Monday, 29 December 2008

Christmas turkey curry

I don't know about you but the week between Christmas and new year is all about using up the Christmas left-overs as fast as possible. Our fridge is loaded with little containers of cranberry sauce, stuffing, left-over vegetables and of course turkey.

One way of using up leftover turkey is this curry which, has become something of a tradition in my family and is as certain as Christmas dinner itself! It's a great way to turn your leftovers into something fresh and completely different.Turkey curry recipe.

  • 2 Onions, finely chopped.
  • 2 Cloves of garlic crushed.
  • 1 Green (or red) Chilli chopped.
  • 1 tsp each (or more if you like) Turmeric, coriander and cumin.
  • Leftover turkey meat cut into chunks.
  • 400g tin of tomatoes.
  • 200ml Chicken or turkey stock.
  • 5 tbsp natural yoghurt.
  • Chopped fresh coriander to serve.
  • Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a large pan and fry the onions until they begin to soften.
  • Add the garlic and chilli to the pan and stir, fry for a minute more.
  • Add all of the spices and mix well, fry for one more minute.
  • add the chopped turkey, stock and the tinned tomatoes, stir everything, cover the pan and leave to simmer very gently for 15 minutes.
  • Finally stir in the yoghurt, season with salt and serve with rice or naan bread.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Mulled wine

With Christmas fast approaching things are getting pretty busy around here, the food still needs to be bought, the presents wrapped and the house decorated, add to that two days of overtime at work and there is very little time to spend cooking!

I did however find time to whip up a pan of mulled wine, a Christmas essential and one of my favourite drinks. Made from red wine, spices and fruits simmered and served hot, this warming drink is perfect for winter.There are endless variations to this, the recipe below is the basic version to which you could add apples, pears, berries or even fruit liqueur, to give it a bit of a kick try adding a good glug of brandy.

Mulled wine recipe

  • 1 75cl bottle of red wine.
  • 1 orange, half sliced half studded with 4 or 5 cloves.
  • 1 lemon sliced.
  • 1 cinnamon stick snapped in two.
  • 1 tsp ground/powdered ginger.
  • A wine glass of water.
  • 3 tbsp white sugar or honey.
  • As much brandy as you like (optional).
  • Place all the ingredients into a large pan with a lid.
  • Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Place the lid on the pan and leave on a very low light to simmer (don't boil) for at least 20 minutes.
  • Serve.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Lemon Posset

It may sound like a small furry animal but Posset is in fact an old English dessert, made from just three ingredients, lemons, cream and sugar. This could be the easiest dessert in the world.Although simple the end result is heavenly, a silky smooth, creamy, tangy, pot of lemony goodness. A perfect end to a meal and elegant enough to serve on special occasions too, it's tanginess make it a perfect palate cleanser after a rich meal. Or as I'm planning, served in shot glasses between courses.

I served mine with shortbread biscuits to add a bit of texture, you could make your own or be lazy like me and buy some!

The acidity of the lemon juice is what makes the cream set so no eggs are required, I was surprised at just how well and how quickly the mixture firmed up after adding the juice.

  • 1/2 Pint/300ml double/heavy cream (don't be tempted to use single/light cream, it will not work here!)
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 75g/2 1/2oz Sugar
  • Pour the cream and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 3 minutes.
  • Take the cream off the heat and add the lemon zest and juice, whisk well.
  • Pour the mixture into small dishes or ramekins and leave to cool in the fridge.
  • Serve with shortbread biscuits.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Retro Black Forest Gateau

I love retro food and it doesn't get much more retro than Black Forest Gateau! This cake seems to have gone a bit out of fashion, probably thanks to the cheap frozen version that always made an appearance at parties and on cheap pub menus.

There is no reason why it shouldn't be a fantastic cake, made with decent ingredients it has a lot of potential, we all know how well chocolate and cherries go together. So, with that in mind I set out to make my own, from scratch, using quality ingredients. I wanted to see just how good this cake could be.
I'm pleased to report that it was delicious, though there was never really any doubt that it would be. Chocolate sponge soaked in cherry brandy syrup, layered with cream, cherries and chocolate. How could that be anything but delicious!I'll admit this cake is completely over the top, there was no birthday, no anniversary and it's nothing to do with Christmas. I just felt like making it, and I don't regret it, not one bit!


