for about 1 minutes, ensuring you don't burn the garlic

Add the anchovies and stir into chilli and garlic and fry for another minute.

Add the tinned tomatoes, capers and black olives and bring to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is finished, stirring occasionally.

Sieve the pasta and place it back into the pan. Pour in the puttanesca sauce and stir and serve in bowls and sprinkle on the parmesan cheese.