For the chocolate sponge:
  • In a large bowl or mixer beat 150g/6oz butter with 150g/6oz of granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add three eggs to the mix and beat well.
  • Gently mix in 150g/6oz self raising flour, replacing two tablespoons of the flour with cocoa powder.
  • Pour into a greased and lined round baking tin (approx 25cm), bake at gas 4/350f/180c for around an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool completely before slicing into three layers.
For the filling:
  • Whip 1 pint of whipping or double cream until it holds stiff peaks, be careful not to over-whip.
  • Drain three 400g cans of cherries in juice reserving the juice.
  • Mix two thirds of the reserved juice with a heaped tablespoon of cornflour and a splash of brandy. Heat gently in a saucepan until the liquid has clarified and thickened. Cool completely.
  • To make the syrup bring the remaining juice to the boil in a small pan, adding sugar to taste and a splash of brandy. Reduce by half.
For the chocolate edging:
  • Line a baking tray with cling film then melt 250g of good dark chocolate.
  • Spread the molten chocolate over the cling film to form a thin layer.
  • Leave to set the break into shards.
To construct the cake:
  • Place the first layer of the cake on the plate or stand you intend to serve it from (it will be impossible to move later).
  • Drizzle with one third of the syrup.
  • Add one third of the cream.
  • Then add one third of the cherries.
  • Finally spoon over one third of the thickened juice.
  • Repeat with the remaining layers.
  • Place the chocolate shards around the edge for decoration.
  • Admire your cake!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Traditional mince pies

Mincemeat is a Christmas essential in the UK, it just wouldn't be Christmas without it. Made from a boozy mixture of fruits, spices, sugar and alcohol it's most common use is in traditional mince pies.

It is a good idea to have a good supply of these on hand, ready for unexpected Christmas visitors. They are delicious served still warm and even better with an unhealthy amount of brandy butter and a generous glass of mulled wine!
My home-made mince pies

So here it is, the recipe for mincemeat. Possibly the easiest recipe ever!

Mincemeat (makes around 4lb)

12 oz Apples – Grated
2 oz chopped mixed peel
18 oz mixed dried fruit, e.g. raisins, currants and sultanas
6 oz shredded suet (I used vegetarian suet)
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp mace
1 oz flaked almonds
6 oz soft brown sugar
Zest and juice of a lemon and an orange
2 ½ tbspn Brandy or rum


Put all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl and stir until well mixed. It should look something like this.
Pack the mixture into sterilised jars and leave to mature for at least 1 week. It will become darker and stickier over time. (It should keep for quite a few months)

Mince pies

For the best flavour use and all butter pastry for making mince pies, it has the best flavour.

I can't remember where I found this recipe but it is excellent. Makes enough pastry for 24 pies.

All Butter Crust for Sweet and Savory Pies (Pâte Brisée)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 to 6 Tbsp ice water


Rub the butter into the flour, sugar and salt until well incorporated.
Drop by drop add the ice water and work into a dough, try to handle the mixture as little as possible.
Rest the pastry in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
To make mince pies

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

Roll out a third of your pastry, using a pastry cutter cut 24 discs of pastry and line two twelve hole shallow pie trays.

Place a teaspoon of mincemeat in each pastry case.

Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out smaller discs for the pie lid, top each case with a pastry lid.

Dust the pies with icing sugar and bake for around thirty minutes or until golden brown.

What foods do you cook for Christmas?

Thursday, 4 December 2008


I have a policy of not preparing anything for Christmas until the start of December. I'm not being miserable, I absolutely love Christmas, it's just that if I started any earlier I'd have got bored of it by Christmas day!

Once December comes around I really get into it! It just wouldn't be Christmas without mulled wine, mince pies or Christmas cake, so much to make, so little time! As it stands I have already made a tray of mince pies, a Christmas pudding and this Stollen.Stollen is a German yeasted Christmas cake, loaded with fruits, nuts and spices it has a marzipan centre and is one of my favourite Christmas treats.

It is especially good toasted although I should warn you, use an electric toaster at your peril, I'm still cleaning bits of charred marzipan out of mine...

What do you make for Christmas?

The recipe I used is by Simon Rimmer, it turned out really well although next time I will add more fruit.
Original recipe by Simon Rimmer here.

100ml/3½fl oz warm milk
2 tsp dried yeast
pinch salt
1 tsp caster sugar
225g/8oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp ground mixed spice
200g/7oz mixed dried fruit (including glacé cherries)
25g/1oz flaked almonds
50g/2oz unsalted butter
1 free-range egg, beaten
250g/9oz marzipan
To finish
25g/1oz butter, melted
50g/2oz icing sugar

1. Place the milk and yeast into a bowl and mix well. Leave to sit for 5-6 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, sift the salt, sugar, flour and mixed spice into a large bowl.
3. Add the dried fruit, almonds and butter and mix well.
4. Add the yeast and milk mixture and mix well.
5. Add the egg and stir well to make a dough.
6. Knead the dough for 5-6 minutes, then cover and leave to prove for 20 minutes.
7. Uncover the dough and turn out onto a clean, floured work surface. Using your hands knock the dough back to reduce the volume, then knead the dough for 3-4 minutes.
8. Push and roll the dough out by hand into a flat oval shape about 23cm x 18cm/9in x 7in.
9. Roll the marzipan into a piece about 18cm x 5cm/7in x 2in. Place the marzipan into the centre of the dough, then fold over the sides of the dough to seal in the marzipan.
10. Place the stollen seal-side down onto a greased baking tray. Cover and place somewhere warm to prove for one hour.
11. Preheat the oven to 180C/365F/Gas 4.
12. Place the stollen on the baking tray into the oven to bake for 40 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through.
13. To finish, remove the stollen from the oven, brush with the melted butter and dust with icing sugar immediately.
14. Allow the stollen to cool, then serve in slices

Monday, 1 December 2008

An amazing day at the BBC Good Food Show, part 2

Click Here for part 1

After a morning of sampling and shopping we were taken backstage for a fantastic VIP lunch.

A beautifully presented prawn dish for the starter.To follow was a selection of cold meats, poached salmon, salad and bread. Not so photogenic but no less tasty.And finally an elegant chocolate dessert with caramel sauce, yum!

Then came what we'd all been waiting for, a private book signing with the great James Martin himself. Each of us was presented with a signed copy of his book, The Collection, mine now proudly adorns my coffee table! He then rushed off to do yet another cookery demonstration, while we had some more time to look around before taking our place in the supertheatre...
The book signing
(photo courtesy of Forever Better)
My own signed copy!
The supertheatre was huge, over 2000 people packed in to watch James Martin prepare a three course meal. Teryaki mackerel was followed by bread-crumbed veal chops fried in an obscene amout of butter! (health concious he isn't!) and finally a mouth-watering dessert of layered pastry and berries with mascarpone and raspberry sauce. As you would expect it all looked fantastic and was no doubt scoffed backstage as soon as the demonstration was over.

Not only is James Martin a great chef he proved he was a great entertainer too, he had everybody laughing as he picked on an unsuspecting volunteer, using her to demonstrate where the different cuts of meat come from! Later he used an old man's walking stick to make his trademark spun sugar, the audience loved it!A few of us stayed behind afterwards to watch Gordon Ramsay who, working with Mark Sergeant made a great team. As you would expect Gordon made good use of his favourite word, in fact the show came with a warning beforehand! They were both fantastic to watch, even though we had seats way back in row Z!

But onto the food, first up was a hearty minestrone soup served with garlic toasts, it looked very homely and is a recipe I am very keen to try. Interestingly he used parmesan instead of salt which I thought was a brilliant idea. Next up was a tuna steak served with refried beans, I love fresh tuna but am never quite sure what to do with it so this was great for me. To finish he made some simple caramelised plums.

And with that it was all over, the time had come for us to go home, I could quite happily have spent hours longer wondering around! Thanks again to Miele, ForeverBetter and 1000Heads for a fantastic day!
A beautiful tin of chocolates give to us by Miele and my VIP pass

Friday, 28 November 2008

An amazing day at the BBC Good Food Show, part 1

The BBC Good Food Show is nothing short of heaven for a foodie like me. With hundreds of exhibitors, plenty of free samples, cookery demonstrations and more celebrity chefs than you can shake a big pointy stick at, for food lovers The Good Food Show is THE place to be.
When show sponsor Miele (pronounced mealer, I'm told), the people at and 1000heads sent me an invitation to the show with a VIP pass I had to think about it for all of a nanosecond before saying yes please! A group of food bloggers from the UK were invited, in no particular order they were:
Becky - Girl Interrupted Eating
Francesca - 101 Things
Nicola - Cherrapeno
Katie - Apple and Spice
Anne - Anne's Kitchen
Joanna - Joanna's Food
Here we all are posing in front of the Meile stand!

My day started at 5.30 in the morning as I had an early train to catch. Once I arrived I met up with the other bloggers and my hosts for the day, Colin, Kaz, Juliette and Molly then it was into the show!

Before lunch we had some time to explore, we ate and drank our way around the free samples admiring what was on offer and chatting to the producers. The scale of the place was breathtaking, with over 600 stands it was hard to know where to begin!

Doves farm had an interesting selection of bread mixes, flour and cakes. Although I don't often use prepared mixes I couldn't resist the Ezekiel bread mix, apparently it's inspired by the prophet himself!
Munchy seeds were selling a fantastic selection of flavoured roasted seeds, the vanilla pumpkin seeds were especially good.
I'll admit it was the name that attracted me to the Grumpy Mule Coffee stand but their coffee was fantastic, some of the best I've ever had.
It wasn't just food on offer, there was some fantastic cooking equipment too.
Do I make myself clear!? A very coulourful selection of liquorice.

Coming up in part 2, I have a fantastic VIP lunch, meet James Martin and watch Gordon Ramsay do his thing in the supertheatre.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Crème fraîche

Crème fraîche is a delicious soured cream from France that is made using a bacterial culture added to fresh cream. It is similar to regular sour cream although much thicker and richer with a fat content of around 30%.

Crème fraîche is an incredibly versatile ingredient which is fast becoming a favourite in my kitchen. You can use it as a dip or dollop it on top of a bowl of chilli, it's also delicious served alongside fresh berries or as an alternative to cream with any dessert.

One of my favourite ways to use
crème fraîche is as a pasta sauce. I add it to hot pasta with some herbs, a few vegetables, parmesan and maybe some bacon or smoked salmon and hey presto! a delicious meal in under 20 minutes.
I made this pasta dish using crème fraîche, bacon, chopped fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and parmesan (in other words whatever I could find in the fridge!) It was very quick and really tasty.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Super nutritious walnut and seed bread

Sylvie over at A Pot Of Tea And A Biscuit has tagged me to bake bread as part of the worldwide blogger bakeoff. I love baking bread and as this was for a good cause too I was more than willing to participate.Breadline Africa is a charity that is working to put an end to poverty in Africa by helping communities help themselves. The aim is that the communities will become self sustaining and therefore require no further aid.

On Blog Action Day, Breadline Africa launched their Worldwide Blogger Bake-Off campaign. The aim is to raise $1 million in funds for a project to convert shipping containers into locations for food production and distribution in Africa. It is hoped that these sustainable community kitchens will not only provide food such as bread and soup to those in need, but also opportunities for skills development within poor communities.

So how does it work?
My submission for the bake-off is my super nutritious walnut and seed bread. Not only does this bread taste really good but it is really nutritious too!Soft light and full of flavour it is particuarly good with cheese of for dunking in soup.I'm not going to tag anyone in particular, if you've read this consider yourself tagged! Go on you know you want to join in!
150g Strong wholemeal bread flour.

350g Strong white bread flour.

1 7g Sachet of instant yeast.

2 Tsp brown sugar.

1 Tsp Salt.

30g Each of crushed walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

2 Tbsp olive oil.

300ml Warm water.

2 Tbsp olive oil.
Prepare a baking sheet by lightly dusting with flour or lining with baking paper.

In a large bowl mix the two flours together.

Add the yeast, salt, sugar, walnuts and seeds and mix everything together.

Make a well in the centre and add the oil and warm water.

Gradually incorporate the flour into the water and work into a dough. Knead for a good 10 minutes. (if it's too wet or dry and this point add a little more flour or water, it should feel just slightly sticky)

Cover the dough with a place of oiled cling-film and leave in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to gas 6/200c/400f.

After the dough has doubled in size knock it back and knead for a minute more, shape into a round and place on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and leave to double in size once more.

When the dough has doubled bake for around 30 minutes or until golden.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Classic chocolate brownies

It's surprisingly hard to find a recipe for classic, ordinary, plain chocolate brownies. There are loads of recipes for fancy super-duper all singing, all dancing brownies. As good as they may be I wanted a basic version and this recipe from GoodFood is just that.

It's everything you could want from a brownie. Soft and gooey in the middle and just slightly chewy on the outside with an intense chocolate flavour, best served still warm with cream.

Recipe here.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Energy food challenge - Banana chocolate flapjacks

Last May I cycled along the Camino De Santiago route across Spain, 550 miles in all including two mountain ranges. On the very first day we had 14 miles of non-stop uphill.

A long way up!

You're probably thinking, what's this got to do with food? Well Hopie over at hopie's kitchen has laid down an energy food challenge. Her Mum is preparing to cycle 109 miles to raise money for research into blood cancers. Nearly 1 million Americans are suffering from some form of blood cancer and each year 53,000 die, I'm sure you'll agree it is a very worthy cause. Naturally cycling all that way will require a lot of energy. Hopie's chalenge is to create a recipe for energy food, whether it is a main meal, snack or drink. I thought back to my time cycling in spain, the food that powered us up all those hills was flapjacks. They are ideal for cycling with as they easily be stuffed into a bag or pocket without coming to too much harm and are packed with energy, not to mention how delicious they are!

My entry for this challenge is flapjacks, but no ordinary flapjacks. I made Chocolate covered banana, honey and walnut flapjacks! The banana flavour comes through really well, it also helps keep the flapjacks soft and moist. Honey and walnuts just seemed a good idea and what can't be improved by chocolate?I am very pleased with how these turned out, this is exactly the kind of food I like to take with me when I go on long bike rides.

Chocolate covered banana, honey and walnut flapjacks

These delicious flapjacks are packed with energy!

See Chocolate covered banana, honey and walnut flapjacks on Key Ingredient.

Enter the energy food challenge here. Get your entries in before the 22nd November!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Brown sugar mincemeat cake

Yesterday was very very wet, according to the local paper we have already had more rainfall than we're supposed to get for the whole month! Definitely not a day for doing anything outside. Instead I got creative in the kitchen and came up with this mincemeat cake.
Despite it's name mincemeat contains no meat (although it used to) but is a delicious combination of dried fruits, spices, sugar, suet, apples and brandy. It's most common use is the traditional Christmas mince pie, but it also makes delicious crumbles and cakes.As we're approaching Christmas a mincemeat cake seemed appropriate, I also had all the ingredients on hand which meant no getting wet going to the shops! I used dark muscovado sugar for this recipe as the flavour is fantastic but any brown sugar will work.Ingredients:

3oz/75g Butter
3oz/75g Muscovado or other brown sugar
2 Eggs
4oz/100g Self raising flour
4oz/100g Mincemeat
4oz/100g Sultanas, raisins or other dried fruit
Sugar crystals to sprinkle on top (optional)


Preheat the oven to gas 4/180c/350f and grease an 8 inch circular cake tin.

In a large bowl cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.

Next beat in the eggs.

Fold in the flour until well mixed.
Add the mincemeat and dried fruit to the mixture and gently mix.

Pour the mixture into the greased tin, sprinkle with sugar crystals (if using) and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Random things and an award!

It's been all quiet on the tagging/award front for a while then two come along at once!

First up Camille of Croque-Camille wants to know six random things about me. It took some thought but here goes...

!. I have personally met the Archbishop of Canterbury, he was very nice and gave me ice cream!

2. I once cycled 120 miles from London to the sea, as if that isn't mad enough I did it through the night!

3. I absolutely love coffee and probably drink a good 10 cups a day, not good I know...

4. I have never travelled outside Europe, I would love to visit New York someday.

5. I'm a complete wimp when it comes to spicy food, I only like it if it's very mild.

6. I have a pet cat called Foxie. Apparently he looks like a fox, I can't see it myself but I didn't name him!

There were some rules for this tag:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

I would like to pass this tag onto:

Hopies kitchen
A pot of tea and a biscuit
Jam and clotted cream
Mrs W's kitchen

An award!
Next up an award. I received the E for excellent award from the wonderful Hopies kitchen, I'm touched!

I would like to pass this award on to:

Cherrapeno, I've been following this blog for a while, I love the recipes and the photos are amazing!

And also to FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD!, a British blog that I really enjoy reading

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Greek style roast cod

I'm not really sure what's "Greek" about this dish, it seems more Italian style to me, but then I didn't name it! What I do know is that it's delicious, it contains some of my all-time favourite ingredients, fresh basil, sun dried tomatoes and black olives.
To make it I sliced some potatoes and red onions and layered them in a baking dish. I then poured over a stock made from the basil and sun dried tomatoes blended to a paste and mixed with boiling water. This was poured over the potatoes which I then baked for half an hour.

Once the potatoes were cooked they had become infused with a the flavour of basil and tomato and smelt wonderful!

Finally I sprinkled the potatoes with chopped black olives, laid my fish on top each with a slice of lemon then baked it for a further 10 minutes.
One of the great things about this recipe is that it only uses one pot and I'm all for less washing up!

I should point out that although the original recipe calls for Cod I actually used a type of fish called Coley which is very similar. Not only is Coley more sustainable and not over fished like Cod, it is also substantially cheaper. I really can't taste much difference between them and I certainly reccomend it as an alternative. Another fish you could try is Pollock which is also very cheap and really tasty.

The original recipe is by Silvana Franco and can be found here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Curry in a hurry

There are some recipes I turn to time and time again, reliable standbys that I can depend on. This recipe for chicken curry is one of them. What I like about this recipe is it's simplicity, the fact that I always have the ingredients to hand, and best of all it's sheer deliciousness. It takes very little time to prepare and, unlike a lot of curries is also quite healthy making this a perfect weekday meal.
The original recipe is from The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr, an excellent book for learning cookery basics.
I served my curry with fragrant rice, simply add cardamom, a couple of cloves and turmeric to the rice before cooking.

Simple chicken curry

A simple recipe for a great curry.

See Simple chicken curry on Key Ingredient.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Boston Baked Beans

Although not a British invention, baked beans are perhaps more popular here than anywhere else in the world. Invented in America, the upmarket grocer Fortnum and Mason was first to introduce them as a luxury item back in 1901. Baked beans have since become a British institution and are universally popular. It's hard to believe baked beans were ever considered a luxury, they are now one of the cheapest foods around.

I find canned beans an unexciting food, these Boston baked beans on the other hand were in a different league altogether. Far better than the bland cans of beans that line the supermarket shelves.
Big chunks of bacon and generous spoonfuls of molasses and brown sugar gave these beans an amazing richness and depth of flavour. I served my beans in the traditional British way, on toast, they would also make a delicious filling for a baked potato.

Not only are they cheap but apparently eating beans can help you to live longer, what more reason do you need to get cooking!

I used this recipe taken from the River Cottage meat book, I highly recommend this book, it can everything you could ever want to know about meat, and has great recipes too.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Eccles cakes

As soon as I was old enough to leave the house on my own it became my job to buy the bread for the weekend. Every Saturday I would take the trip to Gordon's bakery to buy one of their fantastic loaves, still warm from the oven. As well as their delicious bread Gordon's also sold cakes. If I was lucky I would be allowed a cake as a treat, my favourite was, and still is the Eccles cake.

They may not be as glamorous as Danish pastries or French croissants but when it comes to flavour Eccles cakes can compete with the best of them. A delicious combination of juicy currants and candied peel wrapped in flaky pastry, they have remained incredibly popular for over 200 years.

I tried making my own Eccles cakes last night and they were a big hit, I've already had demands for more! Here's the recipe I used, based on the recipe from the Be-Ro cookbook.

Recipe for Eccles cakes

250g (8oz) puff pastry
50g (2oz) unsalted butter
100g (4oz) currants
25g (1oz) brown sugar
25g (1oz) cut mixed peel

1 Heat oven to 230ºC, 450ºF, Gas Mark 8.
2 Melt butter in a small bowl in the microwave, add the fruit, sugar and peel. Mix together.
3 Turn mixture into a basin and allow to cool.
4 Roll out pastry 0.5 cm (¼ inch) thick, cut into large rounds with a plain cutter.
5 Place a spoonful of filling on each round, dampen the edges of pastry and draw them together to enclose filling.
6 Turn smooth side up and roll lightly to flatten.
7 Cut tops to show filling, brush with milk. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The quest for the perfect peanut butter cookie

Years ago I made some fantastic peanut butter cookies. They were everything a peanut butter cookie should be, crumbly, peanutty and delicious. I would love to make them again but I have no idea where the recipe came from!
So now I'm on a quest to find the perfect recipe, these cookies from Serious Eats are my first attempt.Unfortunately these aren't 'The cookies', don't get me wrong they are really good but these are soft and chewy, not crumbly like the cookies I remember. So the quest continues...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Steak pie

I am a huge fan of pies of every type, from shepherds pie to apple pie and everything in between, you name it I love it! There is nothing like the smell of a pie baking, or the satisfaction that comes from breaking through the crust to reveal the delicious filling.

I don't tend to eat pies during the summer, but when the weather turns cooler pies are exactly the kind of food I crave, warming, comforting and tasty!

I am always disappointed with ready made pies, normally the filling consists of masses of gravy and hardly any meat. What meat there is is in tiny pathetic little pieces, I like big chunks of meat in mine, the only way to get that is to do it myself.

So I made my all-time favourite pie, steak and kidney. At least it was going to be steak and kidney except, it turned out that the kidneys that I had in the freezer weren't in the freezer. after a long search empying the freezer, my hands going blue I gave up! I think someone must have stolen them!

So here it is kidney-less steak and kidney pie AKA "Cow Pie"This pie is made in two stages, the first stage is basically a casserole, braising steak is perfect for this but it needs long slow cooking. I prepared it in the morning and left it to simmer for hours on a very low light. the next stage is when it becomes a pie, the meat gets a pastry lid and is baked until golden delicious.

Steak pie

I was planning to make steak and kidney pie but ...

See Steak pie on Key Ingredient.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Italian chicken

Don't you just love it when you have an idea that comes off really really well? That's what happened when I invented this chicken dish, it combines all my favourite ingredients into one so I expected it to be good, but it turned out better than good it was fantastic!
Once again I've used the all time classic combination of tomato and basil, only this time for making a tomato, basil and red wine sauce which I used to top some bacon wrapped chicken thighs. Sounds good doesn't it?
After an hour in the oven I had a seriously tasty dinner! it just needed a sprinkling of parmesan cheese to finish.

Italian Chicken

Italian style chicken baked with basil, tomatoes and bacon, finished ...

See Italian Chicken on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


There are few meals I like more than a good Risotto, it's rich, creamy, comforting and altogether delicious. I find it amazing that a dish requiring so few ingredients can taste so good, of course once you've mastered the basic recipe it can be varied with any number of additions.

The most important part of a risotto is unsurprisingly the rice! It is very important that you use proper risotto rice, either Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano. You are most likely to come across Arborio, although if you are lucky enough to find one of the others you should snap it up!
Risotto rice differs from other rice as it is much shorter and fatter, the stubby little grains can absorb far more water that regular rice, they also contain a large amount of starch, which is what gives risotto it wonderful creaminess.

Last night I used the last of my oven dried tomatoes to make a tomato and basil risotto. The combination of tomato and basil is a classic that's always a winner, needless to say it was good, very good!
Perhaps not the most photogenic of foods, but it tasted good!

This is the basic recipe, once you've mastered this anything goes! To make my tomato risotto I added tomato purée, Italian herbs, fresh basil and oven dried tomatoes, I also added a yellow pepper which is why it is such a bright colour!
A particular favourite of mine is mushroom risotto, simply add fried mushrooms to the basic recipe, easy!

Basic risotto recipe

  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 sticks of celery finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • Butter and oil for frying
  • 300g risotto rice
  • Roughly 1-1/2 pints of hot stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • A glass of white wine
  • Parmesan
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Put a large saucepan on the heat with a knob of butter and a splash of oil.
  • Toss in the vegetables and fry until softened.
  • Add all the rice to the pan and stir until every grain is coated in the butter and everything is well mixed.
  • Pour in the wine and stir until it has all been absorbed.
  • Keeping the stock hot begin to add it to the pan one ladle-full at a time, wait until all the liquid has been absorbed before adding more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked to your liking.
  • Finish by stirring in butter and grated parmesan, season well and serve.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

A day at a food festival

Yesterday was the first day of the East Midlands Food And Drink Festival and I was lucky enough to be there. The event marks the culmination of British Food fortnight and is a showcase for local producers to show off there food. Amongst the hundreds of stalls was Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, a company that makes traditional Red Leicester cheese selling it in huge wheels weighing a whopping 20kg, I considered buying a whole wheel but reluctantly had to settle for a small piece instead! Almost every stall had samples to try and there was plenty to tempt me, the apple and blackberry brandy was a particular hit although the chocolate truffles came a close second, they were extremely tasty!

There was so much to see including breads, cakes, jams, fruit, veg and meat. Of the more unusual products on offer were ostrich meat, smoked garlic and purple cauliflowers all of which looked great but I resisted the urge to buy.
I spent the day eating my way around the halls as there were so many samples on offer! All in all it was a brilliant event and I will definitely be going again, it's just a shame I have to wait a whole year!

Enormous wheels of Lincolnshire Poacher cheese
A more sensible sized piece?
Fantastic bread. The breadsticks in the background are flavoured with olives and fennel and were delicious
An impressive display of pastries, these were huge!
A very colourful display!